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  • Writer's pictureThe Gaudie

No relief for libraries as Aberdeen City Council reaffirms budget cuts

Updated: Jan 20

Campaigners gagged as bid to address councillors voted down

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Campaigners seeking the reversal of Aberdeen City Council's decision to close six libraries as well as a beloved community swimming pool were left disappointed Monday, as an emergency council meeting ended without funds being provided.

Public faced gagged during proceedings

In a bid to clear two hundred thousand pounds from council coffers; Woodside, Kaimhill, Cornhill, Northfield, Ferryhill, and Cults libraries are set to be shut by month's end.

Bucksburn Swimming Pool is also scheduled for closure.

A group of protestors gathered outside the Town House Monday morning, holding placards and signs calling on councillors to keep the public services open.

Campaigners from Save Aberdeen Libraries and Save Bucksburn Pool delivered a number of peitions to council leaders Ian Yuill (Lib Dems) and Alex Nicoll (SNP).

Demonstrators were further angered by the council's decision not to allow public comment during the proceedings. A vote to allow deputations fell along party lines, 24-19.

Asked by The Gaudie why he voted against allowing public comment at the meeting, Mr Nicoll said that opposition councillors could have submitted a motion for consideration, which would have allowed for public deputations.

"Those calling the meeting did not put forward a motion nor was there a paper before us to make a decision," he said.

"As we are not discussing a specific matter, deputations are incompetent... 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 they had been silenced by the administration's refusal to let them speak.

Mr Cameron was not amused, stating that if they held up the signs again, they would be removed from the chamber.

Heated Debate Ensues

After two hours of questions directed at council officers, the chamber adjourned until 2 pm, when a motion reiterating the administration's decision was proposed by Mr Nicoll.

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.

The meeting was adjourned after Mr Nicoll's motion was passed 24-21 along party lines.

"Dreadful news"

Speaking to The Gaudie, a number of opposition councillors expressed their dismay with the decision.

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 ... [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.

Save Aberdeen Libraries member 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 library is slated for closure at the end of the week, SNP councillors Hazel Cameron and Neil Copland skipped out on 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, campaigners are redoubling their efforts, continuing to circulate petitions and organising a 'read-in' at the stately edifice on Wednesday afternoon.

Ms Tissera lauded the efforts of the campaigners and urged them to keep fighting, commenting:

"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."


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