Holyrood notes: Court closures was an outrageous decision

Last month, Duns Sheriff Court heard its final case, with all its business transferred to Jedburgh, more than 30 miles away.

This was a move I strongly opposed and voted against in the Justice Committee. It was outrageous that the SNP used its majority to force through the closure 10 Sheriff Courts and seven Justice of the Peace Courts, including the one in Duns, despite expert evidence saying this would harm justice. To rub salt in the wounds, it is unlikely that the closure of Duns Court will actually save much money in the long term, because more delays will be the result of extra pressure being put on already busy courts.

The SNP claim to stand up for local services, but this move shows they actually value centralisation over local justice. And when it came to voting, the SNP members of the Justice Committee put party interests first and local people second.

Jedburgh Sheriff Court is already struggling to cope and we know that barely over half of criminal cases are dealt with within the Scottish Government’s 26 week target. It has also emerged that the two remaining Borders courts, in Selkirk and Jedburgh might be sharing case work, with one official from the Court Service quoted as saying criminal cases will only be heard on alternative weeks. I am currently discussing with the Court Service exactly what this will entail and have lodged a question in the Scottish Parliament asking whether the Government is happy with the situation.

I was pleased to hear that Scottish Borders Council has appointed a Cycling Event Development Coordinator to oversee the excellent cycling events which are put on in the Borders. Neen Kelly will support the running of events such as the TweedLove festival and the Tour o’ the Borders events.

As a keen cyclist myself, I have a vested interest in the promotion of cycling, but as an MSP I can also see the excellent contribution sporting events such as these make to our economy, not to mention the health benefits of encouraging participation in sports.

In Berwickshire, we are blessed with good cycling roads and world class off-road facilities nearby. I understand that this appointment will also ensure that these events can continue to be sustained without financial support from the public sector, which is good news for taxpayers in the Borders.

Last year’s cycling festivals had a direct impact on the Scottish Borders of around £2 million and I’m sure that with this new appointment the positive impact of cycling will only go from strength to strength.

I hold surgeries every week throughout my constituency of Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire. This will include surgeries in Kelso the morning of the Wednesday 25th February and Coldstream and Duns on Wednesday 18th March.

More details and further dates can be found on my website www.johnlamont.org.

No appointment is necessary so please feel free to come along if you have a problem which you think that I might be able to help with. Alternatively, please call my constituency office on 01450 375 948 and I will do my best to assist. For tours of the Scottish Parliament, please contact my Parliamentary office on 0131 348 6533.