A SINGLE parent from the Moray village of Hopeman has been chosen to lead the legal challenge against the local council’s controversial decision to axe almost half the libraries in the area.
Last week, leaders of the “Save our Libraries Moray” campaign announced that they are to seek a judicial review in the Court of Session to challenge cash-strapped Moray Council’s decision to close all seven libraries at Rothes, Dufftown, Portknockie, Findochty, Cullen, Burghead, Hopeman in what they claim could prove to be a test case for the whole of Scotland.
And today the campaign group revealed that Vivien Hendry, from the coastal village of Hopeman, will lead the court fight on behalf of the protest group.
Ms Hendry, who is a member of Save our Libraries Moray, said she had already taken the initial steps towards raising an action at the Court of Session and would also be seeking an Interim Interdict to secure a temporary halt on the closure plan.
She told a press conference in Elgin that she regarded the local library at Hopeman, one of the seven libraries under threat, as an “essential and vital educational asset” in bringing up her children.
And she continued: “This is not a decision anyone can take lightly - but I have thought long and hard about the need for someone to make a stand. Along with every other user of our superb local library service in Moray I was stunned on learning of the intention to close these libraries.
“My own experience at Hopeman has always been very positive and I thought that Moray Council was doing a superb job in providing one of the finest library services in Scotland.”
Ms Hendry said: “Recent investment had been made in our local branch that included European Regional Development Funding that helped create a educational and social centre that remains the pride of our community.
“For Moray Council to seek to destroy that is beyond comprehension. They are doing so without having properly consulted with those such as my own family who regularly use our library services, they are doing so by ignoring the need clearly identified by their own officials and they are doing so in the full knowledge that the European funding they obtained will need to be repaid.”
She said: “I believe that the council administration decided to take a risk that no constituent would dare challenge them in court. As a mother I believe that you have to take a stand for what you believe is right.
“It is right that our elected representatives act in our interests and not against them - that is why I am making this stand.”
Ms Hendry added: “My hope remains that Moray Council will see that in this instance they have not been acting in the best interests of our communities and that they reverse this decision without it having to go to the Court of Session.”
The campaign group also received message of support today from Debi Gliori, the award winning Scottish children’s book author and illustrator.
Ms Gliori, who has been an active supporter of the “Spirit of Moray” Book Festival, said: “Libraries are one of the last outposts of democratised learning in our society. Libraries are for everyone, regardless of their birthright. From newborn babies and parents coming to rhyme and song sessions through to our oldest citizens enjoying the fruits of their decades as taxpayers and accessing the multiplicity of library services on offer, the libraries operate an inclusive, all-welcome policy that allows everyone equal access to a wealth of knowledge.
“For councillors to intimate that this generous provision can be replaced by individual access to the internet is misleading and utterly wrong. For many of our vulnerable citizens; old, frail, ill, incapacitated, poor, homeless, the internet may as well not exist. They do not have access to it. They do not possess the hardware, or are unable to afford the broadband connection, or have never learned how to operate a computer even if one were to be provided. For many of our citizens, the library, with its books and helpful staff, is the one point of access to all of the world’s vast store of knowledge.
She added: “The closure of libraries is not simply about saving money to spend on other important things but is about stifling the voice of ordinary people. The closure of libraries is an intellectual land grab; it’s ensuring that we remain uninformed, ignorant and permanently in the dark. The closure of libraries is stealing our intellectual future.”