Published: 08/01/2018 07:00 - Updated: 04/01/2018 14:13

Axe looms for Highland police bases

Written byIain Ramage

 

Invergordon police station
Invergordon police station is one of the bases at risk of being cut.

TIME is running out in the fight to save two Ross-shire police stations from the axe.

Police chiefs are reminding communities they have until January 31 to have their say on proposed police station closures in several Highland villages.

They include bases in Fortrose and Invergordon in Ross-shire, as well as sites elsewhere in the Highlands at Bettyhill, Bonar Bridge, Brora and Lairg.

North Highland area commander Chief Inspector Iain MacLelland has written to each of the affected communities.

He said he had received some feedback during the three-month exercise but was "keen to continue to build on this and make sure local communities get the opportunity to respond".

The potential hit-list featuring 53 police stations across Scotland – 12 of which are in the Highlands and Islands – surfaced in October.

Police Scotland has emphasised that most of the premises on the list are currently vacant.

It stated on its website that "the demands facing policing and the way people engage with us and contact us have changed over the years", while the stations have been maintained.

The force has promised that public feedback will help shape final decisions about how many of the facilities should be disposed of.

Only 10 of the premises identified for disposal are currently used. Some of the others have been vacant for years. Of the 10, Police Scotland said: "These staff can be relocated to other permanent facilities while still maintaining service delivery."

There has been a mixed response from community leaders.

Fortrose and Rosemarkie Community Council said the potential loss of a local police presence was "very much to be regretted".

Retired police officer John Finnie, now a Green MSP, appreciated the concern but maintains that "in reality, in many instances a police station is only somewhere an officer will go for a comfort break".

Police Scotland’s stance is that the public increasingly use alternative methods of contacting the force, with the innovation of mobile phones.

The 53 bases were identified after a review of the police estate that concluded in September.

Deputy Chief Officer David Page said: "Police Scotland inherited a large estate from the legacy forces, which was developed over many years to respond to the challenges and risks during that time.

"However, as ‘Policing 2026’ has demonstrated, the demands and risks facing policing have changed significantly over the years and will continue to do so.

"This includes how local communities contact us and engage with us, with an increasing preference to use the telephone and internet, including social media, rather than attending a police station.

"Yet, despite these changes, our estate has largely been unchanged and it was therefore right that we reviewed our estate. The review of our estate was carried out to ensure that it is fit for purpose.

"Local policing commanders were significantly involved in the review, as they are best placed to understand the local needs of their respective divisions."

There are full details of the consultation online at www.scotland.police.uk/about-us/finance/estate-change-project

And the consultation survey can be accessed at consult.scotland.police.uk/consultation/estates

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