Edinburgh sauna licences 'could be scrapped'

Edinburgh Council could end its long-standing tolerant approach to the sex trade by scrapping licences for saunas.

Councillors are to be asked on Friday to vote for consultation on changing public entertainment licence rules.

This would result in a vote next month which could end the council's role in regulating saunas.

Council officials said the current arrangement was "no longer effective" and saunas should be regulated in the same way as other businesses.

They said that removing saunas and massage parlours from licensing would mean they could continue to operate but would be subject to "enforcement activity through trading standard and public health powers".

And any criminal or illegal activity would be a matter for Police Scotland.

Edinburgh is the only Scottish city to operate a licensing scheme for saunas and massage parlours, part of its tolerant approach to the sex trade.

But the council's move to scrap licences comes after recent raids by police on saunas in the capital.

Last month six of the city's 13 saunas were refused licences and in the summer the police carried out raids on a number of premises.

These were condemned by Edinburgh-based education charity Scot-Pep, which said sex workers could be forced on to the streets if licensing for the saunas was removed.

It said the Edinburgh model had ensured a safe workplace for women for almost three decades.

Council officials believe that the current policy leads to too many legal challenges, which are putting it at "financial and reputational risk".

Police Scotland said it would continue to maximise public safety and harm reduction in all premises.

Supt Matt Richards, of Police Scotland, said: "Any criminal activity detected within these venues will be reported to the appropriate authorities."

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