THE “safe zone” at the top of Leith Walk has become a very welcome feature of the city centre on weekend nights.
Of course, we would all like to see a lot less of the drinking to excess and mayhem that often follows on the city’s streets. But the presence of the SafeZone volunteers has made the city centre a safer place for everyone over recent months.
It is not just teenagers that are treated by the volunteer teams who set up camp outside St Mary’s RC Cathedral and patrol the streets by ambulance, far from it. It is nevertheless a comfort to many parents to know that there are people looking out for their children as they start to venture “up town” and that there is a safe place they know they can go to if they feel themselves in any danger.
But it is not just the watchful eyes that the SafeZone team offers which are useful, they also provide invaluable support to the emergency services. Their work looking after the drunk and incapable can free up a considerable amount of police time to concentrate on tackling crime.
Public Health Minister Maureen Watt is among those to have praised the charity’s work in Edinburgh, as well as the judges of the Evening News’ Local Hero Awards.
So it is sad to see the service facing its current troubles and having to temporarily abandon its excellent work.
The claims that are being made by the disenchanted volunteers are serious, if they prove to be true, and it is reassuring to know that the charity is looking into them.
We must hope that the charity’s management and those who give up their time on cold Saturday nights to deliver their vision of a safer city can find a way to resolve these problems. It may be too late for them to bury their differences, although we hope not. Above all, we would all like to see the SafeZone team back on duty soon.