Moray’s MSP has called on the local authority to listen to the people by reducing their plans for a western link road in Elgin and retaining all seven local libraries they are planning to close.
Richard Lochhead attended a meeting with representatives of those communities that will be affected by the library closures, learning of their intention to challenge Moray Council’s decision at the Court of Session if that is what is required.
Moray Council’s administration insisted that they would go ahead with the closures despite doubts expressed by their own officials that doing so may be in contravention of the statutory obligation to provide library services. An Environmental Impact Assessment commissioned by the council also recommended that three of the seven libraries should be retained and that even then the council may be challenged for failing to provide a sufficient service to communities.
Following the meeting Mr Lochhead cited plans to go ahead with the £8.7million link road project in Elgin was an example of the local authority ignoring public opinion, adding that their insistence on closing almost half the libraries in the region was once again going against fierce opposition from the community.
He said: “We have the ironic situation where the council appears to be devoting resources to a project which is causing considerable upset to many people – while at the same time making reductions to a service that has public support.
“The council has an opportunity to show that it is listening on the two issues, it should revisit the link road project and keep only the parts that provide access to the new Elgin High School and the proposed areas for social housing.
“More and more people are becoming concerned about the perceived attitude of the council.”
Council Leader Allan Wright, however, remained unrepentant, insisting that the link road was needed in its entirety – despite Scottish Government plans for a new bypass around Elgin as part of their scheme to dual the entire A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness.
A spokesman for Save our Libraries Moray said: “Mr Lochhead is quite correct to point out the link between these two contentious decisions by Moray Council.
“They keep insisting that the link road is vital to reduce traffic congestion in Elgin – despite the fact that when it arrives the bypass will surely do more for reducing traffic flow through Elgin than the link road could achieve.
“Anyone visiting Elgin from towns and cities in Scotland that really do suffer from congestion must wonder what on earth our local authority are on about as the issue in Elgin is not even close to that experienced elsewhere.
“The Independent councillors in Moray were elected on the basis that they would not follow party lines but would act in the best interests of their communities – they are quite simply not doing that, they have joined together along party lines and going firmly against the wishes of their communities.”