Hands off our library!

Tuesday 8 January 2013

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By Jennifer Newton
Published on Saturday 22 December 2012 09:00

A FORMER Lord Advocate has said he finds Angus Council’s legal approach towards the ownership of Arbroath Library as “bizarre.”

Last week the Herald reported that councillors were yet again being recommended to approve the transfer of the library from the Arbroath Common Good fund into the authority’s general fund.

The proposal was brought back before the council after a public consultation earlier in the year.

There had also been a campaign by Councillor Bob Spink on the issue.

However, at their meeting last Thursday a decision on the issue was delayed until a second opinion on legal advice was sought.

And now Lord Fraser of Carmyllie QC has spoke out against any transfer.

He told the Herald: “I have long supported Councillor Bob Spink in his contention that the Arbroath Library building forms part of the Arbroath Common Good and find the legal approach of Angus Council bizarre.

“I hope even at this late stage after a second attempt by officials to remove the library building from the Arbroath Common Good it will be acknowledged that a serious legal error is likely to be made by the council.

“I do not want to see my council tax wasted on any application to the Court of Session, much as lawyers might enjoy the fray.”

The library and picture gallery and its contents were donated to the town by local factory owner David Corsar, who employed a large workforce in the town.

Lord Fraser added: “The gift by Mr Corsar was not conditional on the then Burgh Council taking powers under the libraries act.

“At that time the Burgh Council would have had no authority to impose a charge on the citizens of Arbroath for library services. What was required was plain common sense. They applied it and for that they are to be blessed.

“However, if now Angus Council determine vindictively as is their democratic right to withdraw library services from Arbroath, nothing can be done to oppose that other than through political opposition.

“Reluctantly, I acknowledge their untrammelled right to do so but it does not follow from that, the library building falls out of Arbroath’s Common Good.”

At last Thursday’s full council meeting, Councillor Bob Spink tabled an amendment, which would see some minor adjustments to the Common Good but that the library should remain part of it.

He explained: “I tabled a simple amendment stating the library should remain within the Common Good

“After a five minute recess to allow the officers to go into a huddle, the Provost ruled my amendment incompetent as it went against the legal advice of the head of law and admin and the senior counsel engaged by her department. I was therefore not allowed to speak or to make my case.

“Councillor Alex King then moved another amendment that the decision be deferred to allow us to seek independent legal advice, seconded by Councillor Donald Morrison.

“The amendment was adopted unanimously, and that is where the matter rests.

“Had my amendment been allowed there is no doubt that the elected members would have supported me.

“I had commitment from all eight Arbroath councillors and more than enough from other wards.

“I held this report to be a challenge and a test of democracy and of the authority of the elected members of Angus Council.

“To accept it would be doing a great disservice to the people of Arbroath and insult the memory of one of the town’s greatest benefactors.”

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