Leith Registrar’s Office is saved

Leith locals are celebrating after the registrar's office was saved. Picture: JP
Leith locals are celebrating after the registrar's office was saved. Picture: JP
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LEITH locals are celebrating after the area’s historic registrar’s office was saved from the axe.

Council chiefs last year planned to close the premises where generations of Leithers had recorded their families’ births, marriages and deaths.

But an outcry forced them to put the move on hold and a review of registrar services city-wide was ordered.

Now councillors have agreed Leith registrar’s office in Ferry Road should be retained along with the South Queensferry office and recently opened City Chambers marriage suite.

Charlotte Encombe, chair of Leith Central community council, said the decision was “very, very welcome news”.

She said: “It’s part of what Leith is and it’s important it is kept for generations to come.

“What is so amazing is that whole complex – the library, the theatre, the Thomas Morton Hall and the registrar’s office – is coming back before developers have a chance to get it and turn it into flats.”

Edinburgh North & Leith SNP MP Deidre Brock said she was “thrilled to bits” by the decision.

“There was an outpouring of affection for Leith registrar’s office – 4000 people signed our petition in just two days. We had expressions of concern from all over the world about how important it was it stayed open. I’m delighted this decision has been taken.”

But the future of the office nearly came under threat again as soon as it had been saved.

At the finance committee meeting which approved the plan, Tory councillor Graham Hutchison called for a report on consolidating the Capital’s registrar services at the City Chambers.

He pointed out Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee all had just one registrar’s office for the whole city. “I don’t understand why we need to retain three separate registrar’s offices in Edinburgh when the standard seems to be one.”

Convener Alasdair Rankin said he had no problem in asking for such a report, but Cllr Hutchison’s comments raised eyebrows since his Almond ward includes South Queensferry.

And after the meeting withdrew his request for a report. He said the future of the registrar’s offices was better included in the council’s asset management strategy. “There might be potential for investment in the building,” he added.

Leith Green councillor Chas Booth welcomed his decision. “I’m very glad Cllr Hutchison has had a change of heart and no longer wants to close down Leith registrar’s office. If he had continued with this line he would have found not just myself but all the other elected representatives for Leith lined up against him.

“Leith has a distinct identity and being able to register our births, marriages and deaths in Leith is a crucial part of that.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com