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Ten Lothian police stations face closure under new cost-cutting proposals

Ten Lothian police stations are being considered for closure as a part of new money-saving initiatives by Police Scotland.

A freedom of information request by BBC Scotland has revealed that 58 Scottish stations are under review, including the Leith, Armadale, Fauldhouse and Blackburn sites in Edinburgh.

Stations at Gorebridge, Loanhead, Bonnyrigg and Newbattle may also close with an amalgamated council hub opening in Bonnyrigg as a replacement.

The High Street Station on the Royal Mile – only open for Edinburgh’s summer and winter festivals – will also be cut.

Meanwhile, the Haddington branch will move from its current site to the nearby former sheriff court premises.

The plans are part of an estates strategy published by Police Scotland in 2015 that revealed the force aimed to reduce floor space by 25 per cent.

It has been estimated that the planned moves could save Police Scotland £18 million a year and generate over £34 million in property sales.

Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Cowie further justified the decision, telling the BBC: “It makes little sense to maintain old and expensive buildings when smaller, more collaborative options may be available.”

This was reinforced by a Police Scotland spokesperson in a statement to The Scotsman: “By making the best use of property we retain, we will be more efficient and will make better use of public funds that can be reinvested into front line policing”, they said.

However, the move has faced criticism by some who claim it may threaten community safety.

Ben Macpherson, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Northern and Leith, told The Scotsman: “If it does come to the point where that building is deemed not desirable, I would still expect there to be a police station in Leith.

“[The Leith police station] is one of the busiest police stations in Edinburgh and does a tremendous amount of work to keep the community safe.

“Given the demand and everything that operates out of that location at present, we need to keep a police station in Leith, whether in the current building or another one,” he continued.

In response, a Police Scotland spokesperson told The Scotsman: “We are seeking to identify an alternative location nearby which will enhance our service to the public.”

Alex Cole-Hamilton, Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western, also raised concerns.

“Since the merger of Scotland’s police forces into Police Scotland, we have seen a steady erosion of the on-the-ground presence of police in our communities.

“This latest consultation around station closures is yet another worrying move away from local policing,” he told The Scotsman.

“Scotland has not been well-served by the creation of Police Scotland, with fewer police walking the beat in the capitol and a real concern among local citizens that if they have an emergency they have no idea where to visit.

“All the reasons behind the closure of police stations are similar to those we heard when they were creating Police Scotland – economies of scale, co-location, smarter working – yet we have seen a massive degradation of police morale, inappropriate Glasgow-style policing on Edinburgh streets and a general belief that police are less visible and available than before the merger. This is not going to help matters,” he continued.

Gordon Crossan, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, assured that the closures would not affect front-line services as 95 per cent of the public’s contact with the police is via the phone or the internet.

However, he also admitted the failings of the current buildings, stating that many stations are in a “shocking state of disrepair” and Police Scotland is facing “significant budget challenges”.

He told the BBC: “Many of these stations are already obsolete, they are expensive to run, they have limited facilities.”

The announcement comes a month after Calum Steele, the general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, told the SNP annual conference he was concerned about the “crumbling police estate”.

He told the BBC: “The standard of the police estate in many areas is nothing short of scandalous.

“Decades of neglect have left the new service with responsibility to rectify the mistakes of the past.

“That being said the service needs to appreciate the public value of their police stations and must ensure police services are maintained in all of our communities.”

In 2014 an Edinburgh Evening News campaign prevented the closure of many Edinburgh and Lothian police stations which were threatened with closure among another programme of cuts.

Police Scotland spokesperson assured The Scotsman: “No decisions have yet been made and front counter services would be maintained should any moves take place.”

 

Image: Thomas Nugent

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