Closure of Duns Sheriff Court would constrain access to justice for local people

Sheriff Court, Duns
Sheriff Court, Duns

Since writing my last column, the former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, has passed away and her funeral was held yesterday in central London.

There is no doubt that as a political figure she strongly divides opinion, but I think that at this time it is important to have paid our respects and give our condolences to her family and friends.

Back in 2011, I was very concerned to hear that the Scottish Courts Service was proposing to close courts in Selkirk and Duns due to budget reductions from the Scottish Government.

In their recent consultation, the Service outlined that they were no longer planning to close the court in Selkirk but following the consultation, they are still recommending that the sheriff court in Duns be closed, with business going to Jedburgh.

While I welcome the news that the court in Selkirk is to be saved, it is extremely disappointing that the court in Duns is still threatened with closure.

Ever since these recommendations came to light, I have opposed them because I believe that the closure of the court at Duns would constrain access to justice for local people and force them to travel far to have cases heard.

The Scottish Government will have the final decision on these plans for sheriff courts. I strongly urge them to reconsider and save the court in Duns from closure.

Here in the Borders, local business and families greatly depend on the post services we enjoy as part of the UK.

This is why I welcomed news from Ofcom recently that rural post boxes and the universal postal service will 
be given a set of new protections.

These safeguards state that there must be a post box within half a mile of at least 98% of ‘delivery points’ nationally; and for the remaining 2%, which will mostly be in rural areas.

Royal Mail must provide sufficient post boxes or other means of access to the universal service to meet the needs of local users.

Ofcom has also outlined the steps that could be taken to protect the sustainability of the postal service to ensure that consumers continue to benefit from the current service which is provided by Royal Mail.

This service includes six-day delivery and the choice of a next-day priority delivery service, ‘First Class’, and a lower-priced three-day standard delivery service, ‘Second Class’.

A strong postal service is absolutely vital for our local communities, so it is good to hear that, based on United Kingdom requirements, Ofcom are taking these steps to ensure it is protected.

I continue to hold regular advice surgeries throughout Berwickshire and my next surgery in the region will be held in Coldstream tomorrow, Friday, April 19.

If you would like to attend this surgery, please phone my office on 01896 663650 to make an appointment.