Decisions due on closing Northern police stations

By Steven McKenzie
BBC Scotland Highlands and Islands reporter


The future of 26 police stations across the north of Scotland, Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles should be decided this week.

Northern Constabulary could close 16 sites and reduce operating hours at 10 others to save millions of pounds.

Chief Constable Ian Latimer has said Scotland's forces were facing "unprecedented financial challenges".

Northern Joint Police Board will consider the proposals for the various stations at a meeting on Friday.

The plans have been set out in a draft response to the Scottish government's spending plans for 2011-12.

Last week, the government said it wanted to maintain police numbers and has asked forces how they expect to keep numbers of frontline officers at current levels but also where they might make efficiency savings.

In the draft response, which is contained in the paper's for Friday's meeting, Northern said maintaining its officer contingent at the "highest possible level" was a key strategic priority.

However, the force has suggested closing stations in Scalloway and Dunrossness on Shetland and Stromness on Orkney.

Barvas, Carloway, Ness and Tarbert on the Western Isles could also close, as well as Broadford on Skye.

Across the Highlands, Bettyhill, Lybster, Evanton, Cromarty, Spean Bridge, Beauly, Drumnadrochit and Ardersier are also in the firing line.

Operating hours could be reduced at Lerwick, on Shetland, Kirkwall, on Orkney, Stornoway on Lewis, and Portree on Skye.

Also, Thurso, Alness, Aviemore, Nairn, Dornoch and Tain could also reduce hours.

Northern said where a station closed the force would seek to replace it by sharing facilities with another emergency service, or having more visible patrols in the area.

'Difficult decisions'

Mr Latimer said closing stations as part of efficiency savings would help the force maintain police officer numbers.

Thirty staff have expressed interest in voluntary redundancy, but Northern said there could also be a small number compulsory redundancies.

The chief constable said: "Whilst these are difficult decisions, they are regarded as necessary if we are to maintain the visible policing presence within our communities.

"There has been a significant amount of planning and preparation which puts us in a better position to address these challenges.

"We are already highly efficient and have maximised resources into frontline policing over the past two years."

Nairn recently got a new police station at a cost of £1.6m and the building was officially opened during a ceremony last week.

Over the past 10 years, the force has spent £20m on modernising police facilities.

Last October, Rhinconich police station was reopened following refurbishment.

The building serves about 900 sq miles (2,330 sq km) of Sutherland making it one of the largest beats in Europe.

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