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Rennie: Buck stops with SNP Ministers on court closures

April 10, 2013 3:13 PM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie today called on SNPWillie RennieWillie Rennie MSPs to put the needs of their constituents first and back cross-party efforts to protect local justice in the face of proposals that would slash the number of courts operating across Scotland.

Plans put forward by the Scottish Court Service this week would see 10 Sheriff Courts and 7 JP Courts shut their doors.

Mr Rennie was speaking after SNP MP Mike Weir warned that almost 90% of witnesses in cases heard at Arbroath court could see their journey times increase if plans for closures go ahead.

MPs and MSPs from a number of parties have expressed concern over the impact that the closure of courts could have on access to justice across Scotland.

Commenting, Mr Rennie said:

'Even the SNP's own MPs are raising concerns over the impact that court closures could have on access to justice. We know that closing local courts will mean increased travel times and transport costs for witnesses, particularly those living in more rural areas.

'Ministers need to ensure that changes to the court service are not simply a cost-cutting exercise but are also in the interests of justice. The proposals that have been brought forward would certainly save money but the wider costs of court closures need to be considered closely.

'We should be clear, it is not the Scottish Court Service who have the final say on which courts will remain in operation. The simple fact is that when it comes to court closures, the buck stops with SNP Ministers in Edinburgh and they need to look again at these plans.

'Those SNP MSPs whose constituencies or regions could be affected will need to put the interests of their constituents first when a final proposal comes to the Scottish Parliament. I hope that they join cross-party efforts to secure a deal that protects local justice and delivers for Scotland.'