Warm and welcoming spaces vital this winter

This measure shows the strength of community in our city, says Lorna Slater, but can never substitute the structural change and policies needed to tackle poverty.

With temperatures falling whilst inflation is rising, it could be a tough and cold winter for people across our city and beyond.

That is why the establishment of the Edinburgh ‘Warm and welcoming spaces’ initiative is such a welcome one.

It is seeing council venues such as libraries, museums and community centres – as well as some third sector and partner spaces – opening their doors to people who need somewhere that will keep them safe and warm.

Some of the venues will also provide information and support available to help alleviate food and fuel poverty.

This initiative will also help those feeling socially isolated over the winter months as some spaces will have free activities for people of all ages.

Edinburgh Green councillors have been working constructively with the Edinburgh City Council administration, and have followed the warm spaces rollout closely.

For example, councillors Kayleigh O’Neill and Ben Parker recognised that disabled and elderly people will be especially affected this winter, so worked together to ensure that accessibility information would be widely available when setting up these spaces.

For far too many, this is a time of year when the pain of poverty and inequality becomes even more pronounced.

According to analysis by the Bank of England, family spending goes up by £700 in December alone. That is before you factor in the economic conditions we are in now.

Runaway inflation, skyrocketing mortgage payments and rising bills and food prices are driving a lot of people into destitution and despair.

‘Warm and welcoming spaces’ is an important part of a response that needs to come from all levels of government.

We are doing all that we can from Holyrood. The 150 per cent increase in the Scottish Child Payment is helping families all over Scotland and so are the steps we have taken to increase the benefits we control in line with inflation and to mitigate the cruel benefit cap.

Last week, I was very proud to announce that, from next July, all companies and organisations that are applying for Scottish Government procurement contracts will need to pay at least the Real Living Wage.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the big changes that are needed, such as raising the minimum wage or restructuring the energy market to lower bills, the key powers all lie with Westminster.

Yet, time and again, they have made clear that their priority isn’t struggling families, it is their wealthy friends and donors.

The future I want for Scotland is one where nobody is forced to choose between heating their home and feeding their families.

The Warm and Welcoming Spaces network is providing a crucial service. It is a measure of the strength of community in our city. But, as the organisers agree, it can never be a substitute for the structural change and policies that are needed to tackle poverty.

If you want to find out more about the Warm and Welcoming Spaces initiative, or to find your nearest space, you can visit