To those who understandably take offence at what they see as an unjustified attack on Aberdeen University's splendid new library and its archival facilities, I would confirm that nobody is in any doubt that the Scottish Catholic Archives would be extremely well looked after, were they to be housed in Aberdeen University Library (Letters, May 26).

I am not so sure about a dilapidated, asbestos-ridden former convent at Hamilton Avenue with floor-loading problems, whose cost is spiralling, nor of the stagnating Blairs College redevelopment project, five miles out of Aberdeen.

But that is not the issue. What is wrong with the dispersal of the Catholic archives from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Glasgow is that it rips the heart out of Scottish Catholic history by imposing the barriers of a day's travel and several days' accommodation between the constituent parts which will be created, while also destroying the synergies of a close geographical location between Columba House and the National Library of Scotland, the National Records of Scotland, the National Museum of Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland.

It is twisting the facts to dismiss Columba House as a "converted townhouse". There is nothing wrong with Columba House. It has recently been upgraded and only requires the upgrading of its shelving and improved wheelchair access to make the most efficient use of the available space.

Aberdeen University Library is a splendid new facility but are we really to believe that there will be any exceptional improvement for the 27,000 books of the Blairs Library by moving them 150 miles north? Aberdeen University Library is installing new shelving, I understand, to take the 27,000 volumes.

Are we to believe that, if the Blairs Library books and then the Historic Archives go north, there will be a dramatic influx of scholars from home and abroad to Aberdeen? The statistics for the National Library and Aberdeen University Library speak otherwise.

Aberdeen University Library has more than a quarter of a million books, maps and manuscripts and serves a community of over 16,000 students, with around 60 staff. The National Library of Scotland is a library of legal deposit and holds seven million books, 15 million printed items and more than two million maps. It has 302 members of staff (equivalent to 276 full-time staff). More than 150,000 people visited the library in 2011. What facilities does Aberdeen University Library have that make it so much better than the NLS? It is certainly not the number of students, scholars and researchers who use it on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, radical surgery is being employed for a disease that does not exist, based on a faulty diagnosis.

The outcry at the proposed dispersal is no fault at all of Aberdeen University but of the Scottish Catholic Heritage Commission, in whose closed sessions it was conceived and nurtured by ecclesiastical venture capitalists and speculators.

Michael TRB Turnbull,

5 Orchard Court,


East Lothian.