The campaign against Library closures in Moray has welcomed an appeal from the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Fiona Hyslop, that Moray Council reconsiders their plans to close seven libraries – and pledged to continue their fight into the Court of Session.
Save our Libraries Moray insisted that they remain determined to take their case to a Judicial Review, saying they have provided further details on the closures to assist consideration by Advocates on the merits of a case at the Court of Session.
Commenting on the news that Fiona Hyslop had written to Moray Council appealing for a rethink over the closure plans, Alistair Jeffs, the Chairman of Save our Libraries Moray, said: “We understand the position of the Scottish Government in that they have no means of direct intervention over these closure plans.
“We have also noted that the Cabinet Secretary is well aware of the fact that should Moray go ahead with these closures then it could be the start of a stampede towards closing vital community services in other local authority areas around Scotland.
“Our argument from the outset has been that this is much more than a local issue. Libraries remain as valid and essential to local communities as they have always been – they are under attack in England and now the Tory/Independent administration in Moray seem determined to make them a target in Scotland.
“The Equalities and Human Rights Commission has said that only the Court of Session can decide if Moray Council has taken proper account of their legal responsibilities.
“We find it abhorrent that the only way our elected representatives can be brought to account over this decision is through the courts rather than their taking heed of the will of the people they were elected to serve.
“However, should our legal advisors confirm that as being the only way we can overturn this decision then that is the road we will follow.”
Support continued to arrive from local politicians with Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, calling the move by the Culture Secretary “hugely significant”.
Mr Stevenson, who has raised a well-supported motion at the Scottish Parliament in support of the campaigners, said: “This is hugely significant for a Government Minister to intervene in this way and in such strong terms.
“It underlines the case made by the local campaigners that this is a short-sighted decision which, in this age of online business, will leave people who don’t have access to computers of their own at a severe disadvantage.”
The SNP’s Opposition Education Spokesperson on Moray Council, Councillor Mike Shand, said: “The high level intervention by Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop is very welcome and underlines the serious concerns held by many, many people about the decision to close seven libraries.
“In the meantime I know that the campaigners against the closures have been seeking legal opinion and the response we have now received from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is very helpful in setting out what the court would have to consider in relation to the Council’s equality duty and its decision making process.
“The SNP remains fully behind the efforts being made to prevent these closures, which we believe is a fundamentally flawed decision from an Independent/Tory coalition that is making the wrong choices with little regard for the consequences.”
Moray’s MSP Richard Lochhead highlighted the “fierce criticism” of Independent and Tory councillors in Moray from local communities and from many people throughout Scotland, while Angus Robertson MP added: “It has been said that ‘Libraries are the mind and soul of their communities’ – and the response to the crazy decision by Independent and Tory councillors in Moray to close over half of the region’s libraries quite clearly demonstrates that community link.
“On the one hand the Independent Convener of Moray Council is espousing the virtues of internet access as a way round reduced library provision, while on the same day he congratulated an organisation for their face-to-face work in their communities in an age of ipads and Twitter. This two-facedness is symptomatic of a Council Administration that has no strategy and no vision for Moray.”
A Save our Libraries Moray spokesman confirmed that the group will also meet with Highlands and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart, who also raised a motion at the Scottish Parliament, at Elgin Library on Tuesday.