Parties Unite Against Court Closures

Opposition leaders have come together to urge members of Holyrood's Justice Committee to reject plans to close local courts.

Labour leader Johann Lamont, Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie, leader of the Liberal Democrats, have written to the committee asking them to vote against parliamentary orders to close 10 sheriff courts and seven justice of the peace courts.

The committee is due to vote on the closures today. 

The party leaders say the closures will mean witnesses and victims will have to travel further to see justice being done while remaining courts may struggle to cope with increased business. 

Politicians and business leaders also fear local economies will be affected. 

Ms Lamont said: ``Both the future of local access to justice and local economies are at stake. SNP MSPs need to come to their senses and think again about their damaging plans.'' 

Ms Davidson said: ``The SNP's determination to close local courts has quite rightly caused concern among communities across Scotland. 

``Their centralisation agenda will restrict access to our justice system and cause unnecessary stress to victims and witnesses who will be forced to travel further to see justice done.'' 

Mr Rennie said: ``The spotlight is now shining on nationalist MSPs. They have to choose between their constituents and their government. 

``In the interests of local justice and in support of our local communities they need to do the right thing.'' 

The court closures were put forward by the Scottish Court Service and accepted by ministers. 

They will come into effect on June 29 unless a motion to annul is voted for by members of the committee today. 

Agreement to annul would result in the closures being considered by the Parliament as a whole. 

The SNP holds a majority on the Justice Committee, with five MSPs to four from opposition parties.