Award-winning authors back protests to save libraries in Cambuslang, Halfway and Blantyre

Families and kids protesting SLLC withdrawing funds from Cambuslang, Halfway and Blantyre libraries. -Credit:Stuart Vance/ReachPlc
Families and kids protesting SLLC withdrawing funds from Cambuslang, Halfway and Blantyre libraries. -Credit:Stuart Vance/ReachPlc

A host of award-winning authors are backing this week’s ‘Save Our Libraries’ protest to fight the controversial closure of the Cambuslang, Halfway and Blantyre libraries.

On Thursday, May 9, the second protest battling the controversial decision made by the board of South Lanarkshire Leisure & Culture, which would see the organisation withdraw its services from the facilities, will take place at 11am outside of Cambuslang Library.

However, this time around, the concern and opposition to the planned closure of the three local South Lanarkshire libraries has spread as top authors are giving their support.

Cambuslang author and poet, Martin Stepek, is hoping that the libraries stay open to provide the same impact they had on his family.

He said: “I was born in Cambuslang but grew up in Hamilton. I was taken to get my library ticket and take home my first books when I was just four years old. It was a special rite of passage. I believe that this should continue to be a special and important rite of passage for all people in all communities.”

Martin Stepek -Credit:Cambuslang Community Council
Martin Stepek -Credit:Cambuslang Community Council

Author of Fallen Angel, Chris Brookmyre, added: “We all appreciate that in these difficult times, difficult choices must be made but, in my opinion, libraries should always be among the last things a council cuts when it needs to save money.”

Local author of books such as The Rowan Tree, Kirsten MacQuarrie, is attending the protest.

She said: “Given that so many of the closing branches serve areas of multiple deprivation, the ostensible prospect of volunteer community ownership feels as unrealistic as our most vulnerable library users being able to undertake the hour-plus round trip required to their ‘nearest’ equivalent.”

Over 34 other leading authors and literary figures have also signed the ‘Save Our Libraries’ petition.

The first protest took place on the afternoon of World Book Day in March outside of South Lanarkshire Council HQ to fight for the future of the three Lanarkshire libraries.

Tracey Macrury, who started the ‘Save Our Libraries’ petition against library closures, said: “The support of so many leading authors in Scotland and beyond just amplifies our communities’ voices”

Since then, relocation talks have taken place for all three libraries.

Cllr Katie Loudon and organiser Tracy Macrury. -Credit:Stuart Vance/ReachPlc
Cllr Katie Loudon and organiser Tracy Macrury. -Credit:Stuart Vance/ReachPlc

John Bachtler, chair of Cambuslang Community Council, has been involved in those talks concerning Cambuslang Library, and added: “We hope that the support of leading authors and those working to promote reading across Scotland and elsewhere for our libraries will make South Lanarkshire Council think again about stripping public library provision from over 30,000 people.”

Executive Director of Community and Enterprise Resources, David Booth, added: “The challenging financial landscape being faced by all Scottish local authorities has forced the council to make a number of very difficult decisions in order to bridge a budget gap of more than £20 million in the current financial year alone. That is on top of many years in which funding for the council has not risen in line with inflation and other costs, and further difficult decisions will need to be made by this and all Scottish councils in the years to come. We note other local authorities have already had to close some libraries in previous years.

“As part of the council’s budget agreed for 2024-25 arrangements were put in place for to work with local communities on ways to mitigate the closure of any libraries that South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture require to withdraw from.

“We are pleased to confirm that while these discussions continue all libraries will remain open for at least three months thanks to the £1m Community Fightback Fund that was agreed as part of the council’s budget.

“Moreover, a Future Libraries Fund was also agreed, and this and other funding will be targeted at reprovisioning some services in those areas where SLLC will have to withdraw from libraries. We and SLLC will continue to work with local communities to develop reprovisioning options that will be best for their areas.”

*Don't miss the latest headlines from around Lanarkshire. Sign up to our newsletters here.

And did you know Lanarkshire Live had its own app? Download yours for free here.