There was a bitter-sweet pill delivered to the Save our Libraries Moray campaign when they won the retention of three libraries – but lost four that will still close.
A passionate plea from SNP and Labour opposition councillors was not enough to stop the Tory and Independent administration voting by the narrowest of margins to accept the findings of an Equality Impact Assessment they controversially rejected in September.
While that meant libraries in Cullen, Dufftown and Burghead would remain open as well as the retention of a Senior Librarian post, it also saw closure notices remaining on Findochty, Portknockie, Rothes and Hopeman.
Many of the library campaigners were in the council chamber including two dressed in full ‘grim reaper’ costume as the administration saw off two motions, one from Labour that would have seen three libraries saved and the other four remain open at least until February, and another from the SNP that would have retained all seven libraries permanently.
Following the meeting a spokesman for Save our Libraries Moray said: “The outcome of today’s vote at Moray Council did not really come as a surprise to us but was all the same a great disappointment that not one of the ten independent councillors would vote to save all seven libraries.
“We are grateful to the SNP and Labour groups who both voted to retain Moray’s libraries – and we thank most of all the people of Moray and beyond for their steadfast support throughout our campaign to date.
“Moray Council’s administration were today forced into what was tantamount to an admission that they were wrong in ignoring the findings of the Equalities Impact Assessment. Throughout the last ten weeks individual members of the administration have challenge Save our Libraries Moray to put up or shut up – well, we put up and they blinked first.
“We are delighted for the communities of Dufftown, Burghead and Cullen. Now we will meet with our legal advisers and see what can be done for the four libraries that are still scheduled to be closed this month.”
Campaigners will meet this evening to discuss the decision and plan any further action.
On learning of the decision Moray’s MSP, Richard Lochhead, said: “The Independent and Tory Councillors have been left floundering by resolute opposition from a community campaign full of passion and unity of purpose.
“The failure of the Council’s Administration to listen to their communities has been breathtaking and even now there is no apology for acting so wrongly.”
Angus Robertson MP added: “Having met with and marched with the library campaigners I know the passion with which they have campaigned. With this decision they have had some success, success that would not have been achieved had they not stuck to their guns.”