Sep 182015

Old Susannah’s feeling sheepish about recent events, and has decided not to duck the important questions surrounding recent articles about Northfield Animal Haven.  Rather than going on the lamb or spreading any bull, here are some timely definitions should anyone think she’s chicken. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryIf you’ve been reading the Voice, you may be aware of articles and comments concerning Northfield Animal Haven. Were all of its fundraising appeals transparent and accurate? Did all of the animals it purported to rescue actually exist? Not so much. Now that the dossier of Northfield’s activities has been turned over to the police, it’s time for me to turn myself in.  If Northfield were to be believed – and wny wouldn’t you? – then I have done wrong.

Here are a few related definitions to help unravel the Northfield saga.

Alias: (English noun) A false name, often used with the intent to conceal identity and/or to deceive.

Did you know that Old Susannah is actually an alias, and my name is Suzanne Kelly? Well, it’s worse than that.

“She calls herself SueKelly10 on Twitter”, tweeted Fiona Manclark.

Before you judge me too harshly for this subterfuge, please allow me to explain. ‘Sue’ is a name I’m using to try and throw people from thinking I’m Suzanne. I really am amazed that Fiona figured this out. Alas! I cannot ask her how she sleuthed this one through, she and Northfield have me blocked on Twitter and Facebook.

However, should you wish to ask for her opinions about how Suzanne Kelly has the gall to call herself ‘SueKelly10’, tweet to her at ‘Mummyalfi’. Hope this helps.

As an aside, when I first started writing for Aberdeen Voice (some 400+ pieces ago), I was going to only be known as ‘Old Susannah’ and stay anonymous. I thought that might help give me more distance from people who might not like being investigated.

Alas! While I had said to AV editors that my pen name was going to be ‘Old Susannah’, the first column came out with the heading ‘Old Susannah’s Dictionary Corner – by Suzanne Kelly’. With the cat out of the bag, the decision was pretty much made for me that I’d continue investigating and not care whether people knew my name. After all, what was the worst that could happen?…

Death Threats: (English compound plural noun) To threaten to kill someone or a group of people

In various social media locations, Northfield’s Kelly Cable and her father Eric have stated that Kelly’s had death threats. I suppose this could be from The Vegan Conspiracy (see below), militants, etc. But death threats are very serious. Cable claims these have been reported to the police. There isn’t anything funny about death threats – but it is funny that anyone should issue death threats to someone over the veracity of their interesting farming and fundraising frolics.  Or benefit fraud.

The family must be very upset by this. Death Threats are no joking matter. They are so upset at these death threats that dad Eric wrote on a Facebook Page about me and my articles that he should get an AK-47. But that’s OK, as he also wrote in brackets ‘tongue in cheek’.  He probably only meant he’d like to take me out shooting.

Threats are a tricky thing.  Old Susannah / SueKelly10/ I must work harder to understand when a death threat is a joke or when it’s sinister.

Clearly the threats to Kelly are very real.  In fact, I am quite convinced the death threats are as genuine as the rescue appeal for the six Shetland ponies she recently removed from Go Fund Me. For some reason, some people found the appeal a tad misleading.  It was illustrated with a photo of a cute pony  – rescued years ago in Wales.  The owner of the six ponies has never come forward, we’ve no idea where they are or what they look like.  But because Cable says so, we know that only she was going to be allowed to save them.  Otherwise they would be turned into meat. Kind of like the lambs on the other side of the Cable business, but I digress.

By the way, it’s important to remember that everything that happens because of my exposing Kelly Cable’s methods of operation is my fault and not hers.  I should have just let her continue to rescue animals (though I suspect some are probably more suited to rehoming in a Farmville game than on a real farm). I could have let her take donations, such as the £150 she got from a pensioner.  This generous person wrote in a comment that they couldn’t really afford their donation, but they didn’t want the animals to suffer.   What nefarious knaves would be making death threats? I have a theory…

The Vegan Conspiracy: (extremely modern English compound noun) Shadowy organisation that is trying to get people to stop eating animals

I am supposed to confess that my interest in Northfield’s inventive fundraising is due to my being part of The Vegan Conspiracy. This is mentioned here or there on Facebook by Northfield supporters.  I have a vegan agenda and I have cohorts.  As secret as our cabal is, I’m sure the boys won’t mind me telling you a bit more about our little initiative, The Vegan Conspiracy.

Every full moon, a bunch of hemp-clothing clad, tofu-eating, unshaven, unwashed pagans gather at Torry Battery to advance our inevitable world domination.

The nefarious agenda is to get people to realise that fluffy chicks, fleecy lambs, adorable calves should be petted, loved, given space and not shredded alive and un-anaesthetised on birth for being male (chicks), locked in pens so they can’t move (most other critters), or kept pregnant only to have calves snatched away and be re-impregnated again and again until worn out so we can have milk on our cornflakes.

After we paint ourselves in dayglow paint and dance to Morrissey, we strategise how to get people to be more compassionate and switch from meat and dairy to alternatives.

Alas! as I’m only a vegetarian, I don’t get more than associate membership. But I’m working on it, and one day will be a fully fledged Vegan.  Possibly.

Karma:  (Sanskrit noun) Fate

Happily Northfield’s owners have many friends around them in this difficult time.  Many of these are wishing that karma will get me / comment that ‘ karma’s a bitch’ and so on.  Needless to say, I am quaking in my boots at the idea. How will I be punished for what I’ve done?

It would be foolish of course to suggest that perhaps karma has paid a visit to New Pitsligo, and has started giving what is owed.

Alcoholism: (Modern English noun) A disease; those suffering from it are best ridiculed, outed and mocked

Fiona Manclark has let the world know I’m an alcoholic – so she says – and she and her witnesses have the proof.  These people claim I am often seen ‘falling out’ of  BrewDog.

I’ve a few friends who have this disease; and mocking the afflicted is always a great reminder to them of their weakness.

Some illnesses are quite serious.  Fiona, who has delighted in tweeting and posting about my alleged alcoholism, has now resigned from involvement with Northfield on ill health grounds.  I wish her a speedy recovery.

Also ill, but with nothing funny at all, is Kelly.  She’s let us know her  brain tumour is giving her problems again.  My sympathies.

As with death threats, Old Susannah is not sure which illnesses are to be mocked and which are to be sympathised with.  But I’m working on it.  Clearly alcoholism falls into the mocking category for Ms Manclark.

My lawyer and the entire staff of BrewDog don’t believe I’m an ‘alkie’ and that I should do something about these claims of Fiona’s but that’s a matter for another day.  I’m sure her repeated posts, comments and tweets about my being an alcoholic (and liar  AND keyboard warrior to my shame) were just meant to help me recover from a debilitating disease.  Otherwise, her behaviour might be misconstrued as a brutish, libelous,  ill-thought through attempt at intimidation.

Intimidation: (English noun) The attempt to subdue, silence, cow another person

Eric Cable, likewise, doesn’t want to intimidate me. When he posts on Facebook remarks to the effect he’s found interesting things on the internet, I tremble.  He probably just means he’s found cute looking pony photos to save for future reference or something. I know it’s not about me, but my heart still skips a beat nonetheless.  What if he found something out about me?

Could it be that time I jumped in the Trevi fountain fully clothed? There’s the time I streaked through the Queen of the South v Hearts game last February.  What if he found out that I was Cancer with Leo rising? Does he have the video from that incident with the ACSEF members, the double-sided tape, and AFC’s changing rooms?

We will soon find out. But until then, and probably even after then, I’ll keep doing what I do.

Tally ho!

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Sep 182015

feltchicksheep2By Pete Stevens.

Danger! Danger! Breaking News! There has been an unsettling development within AV. Most people think these initials stand for ‘Aberdeen Voice’ but recent reports, received by cable, have indicated that the initials actually stand for a secret organisation known as ‘Alcoholic Vegetarians’!

The aim of this organisation is simple. They will tackle the horrors of the meat industry and their first aim is to systematically end the trade of animals bred for meat.

We are told by a source, beyond repute, who advertises the huge medicinal benefits of marijuana on their personal face-book pages that their first target is to tackle the 8,000,000 sheep bred in Scotland each year.

Rather than focus on any of the major farms in the area, this evil group have decided to concentrate their efforts on a small producer. Their master plan was to gain maximum public sympathy by targeting a local animal rescue charity and discrediting them, thereby endearing themselves to animal lovers everywhere.

How they did this is unclear, but somehow they managed through an operative, a well known alcoholic animal abuser known only by her initials as S.K. (Sheep Killer?) Was to plant true information in the public domain.

Her first cunning plan to discredit them was to inform the public about their secret background. It appears that their so called ‘animal haven’ was simply a front for a small scale sheep rearing facility which raised 20 or so sheep each year raising hundreds of pounds possibly reaching as much as a staggering £1,000.00.

By highlighting the history of the havens owner, a known fraudster with a criminal record she made her second blow by targeting this poor unfortunate, who suffers from a range of disabilities including a brain tumour, emphysema and some other stuff, by attacking her fund raising campaigns to save animals!

Having managed to obtain copies of her public twitter accounts and go fund me adverts she discovered that most of the photos in these appeals displaying ‘animals in need’ were in actual fact other peoples pets, either living happily, or whom had been put to sleep years ago in foreign countries, or even in one instance a real animal somebody actually wanted them to take!

Pictures on their face-book pages also revealed happy healthy animals at their farm, but sadly these proved not to be rescues but simply other innocent animals bred for either slaughter or the public’s pleasure and enjoyment in seeing pictures of cute young baby animals.

S.K. and her many, no doubt drunken vegan cohorts, are seemingly responsible for endangering this ‘safe haven for all farm animals’ by printing facts and therefore responsible for causing public resentment resulting in Death Threats not only against the owner, of this safe haven (now suffering fits as a result) but are also responsible for threats against a group of 6 rescued unknown, unseen Shetland ponies with their babies held, despite all odds, in safekeeping at a secret location somewhere, by somebody who nobody knows!

Feltiesheep1However, all is not lost and support continues for this brave band, against the evil cohorts of ‘anti carnivores’ and the cry has gone out, (no doubt tongue in cheek) for an AK47 to fight off this evil troll who carries a vendetta against honest farmers simply doing their job producing animals for us to eat so that they can save some other animals which we might or might not want to eat….but deserve not to be eaten because they just don’t!

It seems that the will of this ‘not for profit’ but ‘just the same as a charity’ group has decided to hand back the funds they have raised, (just like they handed back the money they defrauded before being found guilty of benefit fraud and sentenced to 180 hours community service, which they ‘only did to save the farm’) has been broken along with the heart of their AK47 loving father who is left pining after the sudden ‘re-homing’ of some of their rescues back to their original owners and no doubt other local rescues.

We can only wonder what they will do with the many donations of goods and services ranging from cctv cameras used in the lambing shed and incubators for raising chicks which were of course only used for the rescue and care of the animals in their safe haven and which had no practical or commercial use at all for the farm side of their business.

We can only hope that the real victims in this sad situation are not the animals, real or imagined, and that justice will prevail and the truth ‘be out’.

Meanwhile we have been informed that during the past two weeks over 300,000 sheep have been slaughtered……but hey! We all gotta eat…Don’t we?

Photo Credit: Fred Wilkinson. Permission granted to photograph animals by new owners Mike and Pat Rae even though the pics were taken before they bought these animals from Fred Wilkinson. The animals depicted have gone to good, loving, permanent homes and their condition will be monitored by the previous owner whenever the new owners invite him round for a booze up … which may be frequent.

Note: All proceeds from the sale have been donated to Newarc animal sanctuary.

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Sep 142015

Further questions arise over Northfield Animal Haven’s owner Kelly Cable. Aberdeen Voice can reveal Cable’s past includes a guilty plea for several years of claiming benefits illegally. 

A charity that seeks donations must be wholly above board. Northfield Animal Haven is certainly pushing the envelope as they:

  • Advertise widely that they ‘save all farm animals’ – in truth the owners are also involved in breeding farm animals for sale as meat, claiming ‘everyone knows’ that is how they operate, and claiming that since they don’t slaughter the animals they sell personally, it doesn’t count;
  • Run a GoFundMe campaign to save 6 Shetland ponies in imminent danger – but claim the owner will only allow Northfield to take the animals – which could have been rescued by now;
  • Use the image of ‘Gooseberry’ on this GoFundMe appeal – a white Shetland colt that was dealt with by another animal shelter and needs no assistance;
  • Have similarly used photos of other animals they were not involved with – in at least one instance claiming they were involved directly

Suzanne Kelly reports.


Misappropriated picture of cow NAH claimed they were attempting to save.

Aberdeen Voice can reveal that Kelly Cable entered a guilty plea for obtaining benefits she was not entitled to. This involved falsifying employment data, falsifying income and not disclosing where she lived. The value of the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit ran to approximately £3,600.

The fraud spanned 2006 to 2009; misleading information was supplied on at least half a dozen occasions. (As an aside, the next time anyone complains they don’t get enough benefits, or that refugees are getting help, remember that benefit fraud is stealing from the taxpayer and from those in serious need).

Kelly and  her then partner borrowed £10,000 for a house purchase, and both signed to repay their share of the loan.

As per Aberdeen Voice’s earlier article, Kelly refused to pay her half, claiming it was not her signature on the loan agreement. A handwriting expert declared that Kelly had signed. The money remains unpaid; the grandparents she borrowed some of the money from have since passed away.

Kelly was also bankrupt; she disputes the date of a document Aberdeen Voice has on this bankruptcy; we await her clarification.

Kelly was irate in one of her communications to the Voice, asking how she could get a mortgage if she had been bankrupt. How indeed someone can get a mortgage who has been bankrupt, who has been found guilty of benefit fraud, and who has a brain tumour is a fair question.

Perhaps the 180 hours of community service Cable did atoned for this fraud. However, when the misleading appeals for funds, the misleading use of animals belonging to others, the unpaid past loan, the bankruptcy are added to this, a picture emerges of someone who may not entirely have been rehabilitated.

While Aberdeen Voice is investigating this operation, Kelly Cable has claimed to receive death threats, claimed to have a brain tumour (presumably the one she had some years back, which she mentions in a handwritten note), and claims to be running a perfectly honest, above-board animal rescue.

Aberdeen Voice initially questioned where these six Shetland ponies are, who owns them, and why the charity is using photographs of animals they have no contact with in its advertising. We would now like to ask whether or not there are actually six Shetland ponies out there in danger of being sold for meat, whose owner will not let anyone but Northfield do the rescue.

Aberdeen Voice would like to ask the Haven if it understands why some people feel they have been misled.

Aberdeen Voice will turn its information over to the relevant authorities, citing particular concerns about finances and misleading advertising. Future developments will be reported.

Realproof2As a parting thought, here is a Tweet from Northfield, claiming they have proved they are real.

The photo is actually from a 2011 Northern Ireland rescue, and is not related to Northfield saving ‘ponies and their babies’.

Saving ewes and their babies doesn’t make the grade however, whatever the Northfield sign and other appeals say.  As to proof the organisation is real, this falls just a bit flat.

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Sep 132015

Embattled Northfield Animal Haven is using photographs to fundraise. There is nothing wrong with that – except that the photos of animals purportedly in dire straits were taken from other organisations without permission – and most animals shown were already saved. Aberdeen Voice reveals another deception. By Suzanne Kelly.

GooseberryNFAHIt’s a case of the old ‘Spot the Difference’ game: only there is no difference in the photos.

Pictured right is the GoFundMe page for Northfield Animal Haven that currently has many people worried for the future of six Shetland ponies. Generous people chipped in what they could.

What hard-hearted person could resist this fluffy white pony?

Now meet Gooseberry – pictured April 14 at at Lluest Horse and Pony Trust in Wales.

Gooseberry 2 LluestGooseberry was a colt; perhaps he’s had a sex change and a few foals before needing a Northfield rescue.

Under the misappropriated photo of Gooseberry, Cable has written:

“Have spoke [sic] with the lady today who has the Shetland Ponies safe for us until they come here. Weather permitting it should be this week, cant wait to meet them and give them a new home when they are ready. Thank you to all who has [sic] donated towards getting them here. Hopefully once they are here, people will see that there is no scam going on.”

As far as a ‘scam’ goes, it will be interesting to see which Shetlands, if any, turn up rescued at Northfield.

As for Gooseberry? According to Lluest Horse and Pony Trust website, as recently as July 14:

“Gooseberry has now been successfully re-homed with his best friend Santa.”

Aberdeen Voice confirmed with Lluest Horse and Pony trust the photo was their rescue, it is safely homed, and no permission had been sought to use their image to fundraise for Northfield. It is clear that the photo Northfield used is that of a colt rescued by others, and as such is misleading.

There is nothing on the Northfield GoFundMe page to suggest that this photo is used for illustration purposes only.

Any animal lover would look at this GoFundMe appeal and have no idea that this pony illustrated is not one of the animals allegedly to be.

Any animal lover who saw the initial Northfield appeal post might have been confused or misled on a few other points as well. Kelly Cable refers to the rescues happening on a working farm. A working farm could be any kind of venture – arable crops, herbs, flowers. No one would automatically know that this meant some animals were raised to be sold to fund rescuing others – a moral dilemma if ever there were one.

Lambs to the Slaughter:

Perhaps Northfield should start by rescuing their own sheep, as they do indicate they rescue ‘all farm animals’.

While selling its own animals at Aberdeenshire’s Thainstone market, Northfield wanted to save the ponies which it claimed were:

“under threat of being shot and used over winter as dog food.” 

When their non-rescues end up as meat, this dire warning rings a bit hollow.

Aberdeen Voice published the revelation about the sale of animals at market. Following the article, Cable issued a number of entries on the GoFundMe page which admit the marketing of some animals. These posts by Cable represent that millions of sheep are slaughtered. None of what she says satisfactorily explains why Northfield shows pictures of sheep on its sign and other fundraising sites if they don’t normally save sheep.

Their answer when questioned on this point was that ‘people like to see pictures of all the animals’.

Photo Finish:

Aberdeen Voice spoke to another animal owner whose pony was depicted as needing a rescue. The owner had no idea this photo had been copied and used for fundraising.

The owner confirms that the photo was taken from the internet and reused by Cable without any permission or prior contact. The owner is happy to advise Aberdeen Voice readers the animal in question is in fine health, and is pregnant in fact. The animal’s owner is contemplating a variety of actions, and is less than happy to find her photo misappropriated by Cable.

Cow Rescue is Bull:

While Cable may be happy to sell some cows for meat, she’s into rescuing other cattle.

Cows1twitNFAHTake these for instance. According to Northfield Animal Haven’s twitter page, they only had 17 hours (for some reason).

Northfield Animal Haven also wrote:

“They dumped them in a shed I’ve been feeding them since Friday”

“Thank you if I can raise about a £1000 at least that will get them here food for a few weeks and vet care”

Cowlycos1The truth was just a bit different back in 2011 when Lycospca (based in Lycoming County, USA) wrote about the same animals:

“Thank goodness someone saw these poor animals and called us to check up on them. The owner had grain in the barn and they were ordered to get a round bale. Dr. Hocker took fecal samples to determine if the cows also need wormed. 

“With our intervention, the cows should soon put weight back on. Officer Woltz will be filing charges.” 

However, according to Northfield Animal Haven, these cows are dead. The now closed campaign was continued after the reported death of the animals, and the funds raised put towards the horses.

“RIP to the cows dumped in a shed, I couldn’t save them I tried to get more time and raise enough f… ” – NfieldAnimalHaven – Dec 8, 2014 

“We will continue to share this campaign for anyone to donate to any donations will goto the horses… – NfieldAnimalHaven – Dec 9, 2014 

Aberdeen Voice will be interested to know whether the Scottish SPCA were contacted about these cows.

Coupled with misleading and contradictory statements as to the fundraising activities and 100% dependence on the public (which if they are selling animals to help save others is not quite accurate), these photographs could easily mislead potential donors – some of which were ‘disappointed’ when they learned their money was going to people who send some animals to slaughter. When questioned in detail about whether or not the sold animals are killed she replied:

“I don’t send them [sheep] for slaughter the people who buy them after me probably do but I don’t personally so what I stated was fact….”

There are other instances of this photo ‘borrowing’. In this instance the appeal is to save 6 ponies and their babies.

Pony1twitNFAHA pony with a weeping eye and green halter is shown. In association with the picture, and that of Gooseberry, Northfield Animal Haven wrote:

“Please help to save 6 horses from being killed by donating to our plea”

“make it a Good raise enough to get the transport booked to get these babies  2392 followers £5 each would do”

Again, the photo is from the internet; in this case from a December 2011 rescue in Ireland.


What’s the problem?

There are many genuine animals needing urgent rescue. There are finite funds available in these financially challenging times for people to donate to good causes. When a person donates to one charity, that means another charity is going to go without.

Appeals must reflect facts. When someone is soliciting for funds, the kind-hearted people who make donations are trusting that they are going to help genuine animals, that they are being told the truth, and they are literally being given the full picture. It is essential that we find out what animals have been rescued by Northfield, and how much they have collected in goods and funds.

If a single person has been misled, that is a person too much.

Kelly vs Kelly:

Kelly Cable has indicated on Facebook and elsewhere that she is receiving threatening phone calls which she reported to the police, and that her lawyers are advising her not to answer questions on Aberdeen Voice. She has also represented that she has a brain tumour.

She has written:

“Right this stops now, I am sick to the back teeth of this, we have been a rescue now for three years and have never had such hassle since march when Suzanne Kelly first came at us for selling our lambs not rescue animals since then it has been continual from her. I am not registering as a charity but I have done something else which will put all of our supporters at ease, which as soon as it is through it will be posted.

“I don’t know about anyone else but this really is getting beyond a joke now, all the good that we have done is ignored and to goto [sic] to a previous partner from 15 years ago where you will get one side of a story is scraping the barrel.

“I should not have to discuss my personal life or what happened to me in this relationship ie being threatened to be locked away from my family is just one thing so from now on whatever is written in the voice people can believe it or not. I will continue to go down the legal route with regards to the voice.”

The reference to the ‘previous relationship’ refers to the revelations that she promised to repay her ex-partner’s parents and his grand parents a loan the couple were made. Her share was £5,000. She made representations at the time that it was not her signature on the loan agreement. A forensic handwriting expert was called in who concluded that Kelly Cable had in fact signed for the loan.

Aberdeen Voice is not interested in the details of the personal relationship, but a picture is emerging which throws doubt on the trustworthiness and honesty of the woman behind Northfield Animal Sanctuary.

This is a woman who signed for a loan from a partner’s parents and pensioner grandparents and tried to deny she had signed for it, and was shown to be untruthful in that assertion. People have the right to know whether or not those operating a fundraising organisation are trustworthy. An article addressing the issue of how trustworthy Kelly Cable is – or otherwise – is forthcoming.

A dossier of all information collected by Aberdeen Voice to date will be passed to the police. This will include information from a number of people who came forward with anecdotes alleging financial improprieties after the first article was published.

Elsewhere a Northfield administrator is asserting that I, Suzanne Kelly, am an alcoholic and a liar; they refuse to retract these allegations which appear on Twitter and on Northfield’s Facebook page, where Fiona Manclark, acting as a Northfield Animal Haven Facebook page administrator, repeats these allegations – which of course are denied categorically.

Northfield has the right of reply to this article. Aberdeen Voice has the following questions for Kelly Cable:

*  Where are the six Shetland ponies your current GoFundMe appeal is for?

*  Do the six Shetlands even exist – can we have some actual proof and actual photos?

*  Who is/was their owner – is it someone you know?

*  How do we contact the owner of the Shetlands?

*  Do you accept that the photographs you used in the examples above do not represent the animals you purport to rescue?

*  How many times have you shown photos not of the animals you sought funds to rescue, but of other animals?

* In one case said you ‘managed to get a pic today’ of some cattle to be rescued by you. The picture matches a photograph taken from the internet. How did you manage to get this photograph and were or were you not involved in the rescue?

*  Do you accept that people could have been misled as to what animals they were being asked to donate money towards rescuing?

Aberdeen Voice will continue to watch developments on this story and report.

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Mar 092012

With thanks to Dave Macdermid. 

Organisers of the Denis Law Soccer Tournament, which replaced the longstanding Aberdeen International Football Festival last year, are looking to cement the financial future of the event with the formation of a ‘Friends’ group comprising 200 members.

Scotland legend Denis, the Patron of the DLST, is passionate about the tournament.

“Sport and in this case, football, forms an important part of a child’s upbringing and I firmly believe the experience and enjoyment that kids get from this event in my home town will stay with them forever. The organisers need your support to be able to sustain this worthy cause and I would urge you to become a Friend to ensure it can continue as an annual event. I look forward to seeing you at some point during the year to thank you personally.”

And everyone who signs up at £200 per annum to become a ‘Friend’ will get the opportunity to do just that as there will be ‘Friends of DLST’ reception at Aberdeen Sports Village, hosted by Denis himself.

In addition, Friends will receive recognition of support within the tournament programme, venue and website, a quarterly e-newsletter and entry into a prize draw for a complimentary team to be included in the DLST corporate football event.

This year’s tournament will take place at ASV between July 16th and 21st with action at 16 and Under and 14 and Under age groups.

Anyone wishing to become a Friend can pay via BACS, cheque or debit card via the ‘Friends of DLST’ link on or by contacting ASV Events Manager Fiona Cardwell on 01224 438926 or

Feb 232012

Aberdeen Against Austerity, a group campaigning against the £140m redevelopment of the historic Union Terrace Gardens, has released the following statement in response to the P&J article headlined, “Police probe attacks on city garden team” of 21 February 2012. The statement is published verbatim as received by Voice with only minor graphical changes made to AAA’s release to comply with Voice’s house style.

These allegations by Mr Smith and as yet unnamed others are strong indeed – e-mail hacking, online bullying and harassment and personal threats are all criminal offences.
We at Aberdeen Against Austerity are not responsible for any of the alleged offences and do not believe any of our fellow Retain Union Terrace Gardens campaigners would stoop so low either.

We are opposed to unlawful tactics being employed by anyone in this important debate over the future of our city, as dirty tricks cheapen both sides’ arguments. However, we worry that the sensational coverage of these criminal allegations in the Press & Journal and Evening Express will serve as a deterrent to ordinary people speaking out, who oppose the City Gardens Development.

The referendum campaign is being fought on a far from level playing field. Six of the seven groups registered against the development are comprised of ordinary citizens (the 7th being the group of Labour City Councillors). By registering as campaign groups we have all been bound by the referendum rules, which allow a maximum spend of £8,524.45, although most groups have no budget at all.

Of the pro-development campaign groups, only three are registered, allowing the vast majority of campaigning to be done outwith the rules, and at huge expense, by PR company The BIG Partnership on behalf of those who propose the City Garden Project. Their Vote for the City Garden campaign has so far included 4-page flyers and newspaper-style brochures to every house in the city, constant radio advertising on all the local stations, a Facebook page manned by full time staff and daily coverage in the local newspapers.

As with any modern debate, much campaigning is being done online and this is where Mr Smith alleges bullying is taking place. Both sides are being equally forthright in their postings on social media, but Aberdeen Against Austerity are certainly not interpreting the strong wording of some of our opponents as bullying or harassment.

We have chosen to rise above any personal slurs and engage in debate based upon facts and we can still have a wee smile at those posts which satirise us and our efforts, because as Aberdonians we retain a sense of humour.

Aberdeen Against Austerity wonders if Sir Ian Wood, who has donated £50m of his own money to the controversial City Gardens Project, will be reporting local comedians Flying Pig Productions to the police for this week’s P&J column The Butter-Fingered Philanthropist.

Feb 222012

Aberdeen is a city on a downward slide. That makes for uncomfortable reading, doesn’t it? Our gut instinct, being the proud city we are, is to reject this notion out of hand, though deep down we all know it is true, says Graeme Campbell.

The cause of the rot is not easy to identify. Opinions will differ and any debate would most likely be fierce. It is perhaps best to say the gradual slip in the condition of our once grand and glorious city can be pigeon-holed to two vague categories – poor planning and the slow decline of the energy sector.
Or perhaps over-dependence on it? Two and a half pigeon holes then.

So, avoiding any unhelpful debate surrounding the way we arrived at this point, we must as a city look forward to the best possible route to a future of prosperity. We must look for a plan to return grandeur and pride to the Granite City. 

Our carefully-selected councillors, together with possibly our most successful loon, Sir Ian Wood and the private partnership Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Futures (ACSEF) think the solution to the gradual slip is a new garden. Not exclusively a garden you understand, but a garden with conferencing facilities and a café. To give all credit due, the plans certainly are impressive and whilst perhaps not so impressive in keeping with the architectural fabric of the city, we are, of course, a city not afraid of change.

In the most recent release posted through all city letterboxes, Aberdonians are directed by a host of interested parties to the key point, “You deserve it!” Well yes, most likely. But oddly, relegated to fifth, is what will be the key point for most Aberdonians. Once again we don’t want to admit this but we’re all thinking it, “We can afford it”.

Will Aberdeen City be pushed to the very brink of bankruptcy by this plan, as happened when the city took the bold decision, so long ago, to construct our now famous Union Street granite mile? Probably not. Of course, Sir Ian’s mammoth oil wealth will go some way to meeting the cost of development on the site – and only on this site, he has been quite clear on that point – the further estimated £100m will come from business rates, council tax – of course – and the heinously-complex Scottish Governmental TIF funding mechanism.

Now nobody wishes to be bored to tears by the inane workings of a TIF, so let’s not worry about that. Instead, let’s find out what other places are using TIF to create.

  • North Lanarkshire plans to spend £73m to transform the former Ravenscraig steel site, an area of quite unrivalled deprivation, to the benefit of the many people who live in the area.
  • Argyll and Bute is to extend the North Pier at Oban for £20m, further securing the town’s position as Gateway to the Islands, a major boon to the tourist industry no doubt.
  • Falkirk plans to use its TIF in a far less grand manner, by bringing about strategic road developments and improving the flood defences. Clearly a sound decision.

But the plans which should be of most interest to any outward-looking Aberdonian comfortably seated in Europe’s oil capital, come from Fife. The council there is to spend its modest £17m TIF improving vehicle and marine access to the already-thriving Energy Park Fife, where renewables are already being constructed. I know, that’s not oil, but it is very real, so let’s not sneer. Not content with this, Fife has also begun construction of the Levenmouth Low Carbon Investment Park which is set to become ‘Scotland’s foremost energy park’.

Whilst in Aberdeen we plan to spend £150m on a garden and café.

Is anyone else embarrassed? Our great city, the economic powerhouse of Scotland, is being distracted by plants and trees whilst other towns are going green in a wholly more financially-sound way. This city has the engineering and science skills, brought by the oil industry and our two modern and diverse universities, to become a world leader in the renewables field.

You don’t need to do the math to know a research and development centre, alongside a manufacturing park would be of significantly greater financial gain to the city than the redevelopment of a garden.

This brings us to the question – has the Council considered this? Understandably, Sir Ian may not be keen, but this is about so much more than the oil empires held by the few; this is about the continuing prosperity of the many.

So, as the ballot papers find their way to you, look around the city. Look for the signs of the rot brought about by poor management by those who, for too long, have only looked inwards – decision makers enjoying the security of the formerly-booming local oil industry.

Consider what the world, given the current environmental and economic climate, would look to Aberdeen for. Horticultural tips? A show in our new 5000-seat outdoor amphitheatre? Or will they look to Europe’s ENERGY Capital to lead the way to a bright new future of renewable energy? And then, as our city leads the world in technological advancement in the renewables field we will look forward to investment, to jobs and to success.

When the ballot paper lands on your doormat, consider what Aberdonians truly deserve and ensure your vote lets our council know just what you want for your future.

Feb 192012

TIF – doesn’t this American innovation in borrowing just sound fantastic?  You get to ‘unlock’ money, re-develop an area, and money comes flooding in.  What could be wrong with that?  Karin Flavill looks across the pond to the home of the junk bond and bad mortgages, and doesn’t like what she sees.

While arguments rage over the future of Union Terrace Gardens, there’s consensus about one thing.  Tax Increment Funding is a somewhat difficult concept to get to grips with.  Not because the basic definition is complex.

TIF funds development by borrowing against future business tax gains arising as a consequence of that development.   New developments mean new business rates.  The local authority keeps a portion of those business rates (from businesses that wouldn’t have moved into the area but for the development) to repay the loan.

The complexity arises in assessing how this mechanism can be applied in a manner that avoids various potential pitfalls.  TIF is still very much in the experimental stages in the UK, so we lack a domestic reference point to understand how well the process is likely to work from start to finish.

When business is attracted from one area to another by a TIF funded development, it may be at the expense of another area.  This is known as “displacement”.   The area benefiting from TIF is pleased to lure business away with its spanking new TIF-funded development.  The region losing out wants some protection against financial detriment.

The TIF scheme provides that tax increment coming at the expense of another region can’t be retained by the local authority to make TIF repayments.  Like other NDRs, those increments must be sent to Central Government who will pool them with other funds then redistribute the funds equitably among regions.

Rather than being a tool to give cities a competitive edge and win City of Culture status for celebrated developments (the vision currently being promoted in CGP supporters’ referendum campaigns), TIF was first developed in the US as a means of helping regions to improve their most blighted areas.    Gradual shifts away from this philosophy, and increasingly creative ways of arguing blight, have led to many states in the US tightening up legislation to prevent TIF from being awarded except where genuine blight is demonstrated.

Chicago is often cited as example of the TIF scheme being misused to benefit the areas that least need it.  In August last year, a report was released outlining areas for improvement in the operation of TIF in that city.  The report highlighted problems regarding the monitoring of TIF expenditure.

Taxpayers had not been afforded easy access to information that would help them understand the TIF process or to evaluate the performance of the investment.   This reduced transparency of the process.

  although the initial cost proposed was $224.3 million, ultimately the park cost $482.4 million

The harder it is for the ordinary citizen to understand the TIF process and to evaluate the success of the development it funds, the greater the potential for corruption and abuse of the process by those who do understand it, and who can make it work to their own advantage.

That some will seek and gain an advantage through cronyism is an unfortunate element of life from which no city is immune.

In the 1990s, Chicago Mayor Daley (no relation to Arthur) developed a strong attachment to a project that would come to be known as Millennium Park.  A 16-acre landscape situated over an underground parking structure, it was built on top of Railroad tracks in an existing park called Grant Park.  The architect involved was Frank Gehry who had won international acclaim for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.  The Chicago Tribune enthused that:

“The most celebrated architect in the world may soon have a chance to bring Chicago into the 21st Century”.

The park has certainly won many admirers worldwide and is, in many ways, an excellent model for what the City Garden supporters are hoping that project will become.   Properties in the immediate surrounds have become very fashionable and have increased significantly in value.

For others there has been a hefty price tag.  For example, although the initial cost proposed was $224.3 million, ultimately the park cost $482.4 million.  The park has come at a very high price to Chicago residents in terms of cuts to funding of public services and job cuts that were necessitated by the cost of the park.  Salt is rubbed into the wound, on occasion, when the park is closed to the public so that corporate functions may be held there.

During and after the building of the park, Mayor Daley was frequently criticised for alleged cronyism in the awarding of contracts.   Other areas of the city continued to deteriorate, while their inhabitants observed the increasing wealth and prosperity of those parts of the city that benefited from TIF funded schemes.
Areas that never suffered from true blight in the first place, but which were a focus of interest for developers, politicians, owners of business premises and others who could make the TIF scheme work for them.

In some ways it’s puzzling that we, supposedly a far more socialist nation than the US, are applying a model of TIF so similar to that model which states in the US have been increasingly trying to move away from by drafting legislation that aims to help TIF function in accordance with its original aims.

There has always been a tendency for conservatives to condemn the poor for their reliance on state sponsored welfare, but in recent years have people started questioning more vigorously the exploitation of taxpayer financed schemes by the some of the biggest players in business (players who have traditionally, but not always accurately, been lauded for their self-sufficiency).

TIF deserves close attention for its potential to increase this problem.  Failure to know, or care about, the original philosophy of TIF leaves us less alert to its potential for misuse that could worsen existing inequalities in our society.

The UK version of TIF springs from recommendations in a 2008 report by PWC and Core Group Cities for an alternative method of funding developments in core group cities (the 8 largest regional cities in England).   The report is here.  

It begins with commentary on the economic successes of the core group cities, and highlights continuing problems relating to unemployment and deprivation in some neighbourhoods.    It states an aim to “rejuvenate communities, provide new employment opportunities and stimulate further economic growth.”

  Promoters of the CGP dismiss the possibility of serious overspending as scaremongering

The report then discusses the increasing political emphasis on a devolved approach to economic  development .   A defining aspect of TIF is that it permits local authorities greater autonomy in the matter of funding developments once they have been granted the TIF loan.

For this to happen, they must submit a detailed business plan to the SFT who make recommendations to central government regarding feasibility.

PWC, having been involved in the UK version of TIF from its conception, is ideally positioned  to assist local authorities with the preparation and submission of their business plans.  Finance and Resources Committee meeting minutes from September 2010 discuss PWC’s remit in preparing a TIF business plan for approval by the SFT.  The minutes refer to several important city projects the Council would wish to progress, whether or not the City Garden project went ahead.
See: …committees.aberdeencity …pwc+tif+business+plan

“The terms of PWC’s assignment make it clear that they are required to produce a business case that ensures zero financial risk for the Council.”

The Council states that it will make no financial contribution to the City Garden Project.  The development must be funded wholly by private contributions and by the TIF loan and completed within the budget.

Promoters of the CGP dismiss the possibility of serious overspending as scaremongering.  Chicago’s Millennium Park experience demonstrates, however, how this can and does happen.   As a response to such concerns, Sir Ian Wood has pledged an extra £35 million.   It’s not clear what will happen if the cost exceeds this.

Despite ACC’s insistence that PWC present a business case involving zero risk to the Council, the draft business case completed in January of this year contains no such promise.  It focuses on minimising risk and balancing the risks involved in carrying out the project against the risks involved in doing nothing.

Outlining the need to attract investment and talented professionals to Aberdeen to assure future prosperity, the plan refers particularly to the energy industry.  Due to the oil and gas industry being regarded as the primary targets for investment in Aberdeen, and Aberdeen’s existing status as the main centre in Scotland for this industry, PWC anticipate displacement being low (10%).   A low anticipated displacement figure is essential for arguing the likely success of a business plan.

  PWC appears to anticipate investment by that industry increasing in Aberdeen, alongside the increasing depletion of oil and gas reserves

Work is expected to be completed over a 5 year period beginning this year, with TIF borrowing being carried out in stages (the first draw down taking place in 2014).  The proposed development is expected to create approximately 2 million square feet of commercial space and to speed up the development of a further 1.4 million square feet of commercial space.

The CCRS (City Centre Regeneration Scheme) predicts 6,500 new jobs resulting from the development.  It should be noted, though, that that figure is a “by 2039” prediction.

The business plan states:

“Oil and gas reserves will run out over time, perhaps 30 years, and Aberdeen is looking ahead. It knows it needs to adapt its industrial base and re-examine how it creates wealth and prosperity.   Aberdeen is confident it can do so.”

This project is to be completed in 2017, and its success relies significantly on a very low displacement figure of 10%.  In presenting this figure PWC relies on the oil and gas industry, already present in Aberdeen (and therefore not being taken from other areas) being the main sources of increased investment in Aberdeen.   Confusingly, PWC appears to anticipate investment by that industry increasing in Aberdeen, alongside the increasing depletion of oil and gas reserves in the North Sea.

Perhaps in anticipation of confusion about this assertion, much is made of the possibilities relating to renewable energy – an industry Aberdeen must embrace and develop expertise in, regardless of Donald Trump’s views.  The question is whether developments in other areas area will not only compensate for the steadily diminishing presence of the oil industry, but expand to the point where the business plan can work as anticipated.

Regarding the City Garden proposed as a replacement for UTG, the report comments…

“While there is no direct benefit the fact that the City Gardens Project becomes a reality and underpins the CCRS will benefit Aberdeen’s wider population and business community.”

During a recent BBC Scotland debate, campaigner Mike Shepherd (a geologist with years of experience in, and expert knowledge of, the energy sector) was shouted down and jeered at by pro CGP hecklers.  The latter have tended to define opponents of the City Garden Project as tree-huggers and luddites who will be crushed by the wheels of change.   UTG has also been described, throughout the debate, as a dangerous area…despite police reports indicating far lower crime levels in UTG than in surrounding street level areas.

The debate has often been an acrimonious one, featuring conflicts of various kinds.  Already the TIF pilot scheme in the UK form originally advocated by PWC has brought deep divisions to Aberdeen.  It seems set to be promoting a cheerfully unapologetic attitude, amongst some in our community, with regard to social exclusion.

A popularly cited reason for getting rid of UTG is that this will also rid the city centre of people with drug and alcohol related problems.   Presumably, relegating them to more blighted areas that would, were TIF being applied in a manner consistent with its original aims, be the areas actually benefiting from this scheme.


Feb 102012

By Bob Smith.

“Fred the Shred”’s nae langer Sir
He’s bin strippit o his title
Noo jist a plain ex bunker
Wi views nae langer vital
Reduced eence mair ti the rank
O a mannie in the street
Bit still he his mair millions
Than fowk ye’ll likely meet
Wull the chiel be maist pit oot
Nae langer bein ca’ed Sir ?
Is stem cumin oot his luggies?
Is oor Fred in a bit o a birr
Forced ti chynge his letterheids
Titled stationery wull disappear
An cardies sayin he’s a Sir
Wull be chuckit on the fleer
Noo spare a thocht fer Fred
There’s lots mair o his creed
Titled gadgies linin their pooches
Wi the proceeds o great greed
Anither Goodwin we aa ken
A bank – bit een o sand
As notorious as oor Fred
Fer “shipwreckin” oot o hand
The puir mannie’ll hae ti learn
An iss he micht weel dread
Fin ask’t fit his name is
He’ll hae ti say “jist Fred”
©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012
Image © Alexandr Denisenko |