Question mark over the future of 58 police buildings

(Clockwise from top left) Police stations in Biggar, Giffnock, Hawick, Bo'Ness, Larkhall, Largs Image copyright Google

The future of dozens of police stations across Scotland is under threat, BBC Scotland has learned.

Police Scotland has drawn up a list of buildings in 58 locations which could be closed as part of a wide-ranging estate review.

Properties in Carnoustie, Leith, Hawick, Oban, Port Glasgow, Ayr and Larkhall are among those under review.

The force said it needed "modern, flexible buildings which are fit for the future".

The list of buildings which "do not match policing requirements" includes some which are no longer routinely used by officers.

Following the review some buildings could be retained but others could be declared "surplus to requirements".

Police criticism

In those circumstances, police officers and staff may be required to work in offices shared with other public agencies.

Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Cowie said: "It makes little sense to maintain old and expensive buildings when smaller, more collaborative options may be available."

Details of the plans emerged in response to a Freedom of Information request from BBC Scotland.

It has led to accusations of secrecy and claims that local communities have been kept in the dark about the proposals.

MSP Oliver Mundell said he only learned about the threat to eight police stations in Dumfries and Galloway when he was tipped off by a constituent.

"A local resident in my constituency found out by asking a surveyor at a local police station what they were doing," he said.

"They were there surveying to find out how much it was worth."

Location of police properties under review

Image copyright Other
Image caption Police stations across Dumfries and Galloway are among those under review

North: Broughty Ferry, Bridge of Earn, Stanley, Letham, Muirhead, Carnoustie.

East: Bannockburn, Bridge of Allan, Bo'ness, Bainsford, Tullibody, Anstruther, Edinburgh High Street, Leith, Armadale, Fauldhouse, Blackburn, Gorebridge, Loanhead, Hawick, Haddington, Bonnyrigg, Newbattle.

West: Pollokshaws, Barrhead, Giffnock, Erskine, Gourock, Lochwinnoch, Port Glagow, Kilmacolm, Carradale, Lochgilphead, Taynuilt, Campbeltown, Inverary, Oban, Blantyre, Carluke, Larkhall, Lesmahagow, Shotts, Hamilton, Rutherglen, Biggar, Cambuslang, Ayr, Galston, Kilwinning, Largs, Dalry (Dumfries and Galloway), Dalbeattie, Gretna, Kirkcudbright, Langholm, Moffat, Thornhill, Whithorn.

Source: Police Scotland

An estate strategy published by Police Scotland last year revealed plans to reduce floor space by up to 25%.

It said the move could generate annual revenue savings of between £5m and £18m a year and property sales could raise up to £34m for the force.

A total of 397 properties were operated by the force in 2013 and since then 44 have been declared surplus to requirements.

In 2014, dozens of police front counters were closed in a move which was widely criticised by Scotland's main opposition parties.

Under the new proposals, police officers and civilian staff may be asked to share office space with other public agencies in a system which is already operating in parts of Scotland.

The first combined emergency services station opened in Tomintoul in April 2014, where police, ambulance and the fire service operate from one building.

And in Cupar in Fife, police officers work alongside council staff.

Police Scotland said they are consulting on the possibility of sharing the existing Hawick police station with partner agencies.

Image copyright Oliver Mundell
Image caption Oliver Mundell was tipped off about Police Scotland's plans in Dumfries and Galloway by a constituent

However Oliver Mundell, a Scottish Conservative, fears the move could ultimately threaten the visible presence of police officers in local communities.

"Of the stations that are closing in Dumfries and Galloway, Police Scotland's justification is that they're not routinely manned," he said.

"Two or three years ago [when they closed the front counters], they promised the stations would stay open.

"The problem with the proposal to share space is that two or three years down the line, they'll see that they're not being used, then they'll be removed all together."

Green MSP John Finnie, a former police officer who sits on Holyrood's justice committee, said it was "entirely right" that public agencies assess their property portfolio.

'Shocking state'

But he added: "If this is part of a further withdrawal from communities, that would be very worrying... When I look at the list and I see Oban, Campbeltown, Taynuilt, Lochgilphead, where are these alternative facilities?"

Gordon Crossan, the president of the Association of the Scottish Police Superintendents, told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme that Police Scotland was facing "significant budget challenges" and that many stations were in a "shocking state of disrepair".

"Many of these stations are already obsolete, they're expensive to run, they've limited facilities, so we're reviewing that to see what could provide a better service for the public for the money that they give us to deliver policing," he said.

Last month Calum Steele, the general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, raised concerns about the "crumbling police estate".

Image caption Calum Steele produced photos he said were taken inside police buildings
Image copyright Police Federation

He told the SNP conference that patrol cars were being held together with duct tape and cable ties, while interview suites for sex assault victims were damp with mouldy carpets.

In response to BBC Scotland's findings, he said: "The standard of the police estate in many areas is nothing short of scandalous.

"Decades of neglect have left the new service with responsibility to rectify the mistakes of the past.

"That being said the service needs to appreciate the public value their police stations and must ensure police services are maintained in all of our communities."

Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Cowie said the review of Police Scotland's estate would enable the force to enhance it service for local communities.

"Police Scotland needs buildings which are modern, flexible and fit for future policing across the wide range of communities we serve," he said.

"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 communities."

'Quality service'

He added: "The SPA estate strategy sets out a framework which has the service to local communities at its heart, with a visible and accessible policing service which works effectively with local partners as the drivers for any future change.

"Engagement will be carried out by local policing teams to ensure any future decisions are built upon local consultation with communities and partners to ensure our estate continues to meet our needs and the needs of the public. "

The Scottish government said decisions around operational policing were a matter for Police Scotland "working in partnership with individual communities across the country".

A spokesman added: "This government has made clear that we w‎ish to see the community focus of policing further strengthened.

"That is why we have engaged extensively with local government and with communities themselves on our new Strategic Police Priorities which were published on 5 October and have localism at their core."

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