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Photography Adrienne Raquel

Strip clubs have now officially been banned in Edinburgh

Sex workers in the city are devastated by the news

Yesterday, councillors in Edinburgh voted to impose a ‘nil-cap’ policy on strip clubs – effectively banning them in the city. The ban passed by five votes to four.

The ban follows the publication in 2019 of a Scottish government paper that set out a strategy for tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG), and argued that “prostitution, lap dancing, stripping, pornography” encompassed and engendered VAWG. Danielle Worden, legal caseworker for the United Voices of the World Union, told the regulatory committee yesterday that there was no credible evidence of a correlation between sexual entertainment venues (SEVs) and sexual violence.

She added that this was a particularly cruel move in the midst of the ongoing cost of living crisis. “Not only does this violate the Equality Act 2010, it is [also] an act of cruelty to remove the livelihoods of hundreds of workers as we enter the worst economic crisis since the 1970s.”

Another dancer, Alexis, told the committee that she did not want to find another job just because her work did not match the committee’s moral values. “[We are] educated women making educated decisions about what’s best for our lives,” she said.

Following the news of the ban, sex worker union United Sex Workers (USW) published a statement on Twitter. “We are disappointed and angry with Edinburgh Council's decision to approve the Labour and Conservative amendment to set the number of strip clubs in the city at zero. From the outset, the workers in the clubs, whose safety and financial security this policy puts at great risk, have been ignored by the Council.”

“Yet again, despite sharing their fears for their safety, for their livelihoods, sharing their expertise on their own working conditions, the Council have chosen to force them into working under greater risk of violence, to further remove and limit their working rights, and push more workers into unemployment and an insufficient benefits system during an unprecedented cost of living crisis.”

“We fear for our safety when the industry is pushed underground, away from the safety of our clubs” – a dancer from Edinburgh

Speaking to Dazed, another dancer – who wishes to remain anonymous – expressed her dismay at the decision. “We fear for our safety when the industry is pushed underground, away from the safety of our clubs. We will face homelessness when we can no longer pay our bills. Many dancers are single mothers faced with the reality of not knowing if they'll be able to put food on the table,” she said. “[The council] has reinforced the view that sex workers don't deserve respect and put us at huge risk,” she continued, adding that the SNP and Greens duly listened to their concerns while Labour and Conservatives appeared to have “made their minds up already”.

USW has reiterated that this new policy will force dancers into danger. “It will drive workers into underground and unregulated spaces, where they have no access to working rights, protections, nor the security of the clubs. If the Council cared about women's safety, a safety which includes all women, they would enshrine the rights of these workers into a progressive SEV policy that ensures [the] safety of the workers.”

They also stressed that they will not let this decision go unchallenged. “USW will continue to stand for the rights of workers, we will continue to fight for strippers’ access to safe workplaces and working rights, and we will push for this decision to be reversed at judicial review.”