Leith police station closure a ‘worrying move’ for local policing

Leith Police station at the junction of Queen Charlotte Street and Constitution Street.  Picture Ian Rutherford
Leith Police station at the junction of Queen Charlotte Street and Constitution Street. Picture Ian Rutherford
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TEN Lothian police stations are being considered for closure in the latest review by force chiefs.

Among the buildings which could be shut and sold off is the iconic Leith police station in Queen Charlotte Street, which was built as Leith Town Hall in 1827.

It is part of a nationwide review involving 58 stations.

Police Scotland is also looking at selling the office in the High Street now used only during the summer and winter festivals.

Stations at Gorebridge, Loanhead, Bonnyrigg and Newbattle could all go and be replaced by a police presence at a planned new council hub in Bonnyrigg.

Armadale, Fauldhouse and Blackburn are also on the list. And Haddington police station is set to move up the road from its current building to the former sheriff court premises.

Police said they were assessing the force estate to ensure buildings were fit for purpose.

A spokesman said: “By making the best use of property we retain, we will be more efficient and will make better use of public funds that can be reinvested into frontline policing.”

But Edinburgh Western Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Since the merger of Scotland’s police forces into Police Scotland, we have seen a steady erosion of the on-the-ground presence of police in our communities.

“This latest consultation around station closures is yet another worrying move away from local policing.

“Scotland has not been well-served by the creation of Police Scotland, with fewer police walking the beat in the Capital and a real concern among local citizens that if they have an emergency they have no idea where to visit.

“All the reasons behind the closure of police stations are similar to those we heard when they were creating Police Scotland – economies of scale, co-location, smarter working – yet we have seen a massive degradation of police morale, inappropriate Glasgow-style policing on Edinburgh streets and a general belief that police are less visible and available than before the merger. This is not going to help matters.”

Edinburgh Northern & Leith SNP MSP Ben Macpherson acknowledged that the Leith station was a very old building, but he said: “If it does come to the point where that building is deemed not desirable, I would still expect there to be a police station in Leith.

“It’s one of the busiest police stations in Edinburgh doing a tremendous amount of work to keep the community safe.

“Given the demand and the everything that operated out of that location at present, we need to keep a police station in Leith, whether in the current building or another one.”

The Police Scotland spokesman said: “We are seeking to identify an alternative location nearby which will enhance our service to the public and partnership working.

“No decisions have yet been made and front counter services would be maintained should any move take place.”

In 2014, police cuts saw the closure of a swathe of station counters across the country, though a number in Edinburgh and the Lothians were saved after an Evening News campaign.

Police said the latest review would not mean any further loss of public counters at police stations in the area.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com