Only one court building sold in wake of controversial closures

Scotland’s court service has only sold a single former courthouse after a series of controversial closures begun more than two years ago according to BBC Scotland.

Between November 2013 and January 2015 the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service (SCTS) closed ten sheriff courts.

Following a freedom of information request, the SCTS said Dornoch Sheriff Court had been sold but added it had “disposed” of an additional three courts.

Haddington Sheriff Court was given free to East Lothian Council in exchange for rent-free office space from the council.

Meanwhile, Peebles and Rothesay courts were housed in buildings leased from local authorities. Those agreements have come to an end.

The SCTS said it paid £20,198 in annual maintenance costs in respect of the six former courthouses it still owns.

The Scottish government approved the SCTS’ plans for the closure of ten sheriff courts and nine justice of the peace courts in April 2013.

It was thought the closures would save the SCTS around £1.3 million per year as well as £3m initially.

Like Haddington, Cupar Sheriff Court is to be transferred to Fife Council this year in exchange for rent-free accommodation.

The court service added it was in contact with Scottish Borders Council about a similar arrangement regarding the old Duns Sheriff Court building.

But a spokeswoman for the authority ruled this out, saying: “As this would have incurred additional pressures on the maintenance budget, we are no longer in talks with them about taking on the former court building.”

Local community groups have expressed interest in the SCTS’ properties in Arbroath and Stonehaven.

Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court is being transferred while Dingwall Sheriff Court is up for sale.

A court service spokesman said the SCTS’ report – Shaping Scotland’s Court Service – published in 2013, highlighted the great benefits of closing court buildings.

He added: “The report also confirmed that disposing of former court buildings would take a number of years to complete, but we are in fact ahead of our expected disposal schedule.

“Through a combination of lease termination, open market sale, public owner transfer and potential transfer to community ownership the disposal of these buildings is benefiting local communities.”