Daily national newspapers will no longer be available in the region’s 12 public libraries from next month.
A spokesperson for Live Borders, the trust that runs the libraries, defended that decision, saying: “In recent years, demand for this service has declined dramatically due to the wide range of media platforms now on offer.
“We felt that to stock a full range of national papers to avoid any political bias would be an unnecessary cost to the service.
“The libraries will continue to provide online access to members of the public which allows them access to all major news providers.
“Local newspapers will still be available in all Borders libraries.”
The trust’s decision to cease stocking national daily newspapers from Saturday, April 1, has been criticised by former Scottish Borders Council leader Drew Tulley.
He recalled that when councillors agreed last year to transfer the running of libraries, museums, public halls and community centres to Live Borders, they were told the move would save the council £400,000 a year in rates relief and protect and enhance services. “I can’t imagine this will save Live Borders a huge amount of money, but I do know it will seriously impact on the quality of life of some of our most vulnerable citizens,” said Mr Tulley, a Galashiels community councillor.
“I am referring to the many older people and those on low incomes who are not on the internet and who like to visit their local library reading rooms to keep up with the daily news.
“Apart from anything else, the social interaction during such visits is very important to them. I hope our councillors will now apply pressure to the trust to have this mean-spirited decision reversed.”
Council leader David Parker replied: “Live Borders is an arm’s-length organisation with its own board of trustees which is responsible for making decisions on how best to run leisure, sport and cultural services in the Borders.
“The withdrawal of national newspapers is entirely a matter for the trustees to determine.
“Councillors can, of course, make representations to Live Borders, but ultimately the trust is responsible for the decisions it takes.”
Live Borders currently receives £6.6m a year from the council – around 60% of its annual budget – but the council has agreed to cut its annual contribution by £326,000 in the next financial year.
Its requirement to save money was highlighted in a recent letter to staff from chief executive Euan Jackson.
“There is a need to achieve significant savings,” wrote Mr Jackson. “We will need to reshape and refocus our valued services.”
Since then, the council has agreed to cut its annual contribution to Live Borders by £326,000 in the next financial year and 18 members of staff have been recommended for “early release from employment” and are due to leave the organisation on April 1.