Police buildings to close

Britain's most northerly police station in Unst. Photo copyright David Purchase.

POLICE chiefs have rubber-stamped plans to close stations in Unst and Whalsay in addition to an office at Sumburgh Airport as part of a nationwide move to save money.

A consultation led by the Scottish Police Authority on plans to dispose of 53 properties across the country showed that more people were in favour of shutting the three unused Shetland buildings than keeping them open.

It is thought that there has already been interest from the public in buying the premises in Baltasound, which includes a family-sized house with a station joined on.

The leased airport counter was only used infrequently and there was no any operational requirement to keep it open.

The stations in Baltasound and Whalsay were only used occasionally by officers on patrol for refreshment breaks and area commander Lindsay Tulloch said they have both been vacant for years.

North Isles councillor Ryan Thomson said there needs to be assurances that the closures will not result in reduced policing in Unst and Whalsay.

“I don’t think this news will come as a surprise to anyone in the North Isles, as this idea was first mooted last year,” he said.

“While the news is disappointing, the North Isles and Shetland needs assurances that the staffing numbers of police personnel won’t be reduced and Police Scotland can continue to offer the level of service those in the North Isles and across Shetland quite rightly demand.”

Chief inspector Tulloch said he will “look to complement and support” the resident North Isles officer based in Yell.

Plans to phase out the vacant properties were approved at a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority earlier this month in Stirling.

Tulloch said the police station in Unst has been vacant for the past five years, while Whalsay station has been unused for four years.

“What has been clear to me during consultation with elected members and community councils is that there is a fear the police presence in the islands will disappear with these proposed closures,” he said.

“It is my responsibility to ensure every community in Shetland receives equal access to policing services. I do not think having officers resident on all the islands is effective use of the resources I have at my disposal on Shetland.

“In the past 18 months I have recruited an officer to be posted and resident on Yell with the intention addressing community issues effecting Yell and neighbouring islands of Unst, Fetlar, Skerries and Whalsay.

“In view of the community feedback received, I will look to complement and support the North Isles officer to ensure we have a presence on the islands to tackle issues concerning and identified by residents.”

Around 28 per cent of those who responded to the consultation were in favour of shutting the Baltasound station, while 19 per cent did not agree with the disposal and over half did not state their views.

Nearly 27 per cent of respondents were in favour of closing the Whalsay station and 26 per cent against, while 23 per cent were keen to see the Sumburgh office closed and 21 per cent wanted it to stay open.

The consultation received 1,731 responses.