Edinburgh police stations, including Balerno, on closure list as Police Scotland plans to sell off 30 sites

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Edinburgh divisional commander writes to MSPs warning of 30 police station closures

Police stations in and around Edinburgh are understood to be on a list of 30 sites which Police Scotland plans to sell off as part of its cost-cutting drive.

Edinburgh divisional commander Chief Superintendent Sean Scott has written to MSPs highlighting the financial pressures faced by the force and saying “hard choices” are being made to deliver effective policing within the funding available.

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He continued: “We now plan to accelerate disposal of a further 30 police buildings, including Balerno Police Station, and will be taking proposals to the Scottish Police Authority very shortly.” He did not name any other stations, but Police Scotland said earlier this month that they planned to move out of the former Lothian & Borders headquarters at Fettes following the discovery of crumbling RAAC concrete in the building. And sources claimed at least one other Edinburgh police station was on the closure list.

Balerno Police Station is named by divisional commander Chief Supt Sean Scott as being one of the 30 Police Scotland sites due for disposal.  Picture: Ian Georgeson.Balerno Police Station is named by divisional commander Chief Supt Sean Scott as being one of the 30 Police Scotland sites due for disposal.  Picture: Ian Georgeson.
Balerno Police Station is named by divisional commander Chief Supt Sean Scott as being one of the 30 Police Scotland sites due for disposal. Picture: Ian Georgeson.

Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said the police were under-funded and voiced concern about the impact of station closures on officers. He said: “Edinburgh already has one of the lowest level of officers of any part of Scotland. Further closures of police stations will stretch hard-working and dedicated officers yet further. The reality is that years of under-funding from the SNP Scottish Government is pushing the police in this city to the brink.

“Scotland has the second largest police force in the UK but investment per officer is amongst the lowest. Nor has there ever been consideration for the additional burden placed on police in Edinburgh with the additional responsibilities that come with a capital city."

In his letter to MSPs, Chief Supt Scott said: “Police Scotland inherited a very large and ageing estate, much of which was not fit for purpose, with high maintenance costs, environmental inefficiencies, and in locations that no longer meet the requirements of the communities they serve. Our estate strategy seeks to move towards police stations in modern, fit for purpose buildings, co-located with partners designed to meet the needs of 21st century operational policing.

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"We understand and we are sensitive to community concerns around changes involving police buildings, but it is important to underline that, as we consolidate our estate, we now have over 60 co-locations with partners across Scotland, providing more sustainable, more modern, and safer workspaces for our people. At the same time, we have enhanced local policing by providing all our officers with mobile devices which allow them to stay connected in local communities, no longer having to return to police buildings to deal with paperwork.”

And Chief Supt Scott told the MSPs: “No decisions are taken lightly, and I want to offer you an assurance that we will engage and consult with you and the public about strategic changes that are proposed.”

In 2014, Police Scotland announced plans to close public counters in a swathe of police stations across Edinburgh and the Lothians. The Evening News campaigned to save the counters – five were reprieved while seven closed and others had their opening hours cut. The News then revealed that many stations were not open at their advertised times due to staffing shortages. And in 2018, the police stopped advertising opening hours and said stations were operating a "changeable opening hours system", which reflected the staffing situation.

Chief Supt Scott said in his letter that a real-terms cut in Police Scotland’s budget this year meant more than £50m of savings had to be found and an overspend of £19m was recently forecast. He continued: “Urgent work is being done to ensure we deliver a budget at the end of this financial year. We have put in place a pause on all police support staff recruitment, except for some business-critical areas such as our contact centres and custody suites. Urgent work is ongoing to shape our Service and define core policing, including reviewing our senior officer command structures and support services.”