THE community is to get its say on how a £70,000 cash windfall should be spent to tackle poverty and inequalities in the Musselburgh area.

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell MSP visited The Brunton on Tuesday to announce the Scottish Government’s Community Choices Funding for 2018/19, with the Musselburgh Area Partnership to receive £50,000.

This will be supplemented by £20,000 from the area partnership, which allocates a budget from East Lothian Council to a variety of local priorities and initiatives in Musselburgh, Wallyford, Whitecraig, Carberry and Old Craighall.

Ms Campbell said: “The Community Choices Fund puts decisions about how we invest in communities into the hands of the people who live and work in them. This way of directly involving people is going from strength to strength, establishing itself firmly in Scotland.

“Tackling poverty and community empowerment are two key priorities for this government. We know that communities are best placed to address the inequalities in their own areas and therefore know what improvements can be made.”

And she added: “I’m pleased that there are so many organisations that will benefit from this funding. Making this announcement during Challenge Poverty Week highlights how everyone in the community can play their part when it comes to tackling poverty.”

The area partnership’s successful bid for funding follows on from its Your Voice, Your Choice enterprise last year. 

At that time, it received £10,000 in Community Choices Funding for an initiative aimed at young people. 

Representatives from local schools voted for the youth projects they wished to see receive the cash aid, which also included £20,000 from the area partnership.

During Tuesday’s visit to Musselburgh, Ms Campbell got the chance to hear from two of the successful recipients: the Plastics Police, a group of Stoneyhill Primary School youngsters who secured funding to buy promotional material to raise awareness of the risk to people, animals and aquatic life from dumping plastics which end up in the ocean; and Musselburgh Grammar School pupil Esraa Al Dabbas, who was sponsored by the Syrian support officer at East Lothian Council to develop a Freedom Youth Club for those new to the community.

The new tranche of Community Choices Funding saw 16 community groups across Scotland sharing more than £750,000 to host events and give people a direct voice in how funds should be invested on priorities in their areas.

Iain Clark, area partnership chairman, said: “I am delighted that Ms Campbell chose to visit the Musselburgh Area Partnership to announce the funding. 

“It was an amazing opportunity for some of the young people involved in the project to speak to the Cabinet Secretary, and for Ms Campbell to see first-hand the amazing work being done by young people in the Musselburgh area as a result of our Participatory Budgeting initiative Your Voice, Your Choice.”

Stuart Baxter, Musselburgh area manager, added: “We are now working on this year’s Participatory Budgeting project that will tackle poverty and inequalities in the Musselburgh area and I am sure by continuing the hard work and commitment the community will help deliver another outstanding success.”

He said a working group and “stringent guidelines” would have to be set up to progress the town’s second Your Voice Your Choice event. 
He added that other agencies, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau and Poverty Commission, would also be brought on-board.

The Scottish Government has set aside £1.75 million to increase the numbers of people involved in making decisions about investment in their local areas. 

In 2017/18, the Community Choices Fund helped more than 70,000 people vote for the things that mattered to them in their community.