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The Citadel is Leith’s heart

Citadel Youth Centre has been serving Leith for 40 years writes Gordon Munro


Initially set up by the Mum’s of local children to provide positive social experiences as an alternative to less positive ones available in the area. It has been built up into the much-loved resource that has served generations of Leithers since.

It began at the adventure playground at the back of Linksview House, before moving to its’ current home in what was once a railway station serving the docks. It has since grown in size, aim, scope and ambition but always with the aim of giving its users the skills to survive in a tough cruel world. That cruel world has just dealt the Centre a cruel blow which puts services under threat.

In an underhand way a key funder, the Council, has revealed (at, short notice) that they will ‘award’ Citadel £50,000 a year for the next 3 years. That is exactly half of the £100,000 that the Citadel asked for and well short of the £175,000 received in previous years.

The Citadel’s bid was reflected by the knowledge that the Council faced funding difficulties but it would appear that whilst Citadel were willing to meet halfway the mysterious decision making process run on the Council’s behalf did not and looked at figures not facts.

If it had looked at the facts, which can be found on the Council’s website, it would have consideration the fact that the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) update of 2020 noted that the most deprived part of Edinburgh is the Great Junction Street area. Which is the 12th most deprived in Scotland.

Citadel is in the heart of this area which is facing the brunt of the austerity we are all experiencing. This analysis is undertaken by the Scottish Government so that resources can be directed to areas of most need.

It would appear that arithmetic is more important when deciding to direct resources through a deliberately obscured decision making process which hides how, who and why funding decisions have been made. This does not reflect well on all involved. It can also be remedied.

It could be remedied by the Scottish Government fully funding Edinburgh so that cuts are not made. Edinburgh is the lowest funded per capita of Scotland’s major cities. The Scottish Government allocates funding per citizen to Scottish Councils with Dundee receiving £2467, Glasgow £2426, Aberdeen £1921 and Edinburgh £1781 in 2023/24.

Edinburgh has been bottom of the table in the allocation of funds for several years now. Audit Scotland, reporting on the finances of Scottish Councils has pointed out that the system and method of this calculation is both unclear and outdated in its methodology. What they are saying is there is no rationale for the huge difference in funding between Dundee and Edinburgh of £681 for each man, woman and child.

Elected on a promise to reform Council Tax funding in 2007 the Scottish Government are yet to deliver on that promise, despite issuing the ‘Just Change’ report in 2015 that promised change to tackle the instability of Council funding. This instability is such that the cuts to Citadel are part of a package of £5.9m by Children and Families to make up for a funding gap of £21m for 2024/25.

These cuts will be made year on year, as Edinburgh faces a total funding gap of £143m, until 2028/29. Failure to deliver on the promise of 2007 or the report of 2015, means change will not happen. But some form of action could still be taken.

For example, they could make up the shortfall from the £321m capital underspend by the Scottish Government in 2022/23. This will happen either as they’re being ‘prudential’ or making ‘difficult decisions’ or that other spin doctor favorite, ‘saving for a rainy day’.

They can even fulfill their promise to return 85% of the business rates collected in Edinburgh for the Scottish Government to Edinburgh, which is short changed each year, but again this will not happen. Blame will be allocated to others but responsibility will be shirked.

The remedy could come from the Council itself. Along with being open, transparent and accountable as to who has been funded and why, they could campaign on full and fair funding for Edinburgh.

They might ask local MSP’s to put the case for Edinburgh in budget and council funding debates in Holyrood. I recall Margo Macdonald doing this and succeeding. It could be done again.

The Councillors could interrogate the decision

making process and bring it out into the light, basing their decisions on facts rather than reports that deliberately leave out what has happened and why. They are elected to hold officers to account, to make decisions based on policy and also, of course, to clarify the facts. But action can be taken now.

Why do we spend money on buses (some from private providers) for home/school transport when every child in Edinburgh can travel free on public transport? One local school where this occurs receives circa £250,000 for a fleet of nearly empty vehicles that clog up Tennant Street every school day. How much is spent on taxis that take kids to school and still get paid, even if there is a no show?

These bills are paid not just by the Council but also by those that lost out in the opaque and obtuse decision that short-changed Citadel and others.

In the end, as always, it will be remedied by Leith itself. Concern for Citadel has seen approaches made by former users, near neighbours, and local businesses, asking what they can do to help Citadel at this time of crisis. Ranging from a local citizen offering to raise over £1,000 with a cycling challenge to another neighbour, Michelin starred chef Tom Kitchin, offering to take over Citadel for a night for a 5-course meal at top dollar to raise funds from those that have funds, for those that don’t have funds, and use Citadel’s services.

These acts of altruism show the true worth and value of Citadel to Leith and its citizens in a way that the bean counters at Holyrood and the Council ignore at their peril. The reservoirs of good will built up over 40 years by its work shows the true value of Citadel.

The platform of Council funding enables it to leverage in funding from other sources. Citadel will survive this cruel blow but its ability to shield those most in need from a cruel world will be curtailed and diminish if not tackled head on. All have a part to play whether that’s Holyrood, the Council or you and I.

Citadel was born for a reason. That reason, the need and the demand are still there. It may be late in the day but the funding gap can still be filled.

Do it. Do it now. ■

Gordon Munro was a board member of Citadel Youth Centre 2004-17 and Labour Councillor for Leith 2003-2022


Willy Barrs’ note says: “I believe now is the time to… #InvestinYouthWork”

These acts of altruism show the true worth and value of Citadel to Leith and its citizens in a way bean counters can’t



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