COMMUNITIES across Glasgow have been treated appallingly over the fate of their local libraries, sport facilities and community centres.

The leadership of Glasgow City Council (GCC) has oscillated like a badly tuned set of wind chimes when asked about opening dates.

From claims of local services being closed permanently to only just indefinitely to not being scheduled to re-open anytime soon.

Some venues, we are told, will be taken over by private groups as GCC seeks to absolve itself of the responsibility for managing public assets.

Whatever the vacillation and prevarication, one point remains. They’re all shut.

Worryingly, the endless dithering, contradictory decisions and pronouncements of GCC’s leadership have been made without any consultation with local people or community groups in the city.

Is this any way to run local government services on behalf of people?

I was delighted to be approached by Whiteinch Community Council to examine the scope for a legal challenge to the way GCC has approached the ongoing closure of local venues and in particular the future of local libraries.

The failure to re-open historic civic buildings like Whiteinch Library, Maryhill Library and the Couper Institute Library deserve to be scrutinised. They serve as powerful illustrations of the key principles at stake.

Whiteinch Library is a very good case in point.

On 22 April 2021, Glasgow Life (who operate Whiteinch Library on GCC’s behalf) said: “We are developing proposals to relocate the library services to an alternative facility at Scotstoun Leisure Centre ... The local community will be supported by a pop-up library during the period of transition to the new space. The building is in need of significant refurbishment”.

The following month, a new explanation appeared. GCC said: “Whiteinch Library is currently not scheduled for reopening because it is not included in the list of venues agreed by Glasgow City Council that is funded within the £100m budget agreed for Glasgow Life for 2021/22”.

In my opinion, GCC’s treatment of Whiteinch Library could be contested by way of judicial review in the Court of Session under three grounds of challenge.

First, it’s not apparent that GCC has ever carried out an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) in advance of its decision to close or never re-open the library.

As a public body, local authorities are subject to the public sector equality duty (PSED) in section 149 of the 2010 Equality Act.

The closure of the library is having – and will have – an adverse impact on people who would otherwise use it. That includes groups with “protected characteristics” in law in relation to age, sex, race and disabilities.

Those groups include children and young people; the visually impaired, those with dementia or mental health problems; asylum seekers and those from BAME communities; and young mother’s groups.

The courts have ruled that the PSED is not a tick box exercise. Public bodies have to fulfil the duty when they make strategic decisions and should be able to prove how they have considered the duty. As there has been no consultation with local people in Whiteinch – or anywhere else in the city – it is difficult to see how GCC can have discharged its duty under the 2010 Act.

Such failure could render the decision to close Whiteinch Library unlawful. The Court of Session recently took such an approach in the case of McHattie v. South Ayrshire Council. This was an adult day care centre that was to be closed without any EIA.

Second, it’s not apparent GCC has discharged its Fairer Scotland Duty under section 1 of the 2010 Act. This duty concerns the need to make strategic decisions that reduce inequalities that result from poverty. The Whiteinch Library catchment area covers some of Clydeside’s most deprived areas: Whiteinch, South Scotstoun & South Yoker.

Many of these communities are recognised as being in Scotland’s poorest quintile in the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. The library is an essential lifeline for those who are unemployed and looking for work. The failure to re-open Whiteinch Library will exacerbate and increase the inequalities of life which result from socio-economic disadvantage.

The final area of challenge is the lack of any consultation with local people. Giving some local groups three minutes to speak to a council committee last week wasn’t formative consultation by any stretch of the imagination.

The courts have held that a duty of consultation will exist where there is a legitimate expectation of consultation arising from an interest sufficient to create such expectation.

Rights to consultation have been found to exist where a council proposed to close a care home without consulting the residents and where schools were to be closed without consulting parents.

How can libraries be written-off in Glasgow without consulting the people they serve?

Local communities won’t give up their libraries. They won’t go gentle into that good night.