Jun 282013
 

Lets talk about …..Dogging. Dave Watt writes.

Dogging is a predominantly British activity that involves outdoor exhibitionism in car-parks, wooded areas and the like.
The term dogging originated in the early Seventies to describe men who spied on couples having sex outdoors. These men would ‘dog’ the couples’ every move in an effort to watch them.

When uninhibited couples discovered that open-air sex has its own special thrill they began meeting in car-parks, and the doggers found a new and rich supply of voyeuristic fun.

Moreover, the doggers soon realised that couples were actively encouraging them to watch, even performing for them, and sometimes allowing them to join in.

Is Dogging legal?

Currently in the UK dogging is mentioned in the sexual offences act under Section 66 – Exposure and Section 67 – Voyeurism.

Section 66 of the law specifically states that if doggers intend to cause alarm or distress to members of the public then they are breaking the law and face consequences. In other words, it is not illegal to have sex outdoors but you can get in trouble if an innocent passerby spots you and is offended.

So, if you’ve got a spotty bum let’s get Mr Clearasil to work and give those cheeks a good airing.

Dogging Requirements – A car. No matter how well developed your calf muscles, turning up on a bike is a real no-no.

To attract the attention of fellow doggers: flash either headlights or interior car lights.

Participation etiquette :

Interior car light on – invitation for any nearby doggers to watch.

Car windows open – invitation for any nearby doggers to touch, grope or feel.

Car door open – invitation for any nearby doggers to participate in sex act.

Bent naked over bonnet of your car  - basically an open invite to all comers although a certain amount of decorum in the shape of an orderly queue should be maintained. Play nice, people.

Why dog at all?

Although obviously the protagonists main motivation is sex many doggers cite such other benefits as getting out in the fresh air and meeting lots of new people.

Dogging in Aberdeen

The Counteswells Car-Park opposite the EquestrianSchool has a thriving evening turnover with Friday and Saturday nights apparently best for the serious dogger. Daytime action tends to be most common at Parkhill Picnic Area at the Bridge of Don although there are other areas around the city – down beside the river near Baker Hughes in Stoneywood and the road at the end of Leggart Terrace towards Banchory Devenick being two other favoured locations.

Top Dogs in the UK

A survey recently showed that the top areas for dogging in the UK are Essex (where their desire to embrace Nigel Farage is surpassed only by their desire to embrace each other naked in secluded car parks)  Kent and London with our own Strathclyde and Lothian, sadly, in the bottom ten. Hang your heads in shame, as they say, Strathclyde and Lothian.

A Window of Opportunity

However, with the failure of Southern Scotland in the dogging stakes is this not a golden opportunity for the Granite City to seize the moment by becoming Scotland’s Dog City? After the disappointment of Aberdeen not getting the UK’s City of Culture by apparently not sticking two million tons of concrete on top of a city park let us not be dismayed.

Let us instead look upward and onward and above all, innovatively.  Since Union Terrace Gardens aren’t going to be home to a conglomeration of chain stores that will bring in more tourists every year than the Grand Canyon how can we best utilise it  in its present format?

Simples. Let’s turn UTG into Britain’s first custom made Dogging Centre.

Commercially, this could be a goldmine for the city

Obviously a certain amount of work will need to be done, planting bowers and creating dogging bays around the perimeter of the Gardens and of course, some sort of one way system will have to be introduced for traffic control.

Other innovations could include the discreet lighting of trees lit from below as per the Tivoli gardens in Copenhagen which would add much to the nocturnal dogging scene and, for those inclement winter months, some outdoor heaters for the fair weather dogger.

Commercially, this could be a goldmine for the city with an entry dogging fee and fast food licences to be sold to prospective outlets. Obviously, after an evening of trouser antics out in the fresh air Mr & Ms Dogger (or Mr & Mr Dogger for that matter) are going to be dying for a fag and a good feed.

Perhaps Ann Summers might want to open a stall for those ‘last minute things’ that one of the protagonists has forgotten to pack. Attendants could also roam the Gardens selling KY Jelly, Viagra  and ‘interesting’ condoms.

For those doggers who wish to ‘show what they’ve got’ there could be the establishment of an entry fee spectators gallery overlooking the main action spots and for those doggers who want a record of the event we could initiate the sale of discreetly packaged DVDs.

Another nice earner could the sale of souvenir t-shirts. with such ‘witty’  messages as ‘My Mum and Dad spent four hours dogging in Union Terrace Gardens and all they brought me back was this lousy t-shirt and some penicillin.’

Enterprising garages could tender for  a combined MOT and Service While You Dog offer. The commercial possibilties are endless. This is not the time for shilly-shallying -  we must seize the moment to put Aberdeen on the Dogging Map.

Over to you, Comrade Barney.

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Sep 232012
 

After a long build-up, vitriolic postings on FaceBook, and a call to the media to attend a protest by hundreds of people, a group of approximately 70-80 stood outside Marischal College today for three quarters of an hour.  Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly attended.

Background: Aberdeen has been split over a controversial plan to build a £140 million pound series of arches over Union Terrace Gardens called ‘the granite web’.
The city is far from financially sound, and would need to borrow some £70 million minimum to build the scheme, which would also see the felling of ancient trees – some of the few trees in the city centre.

Those against the scheme point out the city has vast areas of disused brownfield, some of which are becoming arson hotspots which could be the site of any futuristic architectural projects.

The web’s opposition also cite that simple improvements to the gardens are affordable and would be sympathetic to the existing area, and that money should be spent on other projects and restoring services cut under the previous LibDem/SNP coalition.

Proponents of the granite web cite projections made by PriceWaterhouse Coopers, which was paid some £44,000 pounds to create projections for the scheme and research the TIF scheme by scheme supporting agency, ACSEF.  These projected benefits included 6,500 permanent new jobs and no cost to the taxpayer.

It has been shown the taxpayer has already picked up a substantial tab for furthering this project (see http://aberdeenvoice.com/2012/02/the-great-city-gardens-project-gravy-train/ ).

An advisory referendum was held; the Labour Party stated from the start it would not be bound by this referendum, which saw the pro-web side narrowly win.
Various issues arose with the referendum, and an anonymous group placed hundreds of radio adverts via the BiG Partnership which were found in breach of code by OFCOM.

PwC refused to say whether or not the ads’ use of its projections as fact was appropriate, as a ‘private company’ (actually  the PwC invoices are made out to Scottish Enterprise) had commissioned the work (which the taxpayer paid for).

Labour’s election pledges included stopping the granite web, and Labour wound up with a majority in the council at last May’s elections.

The Protest:  A Whimper not a Bang
The organisers included Chad West-MacGregor (who resides in the USA according to his FaceBook page, but who now says he will stay in Aberdeen); they had told the assembled media before the event that hundreds would be in attendance.

A video of the speech can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u57XTEus84

This proved optimistic in the extreme.  The weather was dry and sunny; the date selected was apparently the most convenient date for those who wanted to attend, even if there would be no one in the City Council’s Marischal College to protest to.

This lack of relevant audience did not bother the organisers, who posted on their FaceBook page:-

“Providing hundreds of us make an effort to attend, we will have several media photographers and journalist’s [sic] there to show the entire country that we were there and we were loud. Barney’s back hair will be sticking up when he opens the front page of the EE or the P&J and sees his council building swamped with protesters.”

STV reported:-

“More than 400 people had said they would attend the event on Saturday outside Marischal College to vent their fury at the decision to axe the plans to transform Union Terrace Gardens.  In reality, it was probably only around 60 people who turned up to the demonstration but the organisers felt the small band of protesters made their point.”
http://local.stv.tv/aberdeen/news/local-democracy/191410-city-garden-project-supporters-hold-demonstration-outside-councils-hq/

Organisers have made different representations as to the number of protestors; the FaceBook page linked to the protest has posts from organisers saying there were less than 100 present, but a different post says the organisers had more than 100.

This Aberdeen Voice reporter and her friend were present and counted approximately 70-80 people (more than STV counted) – but there was some fluctuation as people left.  There were about ten media professionals covering the event – 1 for every 8 protestors by my account, or 1 for every 6 by STV’s figures.

The two higher-profile attendees were former councillor Kate Dean and Aileen Malone.  Dean held a Cove Bay Supporters Club banner and wore leggings and the club’s shirt.

Aileen Malone’s presence was something of an oddity. The protest was against the council she is elected to, and she had made it plain that the remaining five Liberal Democrats on the council were not subject to a party whip when the vote on the granite web was held.  Precisely why she felt the need to protest against her own party members – who did not all vote for continuing with the granite web – is a mystery.

The Facebook Pages
A page using Barney Crockett’s photo to represent the organiser (for some odd reason), and an ‘event’ page were launched.  The FaceBook pages caused controversy with a wide range of offensive posts.

After one person, ‘Sasha Molyneux’ mocked someone who had been abused as a child, one person who planned to go on the protest said he now would not.  This person was then attacked for being ‘an anarchist plant’ by Molyneux.

Many posters asked the web pages’ administrator(s) to step in and stop the abuse, but the posts are still there (as at 17:30 22 September 2012).

The web ironically was supposed to attract talent from outwith Aberdeen.  Non-Aberdonians and Aberdonians alike were put off by more posts from Molyneux, who wrote:

“Isn’t it strange that inabootcomers like Suzanne Kelly from New York USA (got a current Visa I hope), Alasdair Johnston from Ayrshire, Richard Baker from Edinburgh, Lewis MacDonald from Lewis via Insch, Willie Young from Stonehaven (we’ll let him off with that) and countless other dissidents seem to think they know what’s best for Aberdeen and it’s [sic] citizens. All the while there are others who can trace their ancestory [sic] back hundreds of years to people who have hewn the very rock from the ground that Aberdeen is built from, taught in the schools that were built with that rock, employed generations in factories run by local entrepenuers [sic] and generally built this city from the ground up and afforded others a lifestyle that they enjoy today. The abuse and disrespect coming from the above mentioned individuals is absolutely disgusting and an extreme isult [sic] to our history and heritage and really if they are not happy they should go elsewhere and learn some decorum and basic manners.”

Most of those mentioned above had not even posted on this page.  Brian Scott then countered with:-

“I can hardly believe my eyes. Has some one actually posted a comment about incomers not having a right to have their say on issues because they cannot trace their roots to Aberdeen despite them setting up home here? Isn’t that racist and reminiscent of a certain political party that takes their mandate from a 1930′s movement originated in central Europe?”

Voice’s Suzanne Kelly quoted Sasha’s earlier anti-incomer post (above) and Sasha replied:-

“I know what I said and i’m glad it is on record because it is the truth. As Annie Lennox once said a North East of Scotland upbringing puts a rod of iron in your soul so just remember that. Your Bully Boy tactics and general disrespect for the people in general don’t go down too well with the people up here and if you think you are being smart and clever just consider this we are a pretty stoical bunch up here and we will break you in the long run.”

 The subjects brought up by pro web factions also included one man’s assertion that the English Defence League is a “peace loving group”, and its leader ‘inspirational’.

There was heated debate back and forth between the two camps, but the radical extremist posts of Molyneux and others from the pro web side were considered by many to be highly inflammatory and seem to constitute what is called ‘trolling.’

It is clear that these extremists do not represent the views of all of the pro granite web faction, but it is clear that the FaceBook page administrators, the organisers of this event, gave tacit support to these posts by allowing them to remain and by not banning the posters.

The organisers seem to indicate they will hold more such events.  Aberdeen Voice will keep you posted of any further developments.

Mar 092012
 

Referendums, deer culls, employers telling employees how to vote, services cuts, classroom assistants under threat.  Old Susannah cuts to the heart of the matter and ponders upcoming Lord Provost parties.

Tally Ho!  It’s been a boring week in Aberdeen; referendums, deer culls, habitation destruction and other criminal activity notwithstanding.  I will write a column over the weekend once a few conditions have hopefully been met.

First, I need to find something important and local to write about, and second – I must find an outfit to wear for the Lord Provost’s upcoming parties.  I’ll need everything from some evening gowns to designer jeans for the nearly £28,000 worth of partying just approved by the ‘Lord Provost Sub Committee’ – and that’s on top of the £4,000 party to launch his £9,000 portrait. I am sure my invitations will arrive shortly.

At the time of writing it is not clear whether residents of a home for people with paralysis issues are still being told not to drink too much fluid at night and buy rubber mattresses, as their overnight on-site assistants are no longer affordable.  Perhaps Lord Provost Stephen will invite some of them to one of his little get-togethers.

Hopefully my party invitatins from the Lord Provost  won’t arrive as late as the bundles of postal votes which showed up too late to be counted in the aforementioned referendum.  Hard luck, eh?  Kind of reminds me of when I personally handed in 63 individual postcards protesting the deer cull to the city’s Town House – only to get a letter from Valerie Watts saying she’d had a total of less than 40 from all sources.  But it would be wrong to mention that, or the deer cull.

Unfortunately national media are about to cover the cull, with one reporter telling me this tree planting/deer cull is ‘bizarre’.  Clearly only Aileen HoMalone (newly crowned queen of the Lib Dems – not counting Nick Clegg), Pete Leonard and Ian Tallboys can understand the importance of ripping up existing habitat to expose industrial waste and rocks on which to plant trees that can’t possibly thrive.  The rest of us are thick.

Being busy with the important business of buying new outfits for all the upcoming Lord Provost events means there’s no time for a column just yet, but don’t despair  – the link below will take you to a spread sheet you can download to keep as a little gift.  This shows how our favourite councillors have voted over Union Terrace Gardens and culling deer – with plenty of room for you to fill in the results of your favourite votes as well.

This may be a handly little reminder when it comes time to vote of who is dynamic, forward-thinking and so on.

Here is the link:  http://oldsusannahsjournal.yolasite.com/

You will also find an additional present with this spread sheet – Old Susannah has made her own portrait of the Lord Provost, complete with wife and glamorous security guard.  I would be happy to sell it for less than £9,000, and rather than holding a £4,000 drinks party to celebrate my artwork, I’d happily go down to BrewDog for a pint instead.

So that’s it for now – more in a few days, if I can find some subject matter.  Cheerio!

Feb 172012
 

Old Susannah looks at the Granite Web, and the impressive effort it has taken to spin.

By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho! Yet another vibrant and dynamic week in the Granite Web City.  Whilst Friends of Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen against Austerity, and Democracy Watch engaged in some inexpensive grassroots campaigning by flyer, the mysterious Vote for the CGP group pulled out all the stops and spent, spent, spent.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Northsound is playing City Garden Project commercials non-stop. The Art Gallery has a swish new display showing the Garden plan in its Alice-in-Wonderland perspective and garish colours, and issues of The Granite Web compete in the ugly stakes with the A3 VFTCGP colour flyer sent out before.

News reaches Old Susannah that visitors to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary are being cheered up no end by pro-City Garden Project posters on the walls. There is no escape at work either, as employees of Wood Group (no surprise really), Nautronix, and Taqa all seem to have received lovely e-mails from bosses hinting gently that they should vote for the CGP.

I do find it very touching that employers are looking after their employees so well and giving gentle guidance which puts no pressure on them at all.

Why do I call the VFTCGP members secret? Because I was told in so many words by the BIG Partnership, which does PR for this group and, coincidentally, the artwork for the CGP, that “if the members want to stay secret, it’s up to them.”

But before I return to my Myth-busting busting activities started last week – I only got through the first four of the ten Myths the CGP team say we’re suffering from – condolences to Rangers fans.

Was this one of the top Scottish clubs? Yes.

Will this leave a massive hole in Scottish football? Yes.

Will other sides face similar financial clubs? Looks like it.

I believe one tycoon is still paying some £60,000 of his own money each time his team plays. I do hope this mogul is not getting overly financially stretched. I’d again ask the question if Loirston Loch land – in a Special Area of Conservation – should really be turned into a 21,000 seat football ground with offices and museum in this climate.

  Donald’s granny was Scottish. This gives him good cause to call Alex Salmond ‘insane’

Well, I would ask, but the continuous concrete covering of anything green in Aberdeen seems unstoppable. Thankfully, we all have one tireless, gentle campaigner who is not giving up the fight for ‘Scotland’s heritage’. Step forward, Mr Donald Trump.

You might have seen one or two small news items saying that this gentle giant wants to build the galaxy’s greatest golf course on a no-doubt-underused stretch of coastline. He’s got rid of many of the view-blocking trees, but there are horrible plans to build windfarms offshore which could actually be seen by his guests, if you can believe that!

Now, windfarms don’t actually work very efficiently yet. The technology can, and should improve. But I guess we’re all agreed there are few things in life worse than being a rich golfer who might have to look at an offshore wind farm. For those people in favour of this kind of blot on the seascape, I would remind you that you’re forgetting something very important.

Donald’s granny was Scottish. This gives him good cause to call Alex Salmond ‘insane’ for supporting renewable energy. Please try to keep that in mind, thank you.

Finally, it might have been Valentine’s Day this week, but it looks like the May to December romance between Callum McCaig and Aileen ‘Ho’Malone is over. One of them is an over-blown, over-hyped, over-rated, naïve, headline-seeking soul, blissfully unaware that they are dangerously out of their depth. The other is Callum McCaig.

No more will they share a coalition; there will be no more romps on Tullos Hill; there will be no more late-night negotiations. Maybe yet the SNP will change its tune over the ridiculous cull of deer to plant trees that cannot possibly grow on Tullos Hill. Watch this space.

  the taxpayers’ side of this great granite garden bargain is to borrow £92m and pay the loan, and its interest, back over decades.

There is certainly a current in that direction, not least fuelled by public anger and the wasting of some £43,800 to date. Still, a break-up is hard to take. Final confirmation of this great bust-up comes in newspaper stories announcing that the coalition is still absolutely fine. I am thinking of offering my condolences to Mrs Robinson, sorry, I mean Aileen.

I’m still thinking on it. PS. Message to Irene – feel better soon!

And now back to debunking the debunking of the Myths. The City Garden Project seems to be the only entity that’s been presented with these Myths, and I commented on the first four last week. Here are a few choice words on the remaining five Myths. Thank you CGP for printing these not-at-all-wild and not-at-all-made-up Myths – we’re all really onside now. Their comments are in bold. Old Susannah’s are in regular type

5. It will cost the taxpayer millions of pounds – FALSE.

Sure. All this happens for free, and you’ve not paid a penny, and you won’t pay a penny. I wonder if the CGP forgot about the £422,000, or probably more, of taxpayers’ money Scottish Enterprise has already spent on this project? And, no doubt, our CGP friends don’t think it matters that some of your city councillors voted to set aside up to £300,000 of your money for legal costs.

Old Susannah is still mulling that one over. A billionaire is ‘giving’ Aberdeen £50m, but there isn’t enough money on his side of the fence to pay the legal costs the city will incur? So, rather than getting granny a new wheelchair, or providing 24/7 care at homes which have just announced cuts etc etc, Wood wants your £300,000. But this £722,000, nearly quarter of a million pounds, is small change.  we’re going to chop down existing, healthy trees, thus getting rid of wildlife that’s called the trees home for decades, if not centuries

Multiply that figure by ten and you get close to the amount of interest on the loan Aberdeen City Council has to sign for this project to go ahead, according to one of last night’s radio show speakers. Thanks to Original FM (on 105FM) for hosting last night’s debate. Anyway, the taxpayers’ side of this great granite garden bargain is to borrow £92m and pay the loan, and its interest, back over decades.

If the 6500 new jobs don’t come in and we don’t make £122m each year (I can’t wait to see how this happens), if we go over budget, if anything goes wrong – then it will cost us an unknown additional amount of money in repayments. The trams fiasco has reached a cost of nearly one billion pounds.

But this won’t cost you a cent. Honest, guv.

6. Fake, plastic trees – FALSE.

It’s a great Radiohead song but a lousy Myth. It has been suggested that fake plastic trees will be planted in the City Gardens to act as vents for the giant car park underneath. If any fake trees are seen they will be beside the flying pigs. 186 new trees will be planted, some of them mature and many will be Scots Pines.

Old Susannah doesn’t know where to start with this alleged Myth. She does find it reassuring to find that a job in public relations entails so much creative writing talent. I know of no-one who’s heard of plastic trees being part of the plan. However, if we’re building underground, then we’ll need plants with very tiny root systems. Goodbye 250-year old elm trees, one of only a few surviving clusters of elms free from disease, and home to wildlife. In comes progress. Who needs fresh air, wildlife, shade and beauty when you can have ramps?

   we’re going to chop down existing, healthy trees, thus getting rid of wildlife that’s called the trees home for decades, if not centuries

My favourite bit is the announcement that the trees stay in the Gardens forever, as wood chip and seating. Well, you can’t say that’s not sensitive to nature. Still, the BIG Partnership’s student placement has managed to make a meal of a non-existent plastic tree myth. Perhaps someone will explain how mature trees are going to be magically planted in the new Gardens?

Where will their roots go, as there is meant to be underground parking? How do we get to have a thriving pine forest in the city centre – something that doesn’t seem possible according to experts including local architects?

If Old Susannah has this right, we’re going to chop down existing, healthy trees, thus getting rid of wildlife that’s called the trees home for decades, if not centuries, plant some new trees, and have the world’s only pine forest in a city centre.

The pines must grow faster than genetically-modified Leylandii hedges if the drawings I’ve seen are correct, and of course, no-one can fault the accuracy of these precision drawings. I like the giant transparent child romping over the flowerbeds best. So, replacing grass and trees with grass, concrete and trees can be done for only £92m. RESULT!

7. It will cost people their jobs – FALSE.

As a result of the project a projected 6500 new jobs are to be created, not taking into account the hundreds of jobs that will come as a result of the construction. In addition, a transformed city centre will breathe new life across the city, helping us become a World Energy City long after oil and gas has run dry in the North Sea. Existing businesses will be retained meaning existing jobs will be safe-guarded.

These 6500 jobs are going to be wonderful! What will they be? Well, for openers we’ve seen how well Union Square has protected high street businesses. Our small high street shops are struggling whilst multinationals got a cheap rent deal in Union Square. But clearly what we need is….more shops. Surely there is nothing we’d rather do than shop, and you can’t have enough shops can you? It’s not as if a glut of shops will ever result in shop closures, price wars and endless sales, especially ‘Going out of business’ sales.

I wonder if there is any reason that a cafe culture has never really taken off in Aberdeen? Could it be that it’s often too cold, too windy or too rainy? Could it be because the City Council consistently refused to allow anyone to run a snack bar or coffee kiosk in the shelter of Union Terrace Gardens? Clearly not. One wave of the granite wand, and just like those convincing concept drawings, we’ll all be sitting outdoors in short-sleeved shirts, drinking decaf mocha lattes while Toto play on the brand new stage, in front of the existing indoor theatre.

Right. The taxpayer is propping up the AECC with extra money since it can’t make enough by holding events. Same for the Lemon Tree. But the new theatre won’t have any problems making a massive profit and creating loads of jobs.

 So, ‘how many theatres should a taxpayer prop up?’ is one question.

I for one can’t wait to sit through an outdoor electronic folk music competition in February. But, by winter, this theatre will be an ice rink, thereby competing with the ice rink the city tried to kill off before.

But no, there won’t be any harm to jobs. We’ll need people to cut down the trees and get rid of the wildlife. Then there will be jobs cleaning the graffiti off the Web. Yes, the Web will create more permanent jobs in small Aberdeen than the 2012 Olympics will create in Greater London. Rest as assured as I am on that point.

8. It will be entirely made from concrete – FALSE.

Obviously concrete will be used – would you like to relax, visit an exhibition or attend a concert on top of a cardboard box? The project has been carefully designed so there will be 95% more open, green space with a series of pathways providing access for people through, across and in and out of the gardens. These paths will be made of granite, crushed granite and wood.

By now, Old Susannah is finding the content of the dispelled Myths by BIG just a little bit patronising and smarmy. They thought they had to talk us out of believing in plastic trees. Now they explain that we need to sit on something more robust than a cardboard box. Thanks for that! Appreciated.

So, ‘how many theatres should a taxpayer prop up?’ is one question. ‘How many competing businesses should Scottish Enterprise suggest?’ is quite another. They used to have rules on displacement and suchlike, but these seem to have gone, probably about the same time as your employer started to tell you how to vote.

This project has been carefully designed. Of course it has. More green space, but somehow it manages to have a giant concrete, sorry, granite theatre which takes up some 15% minimum of the existing Gardens. They count the giant granite potato-crisp shaped thingy over the stage as green space.

 what if the architects were to give us some drawings showing how these ramps will work safely now rather than later?

Of course it won’t sustain any wildlife, and at best will be a thin wedge of sod over concrete, but if they want to call it green space, fine.

I guess these people call anything green space if they can colour it green with Crayolas on their paper plan.

Looking at the slope of the ramps both up and downwards, I’m wondering how the aged, infirm or wheelchair-bound are going to find this system easier than the current access. The current access could use an additional ramp and you could probably do this for less than £92m as well. For the truly baffled, there is ground level access on the north side, not far from the theatre. This is where vehicles somehow manage to get in.

Clearly there is no other way to ‘relax and visit an exhibition or attend a concert in this town.’ Let’s borrow £92 million and build this beauty.

9. There will be no railings in the Granite Web, people will fall from the paths – FALSE.

Safety will be paramount. The concept design shows the various walkways at different levels but the final design will show how these work safely. And, seriously, do you think any development in a country obsessed with health and safety would get off the ground without proper safety measures?

Our PR work placement is patronising us again. I might be old, but here’s a crazy idea – what if the architects were to give us some drawings showing how these ramps will work safely now rather than later? Are they going to be enclosed, and of course, not at all potential rat traps? Are they going to have fencing that somehow won’t look like Stalag 17? How will wheelchair users go up and down these steep ramps? Details, details.

Well, Old Susannah has run out of space for one week. We will return to normal definitions next week, and take a closer look at who is behind ‘Vote for the City Garden Project’. You will, of course, want to know what businesses are in this group, to make sure you can reward them with your custom. Or not.

Finally, many thanks to those brave business people who have stuck out their necks in favour of saving our city’s only unique, free, green garden.

That’s you, J Milne. It is appreciated.

Jan 072012
 

Aberdeen’s contentious Tullos Hill  deer cull / tree-planting scheme takes a particularly strong blow as a Freedom of Information request shows that the financial picture is not as ‘cost-neutral’ as its (few) supporters would have us think.  Suzanne Kelly examines the newly-released figures for Phase 1 of the planting and questions the logic of proceeding with Phase 2.

Aileen Malone, Aberdeen City Councillor and Convener of the Housing & Environment Committee has been silent on the subject of her pet project and Liberal Democrat election manifesto pledge lately; she’s not answered emails on the subject, nor has she appeared in the media to defend the scheme.
The Liberal Democrat party headquarters likewise have not replied to any emails on the matter of the deer cull to date.

Malone is the de facto figurehead for the plan to cull the roe deer (which have happily lived in the area for decades without the need for a cull) in order to plant a staggering 89,000 trees on Tullos Hill. 

When full details broke as to what this Phase 2 planting entails emerged, individuals, community councils and animal welfare charities expressed dismay and disbelief.

One of the main arguments offered by its proponents is that planting the trees and shooting the deer is ‘cost-neutral’, or in the words of Councillor Neil Fletcher in an email concerning the cull:-

“… this project is at practically no cost to the tax-payer”.

But is the scheme as cost-neutral as its City Council proponents claim?  The answer is most definitely NO.

The attached spread sheet excerpt was obtained in mid-December following months of requests  (note that a line has been added to show a refund the City had to make – this was somehow omitted).  Aileen Malone wrote in early October to advise an officer would get back on the matter shortly.   When no information was forthcoming , a Freedom of Information request was lodged (and answered slightly later than was meant to be the deadline).

The City’s (incomplete) spread sheet

The spread sheet from the city shows incoming money as negative and outgoings as positive figures.

There is an outgoing sum of £3,000 at Line 18 with no explanatory text.  There is likewise a line for £142 – this may relate to an advertising supplement extolling the virtues of the scheme, but this is not certain.  The city also forgot to take off the £43,800 it had to return for the failure of phase 1 on Tullos.  Combining all of the figures together, I get an indication that Aberdeen may be £20,600 in the red at this point – and yet may look to go ahead with a bigger plantation.

See: Tree-for-every-citizen-finances/

Looking at the list of money going in and out of the account, it seems that the scheme was not the simple, cheap, well thought-out plan promised.   When the finances are considered in conjunction with a soil report issued by the Forestry Commission, it is possible to conclude the plan is deeply flawed and expensive.

The the soil report indicates that Tullos Hill’s soil quality  means the trees would be subject to ‘wind throw.’  This means that winds (such as the extremely strong winds frequently experienced this winter) will more than likely topple trees growing on the hill.

The report also points to the possibility that trees simply will not thrive on Tullos for a variety of reasons– but what is the financial impact of failure?

The costly Phase 1 failure- £43,800 in grant money repaid

The City was forced to repay £43,800 of grant money (after months of being chased for payment, it should be noted) to the Forestry Commission.  Presumably this money was generated from the taxpayer in the first place – therefore the taxpayer may well have wound up paying both for the trees to be planted as well as for their failure to thrive.

While the City has chosen largely to put the blame for the failure on some 29 roe deer in Loirston County Park, the failure belongs  in no small part to those who selected the site, who decided to buy smaller tree guards than had been recommended, who ignored the historic wind, weather and soil data, and who did little about weeds.  Perhaps an investigation is called for into the selection of Tullos in the first place, and into any possible negligence on the part of those involved.

Will Aberdeen be taking another grant from the Forestry Commission – which arguably we were led to believe was already arranged?

If so – why?  What are the implications of a failure of 89,000 trees financially speaking?  Unfortunately, according to the Freedom of Information response, thereares as yet no financial plans, budgets or projections available.

Considering the proponents originally gave a deadline of May 2011 for private individuals to stump up £225,000 to save the deer (a figure which exceeds the £200,000 Phase 1 grant!), it is highly worrying that projections for the future phase 2 scheme cannot be supplied as ‘the information is not held’.  Had the scheme’s supporters come clean in these respects months ago, this scheme may not have gone so far down the road as it has been allowed to.

Paying for Experts

Animal charities offered the services of other forestry experts to the City free of charge with a view to finding a way to plant trees without killing the deer – something which is quite possible to do.  Deer will apparently be culled for several years (there are thought to be 29 deer in the area which roam from site to site; these creatures usually live 6-7 years, and in some instances are fed by local people).

The city denigrated the experts, and advised it already has an expert.

The identity of the City’s expert has never been made known.  At one stage it was suggested that they were being paid for their services in connection with ‘A Tree for Every Citizen.’

Looking at the companies listed on the spread sheet involved and the people who serve on these companies, a number of forestry experts seem to be involved as paid consultants. As such, these people might be seen to have a vested interest in a Phase 2 planting going ahead; it would be human nature to protect one’s source of income.

One of the people whose names crops up in a list of company directors has many directorships to their credit – including charcoal and sawmill director/company officer roles.  Some of the twenty or so companies on this person’s list of directorships have been dissolved, including a boomerang company or two.

Further research into the companies and individuals mentioned on the Council’s spread sheet is under way.

Aberdeen officials have issued conflicting statements on the nature of the forest to be created – some say it will bring in revenue which will help pay for the scheme; others say no such plans are in place.  If a sawmill plant, lumber jacking or charcoal works  (and these types of business interests are reflected in the company activities of people involved with the scheme per the spread sheet) are envisaged for Tullos, then the public should be told.

If one or more persons with vested interests in making profit from lumber are refusing the advice / peer review from animal welfare experts with forestry experience, then the entire scheme should be examined in a public, transparent forum and reviewed by a number of recognised experts.

Surely an impartial, scientific professional would normally welcome experienced, free advice even if they chose not to heed it.  The claims of expert advice seem hollow when in one document tree guards are discarded as deer control devices because they have ‘visual impact.’

Can complete impartiality of someone who may stand to gain from the Phase 2 planting going ahead be guaranteed?  How can there be an objection to wider scrutiny?

Sponsors and ‘Educational’ use of children to plant trees:  I wouldn’t count on it

Companies which donated to the first phase of the ‘Tree for Every Citizen’ scheme are understandably reluctant to use their budgets for controversial Phase 2.

weed protection of some sort will be required which may impact other wildlife, and yet the wind may make it all in vain.

Two major companies have indicated that they will not sponsor this next phase.  Will any business want to put their brand’s value at risk by association with an unpopular scheme and deer cull?  It is highly unlikely, but some in the council seem to think sponsors will be found.  Again, there seems to be nothing budgeted, just nebulous talk of seeking business sponsors.

Schoolchildren are being relied on to make the plan look more affordable; they will be asked to help plant the trees on Tullos.

It seems doubtful that local parents will willingly give consent; thousands have signed a petition against the scheme, and over three thousand people are on a Facebook group opposing the scheme.  Clearly if the scheme will have to pay for planting all 89,000 trees when it had hoped to use children in part, then the scheme becomes even less financially sound.

The educational benefits of planting saplings should also be delivered alongside the fact a cull is being implemented not for animal welfare reasons (the Scottish SPCA condemns this particular scheme) as it is (allegedly) the cheapest way to protect the trees,  that weed protection of some sort will be required which may impact other wildlife, and yet the wind may make it all in vain.

Other costs; environmental costs

Weeds were largely to blame according to a Forestry report for the Phase 1 failure.

The Aberdeen taxpayer will be paying for several years of ‘weed control’ for Phase 2 – this may mean spraying pesticides which will damage other plants, insects, birds and other wildlife.  Using pesticides in an area near factories, homes and schools will also lead to further citizen protests.   Aberdeen paid £7,125 for Bryan Massie specifically for weed control in Phase 1 (as well as another £22,800). If the weed control was inadequate then, then how much more will we spend annually?

It is important to remember that Tullos already has its own wildlife and is a thriving ecosystem in its own right.   Gorse clearance is also recommended, although many environmentalists state that gorse is a food and habitat haven for much wildlife.  How much money will the taxpayer spend ripping up gorse?

The winners

According to the City’s information, the following companies have made money on the scheme:

CJ Piper & Co                     £42,000

Bryan Massie                     £30,000

Dulnain Bridge                   £77,800

Scottish Woodlands        £11,700

TM Forestry                       £44,400

(unspecified)                     £  3,000

TOTAL:                                                                  £208,900

(Note – while over the months there have been different figures mentioned and unofficially given, it is assumed that the most accurate set of figures is the one supplied by the Freedom of Information request received mid December which is used in this article).

The future:  No tangible financial projections – and no funding application lodged

The Freedom of Information request seems to be admitting that no budget for the future phase is held by the City.

An earlier FOI request shows that despite everything the proponents have said and done, there is as yet no formalised application lodged for a second phase.  This means that for nearly a year the claims of proponents such as Malone that the scheme was going to go ahead and was going to be cost neutral were inaccurate.  It is possible that some of the members of the Housing Committee voted in favour of this plan based on its being cost neutral; if so, the matter should be examined by that Committee and the relevant Audit Committee.

It is safe to assume that not every single grant application gets approved.  We seem to have a situation for  Phase 2 where there was no final, formal application for funds lodged, no approved funding in place, and no budget in place.

When the £43,800 repayment is subtracted from the accounts it certainly looks as if some £22,000 more than was granted was spent on Phase 1, leaving a budget deficit for Phase 2 before it even starts.

In the absence of information to the contrary the evidence speaks for itself.

Conclusion

Parents of school-age children might wish to check with their schools as to any planting plans involving their children.

Voters might want to ask their City Councillors how they stand on the issue now, and if they were in a position to vote on the matter in May 2011, did they then believe the scheme was cost-neutral.  Private sector companies might wish to think twice before entering any sponsorship/funding deals for Phase 2 as well – it does not look like a public relations win any longer.

The whole point of the cull was to make the tree planting possible, yet some council officers and elected officials want to backtrack on that point now. They now claim it is for animal welfare reasons and not the trees. However, the entire unfolding history of the City’s claims are a matter of record.

What may have started out as a great-sounding greenwash election plank has irrevocably turned into an unpopular, controversial, seemingly disorganised non-starter.  It is time to leave Tullos alone for now – or to consider enhancing its status as meadowland.  Anything else just does not add up.

Nov 082011
 

With Remembrance Sunday approaching fast and the wearing of a poppy being de rigueur for every stuffed shirt and empty suit on TV, Voice’s Dave Watt thinks about 11 November.  

11 November falls on a Friday this year, so the dead will have to wait until Sunday to be remembered, as the powers that be don’t seem to think that remembering them on the actual Armistice Day would be convenient.
I mean, businesses might lose a whole two minutes profit and think what a disaster that would be for our thriving economy. After all, big business interests shovel money into party funds and one and a quarter million dead servicemen and women don’t. So, balls to them.

Armistice Day on 11 November was originally meant to signal the end of The War to End Wars, back in a time when that phrase wouldn’t bring forth a cynical snigger.

In fact, on my grandfather’s medals, hanging in a frame in my hallway, it refers to The Great War For Civilisation which shows that there were politicians in the 1920s capable of coming out with the same kind of drivel as George W Bush did with his ludicrous War on Terror ten years ago.

Presumably, at some time in the future there will be a War For Straight Bananas or a War For Fashionable Sandals or something equally weird.

Hopefully, this year will not feature such irretrievable tat as the Royal British Legion inviting The Saturdays to frolic half-naked in a sea of poppies or getting the judges on X Factor to wear grotesque poppy fashion items – two tasteless frolics which inspired ex-SAS soldier Ben Griffin to describe them as ‘stunts to trivialise, normalise and satirise war’. Griffin, in fact, went on to state that remembrance has been turned into ‘a month long drum roll of support for current wars’, a point of view it is increasingly difficult to disagree with.

My grandfather joined up in 1914 in the surge of patriotism engendered by Germany illegally invading Belgium; my uncle joined up in 1939 when Hitler illegally subjugated Poland. Presumably, if Tony Blair had been Prime Minister in 1914, we’d have joined in the illegal invasion and attacked tiny Belgium as we did with impoverished third world Afghanistan, not one of whose citizens had previously done us the slightest harm.

Then again, if Tony had been in charge in 1939 he’d surely have produced some shoddy dossiers to our gullible Parliament showing how those dastardly Poles were all set to attack peace-loving Nazi Germany and that they had weapons of mass destruction concealed in Cracow and Gdansk which could be deployed within 45 minutes.

Yes, if good old Tony had been on the case then, we could nowadays watch Wellington bombers joining the Stukas strafing the women and kids in Warsaw on World at War on Yesterday – with a suitably solemn voice-over courtesy of Laurence Olivier. God, wouldn’t that make us just so proud of ourselves?

No, the bottom line is that we’re not the Good Guys helping the Underdog against the Bully any more. We’re something quite different now.

If you were wondering what happened to my uncle and grandfather in their wars, my uncle died in Normandy in 1944 after fighting in North Africa, Italy and Sicily. My grandfather survived four years in the trenches but was wounded and mustard-gassed in 1918. The mustard gas steadily and horribly eroded his lungs over the years and he eventually died in 1955 aged 56, so the War for Civilisation got him in the end.

I also had a relative on board HMS Hood when the Bismarck sank her in the Denmark Straits in May 1941. He was not one of the three survivors.

It’s interesting to think that if my three relations had survived wars and lived until now that their reward from a grateful country would be to have some pampered ex-public schoolboy Tories and Lib Dems cutting their fuel allowances by £100 this winter.

I’ll have my own two minutes silence for my relations and all the rest – the ones who came back and the ones who didn’t.

On Friday.

Photo Credits –
Row Of Crosses © Mediaonela | Dreamstime.com  
Poppy At Newe July 2011 © Elaine Andrews

Oct 072011
 

Teachers, Local Authority Workers, Civil Servants, Community Organisations, Pensioners, Anti Cuts Alliances and members of the general public took to the streets of Aberdeen on Saturday 1st October 2011. With thanks to Brian Carroll.

The march and rally was organised by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS – the largest teaching Union in Scotland) and was supported by all unions affiliated to the Aberdeen Trades Union Council.

As well as EIS Members, the march consisted of members from unions such as Unite, Unison, PCS, CWU, FBU and others.

The march also had representatives from community organisations, pensioners and members of the public taking part.

In total 2000 marched down Union Street, the main shopping street of Aberdeen which stretches for over a mile, and the pipe band leading the march gave it all they had, as did the anti-cuts organisation, Aberdeen Against Austerity, which sang some colourful songs about fighting the cuts, and placing the ConDem government on a bonfire !

Key note speaker was Susan Quinn,  National Vice President of EIS.  Along with other speakers, she denounced the actions of the ConDem government in respect of their approach to civil and public servants, services, cuts, pensions, pay, jobs and services.

Support for action on 30 November 2011 was unanimous if the ConDem government does not enter into meaningful consultation and negotiation with all civil and public service unions.

The march in Aberdeen was the biggest in the City since an anti-cuts march which took place four years ago.  The march clearly showed that strong feelings against the cuts agenda.  Opposition to the pubic sector cuts is growing, gaining momentum and getting the support of the general public as they realise that once their services are gone, they are gone forever.

This march and rally coincided with and complemented the “People First” march and rally held in Glasgow on the same day, which was organised by the STUC and supported by all affiliated Unions and where 15,000 people marched.

Oct 012011
 

Three Cheers for Aberdeen City Council!  The Cull is on Hold!  Or so you might think if you glanced at a headline in tonight’s Evening Express. Voice’s Suzanne Kelly writes.

Several people on the anti-cull e-mailing lists have seen these headlines and written to say how happy they are the deer are safe.
‘Thank goodness, we can all forget about the cull and get back to business as usual’.

But what is the truth behind this and other media stories, and what is the truth? Conflicting information is  leaking out of Marischal College like a particularly leaky sieve.

There has been Council and anti-cull advertising.  There have been stories in the Press & Journal and the Evening Express, quoting experts and animal organisations.

The City has unnamed officers making statements, and city rangers apparently say that community councils are now OK with the cull.  It is time to look behind the headlines, read between the lines of the propaganda, and challenge what the city and rangers are saying.

First, let’s look at the last few weeks’ worth of media advertising.

In terms of advertising, you may have seen the anti-cull ads which were paid for by Animal Concern; these ran in the Evening Express and the Aberdeen Citizen. These quarter-page colour ads spelled out the logical reasons for opposing the cull.

Aberdeen City meanwhile took out a four-page, full colour supplement in the Aberdeen Citizen on 7 September. This for the average person would have cost at least a thousand pounds; it would be of interest to find out what the City spends on this and similar advertising in these service-cutting, low budget days.  This pull-out was to tell you how green and ecologically-minded the City is.

A portion of this supplement (approximately a third of a page in size) concerned the deer cull. Or as the City prefers to call it, the ‘City Woodlands.’ The ad says nothing about a deer cull, but calls on schools and small businesses to help plant the trees. The reader is directed to contact Ian Tallboys for further information. Businesses are told that the scheme can help:

“as part of their overall carbon management work. This will reduce the impact of their greenhouse gas emissions.”

The ad also says:

“The tree planting work will start in early 2012, ground and weather conditions permitting.”

And apparently:

 “planning of the second phase of tree for every citizen planting is almost complete, with funding applications in place.”

This is being tied to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and the woodland sites are selected:

 “to provide a living, breathing legacy and tribute to her Majesty the Queen”

There is a very good reason I have bored my readers with these details. Firstly – we already have a ‘living, breathing legacy’ on Tullos Hill. We have a diverse ecosystem supporting a vast variety of flora and fauna. We are going to kill our existing living, breathing legacy because some politicians (Cllr Malone for one) decided to do so.

If you read this ad, you would know nothing about the proposed deer cull. You might also conclude that some substantial carbon offsetting benefits had been expected in order that the City felt comfortable telling businesses the scheme would benefit them in this regard. The calculations I have previously reported, the information from animal charities, and common sense tell us that the benefits are negligible.

For one thing, we are apparently having a 21,000 seat, glow-in-the-dark football stadium built fairly close to the south of Tullos Hill with houses, offices and 1400 parking spaces. I challenge anyone to tell me that the Tullos tree scheme will offset this stadium to any meaningful degree.

It seems straightforward:  planting will go ahead, as funding applications are in place and the City’s own advertising says that planting starts in early 2012.  However, up crops some issues with what I must loosely call ‘journalism’ appearing in the Press & Journal and Evening Express.

Going back to the earlier part of his week, P&J articles advised that protestors were going to stand in front of guns.  You will have seen quotes apparently from the British Deer Society and Chris Packham saying deer culls are necessary.  These experts and their support of culls appear alongside direct quotes from my asking that:

“the city must come up with a better plan and halt this senseless cull.”

If you read these articles quickly or casually, you could easily come to the conclusion that Chris Packham and the British Deer Society support this specific Tullos cull.  At the time of writing, I have made initial contact with Packham’s agent and the Deer Society:  neither were able to confirm they had been contacted on the specific Tullos case.

In fact, both parties were interested to hear what I had to say about the history of this whole scheme.  When they get back to me, I will update everyone.

I had also given the P&J a detailed press release spelling out the major flaws in the public consultation, the opinion of the Scottish SPCA, and so on.  Not a word of this side of the story appears in print.

So – when is the cull?

The police are not saying.  The City is however saying something different to everyone who asks.  Today, 1 October, the Press & Journal have asserted the cull may be delayed by two weeks for financial reasons.,  In the 29 September Press & Journal article:

“a [City Council] spokeswoman said that Saturday was the earliest date in the hunting season that deer management can take place.  However, any such activity would be subject to weather conditions and the availability of staff, she added.”

By the way, the City have said they don’t need to give anyone any notice and can put gunmen on the hill at will.  People who understand arms, guns and hunting tell me bullets can travel very considerable distances (this is not to mention the damage and sheer agony they cause to anything that is shot).  So, we will either be suddenly excluded from the hill for the gunman/men to get killing, or they will shoot with us present.

Neighbouring residents in homes and trailer parks were appalled  and worried when I spoke to them earlier this week.  Two men told me they feed the deer in winter, and the deer are veritably tame.  Another man told me a similar story over the phone; he is distraught that the deer he has watched and fed for decades are to be shot for non-existent trees.  No one I contacted has been warned of shooters coming to the hill at the time of writing.

But I digress.  Now we come to the glaring Evening Express headline of Friday 30 September:

DEER CULL OFF… FOR NOW”

The story on Page 5 has a headline fragment ‘move to protect trees’  which makes it seem as if this is the only way to protect trees.  We all by now know this is not the case.

Unfortunately, whoever the City’s ‘spokeswoman’ was on Thursday has been contradicted by a ‘city council spokesman’.  I guess it is true:  ’24 hours IS a long time in politics.’  The spokesman said:

“It takes time for money to filter through.  The long-term plan for tree-planting and the deer population haven’t changed.’  According to the Reporter, D Ewen, the spokesman added ‘..it could be months before the cull started.”

You might think an accurate headline would  have been ‘Deer Cull could be months away’ – not ‘Deer Cull Off – For Now’

If you are not yet sufficiently confused as to if/when a cull will take place and whether or not the tree scheme has the funding and business community support, someone else at the City has further muddied the waters.

A councillor has been told by yet another anonymous person that no cull will start until after the trees are planted, and that won’t happen for months.  Of all the oddball anonymous City leaks, this one takes some beating.  This calls for a brief diversion as to what we are actually looking at in terms of deer per tree sapling.

First, the Forestry Commission letter – sent by me to both the Press & Journal months ago, says the previous planting which cost the taxpayer £43,800 failed due to deer browing and weeds.  Yes, and weeds.  Somehow, the city and the P&J only mention the deer as being the cause of failure.  Weeding 89,000 trees sounds like quite a job to me – I do hope they have it all planned out.

The Evening Express do write:

“And the council had to hand over £43,831 paid out by Forestry commission Scotland after it failed to protect the trees in Tullos”

But other news reports seem to pin the entire failure of the previous planting on the deer alone.

The press inaccuracies go on and on.  For instance, ‘hundreds’ signed petitions according to the Evening Express.  The figure I supplied and can document is 2,400+, (not counting community councils which represent thousands more).

Speaking of community councils, one of our city rangers has put it about that the community councils are favouring the planting and the cull.  He surely must know this is inaccurate.  I will be seeking an immediate explanation and if necessary a retraction from him and an explanation – that’s if some of the community councils don’t beat me to it.  I have read many of the community council letters of protest to the city:  the community councils are not happy.

The press make little mention of how the deer cull was planned in November but left out of the phase 2 consultation (which in its mention of rabbit management made everyone I’ve spoken with assume rabbits were the only obstacle.  Why on earth mention rabbit fencing when you are planning to shoot deer – if not to get your consultation to sail past the public?).

If the City and the mainstream press wonder why people do not trust them to deliver facts about the cull now, they need look no further than this first initial manipulation.

The new maths

I pointed out the absurdity of the City’s need to cull the deer many times, including the initial plan for 40,000 trees.  This would have had the 29 deer all chomping some 1,379 tree saplings.  But the tree figure suddenly grew (no pun intended) to Ms Watt’s claim of some 89,000 trees.

This makes our tiny deer (which live 6-7 years on average) eating 3,068 trees each.  But the Council plan to kill some 9 deer this season (unless they have changed their collective mind again) – and continue killing for years to come.  Look at the figures again:  20 deer eating 40,000 trees is 2,000 trees per deer.  Those must be hungry deer, but they are as nothing compared to 20 deer eating 89,000 trees:  this calculates to a stag-gering (pun intended) 4,450 trees per deer on Tullos Hill.  Now this is food for thought.

But the press / city leaks don’t’ stop coming.

For some reason, most of the people telling us not to worry about any cull at present are anonymous. When the tree scheme was first announced, politicians and council officials were all very keen to get their names in the news – Aileen Malone said how great everything would be for one example.

If no funding is in place, then the council wasted some serious money on its full colour advertising in the Aberdeen Citizen earlier this month. It was saying how great the tree scheme was. The ad encouraged local schools to help plant trees, and told local businesses to help, implying that the C02 offsetting benefits could help with their C02 targets.

Why would they place this ad and ask for help and sponsorship if they didn’t have funding?

The hunting – or legal hunting – season is not a very long one; this further makes me question assertions that nothing will happen for months.  The initial SNH letter of November 2010 recommends careful ‘handling’ of the public’.  Do you have the feeling we’re being handled – and possibly mis-handled?

Who is telling the truth – the city spokeswoman who said the earliest the killing can start is Saturday 1 October, the City spokesman who indicated there is no funding in place and a cull won’t start soon, the claim that the cull is delayed by two weeks because of lack of funding, or the third anonymous city person who said the killing won’t start until the trees are planted?

I would dearly love to tell you the truth about the financials (have we hired a hunter?  What is the cost of the scheme from start to finish?  Why do some documents say there will be income from trees but other officials deny the same assertion?).  The fact is I asked for this information months ago – only for Valerie Watts to write back asking me to explain what I meant by ‘financials’. (in an email that mysteriously never got to me until I chased it about a month later).  I have looked for the truth and feel as if I have been deliberately misled.

When she finally answers me, I will update the position.

In any event, I would recommend everyone who cares about this issue to start spending as much time walking Tullos Hill as they can – wearing bright clothing obviously.  If you see a hunter, be safe and get away – but please then get in touch with the Aberdeen Voice straight away.

Please read news stories and listen to rumour with care. And please if you have time ask your community council and elected officials exactly what is going on.  I for one would absolutely love to know.

Sep 232011
 

Dave Watt asks Voice readers the question …..

Which one would you let watch your pet deer while you were on holiday?

 

a)   Adolf Hitler – Nationalsozialistiche Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (Above)

b)   Aileen Malone – Liberal Democrat (Opposite)

Sep 222011
 

It’s the debate we weren’t supposed to hear, it seems, and there is suspicion that the full facts were held back from publication to Aberdeen residents. Public opposition to a controversial scheme seems to be growing. With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

Local campaigners, opposed to Aberdeen City Council’s cull of the Tullos Hill roe deer, have placed advertisements in the local press and launched a postcard campaign.

The first advert appeared in Aberdeen’s Evening Express on 7 September, and it appears again in the 21 September issue of Aberdeen Citizen.

Campaigners will also be out in force in Aberdeen city centre this Saturday (24 September).

“The City Council may think they can go ahead with the cull of the roe deer unnoticed,” campaigner Suzanne Kelly said, “but the truth is the opposition is growing daily. People are watching the hill and reporting anything that might indicate a cull.”

A postcard campaign with a strong graphic encourages people to write to Aberdeen City Council Chief Executive, Valerie Watts.

The advertising campaign spells out some of the many reasons why opponents are so fierce in condemning the Council’s plans. These reasons include:

  • The cull was already being planned (as per correspondence in November 2010 between Aberdeen City Council and Scottish Natural Heritage) but was kept out of the Phase 2 public consultation. This consultation mentioned rabbits and therefore gave the impression that these were the only species affected by the massive tree plantation. Current public objections would have been made during the consultation had the public been properly informed that a cull was planned. Many people therefore feel misled by the Council and the scheme’s main proponent, Councillor Aileen Malone.
  • The Scottish SPCA calls the cull ‘abhorrent and absurd’ – to kill animals to protect trees that aren’t even planted and which could go elsewhere, is wrong. They will support culling only for animal welfare reasons
  • The City Council recently had to return £43,800 to the Forestry Commission for a failed planting on Tullos Hill. It certainly seems the Council tried to keep that information under wraps. Taxpayers could spend over £100,000 if further planting goes wrong, according to the Forestry Commission
  • Since the cull was made public, several community councils, representing tens of thousands of local residents, condemned it and complained about the lack of proper consultation. Over 2,400 people locally signed petitions, and hundreds of letters of protest were sent to the Council. Still the Council refuses to back down
  • The Council has turned down or ignored offers from experts including Animal Concern to provide other non-lethal solutions, of which there are many
  • There is already an eco-system on Tullos Hill which includes flora and fauna; changing it makes no sense

A hunter in camouflage gear with a gun on Tullos Hill was reported to police by a dog-walker on 5 September, but the police are neither confirming the report nor supplying any further information at present.

Earlier this month, the City Council mentioned the tree planting scheme, but not the deer cull, in a full colour, four page Aberdeen Citizen supplement touting its environmental credentials.  Campaigners against the cull have not yet been able to find out the cost to the public of this supplement.

Anyone opposed to this cull or who wants further information can contact: www.tullosdeer@yahoo.co.uk

“The response the advertisement received when first launched was overwhelming; the email inbox is overflowing with people – 100% of whom oppose the Council’s plans and the handling of the whole affair. I do hope that commonsense will prevail and this scheme will be altered to spare the deer. With a previous planting on the hill already costing the taxpayer £43,800 – the City must come up with a better plan and halt this senseless cull,” said Kelly.

The cull could begin in October this year; it is likely that the killing would continue for several years.