Jul 262012
 

Reforestation could benefit Scotland’s economy by boosting wildlife tourism, claims conservation charity Trees for Life, which has announced ambitious plans to double its current rate of restoration work in Scotland’s Caledonian forest. This will see the establishment of one million more trees within five years, through planting and natural regeneration. With thanks to Richard Bunting.

The charity, which aims to restore the Caledonian Forest to an area of over 2500 square km in the Scottish Highlands, has launched its Million More Trees campaign in a response to deforestation, climate change and biodiversity loss.

But their ambitions could also bring significant benefits to Scotland’s economy by boosting wildlife tourism.

Alan Watson Featherstone, the charity’s Executive Director, explains,

“Establishing a million new native trees in the next five years represents a significant scaling up of our work. We have set ourselves this challenge as a response to the threats posed by environmental degradation globally, and human-induced climate change.

“At the same time, it is part of a positive vision of re-establishing world-class wild landscapes rich in wildlife in Scotland. The Highlands in particular, with a lot of empty land and a low population density, is a perfect region for tree planting.

“With wildlife tourism already generating an estimated £276m a year for the Scottish economy, it’s clear that restoring the Caledonian forest and its unique wildlife to an inspiring, spectacular wilderness region of a thousand square miles, could have significant economic as well as environmental benefits for the country.” 

In a report published this month, Tourism Intelligence Scotland estimated that every year over a million visits are made to Scotland to view wildlife. Launching the report, Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said that 58% of visitors to Scotland cite scenery and landscape as the main reason for choosing our country as a holiday destination.

Trees for Life’s plans for the next year include significant planting of native trees on its Dundreggan estate near Loch Ness, a natural regeneration project in a Caledonian forest remnant in Glen Strathfarrar, and undertaking work to protect regenerating aspens and the planting of new aspen seedlings at Scatwell, north of Inverness.

Since 1989, the charity has created 4000 hectares of new Caledonian forest, and has worked at 45 different locations. A complex web of life is already renewing itself in these emerging forests. Habitat restoration is making a notable impact on wildlife such as strawberry spiders, wood ants, red squirrels, rare sawflies, ospreys and capercaillies.

Since planting its first trees in 1991 in Glen Affric, Trees for Life has planted over one million trees, the major milestone being reached in May 2012 when acclaimed wildlife cameraman and BBC filmmaker Gordon Buchanan planted that one millionth tree. In this time, the charity has won awards including the 1991 UK Conservation Project of the Year, the Millennium Marque in 2000 and Top 10 Conservation Holidays worldwide in 2009.

The first tree of the Million More Trees campaign was planted at Dundreggan by the Highland naturalist, author and presenter, Roy Dennis, Trees for Life patron.

Readers can support Trees for Life by funding dedicated trees and groves, and it offers Conservation Holiday Weeks to allow people to gain practical conservation experience in beautiful locations.

More Info – www.treesforlife.org.uk
Tel. 0845 458 3505.

Image credit:  TREE OVER SUN © Egidijus Mika | Dreamstime.com

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Mar 302012
 

By Bob Smith.

On mither earth faar we div bide
Thingies noo are fair on the slide
On iss sphere in the universe
The gweed life noo is in reverse

Flora an fauna are aa in decline
As the human race dis undermine
The basics fer the warld’s survival
Yet maist fowk’s brains are in denial

We build an drill an pull oot trees
The polar regions nae langer freeze
The kwintraside noo aa tar scarred
As motorin groups they lobby hard

Mair an mair hooses biggit near toons
Coverin fertile fields we kent as loons
Rape an winter wheat full fairmer’s parks
Nae placies left fer the peesies or larks

Aathing noo maun be neat an tidy
In winter time things canna be slidie
If sna faas doon at the rate o faist
It’s look’t upon as bein a bliddy pest

Yet sna we need ti fill lochs an rivers
It melts in the hills an rins doon in slivers
So we can aa drink a draught o H20
The watter levels shudna be ower low

We cut doon rainforests so cattle can graze
Or palm ile is socht ti mak soap fer yer face
An fowk faa hiv bade in thae forests fer ‘ears
Throwen oot o their hames bi firms’ owerseers

Mither Earth provides us wi aa wi need
Sustainable? Aye bit nae fin there’s greed
We maun use less of fit Mither Earth dis gie
Some fowk in oor warld iss they canna see

I hiv some hope Mither Earth wull survive
As the younger fowk weel they div strive
Ti gither an protest aboot fit’s aa gyann on
Mither Earth micht yet see a brand new dawn.

.

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© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie”2012

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Image Credits:
GRASSHOPPERS © Steffen Foerster | Dreamstime.com 
PLANET EARTH © Foto_jem | Dreamstime.com

Jan 272012
 

Dave Watt writes: A recent study revealed that the US Navy is known to have experienced at least 380 major nuclear weapons incidents, but the details are not known, as most of these occurred at sea.  The following story is based on an imaginary event with a British nuclear submarine close to land. The sequence and severity of the event was produced by a random number generator, although the post event weather came from the Meteoprog weather archive.

Background

“In 40 years we have never had an accident”  Commander Eric Thompson, Faslane 2009

“MOD admits to 16 nuclear submarine crashes”  Sunday Herald, 7 Nov 2010

“We will always get advanced warning if something was to go wrong”  Alan Moore, MOD spokesperson

30th April 1992. MOD fails to inform Plymouth Council of a serious fire on a nuclear submarine in the port. “It was a bureaucratic mess up”.  Captain David Hall, Chief Staff Officer (Nuclear) at Devonport

Potassium iodate tablets, for use in the prevention of thyroid cancer in the event of radiation leaks have been issued to 17 schools and 17,500 households around Devonport. No potassium iodate tablets have been issued to any schools or households around Faslane.

“I should imagine that two or three independent Highland companies might be of use; they are hardy, intrepid, accustomed to a rough country, and it will be no great mischief if they fall”  General James Wolfe (1727-1759)

Detailed reports on nuclear submarine accidents are routinely destroyed after only 10 years. “This may explain why they keep repeating the same mistakes”  John Ainslie, Scottish CND

While the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl was in progress, rainfall in Govan, Glasgow was found to have a radioactive content.

Monday January 2012: Faslane Submarine Base, Holy Loch, Scotland.

2:16pm It is a dull and overcast winter day over the grey waters of the loch. HMS Astute, Royal Navy Vanguard Class Nuclear submarine, is beside the quay after a six-week voyage.

Stores are being loaded on board the vessel and test runs of the engine and electronic systems are underway. Submarine support vessel HMS Forth is also preparing to land alongside the quay and is reverse-manoeuvring beside HMS Astute.

Approximately 2:17pm HMS Forth appears to encounter some control difficulties as her turn towards the jetty has her stern facing the rear of HMS Astute’s hull at an acute angle. A furious spray of foam and gushing water came from under HMS Forth’s counter and she suddenly speeds up in the last few seconds heading straight for Astute. Her ship’s siren alarm blares a loud warning and is still blaring as her stern crashes into Astute’s pressure hull driving it into the jetty, crushing plates and fracturing welds as Forth‘s rudder is mangled while her thrashing screws bite into the Astute’s hull. The scream of wrenched and tearing metal overcomes even the howling siren. The day has started to go horribly wrong.

2:19pm. By the time personnel from the nearby administrative buildings have reached the quayside and a rescue launch has arrived at the scene of the incident, it is obvious to onlookers that both vessels are severely damaged. Astute is settling visibly by the stern.

2:21pm There is a small explosion within HMS Astute’s hull and smoke is now coming out of the rear deck hatches.

2:24pm The base rescue services can be heard in the distance and the base’s general alarm joins Astute’s alarm and HMS Forth’s wailing siren.

2:29pm The seriousness of the event becomes even more apparent as the crew of Astute can be seen hurriedly evacuating the boat whilst base rescue crews are donning full Nuclear Biological Chemical (NBC) kits with respirators. Several figures on stretchers are carried from the sub’s forward hatches by the NBC-suited figures and smoke is now issuing from the conning tower. Firefighting and rescue personnel disappear into the hull of the sub and after a few moments Astute’s alarm stops. HMS Forth’s crew are being evacuated by the rescue launch and her own boats as her siren is also switched off. With the sudden deadening of the two ship’s sirens and only the distant whoop of the base alarm, it seems to onlookers that the situation has begun to stabilise. Fire and rescue crews disappear and reappear from the hull of Astute although the smoke remains as thick as before.

2:43pm The assumption that the situation has stabilised is found to be very optimistic as there is another crashing sound on board and the stern of Astute is seen to lurch, then settle further into the water. The hull is now lying at something like 15-20 degrees from the horizontal.

2:46pm Firefighter and rescue control are shouting to the crews on the sub and there is a movement of figures out from the rear hatches in Astute. A rescue Land Rover on the jetty speeds off towards the centre of the base. A few minutes later, the base general alarm stops and there is a sudden quiet broken only by shouts from the fire and rescue teams emerging from the forward and conning tower hatches.  A firefighter rushes towards a rear hatch, but a gout of flame from it drives him back. He tries to get to the hatch several times, but each time the smoke and flames force him back to the conning tower.

2:54pm The comparative silence of the last few moments is suddenly broken by a new sound coming from the base centre – a loud, ululating howl that very few have ever heard before and then only as an exercise simulation. It is the base evacuation warning. It is joined by several loudspeaker vehicles driving around the base advising that this is not a drill and that the base must be evacuated at once. Ships and small craft immediately start to get steam up preparing to leave the base.

3:02pm A general warning of a possible radiation leak is issued to towns surrounding the base, but it is a national holiday and responsible authorities are difficult to contact.

3:08pm Police units at Helensburgh, Greenock, Rhu, Cove and Kilcreggan are advised of a possible emergency whilst hospital and rescue services at Port Glasgow further up the Clyde are also alerted. At this point, all radio contact with rescue and firefighting crews still on board is lost. It is believed that the angle of the submarine’s hull increased further and fractures in the coolant pipes resulted in a wave of heat and radiation pouring up the length of the hull towards the bows from the out of control main engine.

3:17pm From subsequent conflicting testimonies of onlookers on the Mambeg Hill overlooking the base, it was stated there were either four or five minor explosions within the central hull of the now half submerged Astute. However many explosions were actually heard, the result is to prove only too disastrous. Several caps from the mid hull silos blow open and a gout of flame issues from one, whilst three Trident II missiles are launched into the air from three of the others.

The first flies erratically into the air for several hundred feet directly south south west at an angle of about 30 degrees and, twisting in flight, plunges into the loch about 700 metres away. It lands tail first in the shallows beside the shore and cracks open with a loud crash. There is no fire or explosion.

The second also takes off at around 30 degrees and continues a comparatively straight flight, directly south for around seven kilometres, whereupon the engine flames out and lands on the hillside to the north of Rosneath, with a tremendous explosion as the fuel ignites.

The third shoots into the air to a height of around 600 feet and then seems to stabilise. Unfortunately, it flies directly south south east towards Greenock. As it passes over the shallows of the estuary before the town, a close observer flying alongside would probably be dismayed to see the decoy missile deploy from its pod, flare suddenly and start to turn west away from the track of the onrushing Trident II.

This would, however, probably be the last thing the close observer would have seen, as at 3:17:43pm, the one kiloton warhead ignites, incinerating the decoy drone and exploding 600 feet above the main stand at Greenock’s Cappielow Park, where an SFL First Division game is in progress between the local club Morton and rivals Ayr United.

This is the third nuclear weapon in the world’s history to explode over an occupied town or city. 

In Greenock, it is the day after New Year and for some of the people it’s a chance to spend some money at the January sales. For a great many, however, the death of the once-famous Scottish shipbuilding industry on the Clyde and the generation of poverty that follows, means that their participation in the sales is mainly as onlookers. January 2 is also traditionally a day in Scotland for visiting friends and relations to celebrate the New Year. For some, the tradition is the New Year derby match and just over 1900 people are attending Cappielow as the Trident II goes off over the main stand.

Immediate impact

The 2010 census rates the population of Greenock as 43,495 citizens.

An area of complete destruction on the ground covers about 200 metres around the ignition point.

There are no survivors within this area. Around 3000 people are instantly vaporised by the fireball which is seen from the centre of Glasgow, roughly thirty miles to the east.

In a larger area, covering about a mile, with a population of around 7000 people, from Ground Zero, casualties range from almost 100% to around 50%.

Of these casualties a combination of wounds and burns runs at 5%.

Wounds and irradiation are suffered by another 5%.

Wounds individually account for 5%.

Burns individually account for 5%.

A combination of burns, wounds and irradiation covers a further 20%.

A combination of burns and irradiation accounts for 40%.

The remaining 20% are irradiated.

The first plus point of the tragedy is that both local hospitals, Inverclyde and Ravenscraig, are outwith the immediate blast area, although both have taken some structural damage. However, the Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) from the blast has stopped all electrical activity, which effectively means that both hospitals are going to have to try to deal with a huge and varied casualty list with facilities basically at Victorian medical levels.

There are also no moving vehicles or telephone communications within the EMP area, and people who would otherwise have survived will succumb to their wounds in the interim period. Roads will be blocked by rubble as rescue units are mobilised initially from Port Glasgow and Gourock and later from further afield. The housing and street lighting is out in the centre and east of the town and most of the rescue work will have to be done in complete darkness until sunrise at 8:46 the following morning.

In addition, there are thousands of minor blast injuries to people in Greenock and towards Port Glasgow which require treatment. The medical personnel around Glasgow and the Central Belt are about to encounter the kind of dreadful triage choices normally endured in a major war zone.

HMS Astute

On board the submarine, the stay-behind fire fighting crews have mainly been obliterated in the explosion which launched the Trident IIs. Before this however, the fire and rescue teams have been seriously irradiated by the radiation blasting the length of the sub as the nuclear coolant pipes ruptured. Many of these and other base personnel require decontamination and immediate hospitalisation in a situation similar to that following Chernobyl. Unfortunately, unlike the Soviet Union in the Cold War, very few civilian medical establishments around the base, or indeed in Britain, have the training or facilities to deal with decontamination of irradiated and physically-injured patients.

Radiation

Radiation spilling from the sinking submarine, which duly sinks at her moorings just after 4:15 pm, is washed around the loch by successive tides, and into the River Clyde where the current washes it down past Kilgreggan and Dunoon and out to the islands by Rothesay and Millport by Wednesday morning. The entire mouth of the estuary displays dangerously-high radiation readings. Radiation has also spilled from the two Trident IIs which landed in the loch and on the hillside opposite the base. The behaviour of the cloud of irradiated smoke and debris issuing from HMS Astute, the crashed Trident IIs and what is effectively a ground burst at Greenock, is now entirely at the behest of the elements.

Weather post-Z hour.

At the moment of the blast, the wind is blowing from the south west between 7 and 8 mph. This continues until around midnight on 2 January. Helensburgh and Port Glasgow are affected almost immediately by the Greenock radioactive cloud, and casualties are very heavy there as they are in Garelochead, immediately to the north of the now-abandoned Faslane base.

Callander in Perthshire is luckier, as when the spreading radioactive cloud reached there in late evening on 2 January, the town had been almost completely evacuated. Equally luckily at midnight, the wind swings to blow from the south, and by 3am, light rain and sleet fall over the West of Scotland for over four hours reducing the cloud but irradiating ponds, streams and woodlands, whilst the wind shifts still further to blow at 9 mph from the south east for several hours, threatening Oban.

Tuesday 4 January (Z-plus 2)  In the early morning of Tuesday, the wind, gusting and patchy, swings between south west and west yet again over Rannoch Moor and Glen Coe, and the dark streaky cloud up to around 15,000 feet becomes ragged, as the wind swings yet again from the north west to threaten the Central Belt. A light rain fell on the region in late afternoon with the 10 mph north-westerly wind moving to the west in early evening and causing the evacuation of Auchterarder, Gleneagles and Crieff, whilst Perth is on a two hour evacuation warning. Ignoring the reassuring broadcasts on TV and police loudspeaker cars, people in Glasgow are crowding the M8, moving to the east away from the city. As traffic jams build up, people are seen to be hiking along the motorway and abandoned cars add to the congestion. In the early hours of 4 January, the wind continues to carry the cloud to the west at between 7 and 10 mph, although a welcome rainstorm reduces the cloud further.

Wednesday 4 January (Z-plus 3) With the weather forecast stating that the wind is to continue westerly, the populations of Perth, Coupar Angus, Dundee, and latterly Arbroath and St Andrews, are evacuated towards Aberdeen and the Central Belt. This is mostly completed on time as the cloud, although down to about half of the original size, covers most of the Tay valley as heavy rain in the region has washed settling particles into the Tay and out towards the sea. By this time, Aberdeen and Edinburgh are both reporting slight radiation traces in rainfall. Reservoirs along the east coast are being checked hourly for radioactive content.

Thursday 5 January (Z-plus 4) By early morning, the wind has dropped to 3 to 5 mph and the visible frontage of the cloud covering 8-10 miles is blowing offshore from the Dundee- Arbroath-Montrose coastline. By 3am there is light rain turning to sleet and snow for around four hours and the wind speeds upswinging to the north west for the rest of the day, with further light snow by late afternoon pushing the remnants of the cloud further out to sea.

Friday 6 January (Z-plus 5) Today sees the cloud dissipating further, with southerly and south westerly light breezes blowing it down towards the central North Sea where further light rain fell over the late afternoon/early evening.

Saturday 7 January (Z-plus 6) Intermittent rain and sleet and a gusting westerly breeze sees the visible diminishing cloud over the central North Sea. Despite this, the Angus,Fife, Fergus and Rolf platforms are evacuated. Berwick is reporting slight radiation traces in the rainwater.

Sunday 8 January (Z-plus 7) Gusting breezes and intermittent rain at 6 to 10 mph continue to vary between west and north west. Several platforms in the Danish sector of the central North Sea are evacuated.

Monday 9 January (Z-plus 8) Mid-morning -Esbjerg and Ringkobing on the Danish coast are reporting slight radiation traces in rain water.

 

Jan 062012
 

With thanks to Dave Watt.

There have been twenty-three acknowledged serious nuclear accidents to befall the worlds U.S. and Soviet nuclear forces.

There have been 16 crashes involving British nuclear submarines since 1998.

Despite this there appears to be a certain amount of complacency as regards the nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch on the Clyde.

The ex-Armed Forces Minister Dr John Reid said in letters to MPs:

“It is planned that potassium iodate tablets would be distributed before any release of radioactive material had occurred at a time determined by monitoring the condition of the reactor”.

“We will always get advanced warning if something was to go wrong” - Andy Moore MoD

“There has never been an accident involving a nuclear powered submarine reactor which has led to, or come anywhere near leading to, any release of radioactive contamination to the environment” - Dr John Reid, ex-Armed Forces Minister

Aberdeen CND presents :

A Nuclear Incident on the Clyde – 2nd Jan 2012 

At the NEXT ABERDEEN CND MEETING
MONDAY 9th January-  7.30 p.m. 

Belmont Picture House, Belmont St, Aberdeen
in MEETING ROOM ON TOP FLOOR. 

  Image credit © Rhouck | Dreamstime.com

Dec 162011
 

On Wednesday 14th December, Aberdeen College Students Association staged a protest outside the Loch Street entrance of Aberdeen College’s Gallowgate centre  as a fight back against education cuts.  As it stands there will be a reduction of 20% in college budgets in Scotland over the next three years.  Patrick Neville reports.

The damage caused by these reductions will result in catastrophic cut backs that will directly affect colleges. These cuts have a high probability of affecting student financial support, staff jobs and classroom resources and for some colleges may cause course closures and forced mergers. If it is financial support that is affected then students from poorer backgrounds will face another barrier to progress through education and will be segregated from the rest of the students.

College education must be a priority in the budget. Colleges in Scotland serve as a medium for people of all ages and backgrounds to access further education.

With less access to college education, hopes for people to successfully be able to find future employment or develop the skills necessary for their lives are at serious risk.

Lani Baird, President of Aberdeen College Students’ Association, said:

 “The level of cuts the Government are suggesting that colleges should endure is absolutely outrageous. The damage caused by these reductions could result in catastrophic cut backs resulting in a cut to student support, staff jobs and classroom resources. For some colleges these cuts could result in course closures and forced mergers. If there were efficiency savings to be made at Aberdeen College they have been made, if there was fat to be trimmed it’s been done.

“If financial support is affected, the poorest students will be the worst hit and risk becoming alienated from education. When there is less access to college education for our community, the hopes for people to find employment or develop the skills necessary to improve their lives are put at serious risk. This further cutback will have a damaging impact on students in the North East and the Scottish Government need to take their head out of the sand and do something about it.

“We are calling on all North East MSPs to protect our colleges and the future of thousands of students. Colleges in Scotland serve as a medium for people of all ages to access education that helps enable them to work. MSPs must make protecting college education a priority in the budget.”

The National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland has begun spearheading a campaign on the matter titled “Our Future Our Fight” which is open to the Scottish public to participate in. A petition has been set up at http://www.ourfutureourfight.org/ which enables Scottish residents to sign their name in support of protecting college education. By signing the petition, a letter will be sent out on the senders behalf to their regional MP’s and MSP’s with additional room to add your own comments on the matter.

Please note that if you sign the petition, you should expect to receive an email back from your representatives.

Nov 172011
 

Bucksburn in Bloom was born because we wanted to brighten up our neighbourhood with floral displays and to try and make it a brighter place to live. Drew Levy,  President of Bucksburn in Bloom writes.

For a good many years I as an individual had entered into Aberdeen in Bloom and after 6 years of effort in 2011 our garden was awarded 1st prize.
However back in 2007 we were asked what we could do with our street.

To start with I suggested we could get some brackets on the lamp-posts and have two hanging baskets on each lamp-post, then as well as making our own planters we also looked into asking the council if we could have 4 planters as well.

Since 2007 we have added different things to our area and it was one of these improvements, at the entrance to our  our street,  after seeing an article for “Britain’s Best Flowerbed Photo Competition” in a Beautiful Scotland & the RHS News Letter, that we decided to enter into the competition.

At around this same time we were making improvements with floral displays to Bucksburn and also choosing a name and so: Bucksburn in Bloom was born.

Back to the photo competition, we decided to send in the photos of our flowerbed and the entry letter to go with it. We did not expect to win anything, and when you consider that the competition was across the whole of the UK and we are just a new group, you can imagine our surprise when a couple of months later we had been awarded 2nd Prize in our class.

There was more to come, as a result of the prize we were given a 7mtr x 4mtr flowerbed at the North of England’s largest show – The RHS Tatton Park Flower Show in 2009, similar to the Chelsea Flower Show in London .

Once the shock and surprise had eased off we set about designing the flowerbed with all the plants and landscaping. We submitted our design which was a floral oilrig, themed “Scotland’s Homecoming”. In July we packed up all the plants and accessories and we were off to Manchester to take part in our first RHS show.

We had three days to build the flowerbed and on the Wednesday it was judged. We were awarded an RHS Merit, the first they have ever given and we were very proud of it especially as we were up against 26 local council’s in the same category. On the Wednesday after judging the show was opened to 90,000 visitors until the Sunday. We were not just representing Bucksburn but Aberdeen and the North of Scotland and as such we were proud to be dressed in our national costume- the full kilt outfit.

Another great surprise was when we were asked to come back next year in 2010. When asked what our theme would be, we decided that we were going to look into doing a flowerbed around the Highland Coo (cow) complete with its long horns.

Well, in 2010 our entry was accepted and in July  we collected “Gracie” – the coo from the Loch Katrine Centre & headed off to Tatton Park flower show.
We drove all through the night to get there for the Friday morning.

We had incorporated not just the coo, but a block of local Kemnay granite into our bed , which our Lord Provost Mr Peter Stephen had chosen the design of a thistle to be carved into its 4 sides.

Much to our delight and all our hard work this flowerbed was awarded an RHS Bronze Medal!

Sadly, we could not go this year (2011) due to my very bad health, but we have used this time to our advantage. The Tatton Park Show Manager phoned me to say that I had to get well for next year as Bucksburn in Bloom is part of the Tatton Park Family now and we have our place for 2012. We have designed our next flowerbed in the form of a flower canoe and paddles entitled “2012 Paddling to Success “.

If anyone would like to visit our web site you will see not only the first and second flower beds, but also our work around Bucksburn and  you will also see our design for the 2012 show when it goes onto the site in a few weeks time.

We bring all our plants back to Bucksburn & plant them around the area. The granite pillar used in the “coo” flowerbed was presented to the Lord Provost who accepted it on behalf of the people of Aberdeen. It has been placed in the floral courtyard at the Winter Gardens in Duthie Park for all to see.

Our flowerbed and Bucksburn in Bloom were featured live on TV at the time on Gardeners World Live

We feel the floral work that we are doing is going some way in not only  helping the area look nicer but in hopefully bringing people together and I can think of no better way than community gardening. You are out in the fresh air, you are improving your environment and everyone young and old can always learn about gardening.

At 59 and with my years of gardening experience I am still learning all the time and it is good that as you grow older you can pass on your skills to the younger up and coming gardeners.

Our entries to the show are all paid for by sponsors and donations, which allows us to represent Bucksburn and Aberdeen at the RHS Tatton Park show. Our flowerbed and Bucksburn in Bloom were featured live on TV at the time on Gardeners World Live.

We always need sponsorship & donations to help us represent the area. Anyone wishing to make a donation or sponsor our flowerbed entries or even wishing to become a volunteer or just wanting to look us up on our web site,  the details are as follows:
http://www.bucksburninbloom.btck.co.uk

On a final note; one of next biggest projects and working alongside Bucksburn and Newhills Community Council is to try and turn an old school playing field into Scotland’s and Aberdeen’s first solar powered, totally green Community Park for the people & visitors to Bucksburn.  We will be needing volunteers to help with the project for the 5 years it will take to build it.

Whether you are young or old always enjoy your gardening.

Nov 112011
 

By Bob Smith.

A’ve waakit up ower Bennachie
Fae Mither Tap hae seen the view
A’ve suntered up the Brimmond Hill
In rain an fin skies war blue

A’ve dannered in bonnie kwintraside
Strode on a Schiehallion ridge
A’ve wannered throwe the Lairig Ghru
Fae Linn o Dee ti Coylumbridge

A’ve climmed up throwe the boulders
Ti win ti the tap o Lochnagar
A’ve aye been affa lucky
Fae the tap a’ve seen afar

A’ve rambled fae Loch Muick
Ti Glen Clova past Glendoll
A’ve dauchled near the Grey Mare’s Tail
Ti see the watterfall

A’ve gin throwe glens an valleys
Each his its ain beauty
A’ve stravaiged aa ower Perthshire
Near Loch Tay at Achnafree

A’ve traversed the slopes o Cloch-na-ben
An seen boulders as big’s ma hoose
The only thing a hinna seen yet
Is the kwintraside aroon Glen Luce

A’ve been on the tap o Peter’s Hill
Fin ye cwidna see fer fog
A’ve been on waaks fit war easy
An some they war a fair slog

Throwe the glen o the River Tanar
A’ve cam ti the slopes o Mount Keen
The walk ti git ti the boddom
Fair keeps ye baith fit an lean

The win his blawn throwe ma hair
The rain his made ma weet
A enjoyed every meenit o’it
Tho noo an agin a hid sair feet.

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie”
Image credit:  © Maxim Tupikov | Dreamstime.com

Sep 232011
 

Old Susannah looks back at the week that was. By Suzanne Kelly.

Old Susannah is enjoying a glass of ‘Hello… my name is Ingrid’ (a beautiful brew made with cloudberry) at Brewdog, and is reflecting on another busy week in the Deen.
There was the Periurban conference for one thing. This was announced last minute on the City’s website.
It was an international conference on how cities deal with land on the fringes of the urban areas. I guess people from around the world came to see how wonderfully Aberdeen treats Union Terrace Gardens, Tullos Hill, green space at Westhill and Cove, and Loirston Loch.

The two-day conference was opened by the pioneering champion of all things green: Kate Dean.

I sent in an application, and then found myself invited to the second day’s events. For some reason it seemed they didn’t want me on the first day. I heard lots of important speakers, most of whom said urban sprawl is a problem, and we must all use less resources and re-use what we can. Someone even said ‘planting trees is not a solution’ – Cllr HoMalone please take note.

We heard about city centres emptying out if there is too much urban sprawl, with shops closing and crime and social deprivation becoming a problem. I was just surprised no one from Aberdeen explained how our ‘improving’ Union Terrace Gardens into a car park, ‘cosmopolitan cafe’, the hoped-for monorail and building in the greenbelt were going to save the day. I would have loved to have heard it. 

One City Council official kept turning around in their seat to look at me; for some reason they almost looked worried I was there. Could it have been the ‘Save the Tullos Deer’ t-shirt I wore under my suit jacket?

Someone was there from a local green charity, and somehow I brought up the deer cull situation (my t-shirt might have helped). The person had no idea why the Scottish SPCA was against the cull and what the other issues were. I happily explained.

Elsewhere in the Deen, someone has decided to leave a cat in a wheelie bin. Perhaps they want as much media attention as the woman from Coventry got? You may remember Mary Bale who cruelly left a cat in a bin for hours on end and was caught out. Let’s see if we can’t find the Aberdeen copycat cat botherer and do for them what the press did for Bale.

It would likewise be a shame if shamed Banff Brothers David and Colin Reid of 22 Boyndie Street West, Banff, got any bad press for their dogfighting activity conviction and jail sentences.

This is the Scottish SPCA’s first major dogfighting conviction in Aberdeenshire (where officials denied there was a problem, you may recall), and it is cause for celebration.  The Reids must know something about other dog fighters – let’s hope they roll over.  Thankfully, some of the dogs they were abusing have been rescued.

But anyway, here I am in Brewdog wondering what to write about this week.

I am looking at a recent Press & Journal headline which screams in giant letters: ‘IS THIS THE MOST HATED MAN IN SCOTLAND?‘ As I am always happy to follow where the P&J leads, so let’s skip definitions this week and take a look at the most hated man in Scotland instead. 

Imagine one man using the legal system to the maximum for his own self-interested ends. Imagine him standing alone, unwilling to listen to the thousands of people who want him to abandon the battle.

Imagine for a minute how much taxpayer money and court time he is willing to use up.

Yes, Mr Milne may well be the most hated man in Scotland. For openers there is the legal battle which he’s taking all the way to the highest court in the UK. For those who don’t know, Milne bought land from the City Council – 11 acres in Westhill – for some £335,000. (By the way, who do the rest of us have to know to get deals like that? Jane – can you help?). The land is worth millions.

Apparently Milne agreed with the City to pay a portion of any sale/rental profit to the City. In a really sharp, not at all transparent move, the land was sold from one arm of the vast Milne empire to another Milne company. As you’d expect, such a deal cost over £500,000 to do. Or so Milne claims when his companies say there was no profit left after the sale.  Seems pretty clear to me.

Yes, Milne is appealing (but not to most of us).

You’d have thought that our very generous Council wouldn’t go bothering Stew for a mere 1.7 million pounds (goodness knows the City can waste that much with ease), but it seems the City will be trying to claw back the money.

The courts found in the City’s favour – but Milne would rather drag us on through the legal system and cost the taxpayer more money than shell out.

Yes, Milne is appealing (but not to most of us). Of course if you weigh this against all the associated costs, then there probably won’t be much financial gain. Here’s a clever idea: let’s stop selling our assets at less money than they are worth. Who knows?  We might wind up less than the £50 million in debt we currently are.  But back to Milne.

We come to the subject of the once-beautiful game. Someone’s decided it’s much better to do land deals than try and win matches.

Milne will develop Pittodrie (which could have been rennovated – this has been done elsewhere in the UK) and build in the greenbelt well out of town.  Loirston Loch will be greatly improved by the new stadium. What the remaining wildlife will make of the lack of land, the cars, the additional pollution and inevitable trash is another matter.

I wonder what it’s like to be less popular than the Donald? Will the Dons become the Donalds?

The bottom line is the stadium will glow in the dark (!) and we can have Elton John and Rod Stewart concerts!. (Who cares that two BBC stories this week prove another link between ill health and car exhaust fumes, and Scotland’s wildlife continues to diminish?)

You would have thought that AFC fans would be jumping for joy at the chance to drive/bus/walk to Loirston. Instead, many of them want Milne to jump ship. Things are so desperate that some fans are actively inviting Donald Trump to invest in the club.  Ouch.

I wonder what it’s like to be less popular than the Donald? Will the Dons become the Donalds? Mr Milne might want to stay away from Facebook or AFC fan sites for a wee while, where there is just a hint of dissatisfaction. Such ingratitude – and after all he’s done to us. Sorry – I mean ‘for us’.

Stew’s not very popular in the city centre either. In his proposal for Triple Kirks, he’s promised us more office buildings. Result!

So who’d have thought that putting two glass box buildings next to the Triple Kirk spire (and probably chasing those pesky peregrine falcons away in the process) could make you unpopular? There will be office space – and who wants anything more than more office space?

I’m afraid to say Mr Milne is now as popular with golfers as fox-batterer Forbes would be at an animal rights meeting.

The only problem is parking (not that that is hindering him developing Pittodrie or in creating the stadium – neither has adequate parking in their plans). Where on earth will Stew find any parking solutions close to Triple Kirks? If only there was some empty, under-used space nearby – maybe something that ‘only has grass’ in it. He could have car parking, the offices would go ahead without a hitch, he’d rake in some money.

People would be amazingly grateful: we would get parking, shopping and ‘cosmopolitan cafes’ – where we can sit and drink coffee year round and be, er, cosmopolitan. If only Stew or his pal Ian could think of some solution to the problem, it would mean more money for Milne. There are some people who think the consultation should have been handled by the city with a lengthy consultation, and that the listed status of Triple Kirks carried a bit of weight.  These people were of course wrong.

And let’s face it: Milne could be low on cash.  Am I alone in thinking he’s short?  He’s chasing a mere 1.7 million through the courts (when he’s supposedly worth about 60 million). He’s about to lay off workers up and down Scotland – he says he can’t afford them.

Perhaps he expanded a bit too quickly? Perhaps he thought new building would continue for ever? Well – with our City Council it just might.

It seems a little ironic that the City is giving Milne contracts (some recent ones total over ten million) while he is both dragging the city through the courts and firing Aberdonians in the building trade. But the people who are in charge know best. 

For reasons of space, I’ll limit this to just one more aspect of the man’s popularity. I’m afraid to say Mr Milne is now as popular with golfers as fox-batterer Forbes would be at an animal rights meeting. It seems that the Portlethen community council and those who use Portlethen Golf Club are up in arms over Milne’s plans to build 153 houses so close to the course that there may be a few problems. Safe to say, people are teed off.

There you have it. The Press & Journal had their own front-page suggestion for ‘the most hated man in Scotland.’ Some of us have a different candidate for that title.

Last word: City Council employees: stop criticising your wonderful employers and managers on the Intranet. First: they don’t like it and are drafting all kinds of means to stop your free speech. Second: that’s my job. I understand they may participate in a 24-hour ‘tweeting’ session to say what excellent services they’ve got going. You are cordially uninvited to tweet back.

Sep 012011
 

A year and a half ago, Steve Bothwell wrote to express some, shall we say, ‘reservations’ about ACSEF’s master plan and where Aberdeen is heading.  It looks as if he had a point or two. 

February 25, 2010 – ACSEF’s plan belies anything that can be comprehended as ‘essential to the future of Aberdeen and the North East of Scotland’. As Jonathon Meades put it, ‘Aberdeen is good at being bad’ – Polite prose indeed.

The former glory of George St, with high quality retail and high quality architecture/replaced with the now John Lewis building (formerly the Co-Op) – St Nicholas Centre and The Bon Accord Centre, whilst severing the bloodline to the rest of George St, which resembles a down market version of the down-trodden Argyle St in Glasgow.

The old Co-op Building in Loch St/Gallowgate, which with little imagination could have been a gem of high quality boutique-scale retail, instead of Architecturally impotent office/residential blocks.  St Nicholas house dwarfs Provost Skene’s house, one of the oldest and most architecturally significant buildings in the area.

Union Terrace Gardens is not to blame

The Trinity Centre/Trinity Hall, which subsequently moved to an equally, but on a smaller scale, architectural abortion.

The Old Market building (Market Street and the Green) replaced with the New Market building, sporadically raising pointing questions from the public (locals and visitors alike).  Amadeus nightclub on the beach front which offers nothing but bemused and disturbed confusion.

And last but not least, Union Square, which is a glorified retail park with parking. This Architectural abomination will need replaced sooner than we think.

Union Street comes up in conversation with great frequency. For the past 30 years planning and control has become so lax that we are adorned with gratingly luminous patchwork of irregular symmetry. Absentee landlords are never held to task, nor are the lease holders.

Union Terrace Gardens is not to blame.

Most City Councils have made errors, and some cities have corrected them. 

Aberdeen City Council still strive forth to allow the most banal picture painting of a living hell, by destroying everything in its path.
Either they are missing the clues which sit firmly on their own created door step or are suffering a serious bout of doldrumitis. The Civic Square planning and design details do not excite but only represent the pointlessness of it.

The City Council, along with ACSEF and Central Government wholeheartedly supported the Peacock scheme, providing local planning guidance was adhered to. This was to make it blend into the historic park. Peacock’s did that.

We now have a scheme, which in its vagueness, is impossible to get to grips with. From that I mean, it is quite obvious that this charade is nothing to do with enhancing our city for future energy companies to get comfy with, because as we know, energy companies care about nothing but energy riches and not about Urban realm Strategies, and especially about retail connectivity.

ACSEF’s approach to retail connectivity is fed through a brainwashing exercise in which the retail ‘Pillars’ unease at motions of failure result in the bandwagon bursting at the seams with the ‘I’m on board brigade’ ensuring their retail offerings, bland as they be, will not suffer the ever-changing movement or trends of public spending.

Union Terrace Gardens is not to blame.

It is poignant that public money has been frittered away on asking Joe Blogs about ‘an idea’, an idea which still reveals no real detail of the final outcome, whereas Peacocks had it sorted and without the need for car parking. Their enhancing project upset no one, and has not created the furore that the Civic square has.

Union Terrace Gardens are not frequented often. Perhaps the reason for that is, the general public are more interested in other things. Society has gone through radical changes and people have become armchair deficits. They rage vengeance on slopes and stairs, grass and beauty, nature and health.

Union Terrace Gardens is not to blame.

However, Courtesy of Grampian Police, the facts are this: – There is negligible crime in Union Terrace Gardens. The Freedom of Information Act has provided much-needed defence, where Union Terrace Gardens is the safest area in the City Centre.

It’s plain to see that ACSEF have not used Europe as an example of quality city centres but used America and Australia as examples. America and Australia are fairly recent countries but wholeheartedly celebrate their Green Spaces.

Aberdeen City Council’s budget is tight and perhaps tight-lipped. And the Scottish Government should be representing Scotland and its history, which it’s not.

Union Terrace Gardens is not to blame.

Aug 182011
 

Old Susannah looks back at the week that was and wonders who’s up to what and why. By Suzanne Kelly.

The leak’s leaked.  Those nice people at Shell seem to have been economical with the truth about their North Sea oil spill; they say they have been completely open and honest.  However, some half a dozen environmental/animal groups do not think so.

I know whom I am tempted to believe.  I hope Shell can do for us what it has done for Nigeria, farmers in Northern Ireland, etc. etc.  If nothing else, it is good to know Shell has gone into public relations overdrive and is pouring oil on troubled waters.

Back on dry land, it is hard to know where to start doing a round-up of this past week’s events in the ‘Deen and the wider world.  The Road Sense AWPR appeal has failed.  Helpfully, Kate Dean posted on a Facebook discussion thread (you see – she is down with the kids for definite) stating:

“I’m amazed that this topical community hasn’t seen fit to discuss today’s Court of Session ruling on the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route.”

I told our Katie:

“To Ms Dean – nice to see you weighing in. I think you will find this ‘topical community’ and the Aberdeen Voice have historically dealt with both sides of the AWPR story. As the Voice is a weekly publication, no doubt some contributors will send in relevant items for next week’s issue. You would be welcome to write a piece as well”.

Alas!  Kate relied:

“I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to contribute to a publication which habitually refers to me in such a derogatory and insulting fashion”

I tried to explain that my writings are ‘satire’ (well, for the most part). Of course there is not much tradition of important politicians being satirised in Great Britain – well, only since the time of King John, and more recently Hogarth, Spitting Image and Private Eye.   (I would have also replied: “XXXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXXXX”, but I could not figure out how to do redacted text on FB).  Perhaps I just do not know the meaning of the word ‘appropriate’ – time to see what can be learnt from Kate’s examples (see definitions).

Perhaps Kate thinks that is the end of the AWPR matter, and the necessary, environmentally-friendly, economical road will go ahead.  Well, we will see.  PS – my Facebook Home page tells me to suggest friends for Kate.  Any ideas?

And we have another nursing scandal; this time at Woolmanhill.

A nurse has allegedly been over-drugging patients, and gave a person a salt-cellar instead of their inhaler.  We are getting close to a medical scandal a week.  I wonder if all the cutbacks to frontline services might be related to frontline services going down the pan.

Old Susannah’s had a senior moment; I remembered writing about the brilliant designs shortlisted for the gardens, and thought I had done so in a column.  Turns out I had only done so on Facebook.  While trying to find what I did write, I googled my way upon this quotation:

“The gardens have the potential to be transformed in to a popular, attractive and vibrant green space in the heart of the city. The gardens have come under increasing pressure in recent years, with various schemes put forward to raise their level and develop them as a leisure facility. Care must be taken not to over-develop the space and potentially risk losing its essential drama and historical landform”.

- 2007, AberdeenCityCouncil Report

The above was the conclusion the City came to in (yet another expensive) report in 2007.  Since then a few things have changed, and commonsense has prevailed:  the only thing wrong with Aberdeen is that UTG is not vibrant and dynamic.  This is why we are all going broke, crime is shooting up, the independent shops are closing, and the streets are filthy:  it is the gardens – they are not used enough and are in a valley!

We may or may not get a vote on the Gardens’ future – but we have lined up five designers who have form when it comes to doubling and trebling their budgets.  I guess if you want something as beautiful, as functional and elegant as the Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park, it’s going to cost.  Then again, an inflatable Jacuzzi (on sale via ‘Groupon’) would have been as pretty and functional – and costs a few million less.

I’m sure it’s because I didn’t study architecture in great depth, but at first glance I thought the shortlist was the most predictable collection of expensive hacks to ever build boring and unsuitable creations, obviously my mistake.

Still, the Diana Memorial Fountain designer is one of our fine finalists!  I hope you are as excited as I am.  Since I did not go into detail about the talented designers Malcolm Reading has lined up to fix our city’s problems and how much it is likely to cost and since I cannot find my writings on the matter to begin with, (but I did mention some of the references rxpell uses), here is a good article from rxpell that sums things up nicely:
http://rxpell.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/a-look-at-the-city-square-short-leet/

This article will help you decide which of our five finalists to vote for.  If you get a vote.  We do not know for sure, even though HoMalone’s promised us a vote, which would include leaving the gardens as they are.  But this is Aberdeen, and the government’s position changes more often than the weather.

(I would love to say I have been out at nice dinners and working my way through the ever-changing Brewdog menu, but for the time being my doctors have me on lockdown, and am forced to live off rice, tofu and yoghurt drinks.  Somehow this does not really suit me.  Still, I will be back doing the rounds as soon as I can).  But now for some definitions.

Appropriate:

1.  (adjective) fitting, proper, suitable, in accord with acceptable norms.
Am I ever embarrassed by Kate’s telling me that it ‘is not appropriate’ for her to write in the Voice, as we are derogatory about her.  Shame-faced, I asked myself what can I learn from her example of what is appropriate behaviour?  I came up with a few examples.

What is appropriate:

  • To be a supporter of the Cove Rangers, to be the president of its fan club,  have a husband who is a Scottish Football Association referee, and to be administrator of the family plumbing business (Brian J Dean) which sponsors the club – and to endorse plans to build it a new stadium without any qualms or conflict
  • To make comments to the media about how wonderful a new stadium for the Cove Rangers team would be, yet to sit as convener of the Loirston Loch hearing (despite opposition from community councillors) which is tied to Cove Rangers’ future
  • To comment to the Loirston Loch hearing that you attended a meeting where virtually all present voted against the stadium going ahead, but that you were sure a man there wanted to vote in favour of the stadium – but was afraid to (mind-reading is a skill every councillor should have)
  • When implementing swingeing budget cuts (and having thousands of people march against them calling for your resignation) to reply ‘I was elected to do a job and I am going to do it’
  • To accept dozens of tickets to concerts and events at the AECC in a single year, despite guidelines suggesting this might not be ‘appropriate’

Thank you Ms Dean – I will indeed learn much from you, and will continue my studies.

And to whom but Aberdeen’s first citizen should I next turn towards to learn about appropriate behaviour:  Mr Milne has it nailed.  Out of the goodness of his heart, he allowed people to actually comment on his stylish plan for Triple Kirks (the Press & Journal obligingly called the area an ‘eyesore’ in an article.  There goes that bothersome blurring of ‘editorial’ and ‘article’ again, which of course is not appropriate).

Those who did comment on the Triple Kirks plans marvelled at the giant glass boxes (never mind the peregrines).  At least Milne said as much, claiming the majority loved his ground-breaking design.

(Hmm, if only there were some nearby, empty space that could be converted to parking, the scheme would be even easier to approve – if they could come up with some kind of a plan…).  Anyway, those few who objected and left email addresses got a very appropriate follow-up email from a Milne company, which reads along the lines of:

“From: “sales@stewartmilne.com”

“Many thanks for your enquiry. We will forward details and information to you shortly. We’re here to ensure that buying your new home is easy and enjoyable, so if we can help any further, just let us know.   Sell Your Home in 5 Days”

Now if I were a sceptical, cynical person, I would ask myself:  is writing to people who opposed your plans and offering to get them a new home in an ‘easy and enjoyable’ manner something that could be construed as a bribe?  Well, the City says everything is fine, so I guess it is all appropriate.  I have dismissed the idea that offering sales help to people who were against you is at all wrong.

I hope this has cleared up what is appropriate and what is not.

Appropriate:

2. (verb) – to take by deceit or force that which belongs to another.
See: Union Terrace Gardens, City Garden Project, ACSEF, Donald Trump, Compulsory Purchase Orders.

Tradition:

(noun) custom or activity rooted in the past.
People are funny about their traditions.  We are being told by the City Council that painting the Lord  Provost’s portrait – and celebrating the glorious event with an expensive party is OK – as it is tradition.

Foxhunting (no, not with golf clubs and tame foxes, Mr Forbes) was a United Kingdom tradition going back hundreds of years; it was deemed cruel and barbaric, and therefore has been made illegal.  The Catalonia area of Spain has recently given bullfighting the coup de grace –  it is hard to imagine anything more barbaric than bullfighting masquerading as a ‘sport’.

I came under criticism (on Facebook again – I really must stay away from that thing) for saying Spain should consider doing away with bullfighting.  (PS – if you really think the bull has a chance, and there is no prolonged torture or pain, and it is a brave matador that fights a bull with only a cape to protect himself, then think again – PETA will put you right).

Someone said I was showing ignorance of Spanish culture and tradition.  Their point was that tradition was more important than the animal issues. I say “bull”.

The city could not afford to replace broken windows in schools only a few years ago, but wants to shell out on canapés for its elected officials and the usual suspects to celebrate the fact that its Provost is an oil painting.  Too right.  Without these traditions, we would start moving forward.  And the future is uncertain.  It is best to cling to what previous generations did – it is safe (well, maybe).

If we always paid for a portrait, then we had better keep paying for a portrait.  We might have to cut a few services, but let us stick to whatever was the more traditional course of action.  It is important to bear in mind that all traditions are equal in value and all are good.  Perhaps we could bring back ducking witches in the loch?  Yes, to question traditions is to question culture and nationalism – and where would be without nationalism?

In my world, it is the 21st Century.  The whole world is under different pressures than it was when these wonderful traditions came about.  There should be more enlightenment and compassion than brutality and superstition; we have run out of excuses.  But then I turn on the news, and realise that I have got it wrong again.

Old Susannah is now out to catch something for dinner, and possibly bash a few enemies over the head with my wooden club.  Now where did I leave my bow and arrows?

Next week:  hopefully some FOI news, more definitions, and a back-to-school special look at education.