Library protesters take their campaign to Book Festival opening

Campaigners against the closure of seven public libraries in Moray are to protest at the opening of the Spirit of Speyside book festival on Monday evening.

The Convenor of Moray Council, Stewart Cree – one of 13 administration councillors who voted for the closures against the recommendations of a Equalities Impact Assessment and the legal advice from their own officials – is to open the five-day festival at Elgin Library.

Billed as a celebration of culture, writing and illustration, the Moray Council backed Festival is held to “promote reading and encourage debate”.  That, according to campaign leaders, demonstrates the “hypocrisy” of the local authorities Conservative and Independent administration.

A spokesman for ‘Save our Libraries’, which was formed out of individual groups from throughout Moray, said last night: “We have no wish to disrupt the Festival itself, which is an excellent five day celebration of all that is good about libraries in general and those we have in Moray in particular.

“We do, however, believe that it is a clear demonstration of the hypocrisy that exists in the Moray Council chamber.

“Less than a week after the administration chose to ignore their own legal advice and the findings of the equality impact assessment the Convenor will speak of how wonderful they are in promoting libraries and the services they offer in Moray.

“The Festival this year has been extended ‘in response to audience demand’ with the Council’s own literature talking of the ‘growing demand’ for books by young people and families in Moray.

“That is very different from what the council leader, Allan Wright, has been saying, claiming as he has that Libraries are no longer attractive to younger people.

“Our small protest at the opening of the Festival will be the start of our efforts to call on the people of Moray and throughout Scotland to recognise that these closures are an attack on a vital community resource.  Our region is being watched carefully throughout Scotland where other community libraries could well be next in line.”

Over the weekend the ‘Save our Libraries’ campaign used social media sites to gauge support in the Moray community and beyond.

Campaign organiser Kelly Croudace said: “The online campaign relaunched at the weekend saw over 5000 more people than we had before visit our Facebook page and that for us underlines the strength of feeling against the planned closures.

“We have contacted every MSP in Scotland and several have already contacted us to express their support, while Highlands and Islands MSP, Jean Urquhart, has raised a motion in the Scottish Parliament over the issue.”

Asked if the campaigners would be raising a legal challenge over the Council’s decision, the spokesman said: “We have been seeking advice on that and it is our intention to use every means available in protecting all libraries in Moray.”

The Spirit of Speyside Book Festival is to be opened at Elgin Library on Monday evening at 6.30pm.

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