WRITING here last August I said there were no plans to shut any of Glasgow’s libraries, adding that none would remain closed for any longer than was absolutely necessary.

Eight months on and that hasn’t changed. I said libraries wouldn’t close and I meant it. The SNP City government is not in the business of removing library services from communities.

We must be, however, clear-eyed about the impact of the pandemic. Any politician claiming that things can return to normal overnight as though Covid has never happened is being deliberately misleading.

And when they have been kept fully informed of the ramifications of this unforeseen global catastrophe for Glasgow Life, as Labour and Tory councillors have, it’s more disingenuous still.

The charity lost around £40 million in projected income due to Covid. The furlough scheme, grants and sound management headed off some of the pressures but it is still around £20m short of where it would be had the pandemic not shut venues and cancelled events for over a year.

The upshot is that not every service can open as soon as we would like or from the exact same venue. In some cases the buildings can’t accommodate social distancing or require significant upgrading. But these vital amenities will remain in the communities they serve.

Just over a month ago the City Council was able to provide Glasgow Life with a £100m financial guarantee, meaning it could both address immediate needs and plan for the future.

We’re seeing the fruits of that this week, with some of the 90 venues scheduled to reopen by August already operating again. The challenge was huge but the SNP-Green budget found a solution.

Yet despite being fully briefed about the financial challenges faced by Glasgow Life and the potential impact on users, neither Labour nor the Tories produced any plan whatsoever for services and venues. Their only solution was to chop almost £5m from Glasgow Life’s budget allocation.

In fact, had the Tories had their way they would have brutally shut down the Maryhill Hub and Ashgill Recreation Centre in Milton without any consideration for local need. Scratch the surface of the Glasgow Tories and you will find an appetite to rip the heart from communities which would have made Mrs Thatcher proud.

Labour, meanwhile, is in the throes of another disinformation campaign, circulating false lists and claiming facilities, many of which are scheduled to open this week, are earmarked for closure.

Yet again they are marching communities to the top of the hill with warnings over services being axed only for the truth to be very different. They did it with Whitehill Pool two years ago, a facility some senior Labour figures are again claiming will shut.

In fact, Whitehill Pool will welcome swimmers back next week. There is a world of difference between how we do business now and how amenities and buildings were treated in the past.

In short, we have a commitment to our citizens and a plan for reactivating historic buildings wherever possible.

Current Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar’s election catchphrase is about “moving on from the past”. The reality of his party’s neglect of Glasgow over many decades is closed facilities and communities deprived of much needed amenities.

It’s a failure to invest in the fabric of neighbourhoods, with historic buildings left to crumble into ruin. That past, littered with examples like Govanhill Baths and Springburn Halls, a legacy of eyesores and dead space, can’t be glossed over with glib statements. The past he wants to forget is costing us many millions of pounds to address.

Equally, I am happy to acknowledge past decisions with positive outcomes, such as the relocation of the old Easterhouse and Pollok libraries to the Bridge Complex and the Pollok Civic Realm – vibrant, modern spaces with close access to other services. This model will soon be replicated in Parkhead with cross-party support for the library to move to a new purpose-built community hub while securing the future of the 120-year Carnegie building.

This is what we want to see in both Maryhill and Whiteinch, retaining all-important services within the community and new investment and use found for the buildings.

Neither services nor building are being abandoned. Indeed, back in August I stated that innovative solutions would be needed to overcome Covid’s challenges, including re-imagining some public libraries through the development of community hubs.

This wasn’t a radical idea or an expedient excuse. It was building on a successful model all parties have supported over many years.

The same applies to our long-standing commitment to community ownership. A recent report by the Scottish Government’s expert group on social renewal calls for a leap forward in community control as part of our post-pandemic recovery, with more control over local services and the stewardship of local assets to be put in the hands of communities.

There are some recent excellent examples of this in Glasgow, with community sports clubs activating local pitches. The huge response to our People Make Glasgow Communities launch indicates a clear appetite for more community control.

This is not a replacement for council services but a means of enhancing community resilience and wellbeing.

I know just how cherished so much of what Glasgow Life delivers is to citizens, both the actual services and where they are delivered from. And I understand the uncertainty and concern the impact of and re-emergence from Covid is generating.

But to be clear, the closure of services is not on our agenda, politically or operationally. The impact fallout from the pandemic may be with us for some time but we will ensure our communities and our heritage do not pay the price.