Gina Davidson: Engine Shed’s future up to us

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LAST night, there was a Members’ Debate in Holyrood on the closure of The Engine Shed. You may recall that the social enterprise cafe and caterers in St Leonard’s is a training scheme for young adults who have special needs and learning difficulties, and for 25 years has been preparing them for the world of work.

Changes to how the council wants to fund the support of such young people into jobs has resulted in the withdrawal of The Engine Shed’s grant. There has been a campaign to keep it going – MSPs including Sarah Boyack, who led the debate yesterday have been heavily involved – but it seems, at the moment, it will close.

How those young people will be supported into work in the future remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure, it will likely prove to be a more costly process for the council – and therefore the taxpayer – than the funding of The Engine Shed. And I may be cynical, but I’d bet it will also likely leave many young people who need support sitting at home rather than working.

Cost is, of course, at the root of the change as it is with everything the council does as it battles with a lack of income through the ongoing ­council tax freeze, a massive deficit and the £231 million tram debt – although that, according to council officials, is not “a major factor” in the need to make deep cuts to services. Pull the other one. It’s why massive public ­consultation has been under way – the councillors want to know what you’d cut before they make their final decision. They may listen, they may feel unable to act.

However it’s unlikely anyone asked an opinion would say charities such as The Engine Shed should lose their funding. Any third sector organisation, in fact, which is actually providing support for the needy, the deprived, the disabled and is having to do so because there is no help for the people who need it from any other quarter.

There’s no doubt that if we had social services which were properly funded and up to the task required, there’d be no need for many of the charities which exist today. They are there because of need, not just 
do-goodery. Our council taxes aren’t going to rise any time soon, but ­people’s needs will continue and undoubtedly increase, given population ageing. Quite rightly, charities have pointed out that no account is given to the savings they deliver to the council through their work. For every £1 the council gives to charities, the organisations themselves deliver a service worth £9.

But without that consistent grant funding, then those £9s will soon disapppear.

I guess we could all set up direct debits and pay to the charities directly and make up the council’s shortfall. The Engine Shed, for instance, needs £175,000 a year – many more people than that signed a peitition to keep it open. Imagine if they all donated a £5 or a £10 a year, it could keep going no problem.

It is probably a similar situation for many charities. The other option of course is to pay more tax and let the local authority hand out the block grants instead. Just as it has been done for years.

Or, of course, we could just say ­goodbye to vital charities. It’s up to all of us.

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Farage is a lot of things but he’s no fascist

THE mural painted outside St John’s Church at the west end of Princes Street is always provocative.

It is a space in the busiest part of town which is meant to make you stop and think of a bigger picture, of what’s going on in the world, rather than just what bus you can catch or which shop you’re going to spend some cash in next.

It’s current one questions the evolution of fascism. Four portraits, from Hitler to Mosley, Nick Griffin and finally Nigel Farage.

Do you think Ukip leader Farage is a fascist? Is he perpetuating the same kind of politics which were once all the rage in 1930s Germany?

We know for sure that he can’t bear immigrants (which I guess would include all gypsies), unless they’re wealthy ones. Some in his party do have huge problems in accepting homosexuality and it wasn’t that long ago he was forced to carpet a candidate for his views on the disabled.

But Farage wants to withdraw from Europe rather than take it over, and he wants as small a state as possible, rather than an all-controlling one.

This mural is asking a question – is he a fascist or is he just the face of a party which encourages it in others? I think it’s the latter. The leader of Ukip is a pin-stripe suited, right-wing Conservative playing to the gallery of those who are rightly cross about the recession – and among them there will undoubtedly be old-school racists and fascists looking to lash out at those who don’t fit with their prejudiced view of the world.But, as we all know, immigrants didn’t cause the recession – bankers and politicians who signed up to lax scrutiny of banks did.

Farage and his views are unpleasant and should be argued against at every opportunity, but he’s as fascist as Ed Miliband is communist.