SNP urged to rebel over plans to close courts

SNP politicians have been urged to reject the justice secretary’s plan to close courts throughout Scotland by voting against him in the Scottish Parliament.
Kenny MacAskill. Picture: Greg MacveanKenny MacAskill. Picture: Greg Macvean
Kenny MacAskill. Picture: Greg Macvean

Kenny MacAskill has approved the Scottish Court Service’s (SCS) proposal to close 17 courts in a move intended to save £1 million a year. Speaking at Holyrood yesterday, Labour justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald read out a roll-call of SNP MSPs who have raised concerns about the closure of courts in their constituencies, and urged them to vote the closures down.

“Public opinion is so much against Mr MacAskill’s plans, and that of course includes many in his own party,” he said. “Christine Grahame has said she will continue to oppose the closure of Peebles Sheriff Court. She urged people to write to her as convener of the justice committee, saying: ‘I know that many members of the committee are unhappy about these proposals’.”

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The justice committee is one of the few Holyrood committees where the SNP does not hold a majority following the resignation of John Finnie from the party.

Opposition members can lay a motion to annul the proposal to close the courts, which could then force the decision to full vote of the Scottish Parliament.

Mr MacAskill said: “I am aware that many members will want to make the case for courts in their own constituencies. I would expect no less … however, it’s worth noting the context in which options for future court structures are being looked at.”

He added: “We can all see that the towns that we live in, the places that work, the way we do business, the availability of transport have changed radically since Victorian times.

“The future I see in Scotland is one where justice is not only based in the physical building of a court, but where justice is delivered in a range of ways best suited to users of the system – whether victims, witnesses or those raising a civil action.”