The media are often portrayed as only telling the negative stories about local communities.
This was as prevalent as ever in the Moredun community last year. There had been a dreadful stabbing outside Aldi on Gilmerton Road. A 16-year-old had been seriously hurt. It was only by the quick intervention of passers-by that the boy’s life was saved.
There was then a subsequent altercation involving over 30 young people the following day. The police said these incidents were linked. The community was concerned. That was the bad news Moredun residents demand police patrols after gang riot involving 30 youths with knives
What has happened since should be something the community and all of us celebrate. The police put in additional officers to reassure and apprehend, the local community councils rallied, and the Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre stepped up.
The programme put in place over last summer and since has been both revolutionary and extraordinary. A cursory glance at the Goodtrees social media channels would show the hundreds of local young people of all ages being involved in activities.
The centre and the young people have really made a difference. Then came the hammer blow. The council budget was not allocating adequate funding to the south of the city. The balance of funding was leaving services in the South with just 29 per cent of the available resources as opposed to 71 per cent for the North area.
That has significant consequences. For Goodtrees alone it would ravage services to the very group that has benefitted the most. The young persons’ Health & Well-being Hub, girls and boys groups, the family group as well as the parent & toddler group. Their Friday senior group more than halved to just 30 and, critically, their holiday programmes, working with upwards of 100 young people per day helping with holiday hunger and activities.
But the Goodtrees Community were not to be defeated. They delivered thousands of flyers, collected hundreds of signatures on a petition, made placards, and wrote speeches to present to councillors. And didn’t they just. Their words are the most powerful. What a credit to their community.
One young boy, Hamed, made a very emotional speech. “We have to skip school to try and protect the future for our community centre. It is not getting fair funding and if we don’t get what we need we will end up on the street. How can we tackle the areas problems with no money? Where do I go? What do I do?”
A youth volunteer, Brandon added: “Goodtrees is quite important, ‘cause it helped me through a hard time in my life…. it built my confidence.”
The Council Committee heard their pleas and has postponed the decision pending an independent review. The young people, for now, have won. But here is the crux of the issue.
Our local services are being devastated by the continued slashing of their funding from the Scottish Government – £240m less (nearly a quarter) in the last five years. It may be a political move for them or just line on a speedsheet for some, but it is a lifeline for others. It is the beating heart of their community. It’s the social glue that holds communities together. It is the healer of community division as we have seen here.
The young people and Goodtrees team took responsibility for saving their services. It is about time the Scottish Government took responsibility for the consequences of their decision to continually, year after year, decimate Council funding.
For the sake of these young people and everyone in our communities. Enough is enough.