Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Budget cuts threaten Scots homeless charity

February 10 2012
Moderator of Church of Scotland to meet First Minister to discuss funding


A charity which has been a lifeline to homeless Scots in London for over 20 years, has been given a second chance of its own after Scottish ministers agreed to reconsider their decision to pull its funding.

Borderline provides support for homeless Scots living in the UK capital, and has been dubbed the “Scottish Embassy in London”, offering vital services including hostel beds and drink and drug counselling.

But last month chief executive Willie Docherty warned it may have to close its doors as it learned that it was to lose all of its funding from the Scottish Government from April.

The charity had already survived drastic cuts. Funding levels fell from £107,000 for 2008/09 to £24,000 for the following year. However, Scottish Ministers have now indicated that they may reconsider their decision following a letter of complaint to First Minister Alex Salmond, from the Right Reverend David Arnott - the moderator of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, which helped found Borderline.

The moderator has now won a meeting with the first minister and a chance to discuss the re-instatement of the charity’s funding.

Arnott said of the charity: “I was moved when I heard of the good work Borderline do for homeless Scots in London. It is crucial that the Scottish community stands together to ensure that no vulnerable Scot in London is without the support they need. The Church of Scotland is willing to do what it can, but I urge the first minister to reconsider the grant allocation.”

And a spokesman from the Scottish Government suggested that might be possible. “The Scottish government attaches importance to work of Borderline, and in the face of deep cuts to our budget from Westminster we continue to fund a wide range of initiatives to help tackle homelessness,” he added.

“The first minister is of course very willing to meet the moderator, as he always is, to discuss if we can find a way forward, and it has already been agreed that a meeting will take place.”

Without the required funding Borderline’s future remains uncertain, leaving the 250-300 people who turn to the charity over the course of each year without an invaluable source of help. It is estimated that up to 14% of rough sleepers in London are Scottish.

To help meet the shortfall, the head of the Church of Scotland issued an urgent funding appeal to all of its 1,450 congregations, asking each church to donate £100 in order to maintain Borderline’s income. Borderline itself has sent out appeals to all its donors.

In the wake of the destruction of many major industries in Scotland in the 1980s, London saw an influx of young and unemployed from north of the border, all with hopes of starting a new and prosperous life. Soon, it was evident that the streets were in fact not paved with gold and many became homeless.

Yet the charity insists its work is still as relevant today as it ever was. Docherty said: “We will massively cut back and do what we can, but we’re seriously considering whether we can continue, whether we can afford to pay rent, to pay rates and pay staff. We cannot continue at the same level. It’s just not possible.”

• Borderline are longtime stockists of our sister magazine in London.