End of an era for Stonehaven Court

Councillors Alison Evison and Raymond Christie together with Lewis Macdonald MSP and Brian Carroll of the PSU
Councillors Alison Evison and Raymond Christie together with Lewis Macdonald MSP and Brian Carroll of the PSU

The fate of the Stonehaven Sheriff Court was decided on Tuesday when members of the Justice Committee voted for closure - despite being handed a petition with 300 signatures last Friday

The MSPs on the committee voted five votes to four in favour of shutting the court.

There is a concern from some MSPs that the failure to allow full parliament debate and vote on the court closure will lead to community suffering.

Commenting on the Justice Committee decision, which will see Stonehaven Sheriff Court business transferring to Aberdeen next year, North East MSP Alex Johnstone said: “Today’s rubber-stamping exercise by the SNP members of the Justice Committee denies all MSPs of the Scottish Parliament the opportunity to debate and vote on these court closures. 

“This is a cowardly approach to government decision-making and, regrettably, once again demonstrates the SNPs centralising and soft touch agenda. 

“This is the wrong decision made for the wrong reasons and I have absolutely no doubt our communities will be paying a high price for it.”

 Mr Johnstone concluded “Many people gave up their time and expertise to campaign against these closures, and it speaks volumes that the Scottish Government chose to steamroller over their arguments in order to pursue a policy that I am certain will have a detrimental effect on justice and communities.”

Councillor Alison Evison, who handed over the petition to save the Sheriff Court, said she was ‘‘ angry’’ that local opinion hadn’t been taken on board.

She added: “ “The SNP totally ignored local opinion today.

“So many people had spoken up in favour of Stonehaven Sheriff Court that the matter should have been sent back to Parliament for further debate.

“Local access to justice has been lost by  the decision  to close the court. Once more the local economy has been hit.

“A bit of local heritage has been put at risk and it is a sad day for the whole area.”

North East Liberal Democrat MSP, Alison McInnes, who is a member of the Justice Committee and voted against the plans, said: “Today’s vote marks the beginning of the end for loal justice in Scotland.

“The committee voted by five to four to close a fifth of Scotland’s sheriff courts and seven justice of the peace courts.

“SNP members of the committee have shown complete contempt for their constituents in voting to close down local courts in Stonehaven and around the country. 

“To make the argument to save their local courts and yet blithely vote for the government demonstrates a complete lack of respect.”

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