A decision to set the maximum number of sexual entertainment venues in Edinburgh at zero has been quashed in court.
The city council voted to effectively ban strip clubs last year before campaigners forced a judicial review into the policy.
A City of Edinburgh Council committee opted for a nil-cap on sex establishments – a policy set to be implemented this April that the city’s strippers feared would put them out of work and left venues concerned for their future.
Critics took their fight to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, where Lord Richardson decided on Friday that councillors had made the decision on the “basis of erroneous legal advice”.
The decision made by the city’s regulatory committee in March was a knife-edge five-to-four vote in favour of setting the cap at zero.
Councillors had the option of setting the cap at four, keeping all the clubs open, but this was rejected during the two-and-a-half-hour meeting.
The council’s lawyer had argued the Scottish Parliament had set out a legislative duty to determine the appropriate number of venues from time to time, and had “provided the number may be zero”.
Venues in the city were represented by Aidan O’Neill KC, while David Welsh argued against the policy on behalf of the United Sex Workers (USW) union.
Mr Welsh told the judicial review the policy would impede on strippers’ rights, and a ban would see dancers struggle to pay their rents, push them into debt, and break up with their partners because they have to move city to work.
A USW spokesperson said: “The council’s nil-cap decision, if upheld, would have resulted in the closure of all strip clubs in the city. This would have meant many of our members losing their livelihoods or having to move away from their homes and families to find work elsewhere.
“Not only is this a huge win for strippers in Edinburgh, who are no longer facing the prospect of forced mass-unemployment in the middle of a recession, but for the working rights of strippers across the Britain.”
A City of Edinburgh Council spokesperson said: “We have received the ruling of the Judicial Review which we are considering in detail before deciding on our next steps.”