Courts boss to be grilled on closure plans

Rothesay Sheriff Court currently sits each Monday at Argyll and Bute Council's local area office at Eaglesham House in the town.
Rothesay Sheriff Court currently sits each Monday at Argyll and Bute Council's local area office at Eaglesham House in the town.

The chief executive of the Scottish Courts Service is to be quizzed by MSPs on Tuesday as part of an inquiry into hugely controversial plans to slash the size of the country’s courts estate.

Proposals to shut Rothesay Sheriff Court, and 17 other sheriff and justice of the peace (JP) courts across Scotland, have been fiercely criticised over recent months.

The reaction of legal professionals and members of the public to the plans prompted the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee to announce an inquiry into the impact of the proposals, and SCS chief executive Eric McQueen will appear before the members of the committee at Holyrood on Tuesday to answer questions on the subject.

Mr McQueen’s appearance comes just two days before a delegation from Bute travels to Edinburgh to put the island’s concerns about the Rothesay recommendation to justice secretary Kenny Macaskill.

In her submission to the committee, Rothesay solicitor Elaine Campbell, of local firm Wm. Skelton & Company, said the SCS had “ignored the objections raised in the island campaign to retain Rothesay Sheriff Court”.

Miss Campbell continued: “It is in a unique position in that its costs are minimal, SCS’s estimate of savings for its closure being £6000.

“This saving, however, will be substantially exceeded by additional costs to the Legal Aid budget, police and social work budgets.

“To reach Greenock Sheriff Court the Rothesay/Wemyss Bay ferry will be used and there is serious concern about intimidation of witnesses on the journey over and punishment of witnesses on the way back.

“The result of this is likely to be that the public will be unwilling to co-operate with the police which will be to the detriment of justice and security of all those on the island.”

The Buteman has also contacted the committee to pass on the community’s concerns at the implications of closing the Rothesay court and transferring all Bute’s civil and criminal business to Greenock.