The chairman of Glasgow Life has asked for all £1.25m of a Scottish Government fund to be given to the city to allow every library to reopen.
Five libraries are currently closed — Whiteinch, Maryhill, Barmulloch, the GoMA and the Couper Institute — and need an estimated £1.26m to allow visitors to return.
Campaigners have been calling for libraries to reopen but Glasgow Life, which runs the venues for the city council, has said this cannot happen without more funding.
Last week, the Scottish Government announced £1.25m will be distributed by the Scottish Library and Information Council to help libraries recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cllr David McDonald, the chairman of Glasgow Life and the city’s depute leader, has now sent a letter to Pamela Tulloch, the library council’s chief executive, urging her to give the money to Glasgow.
He said: “Given the sheer challenge the city faces in terms of both social and economic recovery and improving the health and wellbeing of citizens, together with published data of deprivation in Glasgow compared to the rest of Scotland, I am requesting the full £1.25m budget is allocated to Glasgow.
“In addition, this sum would only secure the reopening of these libraries for 12 months so I am asking that you join our call to the Scottish Government to provide this sum on an annual basis, until the situation in Glasgow improves.”
In his letter, he tells Ms Tulloch that “the power to reopen these libraries is now in your hands”.
“I hope you will agree with me that investing this money in Glasgow will have far greater impact than a scattered funding approach that would have no impact in supporting libraries in Glasgow.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Library and Information Council said all applications will be considered fully.
When the fund was announced, the Scottish Government said priority would be given to libraries in deprived areas.
Cllr McDonald added: “As you know, Glasgow faces significant challenges in terms of deprivation with over a third of its children living in poverty, the lowest healthy life expectancy in Scotland and estimates that over 11,000 people a week are contacting their GPs regarding their mental health.”
He said evidence showed that Covid-19 has “deepened the level of inequality”.
Glasgow Life’s income was wiped out when the pandemic hit, with bosses reporting a loss of £38m. It is estimated the income for 2020/21 will be £6.4m.
So far, the arms-length organisation has reopened 28 of the city’s 33 libraries.
Cllr McDonald said: “Like others, we have had to make difficult decisions regarding the services we have been able to fund that will support social and economic recovery in Glasgow. Libraries have been a key service that we have, as far as possible, prioritised.”
But he added: “The position remains that until we receive more funding we cannot reopen these libraries. We continue to lobby the Scottish Government for additional resources.”
At last week’s full council meeting, cllr McDonald was quizzed on the fund and revealed Glasgow Life would make a “strong pitch”.
Cllr Jon Molyneux, of the Green group, had said the £1.25m fund “seems to be on the small side” if it is “to be shared across the country”.
The spokesman for the Scottish Library and Information Council said: “The fund has been designed to accept applications from all public library services in Scotland.
“The applications submitted will be considered fully and equally in line with the fund’s criteria.”
By local democracy reporter Drew Sandelands
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