Work on Scotland’s first Justice Centre got underway in Inverness yesterday.
The multipurpose £23m complex on the city’s Longman Road aims to “transform” the way justice is delivered in the Highlands by providing modern court and tribunal facilities, alongside a range of support organisations under one roof for victims, witnesses and other users.
The long-awaited centre, being built next to one of the main city police stations, will pave the way for Inverness Castle to be turned into a major tourist attraction.
As officials broke the ground in a sod-cutting ceremony yesterday, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Today is not just ground-breaking in terms of starting the process of building it, it’s also ground-breaking in terms of changing the way in which we are delivering justice in Scotland.
“I am determined to make sure we have a modern fit-for-purpose justice system and a key part of that is bringing all of the different agencies together – not just the courts, the police and the prosecutors – but also the support services.”
Citizens Advice Bureau, Highland Council’s criminal justice social work, NHS Highland and Police Scotland are just several services which will make use of the facility, due to be complete late next year.
Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) chief executive Eric McQueen added: “The whole idea here is about trying to put the services in one location so everyone can work better but also through digital technology we can spread it out wider across the Highlands.
“We really do hope this is going to be a landmark building. We hope that it will add value to Inverness and it will be seen to be a building people will recognise as being the important justice centre that it is.”
The centre, when complete, will enable the court service to leave its current home in Inverness Castle, providing an opportunity to make the most of the city’s stunning building.
Mr Matheson added: “Although this is an important investment in the modernising of our justice system, it’s important for the regeneration of Inverness.
“This is going to be a state-of-the-art building which will be much more attractive than what was here before but alongside that it is also freeing up the castle, which can be used as a tourist attraction as well.
“It helps to benefit Inverness as a city going forward with the tourist investment and its wider regeneration.”