CONTROVERSIAL plans to close seven Lothian police stations to the public are to go ahead despite a massive campaign against the move.
Police Scotland confirmed it would axe the front counters at Craigmillar, Corstorphine, Oxgangs, Balerno, Armadale, West Calder and Bonnyrigg from next month.
Seven more local stations will have their counter opening hours slashed as part of the nationwide cost-cutting drive.
More than 1800 people backed the Evening News campaign against the closures and cutbacks. And police chiefs dropped plans for axing the front counters at three stations – South Queensferry, Linlithgow and Tranent – the only ones to be saved in mainland Scotland. But now they have confirmed they will proceed with the rest of the cuts.
Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP Mike Crockart, a former police officer, condemned the decision.
He said: “I see no evidence this is about the quality of service or trying to get more officers into community policing.
“It smacks of a decision based entirely on costs. The withdrawal of the most high-profile, local, visible part of policing just sends completely the wrong message.”
Craigmillar police station, which is used by 1200 people per fortnight, is currently open to the public from 7am to midnight, seven days a week.
But it will now lose its front counter, with services transferred to the South East Neighbourhood Hub, with opening hours of 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday.
Similarly, the public counter at Corstorphine – also currently open 7am-midnight seven days a week – will close and services will move to the West Neighbourhood Hub, which will be open 9am-5pm Monday-Friday.
Opening hours will slashed at Portobello, the West End, Howdenhall, Penicuik, Haddington, Musselburgh and Bathgate.
Mr Crockart said police chiefs had failed to spell out how they would replace the withdrawn services.
On the closure of the front desk at Corstorphine, he said: “It’s difficult to see how the same range of services can be delivered at the Drumbrae hub.
“There are many unanswered questions about who will staff the hub. What are they going to do when someone runs into the library, desperately wanting to report a crime as they have often run into Corstorphine police station?”
Lothian Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said: “It’s really disappointing the police have not listened to the almost universal concerns of residents. Asking for views and blindly ignoring them makes a mockery of the consultation process.”
Police chiefs were widely criticised over the handling of the announcement and the lack of a full consultation process.
Proposals to axe front desks at ten stations in Edinburgh and the Lothians, used by more than 100,000 people a year, and reduce opening hours at seven more were first unveiled on October 1. Police claimed fewer people were now using front counters, but the figures they produced for “core” business excluded people visiting police stations to report crimes or accidents.
Police chiefs allowed just one month for comments and received only 51 responses from elected representatives, two from local authorities, four from community councils and 69 from members of the public.
They said late comments would still be taken into account and the number of public responses had increased to 93 by the meeting of the Scottish Police Authority in early December.
By contrast, more than 1800 people gave their support to the Evening News campaign against the closures and cutbacks by signing petitions, filling in questionnaires, writing letters and returning protest coupons.
Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson insisted local policing remained the bedrock of Police Scotland. He said: “We have listened to all the views put forward and made changes to reflect this but an effective, modern policing service must evolve to reflect the communities we serve. We are committed to maximising police officers on the street and in communities working to keep people safe and to provide the high standards of service the public expects.”