MacAskill gives nothing away on Rothesay court’s future

Scotland’s justice secretary has responded to concerns raised by his party colleague over the future of Rothesay Sheriff Court by insisting that “reform is necessary” to the country’s court structure

Unsurprisingly, Kenny MacAskill’s reply to Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell gives no firm indication of the fate of the court in Rothesay, which the Scottish Courts Service (SCS) wants to shut in the hops of saving £6,000 a year.

Mr Russell wrote to his cabinet colleague after a meeting in Rothesay last month with solicitor Elaine Campbell, of local firm Wm. Skelton & Co., who raised a range of concerns about the implications of transferring all court business currently heard on Bute to Greenock.

In his response, Mr MacAskill said: “I have stated publicly that I am not pre-judging the outcome of the consultation for any specific proposal or any specific court, but that reform is necessary.

“The SCS operates independently of Government, but they are not immune to the financial pressures facing us all. Their consultation gives the people of Scotland the opportunity to have their say.

“Once they have had the opportunity to consider all responses to the consultation, they will bring forward final proposals for consideration by ministers.

“The issues you have raised about Rothesay Sheriff Court have also been raised by other stakeholders, and I am sure SCS will want to give these points serious consideration before finalising their proposals.”

Opponents of the Rothesay proposal say the savings made by closing the court would be more than wiped out by increased travel costs, and would also lead to the potential for disorder on public transport and greater pressure on police resources.

As The Buteman reported on Saturday, the final SCS proposals are expected to be published in April, and are likely to be put before the Scottish Parliament later in the spring.