Strippers' union call for safety and rights of performers to shape Edinburgh Council's licensing plans for lap-dancing clubs

A trade union representing strippers in the Capital has welcomed proposals to introduce a licensing regime for lap-dancing clubs – calling on authorities to prioritise safety and rights of performers in any shake-up.

Thursday, 17th October 2019, 11:45 am
Updated Friday, 18th October 2019, 10:53 am
Sexual entertainment venues could require a licence under Edinburgh Council plans

Edinburgh City Council is set to press ahead with setting up a licensing regime for sexual entertainment venues (SEVs) – despite calls for them to be “banned outright”. The authority’s regulatory committee is set to back a recommendation by officials to begin a process of requiring all venues in the Capital to be licensed in order to operate when it meets on Wednesday.

The move comes after 65 per cent of 806 respondents told the council in a consultation it would support the introduction of a licensing system. The Scottish Government has amended a law, allowing local authorities to introduce a discretionary licensing system for SEVs.

A union, which represents performers and took part in the initial consultation, has broadly welcomed the plans – but has warned they hope any new regime will not lead to the closure of venues, with the Scottish Government allowing authorities to cap the number of SEVs in certain areas and even set it at zero if they wish.

Shiri Shalmy, organiser for United Voices of the World, said: “As the trade union representing dancers working in strip clubs across Scotland, we welcome Edinburgh Council’s move to make clubs safer places for everyone involved.

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“As part of the consultation process, we urged the council to listen to the people who know the most about working conditions in strip clubs – the dancers themselves.”

She added: “We encourage the council to consider the safety, access to legal rights and the collective representation of dancer in any SEV policy it will develop. In particular, we want to ensure that dancers will no longer be misclassified as ‘independent contractors’ and could benefit from the rights they should have as workers, including the right to sick pay, holiday leave, a guaranteed minimum pay for all hours worked and access to trade union representation.

“We hope that the introduction of SEV licensing will not lead to a decrease in the number of clubs. They are legal workplaces that support many women and families and should be considered with the same scrutiny as any other late night venues. Dancers already suffer unfair stigma and marginalisation – they shouldn’t be penalised further.”

The Capital currently has four SEVs – three in the West Port area, dubbed the ‘pubic triangle’ and another venue at Shandwick Place.

If councillors approve the recommendations and press ahead with the licensing regime, a statutory consultation will be held while performers and other other organisations such as Police Scotland and NHS Lothian will be invited to take part in evidence sessions.

The council’s regulatory convener, Cllr Catherine Fullerton, said: “Our initial consultation on whether the council should adopt new powers to licence sexual entertainment venues attracted over 800 individual responses with more than 65 per cent of those agreeing that we should adopt the powers.

“The regulatory committee will consider a report on the outcome of that consultation which recommends that sexual entertainment venues should be therefore licensed. If approved, work will be done to develop the necessary policy and conditions of licences for public consultation prior to final approval by committee. Feedback and comments to the initial consultation will be an important part of this development work.”

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Edinburgh's lap-dancing clubs 'should be banned' or alcohol stopped amid council plans to control trade