Campaigners have said ruling Aberdeen councillors “should be ashamed” after being gagged as controversial cuts were cemented.
Dozens of protestors gathered outside the Town House before an urgent meeting on savings that were voted through by the SNP and Liberal Democrat ruling group at the start of the month.
Cries of “save our pools!” and “shame on ACC!” rang out along Broad Street as members entered the building.
The campaigners had rallied to fight for Bucksburn Swimming Pool and six city libraries due to shut within days.
They were left gagged just minutes after the crunch talks got underway, with their request to talk refused.
While 19 councillors voted to let them address the room, the Nationalist and Lib Dem coalition had the deciding say with a majority of 24 against it.
Even holding aloft “zipped up” emoji signs in a silent show of defiance raised the ire of local authority leaders.
Lord Provost David Cameron blasted this as “disruption”, and vowed to have anyone holding up signs again thrown out.
What happened during the meeting?
The summit had been called by opposition politicians desperate to undo some of the more controversial decisions made at the March 1 meeting.
They argued there was money available in the council’s “contingency budget”.
Labour group leader Barney Crockett summed the talks up as “trying to reopen the process” after locals rose up with “massive concerns” about some cuts.
After hours of scrutiny, every cut agreed weeks ago was solidified in the second vote today, with the administration winning by 24-21.
That means Bucksburn Swimming Pool will still close its doors for the final time on Sunday, April 16.
Cults, Kaimhill, Woodside, Northfield, Cornhill and Ferryhill libraries will all be locked up by the end of the week.
After the campaigners were denied the chance to speak, Mr Cameron scolded them for issuing shouts of “shame!” from the public gallery.
The SNP councillor said the cries “made it hard to run a meeting”.
The SNP and Lib Dem administration have won a vote denying campaigners the chance to have their say, to cries of “shame!” from the public gallery.
Disgruntled Lord Provost David Cameron tells those he’s just silenced not to shout out, as it “makes it difficult to run a meeting”.
— Ben Hendry (@BenHendry1) March 27, 2023
‘We closed libraries and cut sports cash to save teachers’
The administration’s finance convener, Alex McLellan, began by stressing how difficult the decisions had been to make.
To illustrate his point, he said that alternative savings plans put forward by their rivals could have put education at risk.
Options to slash teaching hours, cut cleaning and axe music lessons were all on the table.
The SNP’s Neil Copland said it was unfortunate that libraries were “victims” in the budget process.
But he said projects aimed at alleviating poverty were given priority, explaining: “Given the choice… I’m feeding the kids.”
‘How could you not make this a priority?’
After the news broke about Bucksburn Swimming Pool closing, operators Sport Aberdeen explained that council bosses knew that it would close if a £687,000 cut was voted through.
Conservative group leader Ryan Houghton blasted council leaders for failing to have plans in place to mitigate the losses of the pool and libraries.
He said: “One in four pupils in Scotland leave school not knowing how to swim… And we have the highest rate of drowning in the entire UK.
“How could you not make this a priority?”
For refusing to allow campaigners to speak, he added: “You should be ashamed of yourself.”
‘We had taken annual leave for this’
Kirsty Fraser has ploughed hours into the community effort to save Bucksburn Swimming Pool since the closure was announced weeks ago.
Her campaign group even secured a £50,000 pledge from Wood to cover costs, in the event it could have a future.
Kirsty was left “extremely disappointed” at not being allowed to share their findings at today’s meeting.
Speaking afterwards, she said: “We have so many questions that need to be heard.
“By stopping us speaking, they are trying to save their own faces. They don’t have answers to the points we are raising.”
Silenced Aberdeen campaigners ‘won’t be walked over’
Hayden Lorimer, who lives along from Woodside Library, has been leading a crusade to save the six soon-to-be mothballed venues.
“They are unwilling to engage with communities who are going to be affected by this,” he said.
“That’s been their approach for weeks.”
Leaders blasted for ‘political sneering’
Labour’s Nurul Hoque Ali condemned the “attempt to gag the public”.
He added: “The good people of Aberdeen will not be walked over.”
His colleague Ross Grant said the move to “shut down accountability” was “shameful”.
And Mr Grant accused leaders of deflecting attention from the cuts by instead starting “political” squabbles in the chambers.
He added: “We have had political sneering from members of the administration when we wanted solutions.
“We don’t want political games or ‘he said, she said’. There’s been nothing but politics, politics, politics.”
You can watch the meeting here.