Committee give “damaging” court plans the green light

Parliament protest about court closures
Parliament protest about court closures

Borders politicians have blasted the decision by the Justice Committee to rubbers tamp the closures of Duns and Peebles sheriff courts.

The tight vote, which arrived at the end of a lengthy debate on Tuesday morning, ultimately went in favour of closure leaving a bad taste in the mouths of those who have opposed the Scottish Court Service plans from the start.

The proposals set down that Duns court business be moved to Jedburgh, meaning a long trip for any Berwickshire residents required to attend court.

In fact the court service have even conceded that those travelling from certain parts of the region would require to stay overnight in Jedburgh in order for them to make court in time.

Justice Committee member and Berwickshire MSP John Lamont was against the plans from the start and was disappointed and angry that the SNP membership, including convenor Christine Grahame who backed the closures despite receiving hundreds of letters of opposition from constituents, chose to ignore the serious repercussions for local justice.

Speaking after the vote, Mr Lamont said: “Ninety five per cent of those who responded to the recent consultation on these proposals were against them, and it is disappointing that despite this the SNP seem to think that they know better. The SNP members on the Justice Committee have shown where their priorities lie, clearly choosing to put their party before the needs of local people.

“I was proud to vote against the proposals in this morning’s committee as I know just how damaging they will be to our region.

“By halving the number of courts in the Borders it will severely restrict the access that many people currently have to our justice system.

“It will also place a huge amount of stress on the courts that are remaining open as they are forced to take on thousands of new cases.”

The impact of the closures of Duns Sheriff Court on local residents was also the foundation of Mid-Berwickshire Councillor John Greenwell’s opposition to the court service plans and the SNP commitee members’ stance.

He commented: “I am absolutely amazed that yet again the people of the Borders have not been listened to by the Scottish Government, after representations by all opposition parties in the borders the SNP still used their votes on the Justice committee to close our courts.”

Councillor Greenwell’s view was shared by Borders MP Michael Moore who commented; “Local SNP MSPs like Christine Grahame, have made the argument to save their local courts and yet voted in favour of the closures.

“This means we will lose the sheriff court in Duns and people will be forced to travel long distances to have cases heard.”