A union representing Edinburgh’s strippers has said winning its battle against the city’s strip club ban was “essential to save the jobs of hundreds of workers” in the Scottish capital.
The City of Edinburgh Council voted through a nil-cap policy in March, limiting the number of establishments in the capital to zero and effectively forcing its four strip clubs to close from April next year.
Now union United Sex Workers (USW) is trying to raise £20,000 to launch a judicial review against the authority in a last-ditch attempt to keep clubs open.
Danielle Worden, legal caseworker for affiliated union United Voices of the World, said that “the success of this legal challenge is not only essential to save the jobs of hundreds of workers in Edinburgh, but also to send a clear message to other councils that ‘nil-caps’ are unlawful”.
She added: “Otherwise, the existence of the stripping industry is at stake, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of workers.”
USW is preparing for the battle, and said it is in touch with a Scottish legal firm to challenge the ban’s compatibility with the Equality Act.
It said it hoped if Edinburgh’s council was forced to back down, local authorities across Britain who were considering setting a nil-cap would have to reverse their decision.
One worker, known as Annie F, will be left unemployed if the strip club ban is upheld.
“If I cannot work as a stripper, I will be unable to pay my bills, and we will be pushed into poverty,” she said.
“I am a single mother to a three-year-old. I have no family to help with childcare, and my daughter is only entitled to free childcare for six hours a day, four days a week. This prevents me from working in most jobs.”
The nil-cap policy on licences for so-called sexual entertainment venues will not only shut the city’s clubs, but also stop new ones from opening.
The union said it feared that strippers, bar and security staff would lose their jobs with no alternative venues for them to find work in.
The ban was approved by the City of Edinburgh’s regulatory committee on March 31 with 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.
Strippers told the committee they wanted to remain in work, and warned that banning the clubs could push stripping underground and make the lives of workers more dangerous.
But they also heard from campaigners in favour of banning the club, who said they exploited women.
The committee was told that the Scottish Government’s policy of preventing violence against women and girls gave a national definition which included commercial sexual exploitation, defined as lap and pole-dancing as well as stripping.
Then-councillor Cameron Rose said it was proportionate to set the limit at zero, and added: “It’s inconceivable to me to profess support for this policy and hold it compatible with having whatever number of sexual entertainment venues.”
But councillor Susan Rae said: “It isn’t our place to tell women what they can and cannot do and where they can and cannot work.”
A spokesman for the City of Edinburgh Council said the committee agreed the “appropriate number of venues in the city at zero”.
“It’s important to note that SEVs can still apply for a licence and committee would consider them against the agreed policy,” the spokesman added.