A council has voted to close almost half of its libraries despite warnings it could be facing a legal challenge and be nationally ridiculed in light of the move.

Moray Council has a cuts target of £30m over the next three years and has already pulled its entire arts funding despite widespread condemnation.

The Conservative-Independent administration has now been accused of "staggering arrogance and ignorance" as it resolved to close seven of the area's 15 public libraries.

Moray-born actor Kevin McKidd was one of those who signed an open letter calling on the local authority to think again.

The decision came despite a 150-page report which recommended three be saved - Dufftown, Cullen and Burghead - because of the impact on the elderly and disabled.

However, councillors voted by 13 votes to 10 and stuck to their original budget proposal, made earlier this year.

As a result, Findochty, Hopeman, Portknockie and Rothes will also close.

And one of two mobile library vans will be withdrawn as part of a £357,000 saving in the libraries service budget.

Opposition SNP councillors claimed that the administration was showing callous disregard for the needs of some of the most vulnerable in the community.

Councillors were also warned before they took the decision that they could face a legal challenge under equalities legislation.

Alistair Campbell, libraries and museums manager, said that the extensive Equalities Impact Assessment (EIA) had shown that the closures would have an adverse effect on the elderly and people with a disabilities.

He said there were concerns that " the council could be at risk of falling short of its statutory duty to secure adequate library provision and would thereby be exposed to legal challenge by way of judicial review. The cost and time implications of a judicial review challenge would be significant."

He said if a legal challenge was upheld, the council could be asked to reinstate libraries that had been closed.

The motion to close the seven libraries came from council leader Councillor Allan Wright who said he believed that the eight remaining libraries were adequate for the needs of the people of Moray, taking into account the financial pressures facing the council.

He said that the main issues highlighted in the EIA , including transport costs and the lack of current broadband connectivity in certain parts of Moray, had been or would be mitigated to an acceptable degree.

Councillor Wright said the cut was necessary, adding: "What remains is adequate for the future needs of the people of Moray."

He said that over the past two years, visits to libraries across Moray had declined by 6%.

The figures for the seven libraries earmarked for closure showed a decline was almost 16%, while in Dufftown it was 18%.

"That is a trend I am confident will continue and accelerate as modern electronic readers become commonplace. It is the elderly who are the greatest users of libraries so the usage figures in time can only go down further."

But Mike Shand, the SNP councillor for Elgin, said the administration was displaying "staggering arrogance and ignorance."

Sean Morton Labour councillor for Fochabers Lhanbryde. warned that the administration was leaving the council open to a legal challenge from the likes of the Equality and Human Rights Commission , which would expose Moray to national ridicule.

Moray already voted to cut its entire arts budget, saving £94,000 over three years.