MSPs prepare bid to keep Stonehaven court open

Lewis Macdonald is to organise a public meeting in Stonehaven. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Lewis Macdonald is to organise a public meeting in Stonehaven. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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NORTH east MSPs are preparing to mount a major campaign to oppose controversial plans to close Stonehaven Sheriff Court.

Lewis Macdonald, the North east Labour MSP, today announced he is organising a public meeting in the town next Monday to launch the opposition campaign. And he has already secured the backing of the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and SNP MSPs for the area.

Stonehaven, the only court in Aberdeenshire south of Aberdeen, is one of ten Sheriff Courts being recommended for closure following a review by the Scottish Court Service in a bid to cut costs. It is set to be axed in May next year, provided the closure plan receives Parliamentary approval. Cases would be transferred to Aberdeen Sheriff Court.

Mr Macdonald said today: “There are two vital steps to saving Stonehaven Sheriff Court. First, the Justice Committee has to reject the current closure proposal and send it to the full Parliament for debate.

“Secondly, if the Justice Committee does that, all MSPs will have a vote to accept or reject the proposals made by the Scottish Court Service and approved by the Scottish Government.”

He added: “I am organising this meeting in response to calls from members of the community, so they can discuss with members of all parties what is to be done and who will support a campaign to keep Stonehaven Sheriff Court open.”

Mr Macdonald has secured the backing of Nigel Don, the SNP MSP for North Angus and Mearns, Alex Johnstone, the Conservative MSP for North East Scotland who lives in the town, and Alison McInnes, the Liberal Democrat MSP for North East Scotland.

In its report, Shaping Scotland’s Court Services, the Scottish Court Service stated : “Aberdeen Sheriff Court currently has nine rooms available to accommodate court business providing total capacity for 2,250 court sitting days per annum.

“In 2011/12 Sheriff Court sitting days for Aberdeen and Stonehaven were 1,693 and 199 respectively – a total of 1,892. The corresponding figures for the Justice of the Peace Courts at Aberdeen and Stonehaven were 253 and 40 respectively. The total court sitting days used (2,185) is close to overall capacity, however, the level of business at Stonehaven is such that it can be accommodated with only a marginal revision of the Aberdeen Court programme. As such there is no difficulty in accommodating all the business within the Sheriff Courthouse at Aberdeen.”