Court closure protest

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Local campaigners who want to retain Arbroath Sheriff Court travelled to Edinburgh on Tuesday to protest about plans to axe the facility.

The rally coincided with a meeting of the Scottish Government’s justice committee, who were quizzing Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill on plans to close the town court along with nine others around Scotland.

The proposals, which were announced last year, would see the Sheriff Court on the High Street closed in May, 2014, and all work moved to Forfar Sheriff Court.

But many have argued this is unworkable as Arbroath’s court has a high turnover of cases and would leave a large empty building in the town centre.

Among those who made the trip to Holyrood were Arbroath councillor David Fairweather along with local businessman Derek Wann.

And before the committee meeting they met up with local Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone and leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson.

Councillor Fairweather said: “It was heartening to see so many people taking the time to protest outside the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

“I also very much welcomed the opportunity to quiz the minister, Mr MacAskill about his proposals to close Arbroath Sheriff Court and I let him know the very negative impact this will have on local justice and on local businesses.

“Mr MacAskill was left in no doubt by those at the meeting that communities feel that this is very much the wrong decision.”

And Mr Wann added: “Despite strong representation by the protestors, I came away from this meeting feeling that it was already a done deal.

“I understand that these proposals must now go before the justice committee and if the committee votes against them, then it goes before the whole Parliament for all MSPs to vote on.

“Personally, I think that this issue is so important that it would be deeply undemocratic if this did not happen.”

It is thought that closing the threatened courts including Arbroath would save £3 million in the first year and £1 million in the subsequent year.

And Mr MacAskill told the committee: “The reality is, it is a better use of a shrinking budget to concentrate funds on a smaller number of better-equipped courts where modern facilities are provided.”