SNP Councillors have asked the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and the Scottish Government Minister for Culture to clarify the legal position of Moray Council over their decision to close seven libraries in the region.
The SNP opposition group voted against the Tory/Independent administration on Tuesday when they pressed forward plans to close seven community libraries and one mobile library, despite an Equalities Impact Assessment that sought to retain three libraries and warnings from the Council’s own legal advisers of potential legal action against them.
Now they have written to Kaliani Lyle of the Equalities Commission and Fiona Hyslop MSP, Scottish Minister for Culture, expressing their concerns that the decision is “incompetent and potentially illegal in terms of the Equalities Act 2010”.
Announcing the move on Wednesday the SNP’s spokesperson on Education, Councillor Mike Shand, said: “On the day I described the plan to close seven libraries as arrogant and ignorant and I would add incompetent to that list.
“The SNP has very grave concerns that the decision forced through by the Conservative/Independent administration is illegal in terms of the Equalities Act and could leave the Council open to legal challenge.
“This would have a significant cost implication for the Council, negating any of the savings they hope to achieve, never mind the hugely detrimental impact on our local communities in Moray.
“The idea of closing seven libraries out of 15 and leaving an adequate service is frankly ludicrous.
“Renowned Science Fiction Author Isaac Asimov once said ‘when I read about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that society has found one more way to destroy itself’.
“The Independents and Tories in Moray Council would have done well to remember that sentiment.”
SNP opposition group leader, Councillor Pearl Paul, underlined their strength of feeling when she said: “In all my years in local government I have never seen such a blatant disregard for legal advice given in the interest of the Council and the Council Tax payers of Moray.
“There has been an extensive consultation during the Equalities Impact Assessment on proposed library closures.
“The cavalier fashion with which the public’s views and the hard work of officers in presenting those views was dismissed by the Council’s administration will sap the confidence of the people of Moray on any future council consultations under the current regime.”
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