Stonehaven Sheriff Court is at "high risk" of closure as part of a cost-cutting review of services, STV News can reveal.
The Scottish Court Service (SCS) is undertaking a review of all its courts as it attempts to slash costs and it is understood that Stonehaven Sheriff Court has been earmarked for possible closure.
The court, the only court in Aberdeenshire south of Aberdeen, serves Kincardine, the Mearns and Deeside and deals with thousands of cases each year.
One court worker, who asked not to be named, said: “The courts have been coded as to how likely they are to close and we are in the high risk category because of our location and the close proximity to Aberdeen.
“They are looking at bigger courts within a reasonable travelling distance. Obviously Stonehaven is smaller compared to Aberdeen and you’re speaking about the level of business and things like that, so it is possible Stonehaven could close and the business would be drawn into Aberdeen.
“It means our local identity is being eroded because Stonehaven Sheriff Court is a big part of Stonehaven.”
However, SCS said that it was “far too soon" to speculate over the future of particular courts and that any decision would be taken by the Scottish Parliament.
Dozens of cases have been transferred to Stonehaven during the last few years to alleviate pressure on Aberdeen Sheriff Court.
These included the trial of baby killer Mark Simpson who, prior to his murder trial, was jailed in Stonehaven after he admitted having lewd online conversations with four children.
North-east MSP Alex Johnstone, who lives in the town, said: “We’re aware there’s an ongoing review and there will be some unpopular decisions being put forward but it would be an extreme disappointment if a proposal was brought forward to close Stonehaven Sheriff Court.
“It’s a busy court in an area with an expanding population and there’s a long term need to ensure the court system is identifiably local.
“The idea of having the sheriff court work centralised, in Aberdeen for example, can only be damaging to the administration of justice in Aberdeenshire.”
A spokeswoman for SCS said it was conducting a review as it prepared to cope with a smaller budget in future years.
“Part of that review is looking at what court business should be done in different locations around the country,” she said.
“We are discussing options for delivering a good service at lower cost with SCS staff and members of the judiciary at the moment.
“When this review work is complete it will be our intention to produce ideas for further discussion and at that stage we will want to involve a wide representation of interested groups and individuals to help us develop and improve our proposals.
“It is therefore far too soon to speculate on the future of any particular court but any proposal to close a court will require a full public consultation to be undertaken and ultimately, a decision by the Scottish Parliament.”