Edinburgh councillors delay decision on banning strip clubs and lap-dancing bars

A decision on whether to ban strip clubs and lap-dancing bars in Edinburgh has been postponed after councillors decided they wanted more legal advice.

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The issue is now expected to be decided in February.

New licensing laws allow local authorities to introduce a licensing system for "sexual entertainment venues" and set the number of such places which can operate in their area –which could be zero.

Stripping and lap dancing are included in the Scottish Government' definition of violence against women

Edinburgh' s Labour group backs a zero limit but there were prolonged discussions ahead of Thursday’s regulatory committee between Labour and the SNP, the senior partners in the city's coalition, before a proposal emerged to delay a decision for further advice.

The coalition proposal circulated before the committee was that a number should be fixed by summer 2022, six months before licensing applications could be submitted.

But at the meeting, Labour group leader Cammy Day proposed the matter should only be delayed until the next meeting in February.

He said: "I and my group support the figure zero and I hope that’s what the committee get to but I would like us to be fully informed of the legal implications of that before we take the decision.”

Fellow Labour councillor Karen Doran said: “I don’t think it’s time to make a decision if we don’t have all the facts in front of us. I fully support zero but I would like to have that clear legal advice to ensure we do have zero.”

Tory councillor Cameron Rose proposed setting a zero figure now. He argued that, in view of recent comments made by councillors on the protection of women, it would be "hypocritical" to do anything other than send a clear message.

He said: "I do not think it's appropriate to endorse the objectification of women with public policy."

And he accused the administration of trying to kick the decision into the long grass.

SNP councillor Denis Dixon said public opinion on the issue was divided. “This is not an easy issue at all. I think we need more information.”

Committee convener, SNP councillor Cathy Fullerton, accepted Cllr Day’s proposal of a delay until February.

She said: “This is an important issue. If we’re being told there is a need for further advice I think it would be prudent to have a further report in order to ensure we all have fullest information on the legal implications before taking a final decision on the numbers.”

Earlier, Linda Rodgers of Equally Safe (Edinburgh), urged the committee to set a zero limit, pointing out the Scottish Government strategy for eradicating violence against women included stripping and lap-dancing in its definition of violence.

She said: “If in Scotland we are saying commercial sexual exploitation is violence against women we cannot in all conscience continue to provide an avenue for this violence to be enacted without redress or penalty, as we do in the current situation, nor can we provide a licensed avenue.”

After the meeting, councillor Day said: "The Labour group, under my leadership, are 100 per cent against having sexual entertainment venues in a modern capital city like Edinburgh.

"We heard from Equally Safe that there should be zero. That's the Labour group's position and it's one we will defend in the coalition "We will still be pushing for the city to have zero SEVs."

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