Yes. The academic evidence suggests that there is no particular association between criminality and the presence of lap-dance clubs or gentlemen’s clubs in particular communities, but we need to acknowledge that those clubs do create anxiety and moral disapproval from certain sections of society. There is a great deal of evidence that people are anxious about them being located close to residential premises, places of worship, schools and other community facilities.
The introduction of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 in England and Wales gave adoptive legislation to local authorities, allowing them to control these premises with a degree of flexibility and discretion and in many cases that has been done successfully. However, the introduction of the act in England and Wales was by and large farcical in the way that it was allowed to proceed.
We have a situation in England and Wales that I would like to see avoided in Scotland—I think you could learn the lessons from England and Wales. The legislation is adoptive, not mandatory. We have a situation, in London for example, where there is a licensing regime for these establishments in one local authority but not in a neighbouring one. The fees for the establishments range from £300 to £26,000. Some local authorities will ban nudity and others will not.
The situation has given rise to a whole range of appeal cases and litigation in which legal unreasonableness and inconsistency have been raised as valid concerns. Some of those appeals have been upheld. It has created a great deal of anxiety, expenditure and time for many local authorities, which have been left to evolve policies of their own.
My recommendation is that if Scotland introduces the bill, which I think it should, it should ensure that licensing of these types of premises is mandatory for all local authorities in Scotland and that the legislation provides a much clearer definition of sexual entertainment, because that is being challenged in England and Wales at the moment. The legislation needs to distinguish that form of entertainment from theatre performance. It also needs to ensure that it does not allow for massage parlour owners in effect to license their premises as brothels, which, as we know, would be contrary to other criminal law.
Finally, we need to ensure that there are clearer grounds for refusal in the primary legislation, not just in guidance notes. It needs to be stated in the legislation that local authorities should pay particular attention to the uses in the vicinity where those uses include education, places of worship, community facilities and so on. That should be stipulated in the legislation, so that if a case goes to appeal it is clear that the primary legislation indicates the grounds for refusal.