ONE of Scotland's most popular libraries will be forced to close sections of the building for repairs after surveyors found "critical" issues with ceilings and walls.

Edinburgh's Central Library, which opened in 1890 as one of the world's first Andrew Carnegie libraries, was found to be in poor condition by surveyors, who say it requires "significant expenditure".

They highlighted "critical" issues with the Category A-listed building's ceilings, internal walls, doors and electrics, with repairs totalling £750,316 needed over the next three to five years.

It comes after tycoon Sir Richard Branson controversially announced his first Virgin Hotel outside the US would be built in a plot behind the library, which campaigners insist should be reserved for an expansion of the original vision of Andrew Carnegie.

The Victorian philanthropist provided the backing for more than 2,500 libraries around the world.

City bosses say the public may be restricted from parts of the library while repairs are carried out.

Alasdair Rankin, Edinburgh's finance and resources leader, said: "We have agreed to a buildings investment programme totalling nearly £120 million over the next five years. Work on this important building for the city will form part of that programme.

"We will deliver a phased upgrade of the library, which may mean certain areas will be restricted while work is carried out."

Critical work costing £18,176 has been identified, with £14,356 earmarked for repairing the library's ceilings.

A total of £45,651 will need to be spent on its roofs, a survey has shown, while work on floors and stairs is costed at £67,462.

Central Library has been the focus of a heated debate over Edinburgh's architectural heritage amid new developments. Campaigners battling plans for a 225-room hotel in the nearby India Buildings have previously accused it of "betraying" Carnegie's intentions. They insist land behind the library - which will form part of the hotel development - was originally earmarked for its expansion. They also argue the hotel scheme will put the future of the facility at risk, as well as block out light in public rooms.

Activist Simon Byrom camped in a tree at the site for a week to protest against the development, but later lost a court case aimed at halting its progress.

Last month, Sir Richard Branson announced the India Buildings site would be transformed into a high-end Virgin Hotel due to open in 2020.

Bill Cowan, of the Old Town Community Council, accused city leaders of sacrificing everything to "development and tourism".

He added: "The decrepit state of these listed buildings has now got very serious."

A total of 80 council-owned buildings in Edinburgh are currently listed as being in poor or bad condition, with "major defects" in need of urgent repair, including more than 20 schools.

City officials have identified a £153 million repairs backlog, warning of "significant health and safety implications" if action is not taken.

A report published in January stated: "A history of underinvestment in the council's building estate over the past two decades is now manifesting itself in an increasing number of building issues, a poor condition estate and significant levels of backlog maintenance."