Warning against further court closures

Arbroath Sheriff Court was closed due to cost-cutting in 2014.Arbroath Sheriff Court was closed due to cost-cutting in 2014.
Arbroath Sheriff Court was closed due to cost-cutting in 2014.
Angus will not tolerate another court closure in the wake of stern justice budget concerns, local Scottish Conservatives have said.

The warning came as Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service bosses attempt to save up to £30 million over the next four years.

In a submission to the Scottish Parliament’s inquiry on the 2023-24 budget, chief executive Eric McQueen said the SNP Government's “flat cash” budget offer “presents major concerns”.

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And closing three or four court buildings “has the potential to release one-off savings and income totalling up to £4 million.”

The alternative would mean 180 redundancies and cutting all court business by one day a week.

But a firm "hands off" message has been delivered over more cuts in Angus.

North East MSP Liam Kerr pointed to the fates of Stonehaven and Arbroath sheriff courts, which were both closed in 2014.

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Urging further investment to courts still caught in a case backlog, he pointed to a £280,000 repairs backlog at Peterhead and £30,000 cell relocation at Forfar as part of a £7.3m SCTS repair bill hanging over from last year.

He warned that local justice should not be compromised due to “savage” budget cuts.

Mr Kerr said: "The court estate is crumbling under the SNP government, so much so that repairs across Scotland almost swallowed up the entire capital budget in 2022. Now, bosses are being asked to do more with even less."Our local justice can't fall victim to savage budget cuts."That would harm any progress in clearing the justice backlog, let down victims of crime, and add even more miles to travel for witnesses, staff and accused."

Derek Wann was part of the campaign against Arbroath's closure before he became a local councillor.

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He said: "Reading SCTS warnings about unpalatable cuts made me feel like it was Groundhog Day.

"This is how Arbroath sheriff court started, and in the end we lost a perfectly working seat of justice in the centre of town. Despite huge public outcry it was all decided in Edinburgh. It felt like a fait accompli.

"Angus still has a sheriff court and Forfar must be protected against the spectre of further centralisation by the SNP."

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