Edinburgh ‘to continue to tolerate sex workers’

Saunas in Edinburgh have been subject to police raids. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Saunas in Edinburgh have been subject to police raids. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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EDINBURGH’S tolerance of the sex trade will remain even if the long-standing policy of licensing saunas is scrapped, the city’s council leader has predicted.

Andrew Burns, head of Edinburgh City Council, said he did not believe that such establishments would close and insisted that sex workers would continue to be offered support from health workers and others.

Councillors at the local authority will today vote on a public consultation seen as the first step towards the possible axeing of the system by February.

Scot-Pep, which represents sex workers, has been critical of the proposed measures, as reported by The Scotsman on Tuesday, amid fears that it could force workers onto the streets.

Edinburgh is unique in the UK in having effectively operated a “blind-eye” policy since the mid-1980s as a means of ensuring that those in the industry are not forced to work on the streets, but has been subject to a series of legal challenges in recent months.

He said: “Myself and Steve Cardownie, our deputy leader, met with Sir Stephen House [Chief Constable of Police Scotland] and Mark Williams, the divisional commander, a month ago and there was a robust set of exchanges about all of these issues. But the one I was reassured about was they were responding on procurator fiscal advice about illegal activity [when officers raided a series of saunas in June] and weren’t making a moral judgment about what was going on and neither are we as a local authority.”

He added: “I have to be cautious about what I say here because it’s a legal minefield but if in February we were to remove the licensing of the saunas … the next day these places would still be operating as before.

“We’re not going to overnight become another city with a different culture.”

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