With only a few days to go before the end of the consultation on the future of Haddington Sheriff and JP Court, East Lothian Labour politicians are calling on the SNP in East Lothian to clarify where they stand on the future of this vital local public service.
Concerns about the SNP’s stance have arisen following comments by Cllr Stuart Currie on the Labour-led Council’s strong opposition to the closure. Labour in East Lothian is absolutely clear that closing the court would be bad for local justice, local people and the local economy.
But Cllr Currie criticised a council press release highlighting the potential impact closing the court could have on vulnerable children and families, and has refused to say if he is against the proposed closure.
Meanwhile, SNP Leader Cllr Paul McLennan has apparently thrown his weight behind the campaign to keep the court open, leaving the SNP facing both ways on the issue.
Iain Gray MSP, who has led the campaign against the closure of the court, said:
“The strength of the opposition to the proposed closure of the court has been overwhelming. I have already received close to a thousand postcards from individuals, while dozens of local organisations and groups have also pledged their support for the campaign.
"So it is unfortunate that the SNP in the county appear to be divided on the issue, with Cllr McLennan facing one way and Cllr Currie the other. I appreciate that it is their national SNP colleagues who are overseeing the proposed closure of the court, but I had hoped that they could put party politics aside and fight for what is right for the people of East Lothian.
“The loss of the court in Haddington would damage the whole county and I hope that the local SNP will now think again and back the groundswell of local support for it to be saved. SNP councillors should stand up for the county, not simply do the bidding of their Holyrood masters.”
Cllr Willie Innes, Labour Leader of the Council, added:
“The retention of Haddington Sheriff Court is vital for local people and the smooth running of other public services in the county. It is therefore absolutely right and proper that the council should clearly express its view on this crucial issue and I’m surprised that some people in the SNP have objected to this.
"When the council considers its formal response to the court consultation next week, all elected members will have the opportunity to have their say and vote on whether the court should remain open or not. I’m sure that local people will take a keen interest in that discussion and how their local representatives cast their votes.”