Labour lament failed libraries bid as campaigners fight on

The Labour group at Moray Council has expressed their disappointment that an alternative plan to closure of four libraries in Moray narrowly failed to succeed at a tense meeting on Wednesday.

After the SNP opposition succeeded in their bid to suspend standing orders and allow a new debate on Library closures, Labour proposed an amendment to the administration plan that three libraries remain open while four should be closed as detailed in the previously rejected Equalities Impact Assessment.

The Labour plan was to retain the libraries in Dufftown, Burghead and Cullen but also keep those in Hopeman, Findochty, Portknockie and Rothes open until at least February, by which time a key report on the future of Libraries in Scotland would be published by the Scottish Libraries Information Council.

However, both that and the SNP motion to retain all seven libraries permanently were defeated by 13 votes to 12.

Labour’s spokesman on education, Councillor Sean Morton, said: “Moray Labour are very disappointed with the outcome of today’s vote.

“We’d hoped that our plan to cancel closures of three libraries and review the closure of the other four after gathering more evidence, would have attracted some support from some independent councillors.

“Every day we hear new evidence that suggests these closures may not be viable. It’s not clear that dial-a-bus will help people get to the remaining libraries – the lack of capacity of broadband in some areas leaves people without adequate access to the internet and most crucially it’s not clear that the savings identified are even realistic. There are significant costs both financial and cultural.

“This Council has been embarrassed in the national media by this debacle. We would have preferred to have taken more time and ensured that any decision was based on the best possible evidence, taken in the interests of the people of Moray.”

Meanwhile the Save our Libraries Moray group met on Wednesday evening to consider their options in the light of what they see as only a partial victory in their campaign.

A spokesman said after that meeting: “We will fight on to save the remaining four libraries quite simply because, as we have always insisted, it is a wrong decision on the grounds of equalities, lack of consultation with the communities concerned and a clear lack of clarity over what, if any, financial benefit would come to Moray Council from these closures.

“We will return to legal advisers in the light of this latest decision and look in detail at how it affects our legal challenge.”

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