FIRST Minister Alex Salmond has given an assurance there will be no sheriff court closures without local consultation and the final approval of the Scottish Parliament.
He was responding to a question from Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame who had been approached by Peebles Community Council with concerns that the town’s Rosetta Road facility could close following a review by the Scottish Court Service (SCS).
Ms Grahame, who chairs Holyrood’s justice committee, asked Mr Salmond to confirm that Lord Hamilton, head of the judiciary in Scotland, would consider the cost of travel and practicalities for witnesses, police and sheriffs, particularly in rural areas such as Peebles.
Mr Salmond said that while he did not wish to be drawn on the Peebles point, access to justice was critical to the court system. He added that Lord Hamilton had already stated no decisions would be taken without local consultation and any decision required parliamentary approval.
In December, a leaked copy of an SCS discussion document revealed plans to shut the courts in Peebles and Duns because of lack of business and in Selkirk because it served a town with a population of less than 20,000, and was within 20 miles of a larger court at Jedburgh.
Next Thursday, Scottish Borders Council will debate two motions from Tweeddale and Selkirkshire councillors demanding that the courts in Peebles and Selkirk respectively are not axed.
Ms Grahame told us: “There is a long way to go before decisions are made and there will be ample time for people to make their views known.”