One of the best things about being the Councillor for Colinton\Fairmilehead is how the military is interwoven into local history. From listed buildings to the remains of the mock battlefield created during World War One for training, they are part of what defines the wider area. When cycling to work, I regularly pass troops running en mass or see them in Tesco when shopping.
Indeed, they were a welcome sight during the “Beast from the East” when they helped clear Colinton Primary School of snow, and they also ensured older people living in the area were warm and well provisioned.
The downside, however, is that too often they are used by Edinburgh’s nationalists to attack the “British State”. In his recent opinion article (02/10/18), Gordon MacDonald MSP rightly highlighted that the Public Accounts Committee earlier this year found that 20% of service family homes across the UK were lying empty. MacDonald demanded that “the MoD must ensure that they are making proper use of the homes they have at their disposal.” Citing the two Barracks in my Ward as an example, he claimed the MoD is “failing in this duty”.
If he had bothered to pick up the phone to the Barracks, he would quickly learn that any empty MoD residential properties in the area are being put on the market for rent.
MacDonald rightly points out that many service men and women do have a tough time when they leave the armed forces and some end up homeless. The MoD does have a duty of care for these people – indeed, we all do. Given that housing falls firmly within the remit of the Scottish Government, however, I do wonder why MacDonald is so quiet about their record?
Perhaps he knows that the year-on-year cuts to Edinburgh’s budget he has enthusiastically supported makes it harder for the Council help the well over 1000 people registered as homeless in Edinburgh?
There is, however, an opportunity for him to act. Although Dreghorn Barracks is safe, there is a chance Redford Barracks will close in 2022. Will he be demanding that the Scottish Government gives the Council the funding needed to invest in at least part of the site to both help solve the affordable housing crisis in the area, and also provide homes and employment for former service personnel?