No relief for libraries as City Council reaffirms budget cuts
Updated: May 2
Motion to allow campaigners to address councillors voted down
By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco
Campaigners seeking the reversal of Aberdeen City Council's decision to close six libraries around the city as well as a beloved community swimming pool were left disappointed Monday, as an emergency council meeting ended without funds being provided.
Public faced gag rule during proceedings
A group of protestors gathered outside the Townhouse Monday morning, holding placards and signs calling the Council to keep the public services open.
Campaigners from Save Aberdeen Libraries and Save Bucksburn Pool delivered a number of petitions (with signatures numbering over 10,000) to administration leaders Ian Yuill and Alex Nicoll.
Further angering demonstrators was the Council's decision not to allow public comment during the proceedings. A vote to suspend a standing order which prohibiting deputations failed along party lines, 24-19.
When asked by The Gaudie why he voted against allowing public comment at the meeting, Councillor Nicoll said that opposition councillors could have submitted a motion for consideration (which would have allowed for public deputations).
'This is a requisitioned meeting of Council,' he said. 'It was called to discuss various issues. Those calling the meeting did not put forward a motion nor was there a paper before us to make a decision. As we are not discussing a specific matter, deputations are incompetent. Under ACC rules if there was a motion or papers before us then they would have been able to speak. Those calling the meeting are aware of this situation and that in the circumstances it was simply incompetent. I have no idea why no motion was moved as they clearly intended to do so.'
Councillor Yuill did not respond to a similar request for comment.
While protestors could be heard outside the chamber throughout the morning, those in the public gallery were under strict orders of silence by Lord Provost David Cameron. At one point, campaigners held up placards with the 🤐🤐 emoji, implying that their voices had been removed by the administration's refusal to suspend the standing order and let them speak.
Cameron was not amused, stating that if they held up the signs again, they would be removed from the chamber.
Heated Debate Ensues
After a two hour session of questions directed at Council Officers, the council adjourned until 2 pm, where a motion reiterating the administration's decision to close the libraries and the pool was set forth by Councillor Nicoll.
Councillors then began a period of heated debate, as Conservative and Labour representatives excoriated their SNP and Lib Dem colleagues over the decision to close what they described as vital services in deprived areas.
Administration councillors responded by pointing out that in Labour's proposed budget, nearly 4 million pounds of educational spending would be cut.
After the meeting, which ended in affirmation of Cllr Nicoll's motion, by a vote of 24-21 along party lines, a number of opposition councillors expressed their dismay with the decision.
Speaking to The Gaudie, Labour Councillor Deena Tissera said: 'I told the council today that I was proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the community who are fighting to keep their libraries and pool open. It is tragic that in a democratic chamber the SNP voted down allowing the public they represent the opportunity to speak at their council. I hope that I and other councillors who stood up for our communities and those in the public gallery [were] their voice today...'
Similarly, Conservative group leader Ryan Houghton told The Gaudie: 'Today’s decision by the SNP & Lib Dems will be dreadful news for communities across Aberdeen. Libraries, nurseries and swimming pools are being closed at a time when the attainment gap is growing and 1 in 4 pupils leaves school not knowing how to swim. They didn’t want to hear from the public and they refused to ask the Scottish government for a fair share of funding for fear of offending their bosses in Edinburgh. It’s disgraceful.'
Campaigners not giving up yet
Campaigners expressed sorrow over the administration's refusal to reconsider the cuts, but remained defiant as they made plans to continue the fight.
One of the Save the Woodside Library campaign leaders, Hayden Lorimer, told The Gaudie: 'I'm deeply disappointed the public weren't able to offer their own deputations… it's pretty dismaying that we weren't given that opportunity.'
Back in Woodside, where the historic local library is slated for closure at the end of the week, SNP Councillors Hazel Cameron and Neil Copland, who represent Woodside, were no-shows at a meeting of the Community Council.
Community members had hoped the Councillors would attend to answer questions from the public on their decision.
Despite the lack of response from the administration thus far, the Save the Woodside Library campaign is redoubling its efforts, continuing to circulate petitions and organising a 'read-in' at Woodside Library on Wednesday afternoon at 3 pm.
Tissera, who represents Woodside as part of her ward, lauded the efforts of the campaigners and urged them to keep fighting. She said: 'We may not have won the battle today but the war to keep the libraries and Bucksburn pool open remains very much alive thanks to community spirit.'
As Cameron closed the proceedings in the chamber Monday afternoon, one of the campaigners covered his face with a 🤐🤐 placard in a final act of defiance.
He had been silenced, but he was not giving up.