Tam's Tall Tales

- Edinburgh's Police Boxes Under the Hammer

This Formr Police Box in Edinburgh
Is Used as a Tourist Information Kiosk

New Uses for Redundant Police Boxes

The first public police telephones in Britain were introduced in Glasgow in 1891. But who needs a police box, other than in the science fiction television programme "Doctor Who"? It would appear that quite a few people, ranging from baristas to florists and ice cream makers who see a future in the iconic structures.

A recent sale of the historic street furniture attracted a vast range of offers - with bids from 35,550 to just 450. So far 156,000 has been raised from the sale of 21 boxes, the proceeds of which will be pooled into resources for the police in Scotland.

The Police Service of Scotland (usually shortened to "Police Scotland" was formed in 2013 with the merger of all eight regional police forces in Scotland and a number of the specialist services.

Police Scotland is the second largest police force in the United Kingdom (after the Metropolitan Police Service in London) in terms of officer numbers, and the largest in terms of area served.

The boxes stand as a reminder of a bygone era and their original use for members of the police, or for members of the public to contact the police has long been overtaken by modern advances such as mobile phones. Virtually a miniature police station, they were used by police officers to read and fill out reports, take meal breaks, and even temporarily hold prisoners until the arrival of transport.

It worth noting that like most police officers in the UK, the policemen in this photo are unarmed apart from a large wooden truncheon. Currently, special authorisation has to be given for guns to be issued to specially trained police.

But Edinburgh's police boxes and elsewhere are set to serve the public for years to come - offering sweet treats and flowers rather than the support of a local bobby.

Deeming them obsolete, Police Scotland invited secret bids for its final batch of call boxes.

Borders-based organic ice-cream producer Over Langshaw Farm paid 35,550 to get its hands on a lucrative spot at West Bow in the Grassmarket in Edinburgh. Lucy Bergius, said: "We make farmhouse ice cream and sell at restaurants in Edinburgh. It's in the pre-planning stage at the moment. We think it's worth it."

Other proposed uses include an art space and advertising platform, however many projects remain in their early stages and require planning permission.

Please give me whatever feedback comes to mind via tamfromrampant@gmail.com.

Tam O'Ranter
May 2014

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