Campaigners fighting to save six libraries and a swimming pool in Aberdeen have welcomed Aberdeen City Council’s announcement that it will launch a fresh public consultation on the closures, following legal negotiations in four petitions for judicial review in the Court of Session. The four petitioners were represented in the Court of Session by Solicitor Advocate, Mike Dailly, and Charis Brooks of Govan Law Centre with Laura McDonagh of Drummond Miller LLP, Edinburgh agents.
Campaign groups Save Aberdeen Libraries and Save Bucksburn Swimming Pool have been working with solicitors from the Govan Law Centre and Grampian Community Law Centre on legal challenges against the closures. Substantive hearings were due to be heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh this Autumn, but to stop the action, Aberdeen City Council has offered to run a full formal consultation on the closures.
Libraries in Cornhill, Cults, Ferryhill, Garthdee (Kaimhill), Northfield, and Woodside, and Bucksburn Swimming Pool were closed this Spring as part of moves by the council to make savings of £47 million.
At the time, there was no consultation by the council ahead of the closures, and Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments were not published on the local authority’s website, even though several of the libraries were located in some of the city’s most deprived areas.
The consultation will run from early next month until 31 October 2023, and campaigners have urged Aberdeen residents to engage with the process to make their views known.
Hayden Lorimer, from Save Aberdeen Libraries, said: “We welcome the announcement by Aberdeen City Council that they’ll do the right thing and hold a formal consultation on the closures. It’s a shame it took legal action to hold the council to account but our protests have finally been heard, vindicating our campaign against the closure of the libraries and Bucksburn Swimming Pool”.
“The decision constitutes a reprieve for the services we have been fighting for. We thank the public for their continued support and now urge them to respond just as actively and vocally as before and engage with the council’s consultation process. We were silenced by administration councillors several times throughout the campaign but this is everyone’s chance to finally be heard”.
“We expect the council to genuinely reflect on the results of the consultation and demonstrate how their decisions align with the Equality Act 2010, which has not happened in the case of the libraries and Bucksburn Swimming Pool”.
“We would also appeal to politicians of all political parties to recognise and respect the value of properly funded public services in Aberdeen, and across the country. Libraries and swimming pools are not just buildings but centres of learning, development, support, and valuable community activities.”
Kirsty Fraser, from the Save Bucksburn Swimming Pool campaign, said: “I hope this is a positive step in the right direction towards reopening these vital facilities. It will be very difficult for Aberdeen City Council and Sport Aberdeen to justify sticking to the decision to close them when considering the public consultation responses and the equality impact assessments, as the impact to our communities are vast and profound. It is vital for members of the public to engage in these processes and let the council know what the closures mean to them. This is our chance to make a difference.”
More than 15,000 people signed petitions against the closure of Bucksburn Swimming Pool and the six libraries which were handed directly to the co-leaders of Aberdeen City Council by campaigners in March 2023.
The closure of the libraries in Aberdeen reduced the number of libraries in the city by nearly one-third, and leaves Aberdeen as the city with the lowest number of library branches per head of population in Scotland. Bucksburn swimming pool, Aberdeen’s busiest for footfall of users including over 900 children in lessons, is the only pool in the city with built in disabled access.
It is anticipated that responses to the consultation on the closures, as well as the council’s equality impact assessments, will be taken to a meeting of full council in December 2023.