Thousands benefit from cash taken from criminals

Mr MacAskill with tutors and participants in the rugby scheme. Picture: Julie Bull

Mr MacAskill with tutors and participants in the rugby scheme. Picture: Julie Bull

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NEARLY £4 million of ­criminals’ ill-gotten gains has been ploughed into youth projects in Edinburgh.

Thousands of youngsters in the Capital have signed up for a range of sporting, cultural, educational and mentoring activities funded by a Holyrood cash pot using proceeds of crime seized from crooks.

Dubbed Cashback for Communities, the scheme has helped bankroll a string of community projects for young people at risk of ­turning to crime and anti-social behaviour.

The cash boost for Capital projects comes as Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill visited a programme for budding rugby players at Murrayfield which earned investment as part of the scheme.

The Game On employability scheme aims to get young people back into education or employment by using rugby to develop their life and employability skills and experience.

Mr MacAskill said: “Some of the youngsters are challenging but also come from very ­challenged environments.

“I’m a great believer that you need to have self-esteem, hope and aspiration.

“And I think what we see is that it can give them a lot of self-confidence, that they can have hope and belief that they can improve and they aspire to do that.

Hope Boa, 17, from Leith, who has started the once-weekly rugby sessions, said she had friends who had “turned their lives around” through projects funded through ­proceeds of crime.

“People are prejudiced because of where you’re from, they expect bad things from you and don’t give you a chance so folk easily give up and turn to crime because no one seems to care,” she said.

Mark Coull, project development officer for Game On, said more than 350 people, aged 16-24, had taken part in the scheme in its first year.

He said: “The majority come in and do some rugby with us.

“It’s the respect, leadership and core values of the game that help them to build confidence.” A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “From 2008/09 to 2013/14, ­CashBack has invested £3,973,733 in organisations to deliver free sporting, cultural and 
educational activities for children and young ­people throughout Edinburgh. This has now funded 126,246 
activities and opportunities for young people throughout the city.”

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com