Feb 072017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

Four Scottish youngsters with special needs have received play equipment that will help them build their independence and get out and about in their own communities to socialise and play.
Aberdeen Asset Management granted more than £3,900 to purchase two trikes, a standing frame and a walking frame for youngsters living in the Edinburgh and Aberdeen areas.

The global financial management firm responded to an appeal from Handicapped Children’s Action Group to fund the apparatus, which is not available on the NHS, and at purchase costs averaging £1,000 per  item, is usually cost prohibitive for families to purchase.

The charity receives over 800 referrals a year from health professionals, but only has the funding to help around 180-190 of these cases.

The charity  would love to be able to help every single applicant but with no government funding the charity is dependent on fundraising and the support of organisations like Aberdeen Asset Management to help it provide the much-needed equipment.

Carole Davies from Handicapped Children’s Action Group said:

“A trike gives independence and mobility to a child who has had to rely on an adult for every movement; a walking frame gives a child the ability to get up and walk freely without assistance while a buggy enables a family to take their child into the community without fear of safety issues. Play frames enable a child with autism to play safely and explore in a controlled environment.

“All equipment brings fun, movement, mobility and integration to children all over the country and without the help of people like Aberdeen Asset Management we would be unable to achieve this.”

More than £3,900 was spent on the purchase of two trikes, a standing frame and a walking frame for three children in Edinburgh and one in Aberdeen.

Handicapped Children’s Action Group is a registered charity based in Lincolnshire which assists children and families across the UK. When it started in 1988 it helped about a dozen families a year, but now it helps well over 100 with the purchase of equipment varying in price from £500 to £2,500 per item. Requests come from physiotherapists who recommend that the equipment will help the youngster with day to day living. All the items funded by Aberdeen Asset Management were delivered to families just in time for Christmas.

Euan MacNeish of Aberdeen Asset Management’s Edinburgh charity committee said:

“Equipment provided by Handicapped Children’s Action Group will help give children with special needs the independence and mobility they deserve. Through the support of Aberdeen’s Charitable Committee we hope we are able to give these  children the ability to join in with the activities of children their own age and no longer watch from the side-lines. We are proud to support the local communities in which we operate in this way.”

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Jan 272017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Megan Davies of Maggie’s Centre in Aberdeen welcomes a four-figure donation from Aberdeen Asset Management.

A cancer support centre has received a four figure sum from Aberdeen Asset Management – at a time when an increasing number of people whose lives are affected by cancer are turning to it for help and support.
Since its launch in 2014, Maggie’s Centre in Aberdeen has provided a warm and welcoming space for people with cancer and their families to drop in with around 40 visitors a day walking through its doors to make use of its support services.

More and more people are using the centre’s facilities to help them cope with the challenges they face and last year the total number of visitors rose to 9,149, up by 16% on the previous year.

This figure is forecast to increase again in 2017, demonstrating the continued and growing need for the services it offers.

From the newly diagnosed seeking answers about their treatment plan or lifestyle changes they have to make, to those in remission and struggling with the physical and emotional after effects of cancer, or the bereaved looking for social support and people who understand what they are going through, the centre is there for everyone affected by cancer, at any stage of their journey.

It offers a unique programme of information, practical and emotional support to people affected by cancer through services like psychological counselling, nutrition workshops, advice around benefits and finances, exercise classes, creative writing workshops and networking and support groups.

While every day is different one thing remains the same – the positive impact that Maggie’s Centre has on the lives of those who call in to access support. The centre relies on fundraising and donations like the one given by Aberdeen Asset Management’s Charitable Foundation, to be able to provide a welcome refuge and supportive environment for people who are living with cancer.

Maggie’s Centre fundraising organiser Megan Davies said:

“The generous gift we have received from the Aberdeen Asset Management Charitable Foundation will go towards the running costs of the centre.

“This will make a meaningful, lasting impact upon the lives of people from across Aberdeen who visit their local Maggie’s Centre. This could be a visitor coming into Maggie’s for the first time and having a chat with a cancer support specialist, a visitor having an appointment with our benefits advisor, attending a workshop or popping in for a cup of tea. Every day we provide a wide range of support that directly benefits people with cancer and their friends and family.”

One visitor summed up the benefit of being able to freely call in to Maggie’s Centre, commenting:

“The help and support I gained last week when I dropped into the centre on a very low day, for me, was so valuable. The staff made me feel welcome and normal and helped me to work through some feelings that had surfaced out of the blue.”   

Dominic Kite, representing Aberdeen Asset Management Charities Committee in Aberdeen said:

“Maggie’s Centre is there for everyone affected by cancer, at any stage of their journey. People with cancer and their families and friends can engage with various aspects of its programme and choose from a variety of elements to meet their emotional and practical needs.”

Maggie’s Centre is based near Aberdeen Royal Infirmary but receives no NHS funding. It has professional staff on hand to offer free, practical, emotional and social support of people need – practical advice about benefits and eating well; a place where qualified experts provide emotional support, somewhere to meet other people; a place to simply sit back and enjoy a cup of tea. The Aberdeen centre is one of 19 centres at major NHS cancer hospitals in the UK.

Aberdeen Asset’s Charitable Foundation seeks partnerships with charities around the world, where funds can be seen to have a meaningful and measurable impact and the firm encourages its employees to use their time and skills to support its charitable projects.

The main focus of the Foundation is around emerging markets and local communities, reflecting the desire to give back to those areas which are a key strategic focus of the business and to build on the historic pattern of giving to communities in which Aberdeen employees live and work. For more information visit http://www.aberdeen-asset.co.uk/aam.nsf/foundation/home

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Jan 192017
 

Eileen Wheeler of Sunrise Partnership

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

A charity that helps children come to terms with the loss of a loved one has been delivered a ray of hope from global investment management group, Aberdeen Asset Management.

Sunrise Partnership will be able to provide almost 60 specialist sessions for children and young people up to the age of 18 living in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire whose lives have been affected by loss and bereavement, after receiving a four-figure donation from Aberdeen Asset Management.

The sessions allow youngsters to learn coping strategies tailored to them that help prepare them for the future.

The free and confidential support continues for as long as is needed, with referrals coming from schools, health and social work departments, third sector organisations and self-referrals too.

For younger children, using tools like puppets, books, arts and crafts and worksheets can be helpful in breaking down barriers to make easier for them to express feelings and emotions. There’s no limit to the amount of support provided and it’s not unusual for children to revisit them months or even a couple of years later as they get older and may have a different understanding of their grief.

Eileen Wheeler, manager of Sunrise Partnership, explained that loss is not always a bereavement; support is also provided for children in kinship whose natural parents may not be able to care for them.

Eileen said:

“Every case is treated individually and sessions are tailor made for the child. There is no complicated referral process or forms to fill in. We are just a telephone call or an email away from anyone who may need us.”

The bulk of the charity’s work has been in Aberdeen City, but it has also supported children in Peterhead, Aboyne, Banchory, Inverurie, Kemnay and Kintore, travelling to children and families to ensure services are accessible to all.

The charity has been providing its specialist one-to-one, sibling, family or group sessions in City and Shire since its formation  in 2014, and last year received 52 new referrals.

Dominic Kite of Aberdeen Asset Management’s Aberdeen charity committee said:

“Sunrise Partnership seeks to provide the best possible support for children and young people through its specialist sessions, allowing them to achieve their true potential despite a significant loss or bereavement in their lives. To be able to help such an inspirational charity, and young people, in the city where our company was founded is very important to us.”

Sunrise Partnership can be contacted on  07827 755735 or by emailing: support@sunrisepartnership.org

Aberdeen Asset’s Charitable Foundation seeks partnerships with smaller charities around the world, where funds can be seen to have a meaningful and measurable impact and the firm encourages its employees to use their time and skills to support its charitable projects.

The main focus of the Foundation is around emerging markets and local communities, reflecting the desire to give back to those areas which are a key strategic focus of the business and to build on the historic pattern of giving to communities in which Aberdeen employees live and work.

For more information visit http://www.aberdeen-asset.co.uk/aam.nsf/foundation/home

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Dec 232016
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Aberdeen Asset Management’s apprentice fundraisers, from left, Hannah Booth, Raegan McBain, Sam McGrath, Rachel Adam and Harry Rothnie.

Christmas has come early for Aberdeen Cyrenians which has taken delivery of a bumper £14,000 donation raised by apprentices from Aberdeen Asset Management.
More than half of the total came from a single mission – when apprentices were joined by  colleagues and spent a chilly night sleeping outdoors in Aberdeen, an experience that drove home the relevance and need to support those for whom homelessness and sleeping rough is a daily reality.

The five apprentices – Hannah Booth, Rachel Adam, Raegan McBain, Harry Rothnie and Sam McGrath –  have been praised for putting heart and soul into the charity challenge and making the donation at the time when demand for services is at its peak.

Scott Baxter, Depute Chief Executive for Aberdeen Cyrenians,  said:

“We are all absolutely delighted at how well the Aberdeen Asset Management  apprentices have done and with their energy, motivation and commitment they have raised an incredible amount of money.

“This money  will go directly to our Drop In service at a time when there is the highest level of need. We’ve developed a great friendship which we hope will continue in the future as these young people move into the professional world.”

The apprentices were challenged by their employees to raise £10,000 in six weeks for the Cyrenians and could turn to colleague Sophie Ewen, who was recently named apprentice ambassador of the year at the 2016 Scottish Apprenticeship Awards, for advice and assistance throughout. 

They planned and organised a whole host of money-raising efforts and in addition to the sleepout, they held a bingo night and raffle, race night, auction, cake sale, and sold bacon rolls to office staff on Friday mornings. They smashed their target after just  four weeks and were so committed to the cause that they gave up a considerable amount of their personal time to planning and staging events.

Apprentice Hannah Booth, part of the fundraising team, said:

“It was quite daunting being faced with the challenge of raising £10,000 but right from the start we gained wonderful support  from colleagues and many of them joined us on the Sleepout, or sponsored us to take part, which was just great.

“We feel that taking part in this challenge has brought us closer together and we’ve really bonded from having spent so much time in each other’s company through organising and holding our events. We’re all really proud to have been able to raise so much money for Aberdeen Cyrenians which does great work to support the homeless, rough sleepers and people who experience hardship in the North-east of Scotland.”

Aberdeen Asset Management has an established apprenticeship programme for school leavers which has been running since 2012. The programme runs for 12-24 months and is designed to help apprentices learn about the organisation, meet the people involved and help them decide which area of the business to begin their career in.

Apprentices are challenged to work together for community projects, in this case for Aberdeen Cyrenians, which has its headquarters close to Aberdeen Asset Management’s Union Plaza office and has supported homeless people in the city for over 45 years.

Aberdeen Cyrenians seeks to meet the needs of people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or are affected by severe hardship in any way. The charity listens to their difficulties, understand needs, share burdens, provide professional support and strive to identify solutions. More information can also be found online at www.aberdeen-cyrenians.org

Since 1968 Aberdeen Cyrenians has provided a range of services to homeless people, rough sleepers and those who experience hardship in the North East of Scotland.

Today these cover residential services, a Violence Against Women project, a Domestic Abuse Support & Accommodation Project, an Advice and Information Service which offers nine drop-in sessions each week, and Street Alternatives where hot meals, personal care, showers, clothing and laundry facilities are provided.

For more information visit http://www.aberdeen-asset.co.uk/aam.nsf/foundation/home

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Nov 102016
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

sleepout2016

Aberdeen Asset Management staff sleep rough to help raise over £10,000

More than 30 staff from Aberdeen Asset Management who swapped their home comforts for a night exposed to the elements have helped young apprenticeship colleagues smash a £10,000 fundraising target.

Just four weeks into their six week money raising mission and the five-strong team of apprentices have already gathered a total of £10,350 for Aberdeen Cyrenians.

The bulk of the cash came from sponsorship when the apprentices persuaded colleagues to join them sleeping rough in Aberdeen.

Dressed in cosy clothes, including hats, gloves and scarves and armed with sturdy sleeping bags, 33 Aberdeen Asset Management employees took part in Aberdeen Cyrenians Sleepout in the car park of Asda at Garthdee, last month. They were given cardboard boxes to use as mats and spent 12 hours outdoors on a chilly Aberdeen night.

Collectively, Aberdeen Asset Management’s rough sleepers raised £7,348 but it also brought a sense of reality to what their efforts were for and the reality and discomfort faced by a homeless person on a daily basis.

Apprentice Hannah Booth, part of the fundraising team said:

“We were really pleased  that colleagues from different departments joined us in the Sleepout, and also that so many sponsored us to take part, and it was harder than we expected.

“It felt really cold and there was the added distraction of boy racers driving around the car park and some other Sleepout participants’ snoring.

“We did manage to get some sleep as we were all well wrapped up in cosy clothes, good sleeping bags and in some cases even camping mats but what really hit home was that in the morning we could pack up and go, return to our homes and hot showers, warm meals and comfy beds knowing that our involvement in sleeping outdoors was for a good cause.

“The reality for homeless people is  that they don’t have that choice, and face the uncertainty and discomfort on a daily basis, and not knowing where to go and how to survive another day.”

The apprentices’ charity pot has been added to from the proceeds of them selling bacon rolls to colleagues on a Friday morning, a Great British Bake Off  cake sale, and from the team taking it in turns to pedal a total distance of 125 miles on exercise bikes in their office reception – the distance between their Union Plaza base and the firm’s Edinburgh Princes Street office. More fundraisers are in the pipeline.

Scott Baxter, Depute Chief Executive  for Aberdeen Cyrenians, praised the five apprentices – Hannah Booth, Rachel Adam, Raegan McBain, Harry Rothnie and Sam McGrath –  for admirably rising to their challenge and encouraging others to get involved too.

“We are all absolutely delighted and impressed with the Aberdeen Asset Management  apprentices’ efforts and enthusiasm in reaching their target of £10,000 in such a short space of time. The funds raised will go directly to our Drop In service which is responding to an increase in demand as more and more people find themselves in difficult circumstances.”

Aberdeen Asset Management has an established apprenticeship programme school leavers which has been running since 2012.

The programme runs for 12-24 months and is designed to help apprentices learn about the organisation, meet the people involved and help them decide which area of the business to begin their career in. Appprentices are challenged to work together for community projects, in this case Aberdeen Cyrenains which has its headquarters close to Aberdeen’s Union Plaza office and which has supported homeless people in the city for over 45 years.

Aberdeen Cyrenians aims to meet the needs of people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or are affected by severe hardship in any way. The charity listens to their difficulties, understand needs, share burdens, provide professional support and strive to identify solutions. More information can also be found online at www.aberdeen-cyrenians.org

Since 1968 Aberdeen Cyrenians has provided a range of services to homeless people, rough sleepers and those who experience hardship in the North East of Scotland. Today these cover residential services, a Violence Against Women project, a Domestic Abuse Support & Accommodation Project, an Advice and Information Service which offers nine drop-in sessions each week, and Street Alternatives where hot meals, personal care, showers, clothing and laundry facilities are provided.

For more information visit http://www.aberdeen-asset.co.uk/aam.nsf/foundation/home

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Nov 102016
 

grant-keenan2With thanks to Gemma Setter, PR Account Executive, Frasermedia.

A leading Aberdeenshire organic recycling company is warning local food businesses to comply with Scottish waste legislation or face receiving new on-the-spot fines.
Keenan Recycling, which is headquartered in New Deer, is urging business owners to comply with their duty of care for waste to avoid the £300 fines that have been imposed on non-compliant firms since June this year.

Since 1st January 2016, it has been a legal requirement for all businesses that produce more than 5kg of food waste per week to have food preparation waste, spoiled items and plate waste collected separately for recycling by a registered waste carrier.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has started its fixed monetary penalty (FMP) campaign to identify businesses that are persistently non-compliant with the duty to separate food waste and other key materials for recycling.

Keenan Recycling, which turns food and garden waste into compost for farming and horticultural use, was the first company in Scotland to provide businesses with the opportunity to recycle items such as leftover food and coffee grounds.

The firm is now working alongside organisations such as SEPA, whose FMP campaign targets offices, retailers, restaurants, hotels, bars, cafes and takeaways that are failing to acknowledge and adhere to the regulations.

SEPA is tackling the issue by working in partnership with local authorities to identify persistent non-compliance within organisations across Scotland. Those found to be making no effort to make improvements to their waste management system will face a £300 fixed monetary penalty.

Keenan Recycling provides comprehensive guidance and advice to its customers, ensuring that they are all fully up to date with waste regulation.

Eleanor Strain, senior policy officer for SEPA’s national waste unit, said:

“Since starting the campaign, most offenders are making a conscious effort to train their staff to recycle and secure an improved service from their waste management contractor. The penalty system we’ve introduced is a much more proportionate enforcement tool, and gets the attention of small business owners who may not be aware of the legislation.

“Whilst I appreciate that SMEs have lots of other pressures, it’s important that they are aware of laws which can have a direct impact on their business. It’s simple to remain within the law, make sure that  recycling systems are established and all bins are labelled to avoid mixing food waste, recyclables and non-recyclables.”

Grant Keenan (pictured), managing director of Keenan Recycling, said:

“Companies need to ensure that they have suitable plans in place to keep them in line with the duty to recycle. Disposing of food waste will keep them within the law and also helps the environment.

“Businesses that are struggling to abide by waste legislation need to remember that they may lose their consumer confidence, as customers want to know that businesses are acting responsibly and are helping to look after the environment.”

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Oct 272016
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

sophie-ewen1

Sophie Ewen.

Aberdonian Sophie Ewen (20), who began her career as an apprentice, has been nominated as Apprentice Ambassador of the Year in the 2016 Scottish Apprenticeship Awards.

Sophie, who completed her business and administration modern apprenticeship with Aberdeen Asset Management, is now the firm’s graduate programme co-ordinator.

The awards, which are organised by Skills Development Scotland will be announced at The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh on 3 November.

The awards aim to showcase excellent apprentices who deserve recognition for their hard work as well as employers who are committed to the apprenticeship programme.

Sophie, who is a former pupil at the city’s St Machar Academy, was one of the first apprentices recruited by Aberdeen Asset Management in 2012 when the apprenticeship programme was introduced to complement the company’s existing intern and graduate programmes.

As well as studying for her Highers and Advanced Highers, Sophie was an active participant in the school’s extracurricular groups as well as being on the school’s charity committee and involved with the equal opportunities group.

Initially considering applying for a University course, Sophie was attracted to the business and administration modern apprenticeship as a way to join a large global company where she could earn while she learned and gain valuable working experience.  Through the structured rotation programme between different departments, Sophie quickly realised that HR was the perfect fit for her.

On completion of her apprenticeship, Sophie remained in the HR team where she helps in the co-ordination of Aberdeen Asset Management’s talent programme including apprenticeships, investment trainees, interns and graduates. Sophie also runs employability workshops for school leavers, mentors young people to help them get job-ready and finds time to volunteer with a number of training related charities.

Aberdeen supported Sophie to complete her investment operations qualification and she is currently working towards an HR chartership.

Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management commented:

“Sophie clearly has all the attributes and skills needed to be an Apprentice Ambassador of the Year. With her ambition and initiative she is a popular member of the Aberdeen team and never fails to help colleagues. Just like Sophie, we’ve found all our apprentices to be keen, motivated individuals who are committed to on-the-job training and learning.

“By rotating to different departments, our apprentices learn a wide range of skills and develop knowledge that will stand them in good stead for the future, while gaining a feel for the business and finding out which area best suits them and their skills and interests. We will all be cheering on Sophie in November when the winners are announced.”

The Aberdeen Asset Management programme for apprenticeships which will start in September 2017 will open in February 2017. The apprenticeship runs for 12 to 24 months and apprentices rotate to different teams every four months to give a well-rounded view of the asset management industry and its related functions.

The rotational aspect of the programme helps apprentices learn about the organisation, meet the people involved and help them decide which area of the business to begin their career in. As well as learning on the job, Aberdeen provides apprentices with an extensive induction, access to training courses and qualifications during their apprenticeship. More can be found at http://graduates.aberdeen-asset.com/en/graduates/apprenticeships.

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Sep 092016
 

Suzanne Kelly looks back at a variety of City issues involving Peter Leonard, Director of Housing Environment and Infrastruccture. She concludes, while he is on sick leave following vacation, that in her opinion, it’s time for him to go.

marischalpicMany people in Aberdeen tend to think the councillors are to blame for all the many, many mistakes, flawed plans, waste of money, and bad decisions that take place.

The truth is that they only get to vote on reports put before them by officers, and officers can and do drive agenda and stop plans they don’t like. Staff too are controlled by the officers.

They are vilified for complaining or resorting to whistle-blowing when complaints to managers fail.

Aberdeen Voice is aware of more than one case of staff being micro-managed and having their work time scrutinized to the last minute. There are many people who, while worried about being discovered, want to talk about negative experiences with officers, and that includes Pete Leonard.

Head of Housing & Environment Pete Leonard has been implicated in a catalogue of bad decisions.

Having just missed a chance to apologise to the public over the cremation scandal so he could holiday, he is now off sick. Reports suggest he will remain out of the office – until terms of his final severance package can be ironed out. Many find his continuing in his post is now untenable following the cremation report – and the public has not seen the report commissioned by the Chief Executive.

My long-running interaction with him over the destruction of the Tullos Hill is no secret. He insisted on deer slaughter: when established consultants offered free help, they were rejected.

The slaughter was called ‘abhorrent and absurd’ by the Scottish SPCA in the circumstances. The expensive, unsuccessful attempts to establish trees on the hill are his responsibility – he declared in formal reports the scheme would be cost neutral. (Tullos is a former waste dump with little topsoil; the government’s own departments have written that establishing trees there is unlikely. However, it’s made quite a bit of money for consultants, suppliers, and deer stalkers).

Leonard’s insistence to the Housing & Environment Committee that the Tree for Every Citizen Scheme would be ‘cost neutral’ has cost well into a five-figure sum (and caused more than 36 deer to be culled needlessly) and may result in further expense to taxpayers soon. A councillor’s proposal to keep the hill as a meadow with deer was quashed before it could be voted on: by  Pete Leonard.

One of many ponderous reports flogging the dubious benefits of the Muse development of Marischal Square bears Leonard’s name. On 2 March 2016 this report recommends against asking the public for any further input on Marischal Square because the public might experience ‘consultation fatigue’ and may result in a ‘negative customer experience’.

Heaven forbid. Customer experience didn’t attract the council’s attention when, despite 3,000 citizens and 3 community councils demanding the deer be spared were ignored.

The idea was to have a temporary place under the arches where people could buy coffee and snacks

As to consultation fatigue, I think more people would prefer the chance to have their say and risk ‘fatigue’ than winding up with the monstrous white elephant at Marischal – where the Press & Journal will now call HQ for one year free – courtesy of the taxpayer.

By the way, after suggesting ‘consultation fatigue’ was real, the report goes on to steamroll the reader with jargon about including citizens to ‘participate in the development, design, and decision making services [how does a citizen participate in a decision making service??] to promote civic pride, active citizenship and resilience.’

Leonard has, in effect, proposed not fatiguing us with consultations while wanting our participation. Sounds like quite a balancing act; no wonder ‘resilience’ is also suggested.

There are many Aberdeen Voice readers who have fought to get basic housing repairs, fought to have housing suitable to the needs of the elderly and disabled, or even to have safe, habitable places to live. Some suggest the head of Housing & Environment needed to have a more hands on approach.

Who scotched the Cafe 52 plan to have a self-sustaining cafe in Union Terrace Gardens?

The idea was to have a temporary place under the arches where people could buy coffee and snacks, the Bothwell family were going to pay all the set-up costs, and volunteers were going to run it, as I recall. I do recall that the profits were all going to be churned back into improving the gardens. The departed Maggie Bochel even recommended this go through, and several councillors as well as many members of the public supported the plan.

Is it possible that a city council officer stepped in to stop this simple plan, and if so why? This may be a small side issue, but hopefully by now the point has been made that directors and officers can, and do, guide how and what a councillor gets to vote on.

As such, we need directors who are competent, who are capable, who are without bias, and who are accountable.

Where does the city most fall down? In its management of communities, housing and (obviously) infrastructure.

Who has been the responsible Director for Communities, Housing & Infrastructure for years? Pete Leonard.

Pete Leonard chose not to attend the public meeting that took place last week

Leonard is on a salary adjacent to £112k per year, plus a generous pension contribution. If he is allowed to remain in post following the various reports (public facing and secret) into the scandal of Aberdeen’s crematorium operations, something is drastically wrong.

Bereaved parents were told for years there would be no ash following cremation of their deceased children. In fact, the crematorium, under Leonard’s remit, was mixing the remains of children with those of unrelated adults, and in effect lying to parents.  This went on for years.

Some of the parents impacted by this cruel deception are calling for those responsible to be let go. I join that call

Pete Leonard chose not to attend the public meeting that took place last week; he was on holiday. It was disappointing to the bereaved that he was not there; his non-attendance sent a strong message.

The report into the long-running contempt shown both to the deceased and bereaved and severe managerial failure can be found here. It makes damning reading. Here are some highlights:

A damning summary:

“There was no overall strategic management of the crematorium. Aberdeen City Council had significant challenges elsewhere. Pete Leonard, Director of Communities, Housing and Infrastructure since 2010, explained to the Investigation,

“…in terms of the focus of senior management attention, you focus on the things that you know need fixing and you focus on the things you know to improve and areas where you need to make savings and you’ve got to try and bring the public and elected members with you, that’s very much a focus.”

“It was clear during the Investigation that the current Environmental Manager, Steven Shaw and those above him [that would include Leonard – S Kelly] had remote and ad hoc involvement in the management of the crematorium or the staff. The Investigation was told by the current Crematorium Manager, Angus Beacom, that,

“…staff felt that, in their words, not mine, they had been somewhat neglected by senior management”

“Pete Leonard, Director of Communities Housing and Infrastructure told the Investigation,

“I guess I was fairly light touch in my management in terms of, I don’t think I had visited the site for some time.”

“Pete Leonard confirmed that the purchase of new cremators was an expensive capital project and that he “was more focused on keeping track of that“,

“I guess the crematorium for me was a case of things seem to be going ok so a light touch management was ok and I wasn’t really getting involved.

The crematorium, I guess, never really featured on my radar. I wish it had, but it never featured on my radar so it was kind of left alone.”

“The Head of Services, Mark Reilly, told the Investigation,

“…Now there was a gap between Steven (Shaw, Environmental Manager) and Derek Snow (Cremation Manager) that I didn’t particularly care for. I wanted to really look at the structure of Bereavement Services and crematoria and how that works and get one manager overseeing both.”

“The Investigation found that despite issues about infant cremation coming to public attention following the media coverage about Mortonhall Crematorium in December 2012, no changes in practice were instigated at Aberdeen until November 2013 and July 2014.

“Pete Leonard, Director of Communities Housing and Infrastructure, told this Investigation,

“And we had lots of conversations, so we’d be saying, well if some people are saying that they’re recovering ashes, how is that? Are they using different temperatures and all this? There’s a lot of speculation about ‘well, we’re not sure how they’re doing it, but they’re probably doing things like turning the ovens off at night and leaving the baby in to ‘slow cook‘ and do we really want to be doing that and what if the parents found out about that?‘ and there were issues being thrown in around emissions and if you turn the heating down then you might be breaking the emissions law. There didn’t seem to be any shared industry knowledge or best practice.”

“There was no evidence that any effort was made by anyone at Aberdeen City Council to clarify at exactly what age or stage ashes were available. The senior managers did not challenge what they were told despite the information emerging from Mortonhall Crematorium nor did they seek information from Seafield Crematorium, or even closer, Parkgrove Crematorium, to ascertain how these crematoria could have been obtaining ashes despite the Aberdeen position that none existed until the age of eighteen months to two years.

“Pete Leonard told the Investigation,

“Around about that time we received a letter from Sue Bruce (then Chief Executive of City of Edinburgh Council) with the scope of the inquiry that she had asked Dame Elish to perform and I had a conversation with Valerie Watts then Chief Executive of Aberdeen City Council. I said I’d been to see the crematorium team, they assure me everything is okay but I really think we need to get some objective people in to do an audit and investigation into some of the processes and ask them questions. That led PwC to do an investigation, which was very much process based. At the same time, myself and Mark Reilly went to visit the team, got more behind the scenes.

“I think not getting ashes had been for as long as they could remember. Certainly with the new cremators they didn’t. With the older ones I don’t think they did, but I think they said previously they may have done in the dim and distant past, there might have been something. I think they gave some examples there, but I can’t really recall.

I think it pretty much reflected what the guys said and looked at the records. On reflection I think we didn’t focus enough on behaviour. When subsequently things changed in terms of what people’s story was, my own reflection on myself was perhaps I could have been a bit more challenging around some behaviours.

I drew up the terms of reference for the report and cleared these with the Chief Executive but it was based on what Sue Bruce had sent through, it was very similar terms of reference.

I am asked if the auditors looked at records as opposed to wider processes. Yes, that was the case. I am asked if anyone was examining the actual operational processes of cremation itself. No there was not. I think the years picked for audit were aligned with the different types of cremators from what I can see. I think there were different changes to the record keeping and we kept records up to a certain date. I think somebody had written to say they’d had some issue around 2008 and that they received ashes so on the back of that, we said can you go further back and examine what the practice was then”

“Pete Leonard told the Investigation,

“Around about that time we received a letter from Sue Bruce (then Chief Executive of City of Edinburgh Council) with the scope of the inquiry that she had asked Dame Elish to perform and I had a conversation with Valerie Watts then Chief Executive of Aberdeen City Council. I said I’d been to see the crematorium team, they assure me everything is okay but I really think we need to get some objective people in to do an audit and investigation into some of the processes and ask them questions. That led PwC to do an investigation, which was very much process based. At the same time, myself and Mark Reilly went to visit the team, got more behind the scenes.

I think not getting ashes had been for as long as they could remember. Certainly with the new cremators they didn’t. With the older ones I don’t think they did, but I think they said previously they may have done in the dim and distant past, there might have been something. I think they gave some examples there, but I can’t really recall.

I think it pretty much reflected what the guys said and looked at the records. On reflection I think we didn’t focus enough on behaviour. When subsequently things changed in terms of what people’s story was, my own reflection on myself was perhaps I could have been a bit more challenging around some behaviours.

I drew up the terms of reference for the report and cleared these with the Chief Executive but it was based on what Sue Bruce had sent through, it was very similar terms of reference.

I am asked if the auditors looked at records as opposed to wider processes. Yes, that was the case. I am asked if anyone was examining the actual operational processes of cremation itself. No there was not. I think the years picked for audit were aligned with the different types of cremators from what I can see. I think there were different changes to the record keeping and we kept records up to a certain date. I think somebody had written to say they’d had some issue around 2008 and that they received ashes so on the back of that, we said can you go further back and examine what the practice was then”

“An audit by the company PwC LLP was duly commissioned and terms of reference agreed in March 2013. The auditors reported on 9 July 2013. This audit was limited in scope and did not look at the actual cremation operational processes but rather traced a sample of cremations to the supporting records and administrative process in respect of the cremation of stillborn babies and infants under the age of two.

“The audit report describes its work as to ‘undertake a data collection exercise and review the current procedures in operation to better inform the Council Officers’ understanding of arrangements and practices.’ The report was based on the documentation available but there is no indication of the Council seeking audit of the actual cremation working processes by a suitably qualified cremation industry expert or body such as the FBCA.

“Pete Leonard, Director, told the Investigation,

“There had been a conversation about use of trays and what have you and I was very nervous about health and safety and I guess I placed a lot of reliance on the internal audit which we scoped out in March and it reported in July 2013.”

“There was no evidence given to the Investigation that after the production of this audit report the Council challenged Derek Snow’s assertion that there were no ashes to be obtained from babies less than eighteen months old. At the very least the information provided by PwC should have alerted the Council to the inconsistency between their public position and what the audit disclosed from the past.

“There is no evidence of the contents of the report being probed or checked to ascertain the reason for the different outcomes in the sampled cases. This information should have been of particular interest given the Council’s public position that ashes did not exist for babies under eighteen months to two years.

“Derek Snow, the Crematorium Manager added,

“When I started in 1986 there was no written procedures or guidance for babies. As far as I know there’s still nothing like that at the moment.”

“Steven Shaw, the current Environmental Manager, said that it was clear to him that,

“we didn’t have written up simple guidelines. I pushed for them to write up the procedures.”

“Pete Leonard said,

“When we started speaking to the guys, it was very clear then that there were no practices which made me nervous. “

“Staff also had access to manufacturers’ manuals for the cremators they were using. Aberdeen City Council’s response noted in the 10 July 2013 PwC LLP internal audit report was that they would be formalising their written policy and would consider any findings that came from the Scottish Government’s review.

“However, when staff were interviewed by the Investigation in February 2015 there was still no formal written procedure, guidance, instruction or local training manual available to staff at Aberdeen Crematorium despite

  • the recommendations of Lord Bonomy in his report of May 2014,
  • the Mortonhall Investigation Report April 2014,
  • the PwC internal audit recommendation of July 2013,
  • interest expressed by the Scottish Parliament,
  • press and extensive media coverage of the issues surrounding the cremation of babies throughout the period 2012-2014.

“Neither did the receipt of an anonymous letter result in such action. This letter indicated that the reason baby ashes were not being returned to families at Aberdeen was because babies were being cremated alongside the coffins of unrelated adults. Members of staff were still working on drafting the crematorium’s first Operational Procedures Booklet in early 2015.

“It was put to Pete Leonard, Director, that Derek Snow had suggested that he was only really a manager when it suited his line managers to treat him as such, that he was given very little scope to manage and was not given the opportunity to attend training. Pete Leonard replied,

“I couldn’t really say. I am asked if he ever made a complaint to me about the way he was being managed. No not at all, he seemed to be happy in his work.”

“This is in stark contrast to what former Environmental Manager, Sandy Scott said about Derek Snow wanting to leave since 2006. Sandy Scott told the Investigation,

“Derek Snow did not want to be at the Council. He made it quite clear he wanted to leave and I did some investigating and spoke to my Head of Service but we felt we couldn’t let him go at that point. It was always a feature of our one to ones as he wanted to bring it up with me.”

“Pete Leonard, Director of Communities Housing and Infrastructure said,

“I guess I felt really let down and right from the word go, what we’d said to the guys was ‘we’re not going to judge you on what’s happened, when you’re in an industry and you follow historic practices, sometimes you might find yourself doing something that culture accepted before. Something which might look horrific but you’re caught up in the middle of that and you’re just doing what you’ve always been told.

“So this is about understanding what’s going on’. We had said, ‘if there’s anything, anything at all, now’s the time to get it out, you’ve got our full support’. We couldn’t have emphasised that more and so to then find out that the guys were lying and they’d been so convincing …I was bloody angry to be honest but really upset. Then I was really upset because of the impact on families.

“I’ve got young children myself and you can empathise. So then we had to move into trying to figure what happened and I wasn’t looking at punishing anybody, I just wanted to figure out what had been going on and we don’t really know. I mean, having gone through the experience of believing what they said before, to be honest, anything they said, I took with a pinch of salt.

“Could be true, it maybe isn’t true and there was no real way I got that mechanism to get to the truth. The investigation may have more success.”

“this was a section of the City Council working in almost complete isolation without any strategic direction, development or quality control of the service, so far as it related to babies, infants and non-viable foetuses. There was little knowledge by Senior Management of the service provided to the families of these babies.

“There was insufficient interest taken or leadership shown by management

“much of what was learned by Cremator Operators at Aberdeen was received wisdom from more experienced peers. The extraordinary belief that there would be no recovered ashes from babies up to the age of eighteen months or two years was contradicted by what was known to be recovered in many other crematoria as well as in Aberdeen itself in earlier years

“The cremation of babies along with unknown adults is an unethical and abhorrent practice which will offend the sensibilities of the wider community and cause great distress to those whose babies were cremated there. It will also cause profound concern to the next of kin of unrelated adults who may have collected and continue to retain ashes of loved ones cremated at Aberdeen which also contain the ashes of a baby or one or even several non-viable foetuses

“When obliged to consider this issue with the commencement of the Mortonhall Investigation and during the separate opportunity to explain their position to Lord Bonomy and his team the true picture at Aberdeen Crematorium was not disclosed. The Infant Cremation Commission was misled about the practices taking place.

“It was clear from the interviews of staff in early 2015 that despite the passage of time since the Mortonhall Report, the report of the Infant Cremation Commission and extensive media coverage of the circumstances at Mortonhall Crematorium that staff had not yet been properly briefed or briefed at all to allow them to have an accurate understanding of the physiology of the bones of foetuses, stillborn babies and infants.

8. The most senior level of management at Aberdeen must provide strong leadership and now take full responsibility for the effective management of the crematorium. It must also ensure that immediate and appropriate training takes place and that effective and ethical practices are maintained. This relates not only to a change of working practices but to an assurance that the culture of the organisation and the knowledge and understanding is such as to prevent any future abuse of the trust of those families who have placed the remains of their loved ones in their care.

10. As with other crematoria there was a total absence of any local written instruction or guidance. This remained the case even in 2015 after an audit report of 2013 which highlighted the lack of written procedure. This meant that the actual practices employed in the crematoria were not documented and available for inspection by normal quality assurance procedures. Had such written guidance been available it may have alerted Cremator Operators to the deviant nature of their practices.

11. By allowing the predicted outcome rather than the actual outcome to remain in the disposal column Aberdeen City Council created a situation where the inaccurate information was allowed to remain on the Register. Although the inaccuracy was identified no steps had been to correct the accuracy of the Register. This casual and careless approach to a statutory obligation is of considerable concern.”

My conclusions

There is contradiction about Leonard’s position in the Muse report (do we not consult people so as not to ‘fatigue’ them or do we involve them in the design, etc).

Leonard contradicts himself again in his testimony here.  At one stage we’re asked to think of him as being a father who’d be concerned about the families; and then we have the inexcusable on the appalling choice of words about ‘slow cooking babies’ and ‘what if the parents found out’. Either you are a caring, empathetic parent – or you use that kind of language and seek to keep your parent peers in the dark.

Claims that there was no way to find out about any industry best practice or operational standards are debunked within five minutes by anyone with internet access. A search would swiftly find  The Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities(FBCA). This organisation told me:

“The Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities(FBCA) represents all but two of the operational crematoria in Scotland and around 85% of crematoria in the whole of the UK.

The FBCA has existed since 1924 and represents the owners and operators of cemeteries and crematoria in the UK.

All members of the FBCA have to confirm that they operate in accordance with our Code of Cremation Practice on an annual basis.

The process of cremation is regulated by Sepa and there are parameters which have to be maintained throughout each and every cremation, whether adult or infant, however it is important that special measures are taken during the cremation of very young babies to ensure that the conditions within the cremator provide the best possible opportunity for the recovery of ashes at the completion of the process..

We provide the training and examination process used at the majority of crematoria in Scotland and we strive to ensure that Best Practice and the highest standards are met at all times. “
– email from R Powell of FBCA to S Kelly 5 September 2016

For someone with a director’s mandate covering the crematorium, ignorance of this easily-found knowledge is bad enough; it is compounded by the evident lack of interest in pro-actively seeking for it.

Changes were to have been made in documentation for procedures; this went un-remedied for years. Should the buck have stopped with Leonard?

The curtains are drawn:

It should be noted that there is a Customer Services Standards document – but it is being updated, and requests for a copy of the current one have gone unanswered.  Aberdeen Voice also made an appointment to view the Officers’ register of interests – and hours before the appointment the city cancelled on the grounds ‘personal data’ would be in the records.

The legal team decided that a Freedom of Information request would be needed, and that while councillors’ records are all electronically available, the records for officers and directors were off limits.

Let’s hope the wait to see the records won’t take too long (all FOI requests I have made to the city have been just to the deadline or have been late).

Enough:

I watched as the arrogance and assurances from Leonard led to the destruction of a herd of deer that had lived on Tullos for decades without needing any cull. I watched as he stubbornly refused free advice on non-lethal culling, refused to take on board the soil report saying that trees are unlikely to establish while approving hundreds of thousands of pounds on consultants, fencing, trees and deer hunters.

I watched as a friend whose stillborn child was told there would be no ashes to scatter after cremation some years ago. I worried as I helped arrange a cremation fairly recently as to what was going on.

I watched as the hated Muse project was foist upon a largely unwilling, certainly poorly consulted public – who will  now subsidise the Press & Journal with a year’s free rent.

I watched as parents were further disrespected by Leonard deciding not to face them at the crematorium public meeting as he chose to vacation instead.  I’ve listened to complaints of people with health issues in housing inadequate to their needs.

I’ve heard from people who waited months and months for simple housing repairs.  I’ve heard from people living in housing where anti social behaviour runs rampant because the city keeps no residential staff to ensure safety. I’ve heard from staff who have felt bullied under his regieme.

I now want to watch as Leonard leaves his post with as small a remuneration as legally possible, and leaves quickly.

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Jun 132013
 

Countryside lovers could be forgiven for thinking that environmental protection is a thing of the past in Scotland. Urban Sprawl is removing our green belt. Air, land and sea pollution in many cases exceeds EU maximum levels: roads in Aberdeen are among the country’s top ten most polluted roads.

Species protection and sensible, humane management of wildlife doesn’t seem to exist. The agencies charged with guarding our natural heritage for the present and for future generations seem to be stocked with those who place commercial interests above wildlife. In a four part series, Suzanne Kelly looks at this cull of the wild, focusing on Seal, Badger, Deer and Bird of Prey issues.

Late in 1998, during the ‘International Year of the Ocean’, Mi’kmaq Elder and Chief Charlie Labrador was asked by the ‘International Ocean Institute’ to address a major scientific conference held in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The theme of the conference was ‘the crisis of knowledge’. The following is an excerpt from Charlie’s speech to the gathering of marine scientists

“What you are telling me is you don’t know how to fish…You use the word ‘technology,’ but in my time there has been a decrease in everything…If something isn’t done soon, there will be no more time for any of us. There has to be something better than technology. It was sad a few years ago when our seals got the blame for taking the cod. It wasn’t their fault…those who harvest the earth’s resources must begin putting as much back into it as they remove…”

Debbie MacKenzie http://www.fisherycrisis.com/seals/sealsncod.htm

Seal culling – excuses despite humane solutions.

Perhaps Scotland doesn’t condone the clubbing of baby seals for fur, as is the case elsewhere, but the persecution of seals is a bloody, brutal reality.

Seals are being blamed for taking caged fish. Let’s dispense with the concept of ‘farmed’ fish which the industry favours, these are sentient, intelligent creatures which normally would move from the rivers to the seas and back. They are kept in crowded cages where they have been observed to be unhealthy and stressed.

The cages are protected to some small degree by netting; netting which by law is meant not to harm other wildlife such as the seals. This is not always the case, as a recent and nearly unique conviction shows.

Conviction Light:  Graham McNally.

On the 28th of May of this year Graham McNally, 52, was convicted of using nets for the purpose of trapping and killing seals. This was the first such conviction in the UK under the 20 year old Conservation (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1994 and was heard at Lerwick Sheriff Court.  (Further details from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-22695243 ).

A quick glance at related headlines might let a reader conclude that this was a great result, but the real story is different. The first issue to be considered is why there has been no other successful prosecution in 19 years for using nets for killing seals: does anyone really think this is the only instance?

Secondly, this man was fined… £800. Such a sum will be happily paid and in all likelihood amounts to nothing more than a mildly inconvenient business expense. The paucity of convictions for offenses against seals should be remedied, and the fines increased; it is a pity that the Government prefers to go after those on benefits with more than one bedroom to live in, with more zest than it shows in stopping seal persecution.

Thirdly, and possibly the most alarming development in this case involves the apparent concealment of the evidence.  According to Shetland News :-

“… John Robins, of the Save Our Seals Fund, said that McNally originally pled not guilty to setting illegal nets between August 2009 and August 2011, based on evidence that seals had been entangled and drowned in such nets.

“Robins has written to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) asking if the charges were amended in return for a guilty plea or for any other reason, asking why the reference to the killing of seals was removed from the charges.

““Unless I have tangled up my court cases I was expecting hard evidence of dead seals to be presented by the prosecution,” Robins said, “I hope there was a very, very good reason why this evidence was dropped”

“The wildlife campaigner has also written to environment secretary Richard Lochhead using this case to repeat his call for proprietary anti-predator nets to be made compulsory at all Scottish salmon farms.”

http://www.shetnews.co.uk/news/6885-court-challenged-over-dead-seal-evidence ) :-

Aberdeen Voice readers and Tullos Hill deer campaigners will know John Robins for the work he did in helping to protest the deer cull, which with the massive tree planting on Tullos Hill was pushed through despite huge public opposition. Again, the motivation there was financial . The public was told that this was the least expensive way to plant trees, on a former rubbish tip with little soil and North Sea exposure, at Tullos. John told Aberdeen Voice:-

“The Shetland court case reinforces my demand for the Scottish Government to make humane predator exclusion nets compulsory at all marine fin fish farms. Properly installed and maintained these nets would eliminate any need to shoot seals and create much needed jobs in rural communities.”

“Scotland is turning into culling country. Geese, crows, deer, squirrels, wild goats  are all being slaughtered in the name of conservation. This is the Year of Natural Scotland. An appropriate way to mark this would be to give every visitor a gun or a trap as they cross the border.”

A Man to Remember, who forgot why he clubbed baby seals:  James Stewart.

The fines meted out to those who shoot, club and drown our seals is normally minimal – where it exists at all. Not all are involved in farmed fish; some are coastal residents and/or fishermen.  Here however is a man to watch in future, who displayed particular contempt for and cruelty to seals:-

47 year-old fisherman James Stewart from Shetland was jailed for 80 days for clubbing 21 baby seals to death with a fence post. He admitted killing the animals as they lay on a beach on the island of East Linga but he did not explain why he did it.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7964109.stm

Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation – A Powerful Club.

The salmon industry represents that seals must be shot. In 2009 the BBC recorded spokesperson Scott Landsburgh of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation. He claimed that ‘only 498’ seals were shot in that year – a most precise figure indeed. He also claimed seals stole thousands of salmon from the farms. ‘Our primary interest is the welfare of the salmon’ –  he said.

Presumably this welfare doesn’t extend to giving them more space or feeding them up until the time of a humane destruction. But what is the SSPO and how do they operate?

The SSPO represents several salmon producers, including Marine Harvest, Loch Duart and Wester Ross. Their website offers some impressive statistics which include:-

The growth in the UK salmon market:

  • 1 million fresh salmon meals are eaten in the UK every day;
  • 1 million smoked salmon meals are eaten in the UK every week;
  •  An additional 40 million servings of fresh salmon were consumed in UK households between 2006 and 2008.

Export performance of Scottish farmed salmon:

  • The worldwide retail value of Scottish farmed salmon is over £1 billion;
  • over 60 countries imported fresh Scottish salmon in 2011;
  • the USA is the largest export market for Scottish farmed salmon, followed by France;
  • Scottish farmed salmon topped the RSPCA’s Freedom Food chart in 2009, with an impressive 60% of production participating in the stringent animal welfare scheme.

http://www.scottishsalmon.co.uk/facts_figures/index.aspx

This adds up to a very rich and powerful lobby.

The SSPO website goes on to boast that information on sea lice has now been divulged. In terms of newsworthiness, this is rather like divulging who won last year’s X Factor. Do note that sea lice are not like the little flies we know – they are parasitic, blood sucking creatures that cause suffering.

Contempt of Law, Contempt of Wildlife

Local landowner Marc Ellington disagrees with seal shooting.  He has given notice to Usan Salmon Fisheries to stay off his land for the purpose of shooting seals, but they don’t seem to be taking any notice.

While land can be freely accessed for recreational purposes or crossed (unless you are a Menie Estate resident  to whom the law is turning a blind eye), you cannot go onto private land for the purpose of shooting, and seals cannot be shot at from boats – although we know that this is taking place. An article with Ellington’s comments can be found here:
http://www.banffshire-journal.co.uk/News/Warning-shot-is-fired-on-seal-row-16042013.htm

In it he says:-

“The company concerned has no business discharging firearms on land owned by Gardenstown and Crovie Estate without permission,” said Mr Ellington.

“They have not sought permission to use firearms on the estate to shoot seals, and permission would not be granted under any circumstances to do so.

“I am unhappy on a personal level, as someone with an interest in conservation, that seals are being shot at all, and I am especially concerned that there are reports of them being shot from estate land.”

The law is on Ellington’s side – but the carcasses of shot seals keep appearing in the area.  In one particularly disturbing photo, those who shot a particular seal took a photo of the seal on the shore with a cigarette in its mouth and an alcoholic beverage as if it were drinking and smoking,  These are the kinds of people who we have shooting seals.

It is clear that the advent of caged fish production is linked to the culling of our seals. What is life like for a salmon in a cage?

School of thought on Schools of Caged Fish.

Private Eye has for years carried stories on sea lice escaping from fish farms and infecting the wild, chemical contamination, and a little known food chain development:-

“In March, the satirical magazine Private Eye reported that the European Commission had quietly lifted a twelve-year-old ban on feeding ground-up animal remains to farmed animals; the ban was imposed in the wake of the mad cow disease scare when the practice of doing so was blamed for causing the disease.

“In the first instance the relaxation of the rule will only apply to fish farmers, who from June 1 will be allowed to feed leftovers from chicken and pigs to their captive salmon; the Commission argued that because in nature animals eat other animals, there was nothing to worry about – although they failed to explain how, ‘in nature’, salmon ate chicken and pigs.

“The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) advice to government was that in principal the risk [of disease transfer to humans] would be negligible provided that it could be ensured that it was only chicken and pig going into fish feed; although in practice they noted that adequate controls were lacking. The SFA also said that no one could know for certain that pigs and chickens would not prove susceptible to “transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.” So that’s all right then, isn’t it?”

http://www.flyfishing-and-flytying.co.uk/blog/view/anyone_for_mad_salmon_disease/

Life is not a natural one for caged salmon; they are denied space; they are prone to parasites and disease, and the methods of slaughter used are condemned by organisations including Compassion in World Farming, which issued a report – http://www.ciwf.org.uk/includes/documents/cm_docs/2008/i/in_too_deep_summary_2001.pdf

This reads in part:-

“About 35 million each of salmon and trout are slaughtered annually in the UK.

“Farmed fish are normally starved for 7-10 days before slaughter. Inhumane slaughter methods for trout include suffocation in air or on ice. Carbon dioxide stunning, another inhumane method causing immobility well before unconsciousness, is used for both salmon and trout….

“Trout are often stocked so densely that 13-27 trout measuring 30 cm (1 ft) long are allocated the equivalent of a bathtub of water.

“ High incidences of severe and blinding cataracts have been found in farmed salmon. Infestation with parasitic sea lice is a serious problem for farmed salmon. Lice feed on their host. Damage can be so severe that the skull of the living fish can be exposed.

“Biotechnology is used widely in the UK trout industry to produce chromosome-manipulated “triploid” fish.”

At the time of writing, USAN has not responded to questions put to it.  Comments on fish welfare would be welcome from the industry or its lobbyists.  Perhaps we should be worried about our own welfare as well.

To your health?

Is all this wildlife damage and persecution doing us any good?  Scientific American is not alone in warning of high levels of mercury and PCBs, a chemical linked to disease in humans. A recent article can be found here;-
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=farm-raised-fish-not-free-mercury-pcb-dioxin

The caged fish industry does have a fair amount of problems to solve, but they are efficient at lobbying.

Environmental Protection – Supine SEPA.

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency is not exactly getting glowing reports for its performance in many areas.  It is ‘unable’ to determine which company or companies are polluting East Tullos Burn in the backyard of its own Aberdeen HQ.  It does not seem to respond to questions put to it on its online contact form (no email addresses are supplied). And in the case of managing fish farms, as per the Guardian, it is falling down on the job:-

“Don Staniford, the anti-fish farming campaigner who has investigated SEPA’s monitoring data, tabling a series of detailed Freedom of Information requests, was blunter. He said salmon farming was a “malignant cancer”.

“SEPA’s statutory duty is to stop companies such as Marine Harvest using Scottish waters as a toxic toilet and dumping ground for chemical contaminants,” he said. “Yet SEPA has shamefully opened the floodgates to the use of a cocktail of chemicals. Shame on Scottish salmon farming and shame on SEPA.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/may/10/marine-harvest-salmon-farm-scottish-loch

Conclusions.

Fish farms bring money and jobs to rural areas. They also, according to my research, bring disease to the captive animals, cruelty, pollution, persecution of seals, and some would argue human health problems where high concentrations of PCBs are involved. Is Scotland that short of jobs that profits must be maximised to the extent that animal welfare, compassion, ethics and respect for the environment are sacrificed further?

It is possible to improve cage protection to keep seals away without shooting or cruelly drowning them in nets. The organisations that could help – our police wildlife officers and the SNH – must do more. Culling our wildlife is not an acceptable means of justifying big profit margins.

Perhaps it is time to create a more powerful pro-animal, pro-environment lobby to counteract the efforts of the lobbyists who want to destroy our wildlife.

Suggested Actions

  • Stop buying any farmed trout or salmon.
  • Tell your preferred supermarket chains you will not be buying farmed fish.
  • Lobby your representatives (find them at http://www.writetothem.com/ ) expressing concerns for the seals, the farmed fish – and your own health.
  • Write to Marine Scotland, which licenses people to shoot seals, and state your opposition to the shooting of seals.
  • If you are in the vicinity of any fish farms, report any sightings of seal hunting.  Record anything suspicious and share with the police, and with Aberdeen Voice.
  • Support organisations such as the Scottish SPCA, Compassion in World Farming, Seal Protection Action Group, One Kind and Animal  Concern Advice Line. You will find their details on the internet.

We and our legislators should be demanding that the fish farm, which is in reality the caged fish, industry cleans up their issues. These include:-

  • Overcrowding.
  • Cruelty. Fish are often starved for days before they are killed.
  • Parasitic infections such as sea lice, pollution (occasionally escaping from the cages);
  • and of course shooting and drowning of seals.

Further Reading

Our Government has decided that rather than demanding better cages to keep the seals away and better life quality for the caged fish, that licensing people to shoot seals is the answer.  It is not the only answer, but it is the one that those who like to hunt, and those who want to keep fish farm costs minimal might well favour.

The lobbying efforts of the powerful industry groups have made our officials focus instead on the perceived, invented need to destroy our seals. Experts have shown that better, more robust cages for the salmon, which certainly do not have an enviable existence, would prevent seals from taking fish from the farms.

But licensed and unlicensed killing is taking place to the detriment of the seals and the seas.  The motivation seems to be, unsurprisingly, financial.

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Sep 072012
 

Next Tuesday, a sub-committee of Aberdeen Council meet to discuss various initiatives under the heading of the “Management of events in Aberdeen’s Parks and Open Spaces”. Mike Shepherd writes.

The document, on a seemingly innocuous subject (Aberdeen parks), is in fact highly controversial. The first item proposes charging groups for the use of the city’s parks for social events.

Each stand alone event incurs a minimum daily hire charge of £250, regardless of status – charity, corporate, private or otherwise.”

The charges range up to £1000 depending on the size of the event.

The scale of the charges will inhibit the organisation of many fun events by community groups happening in our parks. A £250 charge is too steep given that you are never too sure how many people could turn up to an event  given the uncertain Aberdeen weather.

It could also put paid to the activities of community support groups for parks, who aim to raise money for the upkeep of our city’s open spaces through events that they could now be charged for. Support groups have emerged for many of our parks and one would have thought that such a spontaneous community initiative and public-minded spirit would have been encouraged.

Such groups can also attract external funding for park improvements that would not otherwise be available to the council.

This initiative looks very short-sighted as a result.

A second item is authoritarian and looks to be in violation of existing UK law. The councillors at the sub-committee will be asked to:

“agree that the Castlegate is the only recognised location within Aberdeen that can be used for political party and pressure group events.”

This looks like an infringement on basic human rights and is probably unenforceable in practice.

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