Fears have been voiced over the future of Hawick police station because of its inclusion in a list of buildings under review by force bosses.
Police Scotland has drawn up a list of buildings in 58 locations to come under scrutiny, and it is expected that many of them will be axed.
The force says it needs “modern, flexible buildings which are all fit for the future”, and following its review, some premises that don’t fit that bill are likely to be declared “surplus to requirements”.
The inclusion of Hawick’s Wilton Hill station in that list is deeply concerning for former police chief Watson McAteer, now a councillor for Hawick and Denholm.
He has sought – and received – assurances from Chief Superintendent Ivor Marshall, divisional commander for the Lothians and the Scottish Borders, that the station will not close, but he remains concerned.
Mr McAteer, formerly head of the old Lothian and Borders force’s criminal investigation department, said: “He tells me that Hawick should not be appearing on any review list as there is no intention to close it.
“However, he is responsible for operational policing, and while I am grateful for his reassurance, I am none the less very concerned that Hawick is included, and that must indicate the potential for closure in the future.
“I have previously called for Hawick police station to be used to its full capacity by locating criminal justice services that could include social services, the crown and the council-led anti-social behaviour unit under one roof there, working together to deliver a more inclusive and effective service.
“I am told the option of multi-sharing is being reviewed, but it would be helpful to understand what progress is being made.
“The continued threat to Hawick police station is bad for the community and must create considerable anguish for the diminishing numbers of civilian support staff whose jobs will be placed at risk.
“This Scottish Government wants to see community focus in policing strengthened, and that is simply not going to happen by permitting local police stations that deliver a service for their area to be closed because of the lack of investment.
“Hawick police station has gone from being the headquarters of the Berwick, Roxburgh and Selkirk Constabulary in 1975 to a divisional headquarters of the Lothian and Borders Police to an almost-redundant shell since the formation of Police Scotland – a sad demise for the efforts of all those that have fought hard over the years to ensure we have one of the safest communities in the UK.”
Like Chief Supt Marshall, Chief Inspector Andy McLean, local area commander for the Borders, refutes any suggestion that Hawick’s station is to be axed.
The current the review is looking at ways of making it more fit for purpose, he said, adding: “We are currently assessing our local estate to ensure buildings support modern operational policing and are fit for purpose.
“By making the best of the property we retain, we will be more efficient and will make better use of public funds that can be reinvested into frontline policing.
“There are no plans to close Hawick police station or its front counter, but we are currently assessing the best use of the building, consulting with officers, staff and partners who use the facility or could make shared use of it alongside the police.”
Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Cowie added: “Police Scotland needs buildings which are modern, flexible and fit for future policing across the wide range of communities we serve.
“The existing estate has evolved over the course of the last 100 years, and in some cases it no longer fits the demands of 2016 or the needs of its communities.”
Hawick-based Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP John Lamont is also seeking assurances that Hawick’s station will continue to operate at least at its current level of activity.
He said: “The Borders has already seen the closure of a number of police counters since the creation of Police Scotland. These damaging closures have been pushed through with little or no data about how much they have been used.”
“I understand Police Scotland is now looking at how it uses the station in Hawick. I want an assurance that any review will at the very least maintain the current opening hours of the counter.
“We’ve had consultations before, and it hasn’t mattered what local people said as Police Scotland went ahead with closures anyway.
“The fact of the matter is that, even if these stations are not heavily used, they provide an important local service and give local residents the chance to speak to an officer, something which seems to be increasingly difficult to do in the Borders.
“In the face of the closure of courts and police stations, many residents in the Borders are feeling that justice is being withdrawn from the area.”
Hawick’s is the only station in the Borders under review. Others elsewhere in the country on the potential hit list include those at Loanhead, Haddington, Bonnyrigg, Newbattle, Carluke, Larkhall, Lesmahagow, Biggar and Langholm.