Police Scotland’s north-east headquarters in Aberdeen could be sold off to help plug a budget black hole of more than £10million.
The force yesterday refused to rule out a deal for the Queen Street office block, with speculation mounting following a warning from the chief constable on Tuesday that “extreme measures” will be required to balance the books.
The site has also been included in the city council’s draft masterplan proposals – with the suggestion it could be demolished to make way for a car-free “residential quarter” with 83,000sq ft of office or retail space.
About £132million has already been trimmed from the national police budget since the decision to merge the eight regional forces in Scotland in 2013 – but the third year of the single service has been described as “the most challenging yet”.
Savings have to be found to address a £10.994million shortfall – or 1% of the annual budget – for the financial year 2015-16.
An agreement is in place with the Scottish Government that officer numbers will remain at the current total of 17,234 – leaving property disposal as one of the few areas in which required savings can be made.
Senior officers were unable to give councillors any guarantees when questioned last year on whether the divisional headquarters would even remain within the city boundaries.
A new custody suite with 60 cells has been opened at Kittybrewster, while the control room at Queen Street is due to shut.
Plans to merge Aberdeen City division with neighbouring Aberdeenshire and Moray are also at an advanced stage.
It is understood that locating the central office close to the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) has been suggested as an option.
The Queen Street building, which opened in 1972, could be worth several million pounds on the market.
North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said there were concerns locally that the building could be in the firing line as the force looks to identify savings.
He said “alarm bells would be ringing” across the region.
Mr Macdonald’s party colleague, city council finance convener Willie Young, predicted the property would be sold.
He said: “There are no ifs or buts about it. People should not be surprised, given what the chief superintendent said about looking to merge divisions, that the premises at Queen Street will go.
“It is one of the only ways they will save money and Aberdeen will be seen as the easy option.”
Aberdeen Central SNP MSP Kevin Stewart said: “What I would say is that (Labour) politicians are bleating about the demise of Queen Street – which is an old building that is no longer fit for purpose – but their party colleagues running the council, as part of their masterplan for the city centre, also envisage the demise of Queen Street.”
A police spokeswoman said: “We review all areas of business to ensure we deliver an efficient service.
“Any property disposals are subject to approval by the Scottish Police Authority.”