Edinburgh libraries used as Covid test centres to be handed back within six weeks

Four city libraries which are being used as Covid test centres are to be returned to their normal purpose after the Scottish Government agreed to a request from the council.
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Following calls from residents for the re-opening of the branches at Leith, Sighthill, Newington and Oxgangs, Labour depute council leader Cammy Day announced last week he was formally asking council chief executive Andrew Kerr to write to both the UK and Scottish governments, notifying them that Edinburgh wanted its libraries back.

Now he says the council has received a positive reply from officials in the Scottish Government’s health department and the libraries should be returned within the next six weeks.

Oxgangs library will soon be handed back to the council. Picture: Google Streetview.Oxgangs library will soon be handed back to the council. Picture: Google Streetview.
Oxgangs library will soon be handed back to the council. Picture: Google Streetview.
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Councillor Day said: “The government has responded saying they accept the council's demand to have the libraries returned to public use and that can happen after the contract runs out at the end of March.

“I'm pleased they have listened to the demands of the Labour group and the Edinburgh public and are returning these essential libraries and community hubs back for local people's use.”

Normal services at the four branches had been suspended when the buildings were switched to providing PCR tests for people with symptoms of Covid.

Last month the Evening News reported how frustrated residents in Oxgangs were calling for their library to reopen after being out of action for nearly two years – first because of lockdown, then for major repairs and now to be used as a testing centre.

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Heather Levy, chair of Firrhill Community Council, said at the time that Oxgangs was one of the busiest libraries in the city and provided a base for community activities, including craft groups, computer classes, children's clubs and reading groups, some of which had been unable to meet while the building was closed.

A week later, the council announced a mobile library would be stationed outside Oxgangs library one day and one evening per week to provide library services to the community.

The council had already unveiled plans for Leith library services to be relocated to the nearby Fort community centre while the library was being used as a test centre.

Today, Scott Arthur, Labour councillor for Colinton/Fairmilehead, which includes Oxgangs, welcomed the news of the libraries’ return.

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He said: “Oxgangs and Firrhill are acknowledged as areas of social deprivation where there is little for children and young families to do. The temporary closure of Oxgangs Library was having a significant negative impact on the wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable young people in my ward. I’m delighted to hear that the library will now reopen, and I plan to be one of the first through the door.”

Councillor Day said libraries were a vital part of communities across the Capital.

“They're essential not just for people borrowing books, but also for people needing to use computers, particularly to help them with job searches, getting bus passes, hearing aids and help with forms. They're vital assets for the community and I'm really pleased the remaining four – Newington, Sighthill, Oxgangs and Leith – will be returned to public use at the end of March.”

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Edinburgh council to write to UK and Scottish governments, saying libraries used...

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