EDINBURGH City Council is drawing up plans for a brothel-free capital due to the impending closure of many of the city's saunas.

Local authority officials are putting together "exit" services to help the dozens of sex workers who face having their place of work closed down.

Campaigners who have called for the saunas to shut welcomed the move.

Edinburgh's decades-old policy of licensing saunas, many of which are fronts for prostitution, appears to be coming to an end.

A police raid in June led to seven individuals being charged with brothel-keeping and living off immoral earnings, while the council also suspened the licences of six establishments.

A further seven saunas have been inspected by Police Scotland, a move which could result in the closure of all 13 brothels in the city.

However, while anti-sauna campaigners are happy about the new approach, fears exist that the sex workers could end up at risk of violence or exploitation if they choose to work in flats or on the street once the saunas close.

Labour council leader Andrew Burns, who is believed to be broadly sympathetic to the new policy, has anticipated the problems and is behind moves to have a co-ordinated approach that meets the needs of the women in the industry.

A senior council source said: "We could face a problem if we are under-prepared.

"It's only sensible to work out which services are required if the saunas close."

It is believed the multi-faceted approach is likely to focus on services relating to counselling, welfare rights and addiction.

The council and other public agencies already provide services relating to women's health and wellbeing, but the prospect of sauna closures is expected to bring new challenges.

Edinburgh's Labour and SNP coalition includes councillors who have a range of views on the crackdown.

Some politicians in both parties welcome the rethink, while others believe the status quo has kept sex workers safe.

A local newspaper recently spoke to sex workers who were worried about the policy rethink.

One prostitute was quoted saying: "I just can't get my head around why they want to close us. The police could end up putting women at risk of getting raped, or murdered like in Ipswich."

Another sex worker said: "Gangsters and pimps start getting involved when you have private flats. Since we've been threatened with ­closure, I've already been contacted by men asking if I want them to be my driver."

The six saunas that had their licences suspended are believed to be: Scorpio Leisure; the New Town sauna; the Blair Street sauna; Abacus; Paradise; and the New Gentle Touch.

Jan Macleod, the senior development officer at the Women`s Support Project, said: "What is helpful for women is access to benefits and debt advice, support to secure employment, and, for some women, fast access to addiction services.

"Also important is access to emotional support and counselling to help women to recover from the experience of being in prostitution."

Jenny Kemp, the co-ordinator at the Zero Tolerance charity, said: "It's welcome news that the council is developing services for the women in saunas who may wish to leave prostitution. Many women in the sex industry have complex lives and need support to move on."

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said: "The women involved in the sex trade are some of our most vulnerable.

"They will need counselling, housing support, skills and training. Some will need medical treatment and support to end addictions."

Councillor Cammy Day, who takes the lead on community safety for the city council, said: "The council, NHS Lothian and other partners already provide a variety of support services to vulnerable women in Edinburgh.

"The Access Point, for example, offers a holistic housing, health and social-care service to people who are experiencing homelessness.

"Another example is Willow, which works to reduce offending, improve women's health, wellbeing and safety and provide better access to education, employment and community engagement."