Dancers who work in Edinburgh's strip clubs have been giving evidence to the city council as it prepares to bring in new licensing rules.
Last year, the council became the first in Scotland to opt into licensing powers to impose controls on sexual
entertainment venues (SEVs), including posers to limit or ban them.
Performers who work in the city's four lap-dancing bars were invited to speak at a closed evidence session earlier this week.
Louise, who has worked as a dancer in
Edinburgh's bars for more than five years, was among them. She told STV News it was unprecedented that the council was offering to hear their views.
A council spokeswoman said: The evidence heard will be considered and included in a report to be
presented to the Regulatory Committee later this year. A final decision will then be taken on how we propose to license these venues.
The Scottish Government ran a consultation from 1st November 2017 to 7th of February 2018 asking for opinions on allowing councils to adopt a licensing regime for lap dancing venues in their area. This seems to be based on the licensing regime already in
place in England and Wales.
The Government received 31 responses which it has just published. The Government will now consider these before publishing sits final guidance on the subject.
Lap dancing clubs could be banished from council areas across Scotland under new plans being pushed forward by ministers. A new licensing regime would hand local authorities greater powers to ban or restrict the number of sexual entertainment venues in
But of course this is not enough for some strident feminist groups that have called for politicians to go further and implement an outright ban across Scotland. Violence Against Women Partnerships (VAWP) insisted the Scottish
Government should work with councils to outlaw lap-dancing clubs.
Cosla, which represents local government and lobbies on its behalf, responded to a consultation on the proposalssaying it was very difficult to see how a commitment to eradicating
violence against women and girls could sit alongside the licensing of sexual entertainment venues.
But venue operators said it was unfair and untrue to imply that lap-dancing is a form of violence against women. Brightcrew, operators of
Platinum Lace in Glasgow , argued its performers are all strong, independent, talented women who choose to work in sexual entertainment. It added:
It is a well-remunerated occupation. It is a form of performance.
It provides great flexibility in terms of hours and days of work, meaning that performers can work when they like, ensuring that they can find a balance between their work and other demands on their time, be it family, other work or studies.
The Scottish Government said it would consider the consultation responses before bringing in new rules. A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: Licensing of sexual entertainment venues does not seek to ban lap dancing or strip clubs but
to allow local licensing authorities to decide what is right for their area. The Scottish Government accepts the freedom of adults to engage in legal activities and employment.
MSPs have been debating ludicrous claims by feminist campaigners that employing under 18s as out of hours cleaners or tradesmen could somehow be 'groomed' or propositioned for sex. Thankfully the Scottish Government has refused to listen to the
Labour MSP Cara Hilton proposed the amendment to the Air Weapons and Licensing Bill currently going through the Scottish Parliament. She told the parliament's local government committee:
As the Bill
stands, under-18s would be able to work in such venues when sexual entertainment was not taking place. The Zero Tolerance Trust has argued that would create a groomers charter. Some men who attend such venues seek to buy sex there and there is no
guarantee they will restrict their inquiries to performers.
Justice Minister Michael Matheson told the committee he had sympathy with the objective of offering better protection to young people, but he said the proposed ban could mean
employment opportunities for young people were unreasonably restricted . He said:
I would not be comfortable in saying that a 17-year-old cleaner could not be employed, or a plumber's apprentice could not enter
to repair a leak when sexual entertainment was not taking place.
When the amendment was put to the vote at the committee, there was a 3-3 tie and the convener, SNP MSP Kevin Stewart, used his casting vote to reject the ban.
Hilton had a cliché filled whinge about the decision:
There is a real risk that this Bill could now encourage a slippery slope, allowing sexual entertainment venues to employ teenage girls to work as cleaners or in admin roles and then persuading or subtly coercing them
to become performers when they reach 18.
Scotland's new Licensing (Scotland) Bill is currently being discussed by the Scottish Parliament. A committee invited Professor Phil Hubbard, who has been following such issues, to speak about the experiences in England where similar control laws have
been in place for some time.
He spoke of the expenses incurred by councils when their morality based decisions to ban table dancing clubs are formally challenged in the courts.
Hubbard noted that a one-size-fits-all policy for all Scottish
councils would prevent the farcical situation in England and Wales where one council's decision to refuse a strip club licence can be successfully challenged - at great expense to the council - because a neighbouring council is more liberal.
National guidelines should be set on licensing fees - which range from £300 to £26,000 down south - and the amount of nudity permitted on show, he told Holyrood's Local Government Committee.
National guidelines were backed by the women's anti
lap dancing campaign group, Zero Tolerance.
But the strip clubs' trade association warned against central government imposing a draconian regime on councils, arguing that the ban on religious comedy Life Of Brian in Glasgow or the ban
on cult French porn movie Emmanuelle in some rural cinemas demonstrates the diverse moral sensibilities in Scotland's communities which should be respected.
I think the introduction of the Police
And Crime Act 2009 in the UK was by and large farcical in terms of the way it was allowed to proceed.
What we have in England and Wales is a situation that I would like to see avoided in Scotland, where we have a licensing regime
for these establishments in one local authority but not in a neighbouring one.
Fees for these establishments range from £300 to £26,000.
We have a situation where some local authorities will ban nudity and
others will not.
The whole situation has led to a whole range of appeal cases and litigation in which legal unreasonableness and inconsistency have been raised as valid concerns, and some of these appeals have been upheld.
It has created a great deal of anxiety, expenditure and time for local authorities who have been left to evolve policies of their own.
He didn't appear to mention much about the suffocating uncertainty and the
effects of arbitrary moral censorship on businesses trying to make a living.
The government consultation document results are reported as follows:
This report provides a summary of responses to the Scottish Government's Consultation on the licensing of sexual
entertainment venues (SEV.s). The consultation ran from 24 June to 24 September 2013, and sought views on proposals to establish a new licensing regime for sexual entertainment venues such as lap dancing bars.
Number and Type
In total 1,017 responses were received. Of these 941 were largely identical in substance and reflected a campaign organised by the Scottish Association of Licensed Adult Entertainment Venues. It is presumed that
the majority of these responses were from those who work in the industry together with customers. The remainder of the responses were predominately from organisations with a direct interest in the proposals such as club operators, the Police, local
authorities, gender equality and violence against women groups and organisations representing mainstream arts. There was also a small number of responses from interested individual members of the public.
Scottish Nationalist MSP Sandra White has proposed the creation of a repressive new adult entertainment licence which could lead to councils banning table dancing.
But in a submission to a Scottish Government consultation, the Association of Adult
Entertainment Venues (AAEV), which represents 17 venues, has rejected claims table dancing clubs are a front for prostitution and human trafficking. The group points out that no arrests, charges or prosecutions have been made in relation to such
offences and says ministers misunderstand the industry.
Steve McDonald, a strip club owner and author of the AAEV submission said:
The association and all its members refute in the strongest manner any links to
organised crime such as prostitution and human trafficking.
The many layers of control currently provided by the clubs would easily detect such forms of criminality if it was ever apparent on a club's premises.
The association queries why this consultation is taking place as there does not appear to be an issue which requires to be addressed.
About 350 lap dancers are estimated to work in clubs across Scotland, and the
AAEV has called for existing venues to be protected from closure to save jobs. A petition setup by dancers says the government should cease the attacks on out industry.
Some members of the public will be given a greater say on whether table-dancing clubs are given licences under new plans unveiled by the Scottish Government.
Ministers will consult on proposals to establishnew licensing restrictions for sexual
entertainment venues. The Government said the consultation also seeks specific views on whether licensing authorities should be able to totally ban such venues.
The Government is launching the consultation after similar plans were rejected in the
The move has the support of MSPs and gender extremists. The Women's Support Project in Glasgow said:
This move recognises that what is for sale on premises is sexual arousal and such premises
should have their own specific license and no longer fall in the same category as leisure or entertainment venues.
This move also provides better consistency with the overall approach in Scotland which sees lap dancing as a form
of exploitation and helps support a culture in which women are viewed in narrow and objectifying ways.
'Justice' Secretary Kenny MacAskill claimed:
This consultation seeks views on proposals that
will give licensing authorities the powers to reflect local views and control the presence and operation of such venues in their areas.
These venues undoubtedly divide opinion. However, the proposed licensing regime is about
ensuring the safety and protection of customers and workers while making sure the interests of local communities are protected.
The newspaper chose not to include opinions from the venues, employees or customers.
A new attempt to allow Scottish councils to ban lap dancing clubs on moral grounds is to be launched.
Sandra White of the SNP previously made an attempt to shut down the clubs supported by her party's then minority administration, but was defeated
by 76 votes to 45. This time, the SNP has an overall majority and their plans to give councils the powers to refuse adult entertainment licences would almost certainly go ahead.
'Justice' Secretary Kenny MacAskill has already met Ms White to give
her new proposals his blessing.
At the moment, lap dancing clubs need only a public entertainment licence. The new move would create an adult entertainment licence to be issued by councils and it would be up to them to set how many establishments
would be acceptable, and that could be none at all.
White, the MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, claims that lap dancing exploits women and has links to prostitution. The MSP said:
I feel so strongly about this and that
is why I am going down this route. It would give councillors the choice to say if one lap dancing club is too many. Under this legislation, they would be able to decide that and not risk being taken to court by lap dancing club owners. It would not be
mandatory and the decision would lie with each local authority.
Scottish Tory chief whip John Lamont said the party would not be backing the latest plans and added:
Many of us took jobs in bars or
shops to help pay our way through university, or other points in our lives. To shut the door on those who wish to work in such establishments is wrong. People may well have moral objections to their existence, but no one is forcing them to go
inside, or even to walk past them.
It is important that the SNP is not allowed to erode freedom of choice as yet another value they want to abolish from Scottish society.
The best way forward is to ensure
tight regulation is in place so no one is being exploited and everything taking place is legal.
The 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.
Injustice 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.
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.
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.
Sarah Vernon, a former dancer who has just
completed a PhD in striptease and strip club culture in Scotland, welcomed Ms White's defeat. 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. 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.
Lap dancing bosses angry and slanderous accusations
It does seem to be the case that politicians and journalists are able to make up absolute bollox about adult industries, the more ludicrous the better. I wonder how South Africa are
coping with 40,000 sex workers at the football? And how about Denis MacShane's 25,000 trafficked sex slaves that can't be found even after hundreds of police raids?
Owners of lap dancing clubs are threatening to sue an MSP and a women's rights campaigner for branding dancers prostitutes .
They've called in lawyers following remarks made by SNP's Sandra White and Ann Hamilton, of the council-funded
Glasgow Community and Safety Services group.
Club bosses and dancers are furious at what they regard as, slanderous and unsubstantiated, comments.
Sandra White has tabled an amendment to the Bill seeking greater powers to curb the
number of clubs and force them to apply for new, stricter licences. Her aim is to shut the clubs, which she claims lead to prostitution.
But club owners and dancers claim the, so-called evidence, given to MSPs is based on rumour and
hearsay, and politicians are being misled.
The legal threat is contained in a letter to Ms White and Ms Hamilton from the new Association of Scottish Adult Licensed Entertainment Venues. It states: The Association is extremely concerned over
comments attributed to you in the media and the web to the effect that adult entertainment venues in Glasgow provide sexual services and that staff working within the premises are engaged in prostitution.
These reckless and irresponsible
comments are entirely without foundation and as such are both defamatory and actionable.
The association has called for the women to withdraw their comments. Club bosses have sent letters to all MSPs. The dancers have also sent letters to the
politicians in a bid to block the amendment to the Bill.
White said she believed dancers did use the clubs for more than lap dancing, but admitted most of her evidence was based on other people's comments and reports from women's support
groups. The MSP, who has visited lap dancing clubs, said: There's not enough punters sitting in just to see the lap dancing. Other people have said, and there is research regarding the fact that some of the people that are in these clubs do revert to
prostitution to earn extra money. I think a lot of guys expect it as well.
Ann Hamilton also said her evidence was based on the views of others: It's been very much from women that have talked about their involvement ... and men who have
said they have bought sex in lap dancing clubs.
In a separate
letter, a group of lap dancers told MSPs: We choose lap dancing as a means of sustaining and improving our quality of life.
Sandra White and do- gooders have branded us as 'prostitutes, exploited,
vulnerable, slappers' and our dancing in our clubs as 'demeaning' to women in general. We are anything but. The majority of us are well-educated women who train hard for our dance art.
Some of us work full-time and
others part-time in what we regard as a safe, secure, friendly, clean and well-paid environment.
A showgirl turned scholar is taking on the Scottish Government over new moves to ban lapdancing. Former dancer Sarah Vernon, 34, has just finished work on a PhD in striptease and strip club culture. She is using her expertise to campaign against the
bid to allow councils to outlaw strip clubs.
She said a ban would infringe performers' human rights and damage Scotland's economy. Vernon, who runs an Edinburgh-based company specialising in burlesque and cabaret, said: I was a dancer for many
years. I'm a big advocate of freedom within adult entertainment. Under human rights laws, if everyone is consenting, you have a right to dance around naked because that's your freedom of expression.
Vernon said there had been no long-term
study in the UK which backed up the critics' claims that women were harmed by working as lapdancers.
MSPs are due to debate the issue later this month after Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill promised to table an amendment at the final stage of the
Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill, based on proposals from Glasgow SNP nutter Sandra White.
The Edinburgh-based Zero Tolerance Trust backed the call, arguing lapdance clubs are harmful to women individually, women collectively, and
Ms Vernon said she understood Zero Tolerance's position, but claimed it did not look at the issue logically: The bottom line is some people don't like other people doing this for a living. They find it distasteful and they do
not see it as a valid form of labour. The Zero Tolerance people think we are reinforcing patriarchy, permitting ourselves to be exploited and allowing the degradation of women. It's quite insulting to be told 'you might think you are choosing but you are
In a submission she wrote on behalf of the International Union of Sex Workers, Ms Vernon describes the proposed amendment as a form of censorship that does not fit with the image of Scotland as a modern, tolerant and diverse
society: And she warns: Demand for this form of entertainment will not disappear. Closure of current adult entertainment venues will drive the practice into unlicensed venues, hotel rooms and domestic premises, greatly increasing the risk to dancers'
Some of the country's most celebrated arts bodies have welcomed clarification to new laws designed to crack down on lap-dancing clubs which would have inadvertently prevented them from staging shows featuring nudity.
Nationalist MSP Sandra White
has put forward an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill going through Holyrood which would allow local authorities and licensing boards to ban lap-dancing venues in their area.
But organisations such as Scottish Ballet and the
Festival Fringe Society had warned that under plans to tighten licensing rules, renowned shows featuring nudity, such as Nic Green's Trilogy , could have been pulled.
Cindy Sughrue, Scottish Ballet's chief executive, had urged the committee
to carefully consider the wording of White's amendment, given the potential unintended consequences for theatre companies, who would be unable to show iconic works by world-renowned directors and choreographers.
She said: Nudity, as defined, would rule out presentations of some of the most powerful performance work of the 20th and 21st centuries, including numerous acclaimed productions created and presented in Scotland, including at the Edinburgh International festival.
At a meeting of the Scottish Parliament's injustice committee, politicians echoed such concerns. Robert Brown, Scottish Liberal Democrats justice spokesman, said: For theatrical performances, I'm not sure it presents as clear exemptions as
one would hope.
Bill Aitken, his Tory counterpart and the committee's convener, agreed. I do have serious reservations and I don't think the issue of theatrical performances has been satisfactorily resolved.
Kenny MacAskill told the committee that while communities should be allowed to refuse permission to license the clubs, the government had significant concerns over Ms White's amendment. He said: There are drafting difficulties with the
amendment which will have to be addressed.
Ms White accepted an offer of assistance to clarify her amendment, meaning the government will now draft a tighter licensing regime which will come before MSPs when the bill is considered by
the full parliament at its final stage.
On 13 April 2010, the Justice Committee from the Scottish Parliament decided to issue a call for evidence for
amendment 516 [pdf] which equates lap dancing licensing with that of sex shops.
was put forward by Sandra White MSP (SNP) for Glasgow.
Amendment 516 changes the 1982 Civic Government (Scotland) Act
of control of sex shops. The original act states that local authorities can decide how many sex shops can be in their authority and that the potential sex shops must advertise their intention to apply for a license. The effect that this has
had is that some local authorities rejecting all applications for a sex shop license. In Glasgow, for example, the guidance notes for sex shop applications reads:
Be advised that, in the past, applications for a sex shop licence have been refused on the grounds that the committee felt that the number of sex shops for the locality (ie. Glasgow) should be nil.
It's also worth noting that the licence costs £12,000+.
The Scottish Parliament's justice committee will consider the plan this week.
Glasgow Council's Community and Safety Services arm has urged MSPs to accept White's
amendment, saying lap-dancing was a form of violence against women . The letter said: Intelligence would suggest that these venues are in fact linked to, and part of, the sex industry and selling of sexual services does occur in some clubs.
The council said the current licensing regime was ineffective , and added local authorities must have the option to refuse to license such establishments .
The bid is reported to have backing from Scottish Women's Aid, the Scottish
Coalition Ag-ainst Sexual Exploitation, and Scottish Women's Convention.
Councillor Jim Coleman, acting head of the council, said: We view lap-dancing as a form of sexual exploitation which degrades women and also contributes to public nuisance
On 13 April 2010, the Justice Committee from the Scottish Parliament decided to issue a call for evidence for
amendment 516 [pdf] which equates lap dancing licensing with that of sex shops.
was put forward by Sandra White MSP (SNP) for Glasgow. The amendment is one of several hundred put forward to the Criminal Justice and Licensing
Bill , which also contains the extreme pornography law and amendment relating to the criminalising the purchasing of sexual services.
Amendment 516 changes the
1982 Civic Government (Scotland) Act of control of sex shops. The original act states that local authorities can
decide how many sex shops can be in their authority and that the potential sex shops must advertise their intention to apply for a license. The effect that this has had is that some local authorities rejecting all applications for a sex shop license. In
Glasgow, for example, the guidance notes for sex shop applications reads:
that, in the past, applications for a sex shop licence have been refused on the grounds that the committee felt that the number of sex shops for the locality (ie. Glasgow) should be nil.
It's also worth noting that the licence
What is most disturbing about the lap dancing amendment is that, like so many other laws, it is so poorly written that it could potentially extend beyond its original intent. Sandra White and Glasgow Council are quite obviously dead against adult
entertainment venues. But this law could potentially call your own bedroom an adult entertainment venue!
In the amendment, an adult entertainment venue is defined as any premises, vehicle, vessel or stall used for a business with an audience of one
or more that any live performance or display of nudity (which includes breasts on a woman or pubic area on either sex) that is provided solely or principally for the purpose of sexually stimulating any member of the audience . Where this gets
tricky is the little bits of (whether by verbal or other means) and ignoring financial gain.
Women taking their clothes off and dancing in an erotic way in front of a paying audience of men is the target. Ideally, I should be able to
put on a strip show for my partner in the comfort of my own home. But is this allowed here? I'm not doing it for money, but we are ignoring financial gain . I'm only doing it for my partner, but audience includes an audience of one . I'm
doing it in my own home, but the location is any premises. In other words, every time I expose my breasts to my partner, I would be committing a crime under this law. Even worse, I can't even verbally describe an erotic fantasy or read a published
(and wholly legal) erotic story to my partner because it would count as a live performance of the verbal kind that is sexually stimulating.
Another bit of brilliant legislation from the Scottish Government in an effort to stop people from enjoying
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