SCOTLAND's eight police forces merged two months ago.

But national policing may have begun for real yesterday in the seedy saunas of the capital.

The old Lothian and Borders Police – abolished on April 1 – was routinely accused of turning a blind eye to Edinburgh's barely concealed off-street sex trade.

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The new Police Scotland certainly does not do so – as proved by historic raids across the city.

"It was long overdue," said Graeme Pearson, the Labour MSP better known as the detective who led the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency before it too was swallowed up by the national force. "It was dishonest to pretend we did not know what was going on inside the saunas.

"I don't think anybody thought men were visiting these places for an actual sauna."

Senior officers in Strathclyde – the biggest of Scotland's old territorial forces and Mr Pearson's former home – traditionally took a much harder line than their colleagues in the east.

Some of these men and women, including Chief Constable Stephen House, are now in charge of the national force. Have they imposed Strathclyde values on their Edinburgh subordinates?

No, says Chief Superintendent Mark Williams, commander for the capital. "There has been a consistent approach to intelligence-led enforcement towards policing of saunas and other licensed premises in Edinburgh," he said. "There has been absolutely no change in our approach."

Mr Williams said his officers always visited saunas to check they were meeting the terms of their licences, adding that Police Scotland aimed "to minimise the impact of prostitution through reducing or eliminating the harm experienced by people working within the sex industry, or those who are exploited for sexual purposes".

Rhoda Grant, another Labour MSP, has been critical of the old Lothian and Borders stance in the past.

Last night, she said: "A crime is a crime whether it is in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness or Shetland.

"Different parts of the country may well have different policing priorities, but you can't have anyone turning a blind eye to crime."

Edinburgh's saunas have their defenders. They are relatively safe, argue some lobbyists for sex workers.

The capital, meanwhile, isn't unique in having a thriving off-street vice trade.

So does Glasgow, with an industry last year estimated to be worth £5 million a year, much of it centred on one-woman flats advertised on the internet. These don't officially count as brothels.

The old Strathclyde Police regularly raided such venues – and bigger ones. It recorded 14 offences of "brothel-keeping" in Glasgow in 2011-12, five in just one city beat, the impoverished Govanhill. That compared with just 16 such crimes in the previous five years.

The west has already has a crackdown. Is there now to be one in the east too?