ANGELA Constance has been accused of hypocrisy after launching a campaign to promote libraries as it emerged the SNP is cutting a vital fund designed to support them.

The Education Secretary yesterday posed for photographers alongside singer Michelle McManus and CBeebies star Cherry Campbell in Glasgow, as she revealed details of the 'Love Your Library' scheme ahead of National Libraries Day on Saturday.

But it comes amid warnings that the Scottish Government's budget settlement, which will see heavy cuts inflicted on local authorities, would also inevitably put more libraries at risk.

The Scottish Government admitted that its half-million pound Public Library Improvement Fund would be cut by £50,000 next year, as part of John Swinney's controversial budget which includes plans to slash wider spending on culture by more than £16m.

Ms Constance said libraries played a "crucial role" in supporting early learning in communities across Scotland while a Government spokeswoman insisted it placed "great importance" on services it believes everyone should have access to.

However, Laura Swaffield, chair of national charity The Library Campaign said Ms Constance's appearance at the event was "beyond irony".

She added: "Libraries are the prime example of the way a very cheap outlay on a public service benefits huge numbers of people. It's beyond irony, then, to see the education secretary spelling out what libraries do - not least for education."

A spokesman for COSLA, the representative body for Scotland's local authorities, said that while councils had done their best to protect libraries, the proposed £350 million cut to budgets may prove "a step too far".

He added: "It jars a little that you have a Cabinet Secretary launching a campaign entitled 'Love your Library' because with the financial settlement councils got recently the Scottish Government certainly don’t appear to love funding your library. Libraries are one service amongst many that could be facing a difficult future."

Libraries across Scotland have come under threat as a result of budget pressures in recent years, with councillors in Fife reluctantly backing proposals to close 16 in December to save £813,000 despite a grassroots campaign to save them.

Meanwhile, mobile libraries in East Lothian were axed the same month, with the local authority warning that "significant investment" would be needed if they were to return.

Zara Kitson, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Greens, commended the Love your Library scheme but said pressures on their funding was a result of severe cuts to local authority budgets imposed by the SNP.

She added: "The Scottish Government cannot just plaster the damage caused by cuts to vital public services. The long-term solution to funding libraries and other public services is a fair form of local tax. The Scottish Greens will be campaigning for strong local authorities with the power and resources to fund our libraries and other essential services."

The Government spokeswoman said that £700,000 had been provided to support the rollout of wifi in libraries across Scotland as it recognised their role in not only reading but IT, supporting attainment in early years and empowering communities.

She added: "We have protected funding for the Scottish Library and Information Council, which provides advice to local authorities and supports improvements in public libraries across council areas. In the 2016-17 Draft Budget the Scottish Government has committed to providing £450,000 to the Public Library Improvement Fund which SLIC manage to help support further improvement and innovation in public library services across Scotland."