The proposal to close Tranent police station to the public and withdraw local traffic warden services has been met with dismay by many in the town and the surrounding communities which make up the Fa’side area. Following hard on the heels of the decision to close Haddington’s Sheriff and Justice of the Peace Courts, and the proposed closure of the Fire Service College in Gullane, there is a real sense that public services in East Lothian are under attack from a centralising SNP Government.
Iain Gray MSP, my East Lothian Holyrood colleague, has led the defence of the county’s public services. He was at the forefront of the long struggle to save Haddington’s courts and has joined with our three Labour councillors in Tranent to launch a petition to stop the town’s police station from being closed to the public. Of course, I have supported these campaigns and was very disappointed when the courts campaign was ultimately unsuccessful.
So the proposal on Tranent police station is the latest blow to strike local communities. We all accept that we are living in straitened times when difficult decisions need to be made about the funding of public services. That is why I supported the establishment of a single police force for Scotland, but I wanted that new body to retain and strengthen community policing and local accountability.
Counters are the public face of local policing and once they are closed, questions will be asked about the future of the whole station. Decisions on local policing should also command the support of the public and it is absolutely clear that people in Fa’side are worried about the impact closing the public counter at the station would have on local communities.
Good progress has been made in tackling crime and antisocial behaviour in Tranent in recent years and there is a real fear that this could be harmed if the counter closure goes ahead. Speaking to businesses on the High Street, they tell me how much they value having a publicly accessible station available to respond at short notice.
I have personal experience of the value of having a counter service here in Tranent. My constituency office is in the High Street and there have been occasions when we have used the service, either because we were worried about our security or to report incidents we witnessed in the town centre.
I am pleased to support the Save Our Stations campaign and have made copies of the petition available to sign in the office Iain Gray and I share at 65 High Street. I am also encouraging local people in the Fa’side area to sign the petition on public access to Tranent police station and traffic warden services. That is also available at our office in Tranent, or it can be downloaded at www.eastlothianlabourparty.co.uk/petition-launched-on-tranent-police-station-and-traffic-wardens
I will continue to work closely with Iain Gray and local councillors on this issue to relay to Police Scotland and the Scottish Government the concerns of local communities and fight for the retention of public access at Tranent police station and adequate arrangements for traffic law enforcement.
Fiona O’Donnell is the Labour MP for East Lothian.