*This article first appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News on 29/05/18*

By Kezia Dugdale

The Serenity Café in Holyrood has been our neighbour in the Scottish Parliament for many years.

If you have never visited, it’s a hugely welcoming café which creates employment opportunities for Edinburgh’s recovering community.

I’ve enjoyed a relaxing cuppa there, I’ve been interviews for Sky TV there, and I hosted a cross-party get together in memory of Jo Cox there during last year’s General Election.

Members of the public and visitors to our city often go there without knowing about the incredible work going on behind the scenes by the operator, Comas.

Sadly for MSPs, the café is now on the move as its lease expires next month. We feared the service would be lost for good.

Earlier in May, I joined with Ruth Davidson and Edinburgh MSPs from the SNP, the LibDems and the Greens  to help persuade the city council to keep the service going.

After a worrying few weeks, Serenity has now been successful in its bid to open in a new city centre location on the Pleasance, in the building previously occupied by Lismore Rugby Club. What absolutely fantastic news.

The provision of a safe drug and alcohol free social space where people can support each other, and strengthen their recovery, is invaluable.

So while I’m sad that Serenity is leaving its base next to the parliament, I’m confident that it will go from strength to strength. Everyone at Comas should be immensely proud of what they have achieved.

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