CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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#VoteLibraries and what it means for Scotland

Category: Blog

A general election will take place on December 12th and during the campaign period CILIP are running a campaign called #VoteLibraries including an open letter asking for various commitments from political candidates.

We have had some people get in touch to ask how the campaign and general election might apply to Scotland and our members here, particularly if they are speaking to candidates on the doorstep.

Firstly, it is important to note that most of the decisions that a UK Government will take concerning libraries will not directly affect library services in Scotland as many of these (including school, public, education, prisons and health) are the responsibility of either the Scottish Government, local authorities or both. However, it is also worth noting that any changes to the funding allocated to Scotland may have a knock-on impact to library services and we fully support the ask for ‘far and sustainable funding’ for Scotland.

Let’s have a look at the other commitments and how they may relate to Scotland:

Increased financial support to Local Government for libraries, supporting the Local Government Association call for a fair and sustainable funding settlement.

The 32 local authorities in Scotland are funded via the Scottish Government (in addition to Council Tax) so the MPs who are successful in this general election will have no direct say on libraries in Scotland. Decisions over how each local authority in Scotland fund their libraries is made by Councillors in that authority or indirectly via a Trust or other arms at length body established by the Council.

Of course, there are also significant challenges in Scotland around public sector funding and we also want to ensure libraries are invested in here. We regularly advocate and lobby both national and local government to ensure libraries are supported in Scotland, have created an evidence bank and have run campaigns during both local and national elections in Scotland.

In Scotland we have a National Strategy for Public Libraries, published in 2015, setting a roadmap for public libraries in Scotland.

In Scotland we already have the Public Library Improvement Fund, administered by our partners at the Scottish Library and Information Council. This fund has been providing additional funding for public libraries for a number of years. A National Library Improvement Fund as also asked for would not be available to libraries in Scotland but we would welcome its introduction.

A long-term improvement in funding to schools, colleges and Universities, enabling learning providers to invest in their library and information professional workforce

As with public libraries, school libraries are the responsibility of local authorities who are funded by the devolved Scottish Government.

Following years of campaigning by CILIPS and others, a National Strategy for School Libraries was published last year. This is now being implemented via a group led by SLIC and featuring key partners such as COSLA, Education Scotland, ADES, CILIPS and the SLG Scotland. One of the key successes of this has been the inclusion of school libraries in the school inspection framework. In addition to this, funding has been provided via the School Library Improvement Fund.

However, years of cuts have left a highly variable picture for school libraries in Scotland, with some authorities having no librarians and many sharing one between two or more schools. Therefore, CILIPS will continue to campaign on behalf of school libraries as well as supporting the implementation of the strategy. We fully support the campaign by CILIP and others to ensure every child has access to a Great School Library.

Also, large parts of the funding for HE and FE is devolved so would not be directly affected in most cases by decisions at Westminster (although Brexit may have varying impacts on both staffing and students).

Universities and Colleges and their respective libraries are funded through a number of ways such as tuition fees, research grants and other funding pots. The Scottish Government provide funding to the Scottish Funding Council and they in turn invest around £1.8 billion a year in Scotland’s 19 universities and 26 colleges (within 13 college regions) for learning and teaching, skills development, research and innovation, staff, buildings and equipment. Some of the non-government funding may come via UK bodies.

Increased funding to Health Education England (HEE) to implement the findings of the independent Topol Review, including increasing the library and knowledge specialist workforce.

The Topol Review had a UK wide remit and we fully support its aim to transform healthcare by developing the workforce for a digital future. Health is a devolved matter so MPs elected at this general election will not vote directly on matters affecting health services in Scotland. However, many of the challenges in the health sector also exist in Scotland and a key priority for CILIPS next year will be to support workforce development in this sector.

Improve funding and policy for prisons, ensuring that they address prisoner education through libraries alongside the traditional ‘crime and punishment’ agenda of Government.

Prisons (and their libraries) are a devolved matter and are funded via the Scottish Prisons Service (SPS) via the Scottish Government. CILIPS believe that prison libraries should continue to be valued and funded as they are an essential part of rehabilitation and education.

We hope the above clarifies how the general election may affect libraries as well and our members in Scotland. We are fully behind the CILIP campaign to #VoteLibraries and we will also be urging people to do the same when the next Scottish Parliament elections happen in 2021 and the local government election in 2022. Regardless of where in the UK library and information professionals work, we strongly believe that their sectors and value should be supported and endorsed by both MPs and MSPs as well as local government.

We have also been asked to provide some guidance for those who work for public or school libraries or others who would be affected by the pre-election period over what they can and can’t do. Our guidance is that library staff should continue to deliver services as they normally would but should not publish any material or deliver any services which, in whole or in part, appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party. This would not include helping people register to vote or providing info on the process of voting however. A guide is available online here.

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