As the period for responses to a Quality Impact Assessment on Moray Council’s proposals to close seven libraries drew to a close this week, it has been revealed that over 2000 residents filled out questionnaires.
The local authority caused a storm of controversy when announcing their budget cut plans earlier this year, saying that they would close public libraries at Burghead, Hopeman, Cullen, Portknockie, Findochty, Rothes and Dufftown.
Campaigns were launched by local residents in Rothes and Dufftown, but it has been the battle to retain the Burghead library that has risen to greatest prominence with a rally held in the town attracting hundreds of protesters and backed by renowned authors as well as local MSP Richard Lochhead and MP Angus Robertson.
One member of the Burghead campaign group even went as far as threatening to withdraw payment of her council tax – although Shirley Mitchinson has now withdrawn that threat saying she did not wish to encourage other people to do the same and end up in trouble.
Councillors will now debate the results of the quality impact assessment when they are presented with them at a full meeting of Moray Council on August 7.
A spokesperson for the Burghead campaign group said: “The strength of feeling against these proposals is as strong now as it was when they were first announced in March.
“Shirley felt the injustice and frustration we all share, and believed that she had to find some way of letting the council know that this decision was just plain wrong. However, she has now reluctantly concluded that non-payment of taxes would only work if lots of people did the same, and even then it would likely lead to legal action and she had no wish to see other people end up in trouble so has withdrawn her protest and paid her council tax.
“All the same the council should not feel it has ‘won’ anything from this, support against the deplorable decision has come from throughout the country, not just here in Moray. We have said all along that we recognise the need for Moray Council to cut back on some services, but libraries are an essential service in places like Burghead and certainly should never be on the top of any cutback list.”