Jun 242014
 

MartinFordUTGfeatWith thanks to Martin Ford.

Aberdeenshire Council has been urged to offer community councils the option of taking over some local decisions and budget from the
local authority as part of a review of Aberdeenshire’s Community Council Scheme of Establishment.

The review process, which the Council has a duty to undertake from time to time, was discussed at the Aberdeenshire full council meeting (Thursday, 19 June).

Proposing the motion to offer community councils the option of additional say over local decisions, Green councillor Martin Ford said:

“Community Councils are very important as the most local level of representation. We should see the review of the Scheme of Establishment as an opportunity for community empowerment, giving community councils the choice of taking over some local decisions from the Council.”

Councillor Ford’s motion was seconded by Democratic Independent councillor Paul Johnston. The recommendation from officers was that the Council approve the timetable and consultation arrangements for reviewing Aberdeenshire’s Community Council Scheme of Establishment.

The motion from Cllr Ford was to add to the officers’ recommendation the words:

‘the revised Scheme to offer community councils devolved budget and decision making from the Council subject to appropriate governance safeguards and community councils opting for the additional responsibilities.’

 Cllr Ford said:

“The aim here, as set out in the motion, is to give community councils a choice of more say on local matters in their area. Those community councils that wanted to take over some decision making from the Council would then be able to do so.

“The Council has passed budget and decision making to all sorts of partnerships and other bodies. So there is no problem in principle with extending that to community councils.  

“Some community councils I am sure would be very interested in thepossibility of gaining more say over local decisions. The prospect of some devolved decision making from the Council might also increase the number of people wanting to become community councillors.”

Councillor Ford’s motion was opposed by the Council’s Conservative/Liberal Democrat/Labour/independent coalition

administration and the SNP. Cllr Paul Johnston said:

“The Council’s administration and the SNP are ignoring the need to follow the conclusions of the Scottish Government’s working group on community councils. The motion was a statement of trust, support and confidence in community councils, indicating the Council’s wish to strengthen its relationship with them and empower local communities. There was no good argument for voting it down.”

Nearly all the administration and SNP councillors voted against Cllr Ford’s motion. The motion was supported by Green and other independent councillors. See record of votes.

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Jun 102014
 

FULL COUNCIL MEETING – 19 JUNE, 2014

 

Vote 1 – Review of Community Councils Scheme

 

Councillor Ford, seconded by Councillor Johnston, moved approval of the arrangements for a review of the Scheme for Community Councils, the revised scheme to offer Community Councils devolved budget and decision making from the Council, subject to appropriate governance safeguards and Community Councils opting for the additional responsibilities.

 

Councillor K L Clark, seconded by Councillor Kitts-Hayes, moved approval of the arrangements for a review of the Scheme for Community Councils as set out in the report.

 

The members of the Council voted:-

 

for the motion                                 (3)            Councillors Ford, Johnston and D Stewart.

 

for the amendment                       (59)            Councillors Agnew, Aitchison, A J Allan, Argyle, Bellarby, Bews, Blackett, A Buchan, C Buchan, Carr, Chapman, Christie, G Clark, K Clark, L Clark, Cowling, Cox, Cullinane, Davidson, Dick, J Duncan, S Duncan, Evison, Farquhar, Findlater, Gardiner, Grant, Gray, Hendry, Hood, Howatson, Ingleby, Ingram, Kitts-Hayes, Latham, Lonchay, McKail, McRae, Merson, Mollison, Nelson, Norrie, Oddie, Owen, Partridge, Pirie, Pratt, Robertson, Ross, Roy, Shand, N Smith, S Smith, Strathdee, B Stuart, Tait, Thomson, Vernal and Webster.

 

declined to vote                              (2)            Councillors Topping and Walker.

Mar 102012
 

Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly learned as we all did this week that the Council plans to push ahead with unsuitable and unpopular plans to turn one of our remaining meadows, Tullos Hill, into some kind of forest.

Just a few little problems:  they want to cull the half-tame deer that have lived in the area for decades, and then there is the small matter that the trees probably won’t make it – again.

With no warning, and while Councillor Cooney was attempting to forward the idea of preserving Tullos Hill as the meadow it is, we learned this week that the cull and tree scheme is on.

Aileen Malone is in the news this week, saying the scheme will work and ‘a lot of hard work’ has gone on the scheme. I’m sure it has. Pity the hard work was against the wishes of the community councils in the area, 3,000 facebook ’cause’ supporters, and nearly 2,500 petition signatories.

It is also a pity that the scheme simply is not going to work. Following my visit to Tullos Hill tonight, I can confirm that the area of gorse just cleared for the trees is far stonier – and far more polluted – than I could have imagined. It is testimony to the resilience of gorse that it managed to grow there at all.

But the gorse is largely gone; the birds that lived in this patch are dislocated; the deer and other mammals have lost a huge amount of shelter.

(Should any deer die on Wellington Road in the next few weeks, I am personally of the opinion that it will be due to the removal of this gorse habitat).

I never saw a finalised funding application, and the draft I received was a work of fiction in places.

The draft seemed to claim that the hill was disused farmland. Part of it indeed was – but the rest was either a tip, or too stony by miles to grow any crops on. I certainly hope the finalised application was accurate.

I have asked for a copy of it, so has Councillor Cooney – who arguably should have had sight of it before it went to the Commission; he is on the Housing Committee, and I know he wanted to see it. How precisely his draft paper in support of the meadow scheme has managed to sink without trace without going before his committee is a matter I hope the relevant Councillors and officers will research with some speed.

Earlier articles are on Aberdeen Voice, and research and backing documents (and an executive summary) can be found at http://suzannekelly.yolasite.com/

If you were not previously aware that a soil report says the soil matrix on the hill is poor and not suitable for trees, or that the Council had to repay £43,800 for the previous failure of trees to grow on Tullos (largely due to weeds), you might want to start reading there.

But the subject of this article is the alarming amount of industrial waste that has been uncovered where the gorse has been cleared – and the extremely poor soil quality. The debris was everywhere: tubes, parts of rusted machinery, giant pieces of wire – it is all there where the gorse was, above and below the soil.

I am now more convinced than ever that the trees are not going to stand a chance. We are throwing good money after bad, and are going to sacrifice deer in the process.

Now our city’s tree expert has been in the news this week, saying the city has a responsibility to cull the deer anyway, because Tullos is small. He seems unaware that the deer move fairly freely in the area between Kincorth and other areas.

Of course, with the over-zealous housebuilding programmes coming soon to Loirston and Cove, we are losing more meadowland forever. This is bad news for all the local animal populations.

Why in the circumstances turning this meadow into a non-workable forest experiment is considered a good idea is a complete mystery to me, to animal welfare experts, to forestry experts I have consulted, and the local residents.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SP8qb4j32Qc 

I do apologise – my voice is awful, but I did my best to think on my feet as the light was fading, and as I was shouting into the wind. (Wind is the very thing that will get rid of any trees that begin to grow. Winds of over 90 miles per hour were a fairly frequent occurrence this winter). In a random wander into the cleared area (which should ideally have warning signs on it), I found the soil to be only a few inches deep, and with the heel of my boot I was unable to go more than say 4″ into the soil before hitting rock.

The debris was everywhere: tubes, parts of rusted machinery, giant pieces of wire, broken glass, fibreglass  – it is all there where the gorse was.

More on this story later. If you want to help: tell the City Council you oppose the scheme and are concerned about the soil’s suitability and health and safety. Parents – tell your school your child will NOT be planting any trees. Voters: vote for people other than the ones that pushed this scheme on us (a list of how councillors voted on environmental issues is coming soon).

Mar 012012
 

Aberdeen Against Austerity informs Voice of its intention to take to the city’s streets this Saturday (3rd March).

This action is part of a national day of protest against the UK Government’s Workfare Scheme under which multi-national companies, whose profits run into billions of pounds, receive countless hours of free man/womanpower courtesy of taxpayers.

At least thirty other cities around the UK will host similar demonstrations.

How does the Workfare Scheme operate?

The jobseeker labours for perhaps eight hours daily, receives no wages from the company, creates wealth for the bosses and shareholders and in return receives only his/her Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA). As a result, participants in the programme receive well below £2 per hour for time they have been forced to give to multi-billionaire companies.

Many fear that these phenomenally low wages are being used by bosses to drive down existing staff wages under threat of replacement by Workfare participants. Commentators have used the term ‘slave labour’ to describe this Tory policy, with some even challenging the legality of the Scheme under Human Rights Law.

Not looking hard enough for work

Conservative ministers and right-wing journalists have tried to justify the Scheme in recent weeks using the same tired old argument that JSA claimants are responsible for their own misery because they are ‘workshy’, ‘lazy’ and ‘lacking in drive’.

“These ‘lazy’ individuals just aren’t looking hard enough for work,” cries the right.

Figures show these ludicrous opinions to be baseless whilst revealing the underlying structural problems of our economic system. We have 2.67m unemployed, although the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has reported that the true figure might be 6.3m, and only 476,000 job vacancies. That means 5.6 people are applying for every job, or 13.2 people if the TUC figures are used.

Joblessness is a very real and serious issue woven into the fabric of our economy and it cannot simply be blamed on the ‘feckless unemployed’.

The proponents of Workfare claim that the most effective way to get ‘workshy’ claimants back to work is by threat of the loss of their JSA. This is very misguided. The Government’s own review, commissioned by the Department of Work and Pensions in 2008, concluded:

 “There is little evidence that Workfare increases the likelihood of finding work. It can even reduce employment chances by limiting the time available for job search and by failing to provide the skills and experience valued by employers.”

Political and ideological

It’s clear. Workfare is a political programme, designed and carried out by a government of millionaires with a strong ideological undercurrent, through which they seek to:

  • Undermine the legal minimum wage.
  • Continue the demonisation of those out of work to justify the increasing wealth gap between the rich and poor.
  • Strengthen the very close ties between big business and government.
  • Ensure that the most vulnerable in society pay for the economic crisis rather than those who caused or played a major role in it.
  • Continue to apply downward pressure to existing workers’ pay and terms and conditions

Aberdeen Against Austerity and many other groups will be raising awareness nationwide by naming and shaming Workfare providers this Saturday (3rd March) in Aberdeen city centre. We’ll meet in the Castlegate at 12 noon.

See you on the streets.

Feb 172012
 

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

By Suzanne Kelly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was this one of the top Scottish clubs? Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Fake, plastic trees – FALSE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. It will cost people their jobs – FALSE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb 102012
 

Old Susannah wades in with her chainsaw rattling in the direction of Union Terrace Gardens, but the elms need not fear, she is only out to cut through the misinformation presented as ‘myth busting’ by the City Garden Project.

By Suzanne Kelly.

Old Susannah has been busy with Union Terrace Gardens this past week, like so many of us.  Another few short weeks, and the people will have voted one way or the other as to whether or not our environment, heritage and common good land are better served up with concrete ramps or not.

Then I can get back to the important work of singing the praises of our elected officials, unelected quangos and council officers, and local millionaires.

Before I get down to the Gardens situation, I thought I’d look back at all the wonderful artwork that the City’s children sent in for the Christmas time art competition and event in the gardens, organised and funded in large part by the Bothwell family.

Hundreds of children sent in their artwork, and at this chilly time of the year with Christmas past, they make a cheerful reminder of a great day, and what it’s like to be a child again.  And each and every one of the childrens’ artwork exceeds by miles the A3 takaway flyer sent by a group of anonymous business people telling you we must vote for the granite web.

Do have a look – you will be glad that you did.
http://oldsusannahsjournalchildrenschristmasartwork.yolasite.com/

On with some definitions then.

Propaganda:  (noun) Material, slogans, misinformation designed to advance a particular point of view often by discrediting or ignoring opposition.

My email inbox is bursting this week with details of employers who are sending their employees all of the leaflets, letters and testimonials which support the garden project.  Most of these are written in the names of associations or groups which have – but crucially do not declare in the literature in question – a member or members who are directly involved with promoting the scheme.  This is very clever indeed.

An employee wants to be told by their boss how they should think and want and vote.  It would therefore be most unfortunate if the employees were given some way to read the many arguments against going ahead with an undefined project with an undefined budget using an as-yet untested in the UK financial borrowing mechanism with a debt-ridden city council borrowing money.

Let us hope therefore that suitable precautions are taken to prevent employees reading the literature from different groups available at the following:-
http://oldsusannahsjournal.yolasite.com/

Myth:  (noun) work of fiction, often including gods, goddesses and challenges and tasks.

Not since the rainbow bridge of Asgard joined heaven and earth, not since the legend of Hercules and his impossible labours has there been a tale as far-fetched as that of the granite web that launched 6,500 jobs and paved the streets annually with £122,000,000.  Sure, it may look more like one of the circles of Hades or the Minotaur’s maze, but the web is already passing into myth.

Those clever people who bring us this gift from the gods are worried we mortals can’t undertand the benefits, and are misunderstanding (or mythunderstanding) their benevolent intentions.  They’ve written a handy guide (something called a ‘blog’) The City Garden Project – The Myths, dispelled’ which can be found at:-
http://www.voteforcitygarden.co.uk/blog/17-the-city-garden-project-the-myths-dispelled

And to its words in bold italics, are my little responses.

The City Garden Project – The Myths, dispelled.

  • We want you to make your decision based on truth, not incorrect claims, speculation and downright nonsense!

Fine – we are all in agreement.

  • Myths have been at the heart of the campaign against the City Garden Project and if some of them were true then the opposition could be justified.

Which myths and what are they?  Where did you get them from?  I remember the initial consultation:  we were shown a beautiful, expensive colour brochure (which the taxpayer had funded) – the cover of which had a flat concrete giant square with some plants in planters.  Later on we were told the project was not going to look like the picture.  Maybe we could have saved some taxpayer money and time by waiting for a consultation and poll until such time we knew what the proponents had up their collective sleeve.  But it is not for us to question the gods.

  • But, whether by mischief-making or simply misinterpretation, the rumours have been rife.

So here we have an implication of mischief-making.  Was it the god Loki at work?  Or of the opposition being too thick to be able to ‘interpret’ what is proposed.  I have not personally heard ANY RUMOURS.  I have read serious questions about the project’s economic, ecological, sociological and regeneration benefits.

I have read people asking where the ventilation will be for underground car parking.  That is one example of the sort of criticisms and questions that I’ve experienced.  ‘Dante’s Inferno’ has a version of heaven, hell and earth without any ventilation, so I guess these miracles can happen here as well.  

  • So, let’s dispel some of these myths! 

Fantastic!  Let’s go!

1. The “green lung” of our city will be lost – FALSE. 

The City Garden will double the amount of green space in our city centre. The new “green lung” will be more usable, more accessible and brought into the sun-light. New garden areas will be created, including a colourful, blossoming area, a forest, a Learning Garden, a quiet tree-lined Bosque area with street furniture and open green space for relaxing in or having a picnic.

Patches of grass do not clean the pollutants and particulates out of a city – established, large, leafy trees do.  As the goal posts keep moving on what trees are to be lost by the City Garden Project engineers, it is hard to imagine which trees are going.

I am still very disappointed we will not have a MONOLITH at which we can make sacrifices to the gods.  I guess we’ll just have to sacrifice the trees, animals, birds, and money to these new gods instead.  But are you going to be reassured that the existing mature trees are somehow going to be replaced overnight by trees with equal pollution / C02 management capabilities by people – sorry gods – who think they can plunk a pine forest in the midst of a city centre?

Most people question where the trees’ roots will be – nearly all trees have extremely large, spreading root systems which require soil.  By the way these roots and soil are what prevents flooding.  I have read points made by experts who say it is not viable to grow a pine forest in the middle of a city centre for a number of reasons.  I don’t know the science – but I look forward to the City Garden Project team showing me examples of such cities.

  I do enjoy looking at the photos of people sitting on the concrete wedge over the ‘stage’ area which is covered with a bit of sod.

There are examples of cities with great open plazas which flood as there is insufficient soil / tree roots to absorb  heavy rains.  At least rain isn’t much of a problem here in North East Scotland.  As to bringing everything into the sunshine, err, the sun shines in the valley as it is – with the added advantage of the valley providing a very valuable wind break.

At Tullos Hill the soil matrix is very poor – which in the words of the soil report prepared by the Forestry Commission leaves any trees planted subject to ‘wind throw’.  If the roots don’t have a good firm earthy soil to hold onto, then a strong wind – like the kind that will inevitably blow across any area brought to street level – may well bring trees toppling on top of the granite web – or people.

Just by elevating a hunk of potato-chip shaped concrete and putting a few inches of sod over it, you are not creating a natural green lung/habitat/area,  even if it is the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen.  As far as doubling the space of the gardens, I do enjoy looking at the photos of people sitting on the concrete wedge over the ‘stage’ area which is covered with a bit of sod.

There is a woman sitting in a chair – a very neat trick indeed for such a steep slope.  Maybe she has a specially-constructed chair with short legs at the back and longer ones in the front?  Perhaps she is a goddess and is floating?  But as many observers point out, the ‘concept’ drawings are inconsistent in this and other ways, such as changing scale.

No, if you are losing the mature, healthy trees that are there – which are home to animals such as EU protected bats and rooks – you are indeed losing a major part of what makes the park valuable to our health.  There is no doubt of this in my mind, so I’m glad we have such a great team of pro-garden project personnel ready willing and able to explain all.  They’ve just not got round to it yet.

2. The city can’t afford the City Garden Project – FALSE.  ( Seriously? )

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a £182m investment in our city at NO cost to the City Council or the citizens of Aberdeen.

One way or the other, the citizen is going to pay.  IF the scheme somehow goes perfectly to plan and we have a bunch of new shops (without hurting further the existing ones) the business rates will be used to repay a loan – a loan at an unknown rate of interest on an as-yet to be determined sum.

And if it doesn’t go well, and Aberdeen gets its very own Trams project fiasco to match Edinburgh’s – the City has to find a way to pay for the TIF.  As far as the donations from private sources are concerned, at last report Sir Ian had promised to put the £50 million he pledged into his will.  Well, if I were one of his children, I’d contest the will if it ever came to that:  an ageing parent throwing £50 million on concrete webs should convince any court that something is wrong upstairs, and a will might get thrown out.

  Some say taking a loan is borrowing money.  But seems we would just be ‘unlocking’ funds – so no problem there.

But who is our mystery £5 million pound donor?  If this is a public project (debatable – the Aberdeen City  Gardens Trust is a private limited company with two people in it), then the public should know where all of the money is coming from.  If someone pledges money, what guarantee is there it will come in?  Some of our current millionaires are feeling the economic pinch, sad but true.

And if are they using this £5 million promise as a lever to tip the balance of public opinion towards the scheme  – then if they stand to gain personally, then we should be told.

I hear varying reports that other private people are pledging something like £20 million.  Now that’s a myth I’d like more info on.

Once in a lifetime?  How on earth is that conclusion reached?  That claims sounds  very much like the scaremongering the pro garden project have been accusing others of.  There are six trial TIF schemes at present.  There may well be more.  But if this were a once in a lifetime chance, then all the more reason to take our time and make a cohesive, desirable bid, perhaps even one based on something less nebulous than a scheme that has a forest one week, an ice rink the next – and so other many unknowns to it.

TIF is only in the pilot stage in Scotland – so let’s get in there first!  Test case Aberdeen!  Some say taking a loan is borrowing money.  But seems we would just be ‘unlocking’ funds – so no problem there.

A minor detail, as we’ll all be rolling in dosh in no time, but do we know the interest rates on the £182 -192 million pounds Aberdeen City Council is going to borrow?  I’ve not been told.  Over to you, City Garden Project.

Again I will say that mere mortals choose to live in an area that is clean, safe and has excellent schools and hospitals.  I must have missed the part when someone proposed to the City Council that it should cut services and schools, and replace green space and our environmental heritage for concrete.

I don’t remember agreeing to continuously expand the City’s footprint into its green space while there are so many empty buildings in the city centre.  I guess I wasn’t paying attention that day – probably got distracted by reading about a cute baby competition in the news or something.

  • 40% of the cost of the City Garden has already been secured. The Scottish Government have pledged that, if the development is supported by the public, a TIF will be used to fund the rest of the costs for the City Garden Project. 

Fine.  Let’s see the legal papers showing exactly how much has been pledged and how ironclad or otherwise these pledges are.  Forty percent?  What is the figure?  We still do not have any genuine, concrete, specific project (no timescale, no costings done, and no precise scope – these are what you learn in ‘Projects 101’ are the building blocks).  You cannot  possibly say you have 40% of the money you need for something which you don’t even have defined or costed.  Not without godlike wisdom anyway.

  • TIF is a bit like a mortgage. The cost of the “property” is £182m. The “property” is the City Centre Regeneration Scheme (Aberdeen Art Gallery, St Nicholas and North Denburn redevelopments, the new public realm and the City Garden Project). The £55m of philanthropic donations already secured for the City Garden, along with the £15m to follow from the private sector, is the deposit.   

First, please define ‘the new public realm’ for me – just so that we are all talking about one specific defined term, thanks.  I’ll bet TIF is a bit like a mortgage:  if you don’t pay up, you lose your property.  Again Aberdeen City Council are going to borrow the money via TIF.  Not Ian Wood.  Nor the private limited ‘Aberdeen City Gardens Trust Company’.

Just as well we’re told it will bring in over a hundred million a year – we’ll be needing it.

Back to the mathematics.  OK – let’s assume the £55 million is £50m of Ian Wood’s, plus the mystery philanthropist.

We should also be told who the £15 million is coming from, but leaving that aside, that’s apparently £70 million pounds.

Some people would question what kind of tax breaks if any will be given to the donors, and whether or not the tax that does not get into the treasury (because it’s being put in a hole in the ground) would be of benefit to our ever-dwindling services instead.

Right – 70 million is forty percent of 175 million.  We have just been told that the ‘cost of the property is 182 million’.  Sorry – I would have thought that the 182 million is the value of the assets, but there it is.  Just for the record: forty percent of 182 million is 72.8 million.  And just so you know, Scottish Enterprise had by May of this year spent over £420,000 on this project on consultations and PR and the like, and the City Council have just agreed to spend up to £300,000 of our money on the legal costs.

Just as well we’re told it will bring in over a hundred million a year – we’ll be needing it.  Hands up anyone who suspects this project will have many little extras here and there.  Do you think at the end of the day the estimates we are getting now (nebulous as they are) will:  a.  stay exactly the same, b.  decrease and cost less than we think, or c.  cost more?

  • The City Council takes out a loan to pay for the remainder. This loan is paid back over 25 years using the income from the new business rates raised. The City is therefore being given both the deposit and the income to pay back the loan – clever eh? That’s why TIFs are so widely used in the States and promoted in Scotland by the Government. But remember a TIF can only be used for this – not for anything else and if we don’t use our TIF, other cities will!

Well, it is indeed time for some myth- busting, because depending on who you listen to, this either is or is not a commercial venture.  TIF is supposed to be for commercial ventures – and it is unclear how anything but a commercial venture can make the millions in loan repayments we would need to make.

In fact, I seem to recall seeing a video of one of the ‘philanthropists’  saying this is ‘Not a commercial venture’.  ‘Clever eh?’  – I am not exactly convinced.  I do think risky, untested, potentially fiscally disastrous.

And overall, unnecessary to my way of thinking.  Nothing is wrong with the gardens.  We could regenerate the city’s shops by lowering our extremely high business rates.  Making more shopping spaces, eating places and entertainment venues creates more competition for the venues we have.

Did you know we as taxpayers are subsidising the AECC and the Lemon Tree – and now they want us to borrow money to build competition for these venues we’re already paying for?  It would be to my way of thinking like betting on several horses in a race.  You might win on one of them, but you will lose money.

3. The City Garden is a commercial development – FALSE

This is about creating a new civic space and gardens that will be brought back into daily use… 

(note – see definition above of ‘propaganda’)

…and become part of the daily life of the people of Aberdeen. The space will include exciting new venues for everyone to use and enjoy including a cultural and arts centre, a 500-seat black box theatre and 5,000 seat amphitheatre and stage.  

See my quotes above about these theatre/stage options.  We don’t need them.  We’re already paying for such venues.  The writer of this paper has first set out to ‘bust myths’.  However, they are lapsing into emotive, subjective prose when they say how wonderful this will all be.  We don’t know that – we don’t know anything of the kind.

But now we get to the ‘venues for everyone to use and enjoy’.  Right.  At present, we can come and go as we please when the gardens are open.  No one can prevent us from enjoying the space as we see fit – no one can charge us any fee to use the gardens.  Why?  Because they belong to each and every one of us as Common Good Land.  Are these ‘non-commercial’ theatres going  to be free of any admission charge?  If yes, then fine – they are not commercial.  If no – then they can’t make money and pay off the TIF loan.

And if they charge you money to be on your common good land, then whoever holds the deeds to the land, it is no longer common good land in reality.  Are we going to borrow millions to make a theatre that is free to go to?  If so, why don’t we just close the AECC and Lemon Tree and be done with them?

Who is responsible for joining up all these fuzzy, competing concepts – and why aren’t they actually doing it?

  • The land and all the facilities will remain in the ownership of the City of Aberdeen and its citizens.  

Oh yes, we’ll still own it – but better, wiser, richer people will control it.  You might own it – but try going to a concert for free or getting one of the 25-30 car parking spaces free.  There is every possibility that one private entity or another (why does the two-person Aberdeen City Gardens Trust spring to my mind?) will get a very long lease at a very low rate.  In terms of ownership, ‘possession is 9/10 of the law’.

4. Union Terrace Gardens will be turned into a giant car park – FALSE.

I don’t know where our friends picked up this ‘myth’  - I’ve not heard it.  But there you go.

Parking is at a premium in the city and while many people would indeed wish to see more car-parking in the centre, it will not be in the City Garden. There will be between 25 and 30 underground parking spaces to service the new development.  Old Susannah is no mathematical genius like the ones who work out our city’s budgets; but if we are putting in a 5,000 seat venue and a smaller venue in a city centre already pressured for car parking spaces, then I predict some car parking and car congestion problems.  Wild conclusion I know.

However, if there are 30 underground spaces, they will still need ventilation.  Nothing like that is shown on the plans I’ve seen yet.  But back to the maths.  If we have 5,000 people going to see a Robbie Williams tribute act in the brand new space and 30 parking spaces available at the venue, there just might be a little bit of an issue.

That nice Mr Milne (owner of Triple Kirks – soon to be developed, Chair of ACSEF, one of the anonymity-seeking businesspeople behind the beautiful Vote for the City Gardens Project…) seems to need some car parking space for his beautiful glass box offices which will be adjacent to this great ‘non-commercial’ granite web.  I guess the 30 spaces will take care of that nicely.  Either that, or there will be more than 30 spaces.  A lot more.

As I posted on Facebook this week, it comes down to these points (leaving out the environmental carnage and the Common Good Status, that is):

  • 1. Is TIF a tried and tested financial model in the UK? Not yet.
  • 2. Do we know exactly what this project will cost? No – because the scope is unknown and ever-changing. That is one of the main flaws with Edinburgh’s trams scheme – it kept changing – and now we are looking at nearly one billion cost for it.
  • 3. Is the design fully fleshed out enough for anyone who supports it to fully explain the engineering (vents, how will trees – esp. pines grow, how will ramps be made safe, etc)? No.
  • 4. As the taxpayer is already propping up entertainment venues with tax money, venues that cannot survive without financial aid, does it make any financial sense to create venues to compete with them? No.

So – if you’re not sure about any of these points  – and who is? – then maybe we should not rush into anything.

Jan 122012
 

Voice reviewed ‘When The Clyde Ran Red’ a few weeks ago. So impressed was David Innes with Maggie Craig’s excellent take on a vital part of Scottish history, that he spent an afternoon in her cosy kitchen on the wrong side of the Balloch, discussing the book’s background, her passion for the subject, and much more besides. Here is Part One of that interview.

How much of your background is in ‘When The Clyde Ran Red’?

A lot of my background. My dad was very involved with Labour politics and was an Inverness town councillor in the 1940s. He moved to Glasgow and became election agent for Cyril Bence, the Labour MP for Dunbartonshire East after Davie Kirkwood, in the early 1950s.

My dad was born in Coatbridge in 1913, so grew up during the Depression. We were told stories about them going over the farmer’s dyke to nick a few neeps and the farmer turning a blind eye because he knew everyone was really hungry.

In fact my dad’s in the book. I discovered a big pile of my dad’s papers which showed he’d written to the Commissioner of Distressed Areas about the Scottish Allotments Scheme for the Unemployed. He was a great gardener and a railwayman and you know how these two things go together.

People say, “Let’s not talk about politics”, and you think, “If you ignore politics it won’t ignore you”. It was my dad’s lifeblood. I remember him crying about a neighbour’s baby who’d died and they’d no money even for a coffin. This would have been, I suppose, in the early 1930s. They wrapped the baby up in brown paper, and he said, “Tied up like a bloody parcel”, because nobody had any money.

There was always the big hoose and the mine owners. He went apoplectic about Sir Alec Douglas Home, who they were working for at one point, because they were living in the lap of luxury when their workers were living in poverty.

My dad was one of about ten and they were really a bright, clever family, and there was this idea that girls who were clever were going to work in factories at 14 and the boys didn’t get a chance either. It was such a waste of potential.

I remember my aunt telling me about how the doctor would come out. It cost five shillings, but they’d a good doctor who’d say, “I’ll get it next time, Liz”. My aunt says they were on first name terms with the doctor, who must have been an idealistic man who saw himself on the same level as the miners he was treating. When you think of some doctors now who insist on their status, it’s an interesting turnaround.

You grew up in the Glasgow area?

I grew up in Clydebank. My dad then got a job as station master which moved us from Clydebank to Bearsden, quite an interesting culture shock! My mother had come from a farm, and the station house we lived in came with a third of an acre of ground which my dad was proud of. It was semi-rural. He came from Carnwath and loved being in the country.

If you go there now the industry’s gone and it’s back to being a rural area. A lot of these Clydeside places were. There were shipyards and tenements, but you went up to the farm to buy eggs. I think there was a love of the land even in industrial areas.

My mother’s from Barthol Chapel on the Haddo House Estate and she used to talk about Lord and Lady Aberdeen. I don’t think her family was as poor as my dad’s, but she told me that her mother sometimes had to sell their butter and buy margarine. That really hit me – the one benefit of being on the land is that your children are going to have healthy food, but that wasn’t always the case.

I think their rural background helped them speak fantastic Scots. There are words my mother used that we still use, like “fair forfochen”. Because my dad came from what he called the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire he had that rich Scots and that’s all running through the book too.

I think there’s an obvious really good prose rhythm in the book, and that possibly explains it, but it’s your passion for the subject that really shines through.

I grew up with it and thought a couple of years ago that it was time I wrote another non-fiction book. I thought, “What do I feel passionately about?” and the book’s the answer.

I went and looked at some of the other books and some of them are pretty dreadful. The Legend of Red Clydeside is hard going, and you come up against the party line quite often. The Marx Memorial Library gave me permission to quote from Helen Crawford which a lot of people said they wouldn’t allow.

You also have to make a judgement about what’s been written and have to say to yourself when reading some of the memoirs, “You’re presenting yourself in a bit of a heroic light here”. I love the wee vignettes, and I don’t think they’re frivolous. Like when James Maxton gives Davie Kirkwood a clean hanky when he gets arrested because he always liked to have one. Somehow you think, “Well, that’s true!”

I think I had a passion to write about it because it seems to have been forgotten. People are talking about austerity nowadays, and I think, “Not yet”. We’re not at the level of poverty where people couldn’t go to work because they didn’t have a pair of shoes, or they had to share a pair of shoes with their sister.

We’re now seeing the prospect of our children doing less well than we did, which is very hard because you want your children to do better than you’ve done. Both my husband and myself are working class kids who’ve made good but you feel as though you’re almost being hit for that – the idea that if you can afford to send your kids to university, you have to bear this cost. This is fine, but you don’t have the cushion that someone like David Cameron has. I had to have a full grant to go to university otherwise I couldn’t have gone.

Next week: The author speaks about her books on the Jacobites, ‘Bare-Arsed Banditti: The Men of the ‘45’ and ‘Damn Rebel Bitches; The Women of the ‘45’, and how this period of Scottish history is misunderstood and worthy of re-evaluation.

Those of you who want to meet Maggie and hear a bit more about her influences have the opportunity on Saturday 21 January when she and fellow writer Kenneth Steven will be at The Central Library, Aberdeen at 11.00 to talk about their love of books.

Sep 302011
 

By Mike Shepherd. 

A document has appeared purporting to reveal and counter ‘myths’ about the proposed Union Terrace Gardens development.  It has been posted on the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC) website.
Some of the claims are disingenuous and others stretch the idea of a ‘myth’ somewhat.

AGCC: “Fiction: This is Sir Ian Wood’s project. Fact: The City Garden is not and never has been Sir Ian Wood’s project.”

The City Square has always been seen as Sir Ian Wood’s project. Sir Ian announced his proposal at  HM Theatre in November 2008.  The Evening Express reported the launch with the headline;

Options revealed in Sir Ian Wood’s vision for Union Terrace Gardens EE13/11/08

The same article also states:

The businessman wants to raise Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens to street level and create a civic square.”

A media quote picked at random clearly shows that it has invariably been perceived as Sir Ian’s project.

Back my vision for the city or lose £50m, Sir Ian warns P&J 14/04/2010

So exactly whose vision is it then, Sir Ian?

What is referred to as ‘my vision’ is in fact the vision, aspiration and hopes of many, many Aberdonians for the future economic and civic wellbeing of our city and region as North Sea oil winds down.” BBC20/4/10

Excuse me, I don’t think so.

AGCC:  “Fiction: The City Garden Project will destroy the only green space in the city. Fact: It will create new, bigger, greener and more attractive gardens. It is about gardens and open, distinct spaces on different levels, using the natural slopes, for all sorts of activities.”

The development will destroy the existing Gardens and according to the technical feasibility study, all 78 mature trees including the old elms will be chopped down. It is hard to accept that the new “City Garden” could ever support mature trees on the existing scale.

AGCC: “Fiction: It will destroy our history and heritage. Fact: Wherever possible, the project will preserve and enhance our history and heritage.”

This is the most disingenuous of all the ‘myths’ in the document.  The first draft of the design brief for the City Squarecalls for a …

“21st century contemporary garden”

…to be built in place of the Victorian park. Union Terrace Gardens was planned by Alexander Marshall Mackenzie, who also designed many of the surrounding buildings including the Art Gallery. If Union Terrace Gardens feel as if they belong, this is the reason why. The city square WILL destroy a key part of our history and heritage.

AGCC:  “Fiction: Aberdeen City Council is selling off public land for this project. Fact: The land involved will remain in public ownership.”

This is misleading as it doesn’t explain the whole picture. The land will most likely remain with the Council for the time being. However, the ground will probably be leased for a long period, 125 years has been suggested. A lease-hold on this time-scale while technically not ownership, is nevertheless a significant property deal.  Any structure on the land, including the so-called City Garden, will not be publically owned. This will belong to the private company or trust if they get planning permission.

AGCC: “Fiction: Aberdeen City Council is spending money it cannot afford on this project, money that could be better spent elsewhere. Fact: Aberdeen City Council has not allocated any revenue expenditure to the City Garden Project, over the past year.”

We know that considerable Council officer time has been allocated to work spent on the project. We do not know if the City Garden Project intends to reimburse the Council for this or not. ACC minutes show that the Council lawyers have not yet signed  off the relevant project agreement that would allow this to happen.

AGCC: “Fiction: The City will be taking on-board future liabilities relating to the construction and operation of the City Garden.  Fact: The City has agreed to consider a TIF scheme to provide public sector funding for the project. This will involve the City borrowing funds to invest in the project. The project will stimulate new business investment and generate additional extra economic activity in the area, resulting in an increase in the amount of business rates collected in future years. This will be used to repay the loan plus the interest charges.”

Doh! – “Fiction: The City will be taking on-board future liabilities” but then we are told “This will involve the City borrowing funds to invest in the project”.

The Council are £562M in debt and cannot afford any more borrowing for anything. As has been explained on these pages before by Mick Miller, the version of TIF suggested for the City Square Project involves major financial risk. If the amount of business rates does not increase sufficiently to pay back the loan, then the Council get left holding the baby.

AGCC: “Fiction: The majority of Aberdeen public has voted against redeveloping Union Terrace Gardens. Fact: 11,000 people (less than 10% of the population) participated in the public consultation which revealed that just over half were against the proposal. Many of those were basing their decision on misinformation. The majority indicated a need for change and for the location to be more attractive and accessible.”

This is probably the most outrageous of the so-called myths. A public consultation was held, the public voted No by a significant majority and it was ignored. The public were told that their votes would count. Even Sir Ian Wood acknowledged this in an interview as can be seen on an STV located on Youtube.

“”The citizens of Aberdeen…  will have the right to choose. There will be full consultation, it’s coming to the end of it now and they will decide. And that’s democracy in operation. That’s great.”
http://video.stv.tv/bc/news-l2-gardens-190210/?redirect=no

The scale of participation in the consultation was significant. ACSEF, who helped set up the consultation, noted:

“11,943 people went on to submit formal responses that have been recorded in the statistics.  This is a huge response rate when compared to similar style consultations. For example, the Edinburgh Tram consultation had just under 3,500 direct responses.”

When, later ACSEF discussed the results of the consultation at a board meeting onthe 22d March 2010, they discussed how to frame the result of the consultation as a favourable outcome for the city square in spite of the No vote:

“If views are roughly split there is an opportunity to say that although the public has spoken this is only in relatively small numbers.  Those wishing to see the status quo are in the minority compared to those who wish to see change such as updating and modernising the gardens.”
http://www.acsef.co.uk/uploads/reports/21/22%20March%2010.doc

The statement that the majority indicated a need for change is misleading, the majority said no to the City Square Project and did not endorse it.

If the public were misled during the consultation, who was responsible for the misinformation?  Where did these myths come from?

It is now acknowledged by all involved that the absence of a reference design was a fundamental flaw in the consultation. The consultation asked if people supported the project or not but the common perception was that the conceptual illustrations, based on the technical study, represented a final design. Many based their decision on not liking what they believed was a final design.”
http://thecitygardenproject.com/background.asp

The proponents of the City Square do not accept that they lost the consultation fairly. They cannot believe that the public cogently preferred either the Peacock scheme or the preservation of the existing gardens to a modern city square. But this is what happened.

AGCC: “Fiction: It will be a flat, concrete square. Fact: This is not the case. The design teams have been given a very clear brief that new gardens and space which will have street level access from all four sides will use the existing topography of the site to provide a unique, dramatic and creatively landscaped setting to better reveal and blend with the surrounding historic architecture.”

OK guys, explain to me how you can ”raise the level of the Gardens to that of the surrounding streets” (the Council’s words not mine) and use the existing topography to any significant extent?  So where did the idea of a unique and dramatic setting come from?

Here is the description of the existing Gardens as noted in the City Centre Development Framework:

They have a “topography which provides a unique and dramatic setting for the surrounding historic townscape and bridges and an essential component of the identity of the City Centre. “

I suspect that this is just the start of a large PR campaign to sell the concept of the “City Garden Project” to the Aberdeen Public. It will have only a limited impact. Aberdonians are highly educated and can think for themselves. They can make their own mind up about what they want the city centre to look like, whether it is the existing Gardens or a city square at street level. They are smart enough to see what is plausible and what isn’t.