THE acclaimed author behind children's novel The Gruffalo has warned that moves to cut school librarians in Scotland will lead to a "decline in literacy".

Julia Donaldson cautioned against a decision to remove the librarian at Oban High School, in Argyll and Bute, to budget constraints writing of her "dismay" after learning of the move from distressed pupils.

The pupils wrote to the author pleading with her to intervene prompting an open letter from the former Children's Laureate to Nicola Sturgeon, also know to be an avowed book lover.

Ms Donaldson asked the First Minister to persuade the council to reverse its decision on high school librarians

In the letter, she says she is worried that the case might set a precedent for the rest of Scotland.

She explains that since the outgoing "enterprising librarian" has lost her job, reading has decreased and there will be a reduction of trips to book festivals and other literary events.

The council is set to remove 10 librarians from schools in the region this February, despite protest from library campaigners and authors including Debi Gliori, James Robertson and Christopher Brookmyre.

Ms Donaldson writes: "It seems obvious that the result will be a decline in literacy.

"I feel sure that as the instigator of the First Minister’s Reading Challenge you are aware that reading broadens the mind and feeds the imagination, and that you would rather increase than decrease school pupils’ access to books and author visits and the caring and inspiring advice which a school librarian can provide.

"When I was on an Australian book tour recently, I attended a dinner for school dinner companions were almost incredulous when I told them that in the U.K. there were hardly any primary-school librarians and that many of those in secondary schools were losing their jobs."

She adds: "I am worried that the situation in Argyll and Bute might set a precedent for the rest of Scotland, and I would urge you to persuade the councillors to reverse their decision.

"With so many public libraries disappearing or being run by volunteers it is surely vital that children have access to books and to professional advice."

A spokeswoman for the council said that pupils will still have access to libraries.

She added: "Local arrangements will be made within schools to ensure pupils are supported to make use of school libraries or through the council’s public library services.

"The council would like to do everything that communities want us to but, to meet a significant funding gap, we have had to make savings of over £10m in 2016/17 alone.

"The budget decisions taken by the council have prioritised education and children’s services and served to save over 100 full time equivalent posts.

"The school librarians ceased their roles at the end of the school term but several have now been redeployed within the council."

Other writers are concerned by the library staff cuts.

Writing on his website, Barry Hutchinson, creator of Invisible Fiends, says: "Argyll & Bute’s decision to get rid of their school librarians – and, by extension, libraries – doesn’t just mean they’ve cut off access to books.

"It means they’ve deliberately narrowed the horizons of thousands of children currently studying in the area, and potentially hundreds of thousands to come.

"It means they’ve made the choice to put all school pupils in the area at a disadvantage when it comes to exams, college, university, and just making their way in the world."

The news has also concerned Theresa Breslin, the Carnegie Medal winning author and 2016 President of CILIPS, the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals in Scotland.

She has written to ever councillor, saying: "I note also that Argyll and Bute is offering incentives to young families to become residents.

"Deleting posts which provide a key component of education undermines this initiative.

"School provision is a high priority when parents consider relocating.

"Argyll and Bute could become the only authority in Scotland failing to provide a dedicated library service within their secondary schools.

"Perhaps some of this money could be allocated to fund the posts?"