EAST Renfrewshire is planning a permanent library fines amnesty while scrapping fees in public libraries for borrowers returning books late.

East Renfrewshire Culture and Leisure Trust (ERCLT), the charity delivering sport, leisure, arts and culture services in the region for the local council is looking at wiping all existing fines and says it aims to have these removed "as soon as possible".

The abolition of fines in all Scotland's libraries is being pushed by campaigners as part of a move to make them the heart of a pandemic recovery.

It comes as fears grow that the pressure on councils to tighten their purse strings will put public and school libraries at risk.

The Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC), the independent advisory body to the Scottish Government on library matters has suggested removing financial penalties to borrowers as part of a new five-year strategy.

READ MORE: Bid to abolish late book return fines to help save Scots libraries

SLIC says it is part of their plan to make libraries "accessible to all".

Critics of the fine system say it is an old-fashioned technique that gives off a 'Victorian punishing message' which is out of step with more modern open access and welcoming libraries.

The ERCLT move which is understood to come into immediate effect, affects ten libraries in the area.

Currently overdue books are charged at 15p per day for adults with a maximum fine of £8.40.

ERCLT say they believe the move will make libraries more accessible.

Scott Simpson, ERCLT head of libraries and information services, said: "We're pleased to be leading the way in abolishing late fees across all of our libraries.

"We want our libraries to be welcoming community spaces, where people return to use our resources, enjoy reading and discover new books. Late fees can prevent people from coming along and they can also adversely affect those most in need of a public library service.

The Herald:

"The majority of our readers already return books on time and our library app and online book reservation service make it easier for readers to manage their book loans.

"We hope to see more customers return and perhaps some outstanding books will find their way back home too."

It is estimated that only one in three public library services in Scotland do not charge for late returns.

It comes two weeks after new SLIC figures showed there was still no reopening information for 61 of the country's 481 public libraries.

This has now dropped to 48 with 15 libraries scheduled to reopen and reopening times across Scottish libraries extended.

Some local authorities had waived fines during the pandemic.

The Moray Council library service last month urged users to return outstanding book loans for free. But they were to be re-introduced for overdue books, audio books, CDs and DVDs.

Library users were said to have had borrowed 11,871 items dating back to before the pandemic.

In Edinburgh, the council said last month that books could be returned anonymously and people would not be charged any overdue fines, and anyone with charges on their library card from before the pandemic were asked to speak to a staff member who can clear them.

In Clackmannanshire where library fines are a maximum of £2.75 per item that is returned late, the lockdown amnesty on library fines ended in July In Perth and Kinross the fines amnesty ended on May 31, and users were warned that from June 1, outstanding loans will be considered overdue and fines will start to accumulate.

SLIC recently launched a strategy to save our libraries, saying that the health and wellbeing offered by them is estimated to bring a cost saving to NHS Scotland of £3.2 million each year.

The SLIC strategy aims to make libraries more relevant and also focuses on greater provision of digital services, the need for which was accelerated by the pandemic. That includes having one digital portal for all Scotland's libraries.

Three weeks ago hundreds attended a Glasgow march, organised by activist group Communities Unite Against Closures, calling for services, including libraries, museums and sports facilities, to be reopened to the community, with several facing threat of indefinite closure.

Banners saying Save Whiteinch Library, Don’t Axe Our Venues and Friends of People’s Palace could be seen among others at the march that started at Cathedral Square and walked from the closed St Mungo Museum to the People’s Palace.