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Three rural police stations set to close

Assistant chief constable Andy Cowie spent three years in Shetland as the isles' area commander between 2003 and 2006. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

THREE outlying police stations in Shetland could be set to close as part of a national review of unused Police Scotland properties.

Stations at Sumburgh Airport, Baltasound and Whalsay have been suggested for closure.

The leased airport office is only used infrequently and there is no longer any operational requirement to keep it open, Police Scotland said.

And the stations in Baltasound and Whalsay are only used occasionally by officers on patrol for refreshment breaks, according to assistant chief constable Andy Cowie.

Community safety and resilience board chairman Alastair Cooper said his main concern was whether the closures would have any affect on overall staff numbers in Shetland.

North Isles councillor Ryan Thomson said while the news was “disappointing, it’s certainly not come as a bolt out of the blue”.

A total of 53 properties across the country have been earmarked for closure as Police Scotland looks to cut costs and divert its resources.

Over £1.5 million could be saved by 2020/21 through the proposals, which form part of the Police Scotland Estate Strategy which was coined in 2015.

The matter will be discussed at a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority in Inverness on Thursday.

A three month period of engagement with communities will commence if the plans are approved.

Cowie said in his report prepared for Thursday’s meeting that the make-up of policing in Scotland has changed since many of the properties were taken on.

“Police Scotland inherited a large estate which was based on legacy arrangements,” he said.

“This estate was developed over a significant period of time when demands on policing were very different from current demands and what can reasonably be expected to develop in the medium to longer term.”

Cooper said while there have been no officers in Unst or Whalsay for “some time”, he is worried police chiefs might think about reducing the overall complement in the isles.

“My concern is that I want to make sure that the numbers in Shetland are not reduced because of three stations closing, and that they keep the full complement,” he said.

“I think the Scottish Police Authority have to reassure the communities in Whalsay and Unst that they can still provide the safety and security that the public demand.”

Thomson said the closure of the Baltasound station has been on the cards for some time.

“The Unst community council have been aware this was a possibility for a while now, so the main focus must turn to making sure the building and its surroundings in Baltasound, which has been empty for quite some time now, is maintained to make sure the building can be habitable in the near future,” he said.

“The building in Whalsay is relatively new so we await further information as to what the plans are for the building.

“Police Scotland have stated that there will be a period of community engagement which will be the opportunity for the public to raise any concerns with Police Scotland. I hope to have discussions with them in the near future to investigate any possible potential community benefit from these buildings.

“I will work alongside my fellow North Isles councillors to liaise with the communities involved to make sure their concerns are heard.”

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