Library charges book a place in the courts

Aberdeen and Edinburgh may be acting illegally by charging outsiders for library services, lawyers acting for the Scottish Museums Council and the Scottish Library Association say. A full court hearing may be the only way of resolving the matter, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities will be told today (Friday).

Aberdeen is applying an administrative charge for people outwith the council boundaries, while Edinburgh is charging people who do not work, live or study in the city.

An opinion from a Queen's Counsel suggests the 1887 Public Libraries Consolidation (Scotland) Act rules out charges for libraries, art galleries or museums established under the Act. Administrative charges for loan services are excluded, as are charges to people who do not live, work or study in the local authority area. There is nothing in the Act to distinguish between residence and non-residence, according to the lawyers.

Cosla advisers say libraries and museums operate under different legislation south of the border and the Scottish legal position should be tested. "It now seems certain that the issue of charging for cultural services is firmly in the public eye and that councils would benefit from being able to operate within a clear legal framework," they state.

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