A COUNCIL has decided to press ahead with a controversial move to restrict library hours in Scotland's Book Town.

Dumfries and Galloway will restrict the opening times of the facility in Wigtown - the country's only national literary civic centre - as a cost-cutting measure in a move described as a "body blow" to the town.

It means people who cannot afford to buy books and children who use libraries will only be able to access such literature for a few hours a week.

Supporters were astonished when the council announced it intended to cut the Wigtown library's opening hours from 40-and-a-half to 17.5 hours each week.

The town's festival is one of the jewels in Scotland's literary crown and it is feared its reputation could suffer.

Wigtown Book Festival director Adrian Turpin said the council had been "visionary" in supporting the festival that has been built up over a decade to its current international prominence.

He said: "I am shocked. I think this is a body blow to the Book Town and to the idea of a national book town for Scotland.

"I understand that the council and most councils in Scotland have to make cuts, but I think it is particularly ironic that back in August Creative Scotland launched the Time to Shine campaign for young people (the first national arts strategy for children). It is the same young people who are going to suffer from cuts like this."

He also said that the moves sent "terrible messages about the value placed on the Book Town".

"It is going to look very shabby to people outside the region, including the thousands of visitors who come to Wigtown each year because they see it as a place that values culture."

Ronnie Nicholson, leader of the council and chairman of the policy and resources committee, said that it had "given a clear commitment not to close libraries, unlike other councils, and this is despite the fact that we're being forced to make £27 million of cuts over the next three years on the top of the £30m over the past three".

Authors including Lesley Riddoch, Philip Ardagh and Polly Pullar had joined the campaign to maintain the existing hours and signed a petition to stop the cuts while a small demonstration was held in the facility last week. The campaign to block the proposals gathered support from Jan Klovstad, president of the International Organisation of Booktowns, who said the town and its festival could be hit. He also said: "The library in Wigtown is important, and an inspiration even for us in Norway and all other Booktowns around the world.".

A spokesman for Dumfries and Galloway Council could confirm only that the proposals to cut the opening hours had been agreed.