Leaders: ‘Some people in city must be worried’

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IF police chiefs ever thought that Edinburgh’s sex for sale saunas were a problem that would go away quietly, then they know better now.

The brothel owners whose premises are being threatened with closure after years of plying their business in the Capital are clearly determined not to go without a fight.

Given what they know about the private lives of thousands of men, there must be some very worried individuals in the city right now. Although any men who have paid prostitutes in the saunas are not acting illegally, exposure would spell the end of their careers for many public officials, as well as the personal shame.

The charge of hypocrisy that the brothel owners are levelling against these men may or may not be fair, depending on their personal circumstances and the job that they are doing. It would surely be indefensible for a police officer to take part on raids on these premises or a lawyer to argue for them to shut down while at the same time secretly visiting them as a client.

The vast majority of us would rather not have to think about what goes on in these establishments and find the idea of prostitution distasteful at some level.

But we are on the whole willing to consider the issue pragmatically rather than simply as a moral dilemna. And that is surely the right thing to do.

Rather than judge the women who work in the sex industry, our main concern should be how to help and support them. Doing that is not straightforward, and it is dangerous to rely on easy assumptions about these women – and men in some cases – and how they can be protected or supported.

But there has been a consensus built up in the Capital over decades that a more tolerant approach has worked at least in terms of making the city a safer place for sex workers. There may be a compelling reasons for changing that approach, but they are yet to be made publicly.