Editorial: Two years on a community dream quietly dies

The weekly opinion of the Editor on topical events affecting Moray.

Vivien Hendry, centre, during the fight to save libraries in Moray
Vivien Hendry, centre, during the fight to save libraries in Moray

NO MATTER HOW had we try and how willing communities are there has to be an acceptance that our hopes will be dashed.

That was brought back home to me this week when I learned that efforts to create one of Scotland first ever community libraries right here in Moray were doomed to failure.

When Moray Council decided two years ago that they were to close seven libraries – almost half the reading estate in their charge, they were effectively shredding the heart out of a library system that was the envy of much of the country.

Like many people I was shocked – and like many I was moved to try and do something about it. Motives were questioned at the time (because I was working for a local political group) – but I knew that had nothing to do with my personal desire to protect Libraries.

In particular I was aware, as were many including the Council’s own legal advisers, that what they were doing was actually not only wrong but unlawful.

After months of rallying support from throughout Scotland and beyond, including having to use the ultimate threat of consulting with first a local solicitor and then an Edinburgh-based Barrister, a case was being formed to force the Council to back down.

They sensibly did so – but only to the very minimum extent that they could legally do so, leaving three of the proposed seven closures intact but effectively ending any hope of legal success to back up the moral case that had already been won.

Hopeman, alas, was one of the unlucky four, all the more galling as it was the home library being fought for by Vivien Hendry, the woman who was prepared to put her neck on the line and lead the legal case for all threatened communities at the Court of Session.

Vivien set out to compensate for the Council’s folly by creating a new type of library in Hopeman, community-led and community-operated – but she needed help of course. She got support from the community – but not, I’ve heard, universal by any means.

She had wider support as well – but in the end, crucially the one piece of support she needed most, from Moray Council itself, was missing. You cannot run any sort of modern library without premises that allow the space for people to read and the facilities for them to use online resources.

I would not suggest for one minute that there was a determination by a defeated Council that Vivien would fail, I understand that they have many priorities and in difficult times could not go the extra mile required to help the community library effort.

I just find it a massive, massive shame that this project did not succeed as it might have done with just a little bit more effort and a little less community in-fighting.