BlindCraft - 'Councillors will close it at their peril'

THE News has taken a realistic view of what has to be done as our city and the nation as a whole face up to an austere era in which much less cash is available for public services.

We've said all along that some tough decisions will need to be taken and that we will not oppose cuts where they are well thought through and justifiable.

But the plan to shut BlindCraft does not fit that description.

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When the Royal Blind Asylum was set up in Edinburgh in 1793 it was only the third in the world to provide welfare for the "indigent and industrious blind". More than two centuries on it provides a place to work for dozens of blind and disabled people. In doing so it helps give their lives purpose.

At times, sales of beds have been healthy - but they have slumped by more than 20 per cent in the current recession. That is why it has been targeted by the city council, which wants to save 700,000 on its subsidy to the factory.

But, as we report today, at least that much would be saved if BlindCraft moved to a three-day week. And, that way, current customers would be serviced, the workers would keep their jobs, and the charity would survive and be ready to expand again in better times.

Health and social care chief Paul Edie said just two weeks ago that the council would listen if another way forward could be found for BlindCraft.

He was hoping for Scottish Government intervention like that which helped save a similar charity in Aberdeen. It hasn't come, but he and his fellow councillors now have an alternative plan on the table which would save BlindCraft.

They will ignore it, and close down a much-loved institution in the city, at their peril.

When the News first revealed the council's proposal to close BlindCraft we predicted many people would regard it as a cut too far.

Councillors must keep this in mind as they decide tomorrow whether or not they should take away the livelihoods of scores of local disabled people.

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The union plan means they can stay the factory's execution without having to pass on the pain by making cuts to other services, some of which may be equally deserving.

And as they continue the work of looking for savings they might reflect once again that their 2 million communications and marketing team wastes 200,000 a year printing a useless propaganda sheet called Outlook.