Edinburgh prison officers social club reopens

Bar worker Charlene Ralton and volunteer Davie Barnes enjoy a drink at the new Prison Officers Club in Gorgie. Picture: Scott Taylor

Bar worker Charlene Ralton and volunteer Davie Barnes enjoy a drink at the new Prison Officers Club in Gorgie. Picture: Scott Taylor

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A PRISON social club forced to close when its site was sold has reopened in a new part of town.

The Edinburgh Prison Officers Social Club fought a long battle with the Scottish Prison Service to stay in its premises in Longstone Road, near Saughton jail.

But when the SPS sold the land for housing and the doors finally closed, members vowed to find a new base. They have spent the past 12 months refurbishing a former physiotherapy unit in McLeod Street, Gorgie.

And now it has been officially opened by Lord Provost Donald Wilson – who backed the club’s fight.

Club social convener Linda Aitken is delighted the much-loved club will continue – albeit with a new address. She said: “We have risen from the ashes.

“We overstayed our welcome at Longstone. They were threatening eviction and rather than barricade ourselves in we decided we would go and start up somewhere else. The SPS policy was to shut every prison officers’ club in the country – we were the last in Scotland.”

The refurbishment cost around £150,000 and was partly funded by a £100,000 loan from Tennent’s. Ms Aitken said: “A lot of members put a lot of hard work into it and it’s looking tremendous.”

The Lord Provost said: “The club was a much-loved and appreciated local asset. It was not just about prison officers having somewhere to go and socialise – its membership was made up of lots of other people too.

“It did a tremendous amount of charity work – from football strips for local schools to working with a village in Africa – and the community very much benefited from its presence.

“But they were effectively thrown off the land they were on.”

Councillor Wilson said the Gorgie/Dalry Community Association, which used to be based next door to the club’s new McLeod Street base, had to move out because it could not afford renovations.

“I’m sure the prison officers’ club will be a real asset to the area,” he said.

iswanson@edinburghnews.com