Lap dancing crackdown bid is thrown out by MSPs

A PROPOSED crackdown on lap dancing venues has been thrown out by MSPs despite winning the support of the government.

SNP backbencher Sandra White wanted to give local authorities the power to introduce a special licensing system which would allow them to ban strip clubs.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill gave his backing to the move, but Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Tories opposed it and the proposal was defeated by 76-45.

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The decision was welcomed today by campaigners against the crackdown.

But Labour said it now plans to take its own look at the issue and bring forward proposals if the party returns to power at next year's elections.

Ms White told MSPs she wanted to allow local people to control what takes place in their communities. She said: "This is an activity, I'm sure most people would agree, that deserves more scrutiny and control."

She said she had visited lap dancing clubs to investigate the issue. "What I've seen made me feel that women are being objectified," she added.

Liberal Democrat Robert Brown said Ms White's proposal would introduce a dual licensing system, where venues needed a separate licence in addition to their liquor licence.

He said there was no real evidence of a problem with the current powers.

Tory John Lamont said he had met a politics student who worked as a lap dancer in order to help her pay for university.

He said: "She was, quite frankly, insulted by the claims that lap dancers were either prostitutes being exploited or their work was demeaning."

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Labour's James Kelly said Ms White's amendment stemmed from "frustration" at the lack of action from the SNP government on the issue.

Mr Kelly added: "Labour gives a commitment that we will work on a detailed scheme which we will bring forward when we return to government."

Sarah Vernon, a former dancer who has just completed a PhD in striptease and strip club culture in Scotland, welcomed Ms White's defeat.

Ms Vernon, who spent seven years carrying out field work as a "participant-observer" in two Edinburgh clubs as part of her research, had warned curbs on adult entertainment would hit Scottish tourism.

Today she said: "The parliament has made the right decision, particularly at this time for Scotland's economy. It shows Scotland is a tolerant and progressive country and does take account of the views of the nation and not just special interests.

"If Labour is going to work on its own detailed proposals they should actively seek participation from the industry itself and academics who have worked in the industry."