So, the festive period is upon us once again. The city is awash with Christmas – office parties and meals, frantic last-minute shoppers, the fantastic lights and Christmas tree displays sparkling in the city centre and in communities across city.
And, as has become tradition here in the Capital, we will once again welcome tens of thousands of people to our winter festival and to our world-famous Hogmanay celebrations – with many, many millions more watching from home across the globe.
The array of winter festivities and how the city looks when it is dressed up for Christmas reminds us why Edinburgh has been named the best city in the world to live. Something we, as Edinburgh residents, should all be immensely proud of.
But while we all celebrate, not everyone shares in these successes.
Earlier this month, I joined the Bethany Christian Trust Care Van team to better understand the services this organisation offers and who they work with. The Care Van (staffed by volunteers from churches across Edinburgh) travels the city at lunch times and at night to give free meals to those who are experiencing homelessness and rough sleeping.
During my visit, I was struck by just how many people relied on this service. Against the backdrop of hundreds of festive shoppers bustling along George street, it was hard to see 30 Edinburgh citizens queuing for the most basic of provisions.
In addition to the Care Van, Bethany runs a winter shelter that accommodates 75 people each night. Bethany will be the first to tell you that night shelters aren’t a long-term fix to homelessness. But when I met with the team, they reminded me that this will literally keep people alive on sub-zero nights this winter and that 700 visitors used this service last winter alone.
I was delighted to formally thank Bethany for all the work they do during December’s council meeting. They are still running an urgent appeal for warm clothing or blankets for the shelter. Please consider donating online if you can at www.bethanychristiantrust.com.
While Edinburgh citizens queue for free sandwiches because they can’t afford lunch, the Scottish Government unveiled their draft budget. Surprise, surprise it looks like bad news; that Edinburgh will be forced to find further savings (on top of the £240m we’ve already made) of around £40 million next year.
The disastrous impacts of funding cuts from the Government are clear. In my own ward, seeing projects like Pilton Community Health, Pilton Equalities and the North West Carers suffer from the lack of available finding to support what can often be lifesaving work, delivered daily, has produced wide spread community protest. As a Forth Ward councillor, I will be doing all I can to work with officers and funders to look at any possible means to support these projects’ survival and success into the future.
As a Labour councillor my job next year is clear: as we work hard to set our own budget locally, I will continue to call on the Scottish Government to properly fund our capital city. I urge you too to lobby your local MSP to stand up for Edinburgh!
Finally, I’d like to take the chance to wish you all a great festive period, a happy New Year and all the very best for 2019.
Cammy Day is the Labour Group leader at Edinburgh City Council