Court closure concerns

A PROPOSAL to close two courts in the Borders has been given a damning verdict by the Federation of Small Businesses, writes Kenny Paterson.

The membership organisation say if the courts in Peebles and Duns are shut, retailers in both towns would suffer.

The FSB accused the Scottish Court Service of not taking into account the wider economic implications of closing the courts in a letter to Scotland’s most senior judge, Lord Gill, who is chairman of the SCS board.

The public consultation in the SCS’s proposals – which includes the possibility of 16 sheriff and justice of the peace courts across Scotland closing – finished last Friday.

FSB’s Scottish policy convenor Andy Willox asked Lord Gill to undertake a detailed town centre analysis before making any recommendations to the Scottish Government.

Mr Willox wrote: “I am disappointed that, while the consultation acknowledges economic impact, this is limited to the loss of court employees and vacant premises.

“This impact assessment is far from complete since there is no analysis of the economic activity, especially trade with local businesses, which occurs as a result of court business in the town.

“While this may not be a key consideration for the Scottish Court Service, nevertheless, encouraging sustainable economic growth is the Scottish Government’s top priority.”

Meanwhile, Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame has suggested the district covered by Peebles Sheriff Court could be extended to Penicuik.

She also claims the idea of closing the Peebles facility would threaten the entitlement of a fair hearing, and says it is not practical to expect people to travel to Edinburgh.

Ms Grahame said: “The more I have investigated this issue the more I am sure closure would be the wrong decision. The consultation claims that getting to Chambers Street in Edinburgh would be a practicable option, but in my opinion this is simply untrue.

“The projections in the document for travelling times is quite mystifying to me.

“It claims that a car journey from Peebles to Edinburgh is 41 minutes, but I would allow 45 minutes from Parliament to Peebles off-peak, allowing for good weather conditions, and the many delays such as lorries and cattle trucks which make tailbacks a regular feature.

“If I were to plan a journey from Peebles for a court sitting in Chambers Street before 10am, which would be peak time, I would allow for at least 75 minutes.”