Prison officers occupy club to stop chiefs’ sale
MEMBERS of Scotland’s last-remaining prison officers’ social club have threatened to occupy the premises after it emerged Scottish Prison Service chiefs were set to reject a bid to save the institution.
Managers at Edinburgh Prison Officers’ Social Club in Longstone – established in 1957 – were told they must give up keys to the building when its lease expires on Thursday.
The development follows a decision by SPS to sell its land.
It also dashed hopes Longstone could be saved after Cruden Homes, the preferred bidder, agreed to keep the club open in the event of a sale.
However, club bosses today said they believe the last-gasp bid will be rejected because it is in breach of European Union procurement rules.
Longstone events manager Linda Aitken said members were furious that the deal with Cruden could fail and said: “We’re not going anywhere and there will be someone here 24/7. We’ve taken legal advice on squatters’ rights and it’s fair to say there will be people physically occupying the building when the lease expires.”
She said the club had repeatedly sought clarity from the SPS on the status of its own offer for the site. “We offered them the correct market value for the land but getting a response has been an absolute nightmare,” she said. “Cruden submitted a bid in April last year – the SPS accepted it. That is our understanding.
“We contacted Cruden to say we would like to meet with them. It was a terrific meeting – very positive. The company executives said they would stay on the site but that they were quite happy for us to be there.
“They then sent a letter to the SPS stating this but since then, they’ve heard nothing and we’ve heard nothing. Now we understand the sale will be rejected because it goes against EU procurement rules.”
She accused the SPS of waging a decade-long vendetta against the club.
“They want us out regardless and seem to be under the notion it’s some drinking den where the officers just gather to complain about the prison service and cause trouble.
“This place offers so much to the community with its activities, classes and fundraising. The officers don’t know what they’d do if it closes. This is a place where they can drink in safety.”
A Cruden Homes spokesman confirmed a joint proposal had been put to the SPS.
However, the SPS bosses said it was not aware of any agreement between Cruden and the club, adding: “The lease for the premises expires on January 30, by which time we expect to take up vacant possession of the property.”
SAFE AND SECURE SINCE 1957
EDINBURGH Prison Officers’ Social Club opened in 1957 as a safe leisure environment for employees and their families.
It was built and is run by the Capital’s prison officers, who make it available free of charge to businesses and fundraising groups. The club has raised thousands for charities, such as the Maggies cancer centres and Capability Scotland.
It sponsors football teams from Longstone and Stenhouse primaries, and houses a golf society and the East of Scotland Fair Play League.
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