Edinburgh councillors urged to use new licensing laws to ban strip clubs and lap dancing bars

City leaders are being urged to seize the opportunity of new licensing laws to ban strip clubs and lap dancing bars in the Capital.

Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 7:32 am

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Legislation passed by Holyrood allows local authorities to introduce a licensing system to control "sexual entertainment venues" (SEVs) and set the number of such places which can operate in their area.

Edinburgh currently has four venues which fall into the category – but Labour councillor Mandy Watt wants the limit to be set at zero and says the rest of the Labour group agrees.

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There are currently four "sexual entertainment venues" in Edinburgh

Councillor Watt said: "Edinburgh should be a business and family friendly destination for visitors and a safe and forward-looking city for its residents.

"Having these types of venues simply doesn't match our aspirations for the city.

"In the wake of Covid, all our hospitality venues are having to rethink their business model, so why not these four?

"In our quest for net zero, businesses are having to make huge changes and workers are having to transition to new ways of working."

A report for today’s regulatory committee recommends adopting a licensing system for SEVs and then asks councillors to set the number at four or zero.

It also recommends no such venues should be allowed outside City Centre ward.

Tory councillor Cameron Rose has submitted an amendment proposing the limit should be zero.

The report says there is broad support for the introduction of a licensing system for SEVs, with both Police Scotland and performers in favour of the move, arguing that it would ensure venues were better regulated and safer.

A consultation carried out earlier this year found 44.5 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that there should be a limit on the number of SEVs, while 37 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that there should be no limit.

When asked what number any limit should be set at, 20 per cent said zero, but 40 per cent said there should be no limit. No other option received more than eight per cent support.

United Voices of the World, a union which represents strippers, has previously claimed a ban on sex venues would criminalise dancers and most of those who would suffer would be working-class women with few career choices.

But Councillor Watt said: “If we can have a transition of thousands of people who work in oil, gas and other industries as part of our net zero strategy for carbon emissions, then to have a zero strategy for violence against women there has to be a just transition away from work like this and that is what should be focused on, not on putting society's stamp of approval on work that is inherently exploitative.”

The report to committee “Equally Safe: Scotland’s strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls” sets out a definition of violence against women and girls which includes “commercial sexual exploitation, including prostitution, lap dancing, stripping, pornography, and human trafficking.”

The report adds: “Whilst recognising the conflict between this definition and the licensing of sexual entertainment venues, the Scottish Government intends that it will help to ensure that such activities take place in safe and regulated environments.”

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