Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Blindcraft: A victim of budgets, not cutbacks

It is to Edinburgh's shame that the doors of the Blindcraft factory in Craigmillar closed last week for the last time. A social enterprise founded in 1793 - yes, 218 years ago - which has provided disabled people in the capital with not just a living but an opportunity to be valued and productive, closed down in the name of "cutbacks".

But the great irony of this despicable decision is that closing Blindcraft, and making all those workers redundant, will cost the taxpayer more, not less, than keeping it open.

What this really is is a cynical manipulation of budgets by the SNP/Lib Dem council, the same misrepresentation that the SNP Scottish government does on a bigger scale on a regular basis.

Make no mistake, closing Blindcraft will save the council budget a substantial sum, which the SNP/Lib Dem council can now choose to spend on flags or propaganda. But the overall cost to the taxpayer will rise as a substantial majority of its 53 remaining employees are left without employment or prospects and are forced to rely entirely on state benefits.

The economic cost of the closure to the UK benefits budget is likely to be approximately twice the amount of the savings made by the council. But the benefits budget comes from central government funds, so neither the council nor the Scottish government care about it. It's still taxpayers' money, but it's someone else's responsibility.

Of course the real tragedy of the closure is the effect on the lives of the employees. For these folk, Blindcraft has been a unique opportunity to build a career in an environment which does not discriminate on the grounds of disability.

Blindcraft was the very definition of a successful social enterprise - both an economic and a social good. But because the SNP/Lib Dem council had the opportunity to offload the cost to someone else's budget, no matter the overall economic impact and no matter the opportunities destroyed in the process, it is now gone.

Edinburgh people shouldn't forget this in next year's council elections. But voters in the City Centre by-election in two weeks (18th August) have the opportunity to break this coalition now, and potentially give a new council the chance to right this wrong. Vote Karen Doran on 18th August to turf the SNP/Lib Dem rulers out of the City Chambers.


  1. I guess this highlights the difference between centralist control and devolved control of budgetary decisions. Rationality is discouraged in both. The government will take credit in the former and abandon the process in the latter, both in the name of the interests of the electorate. It would be nice to think that, if the government was interested, they would have over ruled this decision on economic and practical grounds. But that would have opened them up to allegations of interfering in the council budgets. On the other hand, who are the council there for if not to defend the vulnerable. If nobody in the council chamber could mount a defence of Blindcraft on moral grounds, than what does it say about them? I suggest a campaign paraphrasing the famous statement by Pastor Martin Niemöller. "first they closed down the hospitals"....etc.

  2. No mention of the previous Labour administration who failed to turn around Blindcraft and failed to get them into a position where they wouldn't rack up debt levels and then need to close six years later!