Kirk digs deep to help homeless charity cut by Scottish Government

By staff writers
February 4, 2012

The Church of Scotland’s Moderator has written to all 1,450 Kirk congregations asking them to raise at least £100 each to help a charity for homeless Scots, following the loss of Scottish Government backing.

The appeal went out in the middle of January and it is understood that it is going well. But there is still concern for the longer term future of Borderline, the charity for homeless Scots in London, after the Scottish Government slashed its grant.

It withdrew 75 per cent of all its funding from the end of March 2012, after steadily cutting the charity's £107,000 lifeline over the last three years.

Borderline has to raise £100,000 this year to maintain services. The charity has been offering support and advice to homeless and insecurely housed first and second generation Scots in London since 1990.

Willie Docherty, Borderline's chief executive, said: "What the Scottish government is saying is that they no longer wish to fund our organisation because we operate outside Scotland."

Mr Docherty said that two of London's best-known homelessness charities, Centrepoint and St Mungo's, regularly referred Scottish clients to Borderline because of its specialist knowledge and experience.

The agency also helps get Scots home again by paying their transport costs. "Once people have come here and realise the streets aren't paved with gold, they have to find help somewhere. We give them travel warrants to get back home and we make sure that there's someone at the other end to meet them," said Mr Docherty.

The Scottish Government says it regrets the "difficult decision", but has to make cuts because of the financial constraints imposed on it by Westminster. Critics say the amount of money involved is tiny compared to the overall budget, but vital for the charity.

The fact that it is based in England has caused extra controversy. Alex Salmond has stressed that an independent Scotland would be good for its neighbours, and that future relations will be based on generosity. But its treatment of Borderline will give ammunition to those who accuse him of parochialism.

The Rt Rev David Arnott, Moderator of the General Assembly of the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland, has written to Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, expressing his disappointment about the withdrawal of funding. Mr Arnott is urging him to reconsider the Scottish Government’s decision.

Known to those who use Borderline as the “Scottish Embassy in London” it helps first and second generation Scots who have fallen on hard times, usually homelessness.

Mr Arnott said: “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 what it can, but I urge the First Minister to reconsider the grant allocation.”

The Church of Scotland is already involved in tackling homelessness in Scotland through the Scottish Churches Housing Action initiative. Many individual congregations have helped address homelessness through initiatives such as the Fresh Start scheme, while others have used or plan to use their land on which to build affordable housing.

* More on the work of Borderline:

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