Mar 222012
 

With thanks to Dave Macdermid.

Tickets for the Dons Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibernian at Hampden on Saturday 14th April (12.15 pm kick-off) will go on sale online and at Pittodrie Stadium to season ticket holders and shareholders (those with a minimum of 260 from the original allocation) from 9 am this Saturday 24th March, with a maximum of two tickets per eligible supporter.  The ticket office will close at 5.30 p.m.

These top priority groups will have until close of business (5 p.m.) on Saturday 31st March to purchase their tickets with a general sale operating from 9 a.m. on Monday 2nd April.

Aberdeen have been given an initial allocation of 12,500 tickets with prices for the North Stand being £23 for adults. The Club has also been allocated the West Stand with prices at £15 for adults and £5 for Under 16’s in the family section.  Postal applications will be accepted.

Supporters are also urged to retain their tickets from the SPL match against Inverness Caley Thistle on the 24th March, the game with Dundee United on Saturday 7th April and post-split home games as, in the event of Aberdeen reaching the final, a voucher system will operate.

In light of the early kick off, Pittodrie Stadium will be closed on Saturday 14th April.

For info – Dave Macdermid – 07710 580148 – dave.macdermid@bigpartnership.co.uk

Jan 122012
 

On January 2nd an Aberdeen-based member of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) took part in a new project to re-plant trees in previously devastated areas of Palestine.  Dave Black, along with other members of the Stop the JNF international delegation, joined individuals from a nearby refugee camp, trade union representatives, youth activists, Stop the Wall campaigners and representatives of political parties. The group planted 111 trees, representing the number of years that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) has been in existence, playing a key role in Israel’s policy of displacing and dispossessing Palestinians.

The JNF controls land that the organisation openly decrees is solely for the benefit of Jewish people; non-Jewish people are not able to live or work on the land and it can only be sold or rented to Jewish people.
The organisation is a quasi-governmental one, with extremely close ties to the state; it is often referred to as a para-statal organisation.

Despite the JNF’s clearly discriminatory policies, the Israeli state maintains this strong relationship with the organisation.

The trees were planted in Tulkarem district, formerly one of the richest and most important districts of Palestine. In 1948, most of its lands were taken and dozens of villages destroyed. The JNF played a key role in the destruction of some of these villages and the ethnic cleansing of their population.

The land where the trees have been planted, in the city of Tulkarem, was historically part of the agricultural land of the city. However, in 2002 the Israeli military bulldozed the entire stretch of land, supposedly for “security reasons”.  Tulkarem has also been one of the districts most affected byIsrael’s illegal separation wall, which has destroyed some 8.4 square kilometres of olive and other fruit trees, 37.3 km of water networks, 15 km of agricultural roads, as well as irrigated agricultural land in Tulkarem, Qalqiliya and Jenin districts.

Despite poor weather on the day there was a large turnout and the event was welcomed by those involved.  A representative from the Palestinian Farmer’s Union explained the importance of such events that bring different groups together:

“the participation of farmers, youth groups, friends from various organisations and others increases belief in the justice of our cause and the belief that we are not working alone against the Occupation. The land that was so important land to us was uprooted by the Occupation”. 

He also added that the event was timely because of the ongoing attacks by settlers on Palestinian land.

Aberdeen’s ties to the project were already significant as the local branch of SPSC last year raised £650 for the Plant-a-Tree in Palestine project.

Over 5 days the group walked 84 miles along the path of Hadrian’s Wall, raising awareness of the Stop the JNF campaign and also of the separation wall.

The group’s efforts went towards funding the planting event in Tulkarem.  It is hoped that the Plant-a-Tree in Palestine project will build to support the ongoing struggle of Palestinians to rebuild by providing resources for villages to plant trees that are indigenous to Palestine’s natural environment and agricultural life.

The delegation included members of Palestine solidarity and campaign groups in Scotland, England, the United States, France, Austria, as well as a representative of Midlothian Trade Unions Council.  The main activity of the delegation was 5 days of fact-finding and educational visits around Israel and the West Bank, followed by the day of tree planting in Tulkarem.

The group visited Al-Araqib in the Naqab/Negev desert, a Bedouin village which has been destroyed 33 times since July 22nd 2010.  The trees of the village have been destroyed and thus the village’s livelihood and the JNF has been instrumental in displacing the Bedouin people of this area.

Within clear view of the village that remains is the Ambassadors Forest, one of the JNF’s many forests in Israel.  As the delegation spoke with villagers, including the sheikh of the village, a truck drove by on the sandy, desert road.  The truck was on its way to provide water for the new JNF trees; the wrong trees planted at the wrong time, thus requiring much additional water.  The village of Al Araqib has no water supplied to it, but instead villages have to watch trucks drive past on their way to irrigate trees that are steadily taking over their land.

The group also spoke to a staff member of the UK ambassador’s officer in Israel, who was visiting the village in preparation for the visit of the British ambassador and Parliament Under Secretary of State Alistair Burt.

The chance meeting allowed the British members of the delegation to raise the issue of the UK’s complicity with the JNF and Israeli crimes, and specifically Early Day Motion (1677) which was tabled last year and currently has over 50 signatories.

The Early Day Motion outlines the discriminatory nature of the JNF and calls for the revocation of the JNF’s charity status in the UK.  The motion also criticises the Prime Minister’s patronage of the JNF, a situation which was addressed for the first time since the foundation of the JNF when David Cameron stepped down as patron last year.

For the first time since its creation not one of the three main party leaders in the UK are patrons of the organisation.

Later in the week delegates visited refugees in Ramallah (in the West Bank) who had originally lived in the Palestinian village of Imwas.  The refugees told the group the fate of their village in 1967 when it was overrun by Israeli forces set on taking the Latrun Salient, a hillside seen as a key strategic target.

Photos were shown, taken from exactly the same position, that illustrated the dramatic changes to the village and land in the 1960s and 70s.  The first photo showed part of the thriving village, the final one showing what is now known as Canada Park.

Canada Park is one of the many parks and forests that JNF has been responsible for establishing in Israel, or in this case Israel and the West Bank.  Sections of the park, such as where the village of Imwas once stood, are within the Palestinian side of the “Green line”, or armistice line drawn up at the end of the 1967 war.  However, there is no sign of this and almost all visitors to the park remain oblivious, nor is it explained that the walls of the park entrance are built with the bricks of the houses of Imwas.

Delegates visited the park along with Said, a direct descendant of a family which was displaced from Imwas.  Said stood with his own children at the remains of his father’s house, now only the barest of remnants.  The group was also shown the other remaining evidence of the village: unmarked, unprotected memories scattered around the archaeological set-piece of Roman Baths for tourists to enjoy.  The gravestones of villagers stand just a few feet from one of the park’s picnic benches – a stark, chilling image.

Another JNF park, British park, was also visited.  This was of special interest to the UK participants on the delegation.

The park is built over 2 Palestinian villages: Ajjur and Zakariyya. The villages were 2 of the roughly 500 villages where massacres and forced population transfer of Palestinians from their lands in 1948.

This period is known by Palestinians as the Nakba – Arabic for “catastrophe”.

The JNF played a key part in planning the Nakba and then went on to expropriate the land of Palestinian refugees and proceeded to build parks, such as British Park, on the land using funds raised by the JNF around the world.

In 1948 the village of Ajjur was populated by 3000 people. Three of the original houses of Ajjur remain today, including what was previously a clinic and is now a winery serving the new Israeli towns that now intersperse British Park.  Where the market of Ajjur once stood is now inhabited by a play-park and some, presumably, “British” sheep; a favourite picnic spot for those visiting British Park.

On the fifth day of the delegation the group visited Al-Walaja, a town that was established in the West Bank after the original village of Walaja was destroyed; the JNF went on to build the Kennedy memorial on the land.  After years of living in caves near the original town, the new town was established and former residents could return to some form of normality.  Normality, that is, until the development of Israel’s illegal Separation Wall, which is set to once again devastate the village.

The wall is still under construction and already surrounds much of the town, but when complete will completely surround the town.  Residents will be forced to use an access road controlled by the Israeli military if they wish to leave. This wall will cut residents off from much of their agricultural land, and will inevitably lead to displacement away from the town as residents look to find viable employment.

The locations visited by the delegation left those involved in no doubt of the JNF’s deep complicity in crimes against Palestinians, past and present.

Witnessing the situation that faces so many Palestinians inevitably shocked, saddened and deeply moved those involved.

However, none of the delegates failed to be inspired and in awe of the resistance of the Palestinian people who fail to lie down and accept the injustice that has been forced upon them.

Many different forms of resistance were seen, some large and obvious and some more subtle but no less impressive.  The commitment to resistance of those that were encounters served to emphasise the important of the ongoing efforts around the world to show solidarity with Palestinians, such as the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment campaign against Israel.

The Plant-a-Tree in Palestine project is one such way in which people can resist the injustices enforced by the JNF and the Israeli government.

The project will never be able to compete with the financial clout of the JNF and the 240 million trees that this has allowed the organisation to plant in Israel and the West Bank.  However, the project does allow a positive way to act against such crimes, enabling Palestinians to resist ongoing attempts at dispossession.

As Stop the Wall Co-ordinator Jamal Juma pointed out, it is also serves as an ideal way to educate those affected, Palestinians young and old, about the role of the JNF in the dispossession of their homes.  The project also offers great potential for future collaboration between Palestinians and the international community to take part in non-violent resistance against the Israeli government’s attempts to entrench the illegal occupation of the West Bank, dispossess Palestinians within Israel of even more of their lands, and take away the rights, enshrined in international law, of 7 million refugees to return to their homes in Israel.

For more on the Stop the JNF campaign:   www.stopthejnf.org
Join the Palestine campaign in Aberdeen:  Aberdeen@scottishpsc.org.uk
Visit:
 www.Facebook.com/Spscaberdeen

Nov 082011
 

By Jonathan Hamilton Russell.

This is my third article on Libya over the seven month period of the ‘revolution’.

The reason that I have written these articles is the general silence and passive acceptance that has taken place on developments in Libya as they have unfolded, and my wish to raise awareness.

I am also greatly concerned in a period when we should have learnt from world wars and numerous conflicts across the world that war is not the solution and leads to untold misery.

Yet war has become our most favoured form of foreign intervention. My intention had been to leave writing a further article until a new government was formed however the atrocities that have taken place at the end revolution have led me to writing the present article. I  realise much of what I  report goes against what many people have come to believe, but feel it essential to report on what I  have read.

My previous arguments have been that rather than relying solely on military intervention, negotiations should have taken place with the prerequisite that elections were held under the auspices of the United Nations. Everyone could have had a say regarding the future of Libya: including those who supported Qaddafi’s green movement who have been effectively disenfranchised.

The African Union and Venezuela offered to broker negotiations and Qaddafi and the then Libyan government on frequent occasions wanted to have a cease fire and negotiations. I also argued that all those responsible for torture and war crimes whether Qaddafi’s regime, NATO or the revolutionary militias should be put before an international court for their crimes.

On the 4th February following International pressure the International Criminal Court have stated that they will be investigating war crimes perpetuated by Qaddafi Loyalists, the National Transitional Government and NATO. Interestingly this has not been reported in the British media but is whatever a significant step forward in terms of justice

If you do nothing else please watch the following video.

Journalist Lizzie Phelan was in Tripoli before during and after its fall. She explains the support for Qaddafi including a 1.7 million demonstration in Tripoli in support of Qaddafi  in July, of an entire population of around five million in Libya.

She also reports on how the media was falsely reporting, the democratic nature of Qaddafi’s regime, how many women took up arms and of mass murder by NATO. Have a look on You Tube and compare footage of the numbers demonstrating for Qaddafi and those for the revolutionary fighters.

Seamus Milne in the Guardian has argued that intervention by the West rather than saving public lives has in fact increased deaths at least tenfold. Off course we can never know what might have happened if the then Libyan Government tanks had reached Benghazi. What we do know is that in towns that Qaddafi’s troops did retake, reprisals if any were minimal.

We also know that that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that there have been considerable reprisals by the Revolutionary militias as well as the deaths inflicted by NATO bombing. Estimates of those killed range from 10,000 to 50,00 with  many more injured in a population of around five million.

Amnesty International has evidence of mass abduction and detention, beating and routine torture, killings and atrocities carried out by the revolutionary militias. Human rights watch have identified a number of mass graves and discovered 53 bodies with hands tied of Qaddafi fighter’s, some who had clearly been in hospital, near to the hotel used by Qaddafi loyalists just before he was he was murdered. In Sirte over 500 fighters and civilians were killed in the last ten days

There was knowledge by the revolutionary militia and NATO, as evidenced by militia fighters speaking on the BBC that Qaddafi was in Sirte in the last few days of fighting.

Two weeks after the death of Qaddafi the British Government is already planning to send a delegation to Libya to sell arms.

The statement by NATO that they did not now that Gaddafi was in the 80 strong convoy that was bombed while trying to escape Sirte was almost certainly untrue, as was the assertion that the bombings and drone attacks was done to protect civilians as they were fleeing not attacking anyone.

A reporter on the BBC said the carnage was horrific.

What I believe has happened has been a concerted attempt by the revolutionary militias and NATO to destroy Qaddafi’s Green movement supporters in Libya so that they cannot become a force in a future Libya. Mustafa Abdel Jalil the National Transitional Council Chairman and previously Qaddafi’s Justice Minister tried to put the blame of Qaddafi’s death onto Qaddafi’s own snipers despite the horrendous mobile footage that was published on the net all over the world.

Peter Boukaret the head of Human Rights Watch in Libya has seen revolutionary militias burning homes in Tawerga where the majority of people were black Libyans who were seen as supporters of the Qaddafi regime, so that they can never return to their home town.

Under International law combatants should be released at the end of a civil war but the Washington Post has reported that 1,000 Qaddafi loyalists are packed in dingy jails and have faced abuse and even torture. Amnesty International have criticised the EU for leaving 5,000 Sub-Saharan refugees camped in appalling conditions on Libya’s border

Will Self on the BBC has pointed out that arms are still being sold to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Algeria, Egypt and Morocco who have equally poor human rights records. He also pointed out that arms on both sides of the Libyan conflict were supplied by Britain.  Two weeks after the death of Qaddafi the British Government is already planning to send a delegation to Libya to sell arms.

It could be suggested that it was in the interests of Western Leaders for Qaddafi not to live as at any court hearing he could have informed the world of the arms and human rights deals brokered with the likes of Sarkozy and Blair.

The future of Libya is most certainly in the balance. Abel Hakim Belhaj kidnapped by MI6 and tortured in Libya is threatening legal action against the UK Government, and who is the leader of the militias in Tripoli, has already warned that they will not be taking orders from the National Transitional Council.

Mustafa Abdel Jalil Chairperson of the National Transitional council’s attempts to mollify the Islamic militias is to say that a future state will be based in Shariah law and that polygamy not allowed previously in Libya would be allowed.

The intervention in Libya was never about saving civilians.

This in itself would suggest that women’s role in Libya will take a considerable backward step. Kevin Rudd the Australian Foreign minister has warned that Libya could become another Iraq. There could well be further conflict before any elections take place.

What I would conjecture is that though there will be on-going violence, it is more likely that what will happen is that elections will eventually take place and the winners will be those that are sympathetic to the west. However as corruption increases as in Afghanistan and many people’s living standards fall,  that within ten years the Islamic parties as the only alternative will gain electoral or even military victory.

One factor not reported in our media is that Qaddafi through the African Union and with other Middle Eastern states had been pushing for a new currency – the Gold Dinar.  This would have been a threat to the Euro and the Dollar. This would have soon come into effect and would have enriched African countries and had a negative effect on western countries. This in itself was a major reason as to why they wanted to get rid of Qaddafi as he had large stocks of gold.

Britain’s new defence secretary Philip Hammond told the BBC:

 ”I would expect British Companies to be packing their suitcases for Libya”

UK trade and Investment a British Government body has estimated that oil, gas and reconstruction works will be worth over 320 billion dollars over the next ten years.

Daniel Kaczynski a conservative MP and Chair of the parliamentary Libyan committee who has written extensively on Qaddafi  and who has been a major influence on British Policy on Libya has suggested that Libya pay back the costs of British military intervention. Previous to the revolution the majority of contracts were going to Russia and China.

There are already significant land and property claims being made by Libyans who lost their property under Qaddafi this will have a significant knock on effect pushing those who have lived in the property and land into poverty

The intervention in Libya was never about saving civilians. It has been about regime change and a grab for lucrative resources and ending Qaddafi’s nearly met aim of creating a Gold Dinar as an alternative currency to threaten the Euro and the Dollar. 

In carrying out this policy the revolutionary militias aided extensively by NATO have carried out and continue to carry out genocide of ideological nature against those many Libyans who continued to support Qaddafi.

Oct 132011
 

How can Labour  move forward in the wake of the SNP electoral Tsunami of May 2011? Mike Martin interviews  Barney Crockett, the Labour Group leader on Aberdeen City Council.

What is your explanation for the overwhelming SNP victory in May?

The first obvious point to make is that everybody who didn’t want to vote Labour transferred their votes to the SNP. It should be noted that Labour’s problems did not start in the last election since Labour’s vote has been similar in the last couple of elections. But the weakness was disguised by that fact that people who didn’t like Labour voted in different ways. On this occasion it all came together so that made the situation for the SNP overwhelming.

I think the explanation for that is what the SNP managed to do is make a large part of the Scottish population scared of a Labour victory, in particular, Iain Gray, and that doesn’t correspond to reality. The SNP strategy was to make Iain Gray look inadequate and play on that relentlessly and Labour, by allowing the campaign to become Salmond versus Gray, therefore had a great problem.

I think the SNP strategy was to make everything a Salmond versus Gray issue and Labour would have wanted to avoid that because Salmond had all the advantages of being someone who is the only key character in his party and has been the dominant figure for nearly all his adult life.

 Whereas it is always going to be the case for Labour that the question of leader is always going to be a more complicated issue because, as leader, you have to be relevant at a UK, Scottish and local level and no one individual will have the enormous dominance that Salmond has.

What resources did the SNP deploy?

I think resources were also relevant and one of the apparent weaknesses of the SNP is that they didn’t seem to have the ability to raise funds but this was reversed by the enormous donation of Brian Souter and went on to attract support from a few key business figures.

Labour are unable to undermine the illusion that the SNP have the support of business when the reality is their support is from quite a narrow section and Labour has the affirmation of more mainstream sections of the business community.

I think that this may be an on-going difficulty as the SNP may be able to carry on attracting support from the oligarchs or proto-oligarchic sections of the business elite and that’s going to be politically interesting as to how reliant the SNP are on some sections of the business elite that gain from deregulation and some that are effectively asset strippers.

What sections of the electorate moved over to the SNP?

A very large proportion as I’ve mentioned earlier, again something interesting is that the SNP have managed to portray themselves as having an entirely different kind of attractiveness to different sections of voters.

Scotland is the part of the UK that most resembles the UK average in almost all measurements

I think the most important element to them that Labour has to process very carefully is that the most significant part of their core electorate is men in their middle or later middle age who have done quite well. Scotland has quite a lot of people in those circumstances which historically we may not have seen in such large numbers before.

 I think the striking feature now about Scotland is that sociologically it is very like the rest of the UK in ways that it didn’t used to be, for example,  traditionally Scotland would have been seen as having  higher unemployment, greater poverty, poorer housing , a higher proportion of the workforce organised in Trade Unions and a lower proportion of upper middle class – Now Scotland is the part of the UK that most resembles the UK average in almost all measurements.

The wider aspect is that Scotland is the third wealthiest part of the UK but what is interesting is that the two parts which are more wealthy are London and the South East – and sometimes, depending on how you measure it, East Anglia – these parts are so far ahead that Scotland is at the average and all the other regions are below.

Sometimes politicians look backwards and are slow to appreciate these trends and build them into their thinking. This is due to the rise of Finance which is by far the largest employment in some parts of the country and this has to be part of the forward thinking as to how politicians respond to that.

That was the starting point, but by the end a number of sections of the electorate have moved to the SNP and that is going to be politically interesting for our strategies as the SNP will not be  able to please all of the people all of the time, and Labour will have to have a set of policies that appeals to different groups within that. There is a perception  that young people have moved to the SNP,  I am not sure that is true.

Labour’s appeal is quite high to young people and we can develop that. I think we have to also look at how we appeal to older people and to maintain our high attractiveness to female voters as thinking about what we do about the relatively prosperous middle class.

What is your take on the Labour campaign?

we should have made it clear what we would be sacrificing in order to achieve each one of our key policies

I think it would be slightly controversial in my view to say how Labour should have responded. Everybody is terribly clever with  20-20 hindsight but I think Labour have found the SNP, in this election in particular, hard to grapple with because we have not had  such a clear populism in British politics for a very long time.

Labour found it difficult to cope with someone who would outbid whatever populist policies that were there and Labour would have to ground their policies in a great depth of realism, that meant in my view that we should have made it clear what we would be sacrificing in order to achieve each one of our key policies.

We appeared to the voter to be offering the same as the SNP, that stretched the credulity of the voter, they did not think that Labour could do it. I think we would have to respond to that by making it crystal clear what we would be sacrificing for instance to get our apprenticeship program or harsher penalties for knife crime.

 I think it is interesting because Labour members have said to me why should the voters have higher expectations of Labour than the SNP and I think that is partly because Labour is the leading party in Scotland in people’s minds but also that’s a positive for Labour in as much as they expect a higher level of integrity and I think we should have built on that as well.

The SNP picked up a spectacular number of votes in the West of Scotland, what do you think was going on there?

There are  two things to say there, first of all that people who are active in politics, playing close attention to politics will see an enormous chasm between Labour and the SNP from both sides but the voters do not always appreciate that and a lot of voters see Labour and SNP as having a lot of similarities and so it means that voters will quite easily switch and I think that again is something for parties to take into account in the future.

As for the particular issues in the Clydeside area, there are two things, first of all any movement of votes was magnified because of the non-voting.  It was the low turnout that magnified any changes in voting and this  turn out is an enormous issue for all parties but especially for Labour because it tends to punish Labour disproportionately and it is quite sobering that the turnout was only 30% in some areas.

Labour will have to process carefully the fact that the candidate is very important

The other aspect would be that the SNP are moulding quite a different message in different areas and the other  parties whether they be  Scottish Socialists or the Pensioners party have introduced people to not voting Labour.

So I think that in one sense Labour feel they can rebound quite well whether it be  the Inverclyde UK Parliamentary by-election  and recent North Ayrshire by-election in local Government . These have shown that you could draw some comfort from the fact that Labour can respond and  in both those instances that Labour will have to process carefully the fact that the candidate is very important and that if the voters see both Labour and the SNP as being quite similar then that puts a big onus on the selection of candidates.

How can Labour most effectively respond to the SNP?

They have the advantages and disadvantages of a massively centralised organisation which operates in a fairly stalinoid sort of sense so they have the advantage of total loyalty, total obedience but also have the disadvantages that come with that as well –  which may come to the fore in the next wee while  …and that is one thing about Labour’s policies. They have to have policies which try to show up potential divisions within the SNP  but much more importantly divisions between the SNP and what the people of Scotland really need.

we have to be looking at these big structural issues  and that may mean striking out in quite a different direction from the SNP

In terms of policies, I think that I mentioned earlier that the SNP is a populist party but, because we have not really had the depths of populism policies in the UK politics in recent decades, people do not automatically understand what that involves. And the key thing is avoiding difficult realities by a day to day tactical response to issues.

One thing that Labour have to learn is being crystal clear with voters about some of these difficult circumstances and how the SNP are unable to provide answers to them and that even includes the big macro-economic issues of overall expenditure but also includes things like the level of house building, which is currently at the level of 1931 –  that is we are completing housing at the rate we did at the depths of the depression.

That’s shocking!

That is a really shocking fact and we just have to find ways of addressing that which are quite honest with the electorate but which give some hope for the future. …and  we have to be looking at these big structural issues  and that may mean striking out in quite a different direction from the SNP.

It may mean for example, at quite a trivial level in terms of government spending, that you have to look at prescription charges, parking charges, whatever.. as a way of trying to maintain relevance around some of the bigger issues such as housing.

And the Council Tax as well?

The Council Tax again is another thing that is not going to be seriously discussed now for a few years but if we are going to have a discussion on how we fund local services in a serious way,  in my view, that will inevitably involve a local property tax.

You mean a departure from the current Council Tax system?

No, not necessarily, but it means something  fairly similar to what there is now.

The big issue, and the debate that has to be had – is a debate about land value tax and it has to be had imminently if it is going to happen at all. What has happened so far, is that Local Income Tax is a dead duck – only some politicians support it –  it is not feasible, it is not going to happen, so we have to return again either to a Council Tax adjusted to be more progressive or something more radical such as a Land Value Tax but we have to find a stable way of supporting Local Government spending.

Do you think that the SNP gained votes around the issue of opposition to the UK nuclear weapons system?

I would think that is a very small issue in electoral terms but relevant in the sense that the SNP have a broad spectrum of things to say to different voters and it will appeal to a certain type of voter but I do not think it was a major influence on voting in May. Fairly obviously, the only powerful influence it had was in West Dunbartonshire for local reasons and in so much as it was just about the only place where the Labour vote increased.

But it is difficult to measure across the country… 

The vote in West Dunbartonshire clearly was about local jobs but I see what you mean.

So when do you anticipate that the SNP will run into budgetary difficulties?

this election …. will not succumb so easily to being all about Alex Salmond

I presume it will start with the next budget because as I understand it they are going to have two helpings of cuts in one because they managed to agree with the Conservatives last year to postpone last years cuts to help the SNP through the Scottish election and now they will have to do the catch-up.

So the first big bite will be this time round but again the SNP will try to delay it beyond the Council elections. As to how successful they are with that we will have to see but they will be trying to lay traps for all the other parties.

Increasingly it looks as if the parties other than the SNP and Labour are being squeezed out. How do you think the political landscape may look like after the May election?

I think what you are going to see is increasingly, to all intents and purposes, a two party system in an electoral system geared to a multi-party system and I think that is going make some unpredictable issues – a lot will depend on how much the width of support they have can be preserved going into that election.

I think what will be interesting is that the pattern of 3 member and 4 member council wards for each local authority might be interesting because it might be systematically 2-1 in all the threes and 2-2 in all the fours, so if you have a lot of four member wards  it might be very equal between SNP and Labour. But if you have a preponderance of three member wards you might get a very disproportionate result.

the bulk of people who join the SNP do so only because of the independence issue

So I think it is going to be interesting and the SNP  have made it clear that they are going to make an enormous effort in Glasgow to try and seize, as they would see it, the Citadel of Labour and then therefore Labour will also be campaigning very hard in Glasgow.

How that will affect across the country is not so certain. My feeling is that having been intensively involved in the last elections, that the SNP will be able to field less activists than Labour and that will be an important factor as this election is going to be fought all the way across Scotland and will not succumb so easily to being all about Alex Salmond, although the SNP may wish to try and do that.

Clearly the greater part of the Scottish population do not want full independence, so what effect do you think the referendum will have?

I presume that the SNP will be trying to avoid all discussion of the referendum because they know it is a bad thing for them. Maybe what they will try and do is speak about some sort of middle issue of more powers for Scotland or whatever, and try to make the discussion about that , but they will be  trying to avoid it being in anyway about independence.

I think maintaining a reasonable level of Corporation Tax is part of a civilised society

At that point it may become a bit divisive within the SNP, because the bulk of people who join the SNP do so only because of the independence issue. So the premise might be that we will talk about it after the local elections.

I think that within COSLA it will become increasingly important because under the four plus party system, COSLA did not take strong positions on most things because it did not have that level of unity amongst the local authorities. That very unified nature of the SNP may start to rebound a bit in terms of COSLA because the SNP councillors in lock-step with Salmond, may be unable to make the face-saving deals with the LibDems and Conservatives that have covered the cracks in the relationship between Scottish and local government.

So it might end up that quite a lot of the decisions made in COSLA will be anti-SNP positions and with quite a lot of division between local and Scottish Government in the lead up to and in the aftermath of the 2012 elections.

Suppose the referendum ends up with the Scottish Government gaining the power to set Corporation tax – how do think that will pan out?

Well, if they do then I think the UK government may, well let’s say the Tories, will know exactly what they are doing.  So suppose the setting of Corporation tax is devolved to the Scottish Government and they carry out what they say they will do, which is to lower it fairly dramatically, then I think the UK Government may rebound by cutting Corporation tax in parts of England to a lower level and that will leave Scotland losing a lot of income and not gaining the extra business they had anticipated.

Obviously I am a Labour Party supporter and I think maintaining a reasonable level of Corporation Tax is part of a civilised society and we should be trying to ensure that it is reasonably level across the developed world,  we certainly do not want to see an auction of cutting Corporation Tax further and further to the benefit of international finance and to the detriment of our electorate.

Do you think that English inner city riots will come to Scotland?

One aspect which is different is that Educational Maintenance Allowances have been retained in Scotland and I do not think that anyone has processed what that means for poorer communities, and that is a genuine difference.

the idea that new communities in the UK are forming is something the SNP have not processed at all

I think for everything else, and it would be comic if it wasn’t so serious, that people thought that Scotland could not be prone to rioting – I think we could easily see similar things happening . I do not think that we would be immune from rioting. We have more trouble focussing around things like football matches, for example, so it might happen in a different way.

One of the things I found interesting about that was the vehemence in the SNP wishing to say it was English violence rather than UK rioting and one thing to me is that it showed a lack of awareness of the changing world, because quite a lot of the population in the UK do not regard themselves as English or Scottish so, for example, there will be quite large categories of people in census listed as “Black British” or whatever and the idea that new communities in the UK are forming is something the SNP have not processed at all.

I rather like the idea of “new communities”

It is a good development but a problematic one – people do not process long term trends very easily. They do not fully appreciate the changes that have happened in the UK in the last 25 years.  I think the UK is now an enormous magnet for people and is seen as a very positive model for people across the world.

I think that a modern reforming party has to really understand that and what it involves, I mean every year a couple of Aberdeens (in terms of numbers of people) come to stay in the UK and in Scotland, the UK Government is committed to targeting a much reduced migration. In fact its net migration has grown very much with a particular impact on Scottish cities and that brings challenges but it is also appreciating the change.

And what about the countryside?

The impact of change in Scotland’s towns has been profound. The decline in town centres in Scotland I believe has been about twice the UK average probably because of the higher costs of distribution. We need imaginative responses encouraging conversion of shops to much needed residential housing.  We probably need to accept a transformation of the retail sector on which so many jobs currently rely.

Barney Crockett was interviewed by Mike Martin on 30th August 2011.

Sep 222011
 

On Monday the 26th September at Aberdeen harbour, the UAL Africa will be open to shippers and forwarders alike to tour on board and have a look at the newest vessel to be added to the current 16 multi-purpose geared vessels of Universal Africa Lines (UAL). With thanks to Rhonda Reekie.

The vessel was actually built in The Netherlands and is special because of the application of the Groot Cross-Bow (registered trademark), an innovative bow shape with wave piercing abilities.

This means the vessel will have less slamming and will be easier to maintain its speed compared to conventional bow shapes with bow flare.

Because of this shape, energy is saved – therefore  less fuel oil will be burned resulting in a reduction of CO2 output.

The vessel will be christened in Delfzijl, The Netherlands on the Friday 23rd September and then sails to Aberdeen, where she will set off on her maiden voyage via Antwerp to various destinations in West Africa like Takoradi, Lobito and Soyo. In the future she will also be used from the port of Houston.

UAL have been sailing from Aberdeen port now for 14 years, and Kestrel Liner Agencies Aberdeen  - finalists in the 2011 National Business Awards (for Customer Focus and Entrepreneur of the Year)  - are their liner agents . Last year they had over 30 vessels in Aberdeen for various West African destinations serving the oil and gas industry.

Kestrel will be hosting the event on Monday.

Sep 012011
 

By Jonathan Hamilton Russell.

In June of this year I  wrote an article on the situation in Libya called ‘Libya another Brutal Conflict’.
In it I suggested a way forward would have been via negotiations, which would include the expectation for fair elections run by the United Nations, the withdrawal of NATO and the use of UN peacekeepers.

Qaddafi would have been forced to face his opposition but in a non-bloody way. Only if such negotiations failed would military action be considered.

The mantra regarding the war on Iraq was ‘weapons of mass destruction’; this proved to be a lie. The mantra in relation t oLibya has been ‘the defence of innocent civilians’. This, as the conflict has escalated, has proved clearly not to be the real objective. Investigations by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and a UN commission headed by the legal scholar Cheri Bassioni found there was no evidence of the atrocity stories which were given as the reasons for NATO action.

Yet this was not listened to by our politicians and was not widely reported by the media. What has clearly happened is a mission of regime change which went far beyond the UN mandate. Such developments were opposed by the US Congress and never properly debated in our own Parliament.

Rather than protecting civilians, NATO weapons have inevitably killed them.

Their targets increasingly widened from attacking tanks that were moving towards Benghazi, to attacking all Libyan Military installations, to attacking any building that was seen as supporting the Gaddafi administration.

Inevitably there were civilian casualties. On the day of the rebel attack on Tripoli, more bombs were dropped than on any other day in NATO’s history. The rebels were also being supported and trained by troops from NATO countries, and as evidenced by the Sunday Times, some were Libyan exiles living in the UK. This has led to an even more bitter war between the ‘rebels and Kaddafi loyalists with disastrous human consequences.

The hospitals are not coping and Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are reporting human rights violations on all sides. Human Rights Watch consider that the evidence suggests that the old governments Khamis Brigade killed 45 detainees. The horrors of what happened to Kaddafi troops and the disappearance of all the medical staff at Abu- Salim hospital is just unfolding as are other atrocities, but these are only the most heavily reported incidents.

We never seem to learn the lesson of the horrors that war can bring.

Richard Seymour in the Guardian reported on Peter Bouckaert from Human Rights Watch findings that he had not identified one mercenary among scores of men being arrested and falsely labelled as such by journalists. Many Libyans are black but have been labelled as black mercenaries from Africa and led to racist incidents.

Qaddafi’s regime became increasingly oppressive over time

On top of this, much of the country’s infra-structure has been destroyed. The Libyan Transitional Council estimate it will take ten years to repair the damage done to the country’s infrastructure.

So what is the future for Libya? It is almost certain that Qaddafi will be eventually defeated, but how long that takes and at what continuing human cost is still to be seen. Worryingly, anyone supporting Qaddafi will not be seen as a civilian but as a supporter of a mad and dangerous dictator. The rebels are not a united force. The National Transitional Council has been recognised by over 40 foreign states; however, has it been recognised by the militias on the ground?

Abul Fatah Younes, the leader of the  Rebel army, was murdered by one of the Islamic militias and this in turn led to the sacking of the whole cabinet by Musta Abdul Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Government.

Will this Government be able to rule or will fighting continue between the various factions, in particular those aligned to a more Islamic agenda and those not? These groupings are now highly armed and as our policies did in Afghanistan, they could easily come back to bite western interests. Atiyha Abdl al Rahman, the deputy leader of Al-Qaida who was killed by US drones in Pakistan, was Libyan.

Qaddafi’s regime became increasingly oppressive over time. In his early years as a revolutionary leader, he was involved in pulling down prisons.  Being active himself over the years led to the atrocities that more recently took place of Islamists in Libyan prisons. Hopefully human rights will improve, but that has yet to be seen, and Libya was far from being the only country which has tortured and killed the more extreme Islamists.

Any new government will still have to find ways of dealing with Islamic groups and could end up being equally oppressive.

The Qaddafi regime was oppressive to its enemies, they did however have the highest social indicators in the Third World with better housing, health care and standards of living than in other Middle East and third world countries. As with Iraq these social strengths and the resulting effects on the countries well-being are sure to decline particularly if conflict continues.

Libya was not a country in debt, but it is now, and like us it will have to become beholden to the banks for money borrowed to rebuild the country. Who will own the huge reserves held in foreign banks which were there in part to deal with Libya’s future when the oil stocks have gone?

This has caused considerable indignation on the African continent.

Libya has historically produced 1.5 to 2 million barrels of oil a day. Qaddafi was hated by the west for nationalising Libyan oil and though he has more recently been co-operating with Western firms he has still been directing considerable investment into the economy and saving for its future.

Any new government will, unless clearly Islamic, be beholden to the West, and as such oil is almost certain to be obtained by the West more cheaply; the cost of oil on the markets has already gone down. Libya will also likely have military NATO bases for any future developments in the Middle East.

The poorer Libyans will, I suspect, be those who will be the most badly affected but others will gain and disparities in wealth will increase to the overall detriment of the country. Hopefully human rights will improve, but that has yet to be seen. Qaddafi was supportive of women’s involvement in society and was one of the reasons that he opposed so strongly the more extreme tenants of Islam and its supporters in Libya.

The future for women could go either way, but is certain to cause tension in the new Libya.

Qaddafi was instrumental in setting up the African Union and financially supported African infrastructure projects. The West, unless replaced by Chinese interests, will now have greater control over the African continent. However despite for instance South Africa supporting Resolution 1973 which led to intervention in Libya, their and other African countries attempts through the African Union to set up peace talks were knocked back. This has caused considerable indignation on the African continent.

overall spending on wars leads to fewer resources to be spent on other areas

Due to the way that NATO overstepped the UN resolution, there is now reluctance by many countries to do anything in Syria or the other Middle East countries. Damage has been done to International relations and the workings of the United Nations due to NATO’s actions.

Why have we, and why are we continuing to arm dictatorships in countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, etc.  which are oppressive to their people? In fact, why are we arming any country? All armaments have the potential for use both between warring countries and on countries own citizens. Yet selling more arms is a key target of the present UK Government.

The selling of arms does lead to profit and work for those involved and money for Government. However overall spending on wars leads to fewer resources to be spent on other areas and in the United Kingdom, France and the United States it will lead to increased cuts in public services which will affect us all, but in particular the more vulnerable people in our society.

The United Nations was set up to try and stop wars between countries. Libya had not invaded another country.

The intervention was, however, based around the doctrine of  ‘the responsibility to protect’ following The Rwandan genocide. The way NATO has acted by clearly taking sides in Libya has brought this doctrine into disrespect. The press in the UK have in the main been heralding the success of the Libyan intervention, but if you dig deeper this can only be questioned.

The United Nations needs itself to have increased power to stop the manipulation that has clearly taken place around the Libyan conflict.

So what can we do?

  • We can protest. Stop the War and CND are holding an anti-war rally on October 8th to mark 10  years of  military intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya. The demonstrations against the Iraq war may not have stopped the war but they did shake the establishment and led in part to the downfall of Tony Blair
  • We can support the United Nations associations to help make this a stronger organisation that gets back to its original basis for existing
  • We can protest against our pension funds being invested in the arms trade as is in the case of Aberdeen City Councils pension fund.
  • Campaign Against the Arms Trade ( CAAT  ) will be holding their yearly demonstration on September 13th in London. ‘ Cut the Arms Trade not public services’. Please see:  Stop the War  or CAAT website.
Aug 242011
 

Two Aberdeen residents are embarking upon a Mini adventure of epic proportions to attend a charity event. Voice’s  Stephen Davy-Osborne is all set to participate in the event.

Stephen Davy-Osborne and Steven Gerrie will be driving cross-country from Aberdeen to Westward Ho! in Devon, South West England in a classic Mini Cooper, to take part in the annual Legendary North Devon Grand Tour.

Hundreds of Minis will come together to raise money for local children’s charity Children’s Hospice South West.

The event, now in its 17th year, has raised thousands of pounds in sponsorship and donations for the charity, and their North Devon Hospice Little Bridge House.

Event organiser Terry Baker, who has been driving the event right from the very beginning spoke to the Aberdeen Voice about what he thinks makes the event truly unique, encouraging – as they are affectionately referred to in Mini circles – “nutcases” to come back year after year to participate:

“Maybe it is the Mini owners who take part and the incredible amount of money they have raised over the years. Maybe it is the thousands of people who line the streets and wait in lay-bys, stand on street corners and fill the villages and towns just waiting for the Minis to go by. 

“Maybe it is the fantastic motorbike marshals who ride ahead and keep all the minis together and close the roads so that we can keep going. Any one of these would make the Grand Tour special, but when you put them all together with a group of very special children and their families from the children’s Hospice you have something that is pure magic and not just for the Mini owners.”

The event takes place over the August bank holiday weekend, taking in some of the finest scenery the South-west has to offer; driving through streets lined with locals and holiday makers alike who have come out in force to show their support for the charity.

The convoy of around 300 Minis drives noisily right up to the front door of Little Bridge House and around the purpose-built roundabout the wrong way, while children staying at the hospice wave them on with flags and banners created especially for the day.

This part of the run is especially poignant, as Terry recounts:

“When we drive through the Hospice we are privileged to see the children having fun; laughing, smiling and waving flags. It is hard to remember that Little Bridge House is a place where get well cards do not work, and that no matter how many hugs you give the special children you can never kiss them better; all the magic in the world cannot change their diagnosis.”

Perhaps it is not surprising that many a driver and co-pilot emerge from Little Bridge House with a lump in their throats.

If you would like to make a donation to the event, or for further information, check out: www.justgiving.com/LNDGT/

Aug 012011
 

By Dave Watt.

From August 3rd to 7th, the Aberdeen branch of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign will be walking 84 miles along the path of Hadrian’s Wall, raising funds for the Plant-a-Tree-in-Palestine project. The route of the walk has been selected because of symbolic similarities with Israel’s Separation Wall in the Occupied Territories, and Roman efforts to contain a rebellious Scots population during the Roman occupation of Britain.

On the 9th July 2004 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that “the construction by Israel of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and its associated regime are contrary to international law”[i]

The Wall has a huge negative impact on Palestinians in the West Bank, destroying the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people by eradicating agricultural land and separating farmers from their crops and resources[ii].

The Wall, 85% of which lies within the West Bank itself, also blocks access to health services, schools and neighbouring communities[iii].  Israeli NGO Bimkom found that the Wall’s route “almost totally ignores the daily needs of the Palestinian population”[iv].  The 2004 ICJ ruling further noted that Israel was obliged to abide by international law, and therefore to stop construction of the wall and destroy the sections which have already been established[v].

By choosing to walk this route, SPSC campaigners aim to raise awareness of the injustices that are caused by the construction and continued existence of the illegal barrier that separates Palestinians from their families and land.

The walk will be raising funds for the Plant-a-Tree-in-Palestine project. This initiative seeks to support the ongoing struggle of Palestinians to sustain and rebuild their land by providing resources for villages to plant trees that are indigenous to Palestine’s natural environment and agricultural life, and is part of the wider Stop the JNF campaign[vi].  The JNF owns 13% of land in Israel, and leases it only to people of Jewish heritage.

Human Rights Watch has said that Israel’s close involvement with the JNF:

“makes the state directly complicit in overt discrimination against Arab citizens in land allocation and use”[vii]

The JNF enjoys charitable status in 50 countries across the world, though its status in the UK is currently being challenged by a motion to parliament, EDM 1677[viii].  The JNF was recently dealt a blow when David Cameron became the first Prime Minister in 110 years to not be a patron of the organisation[ix].

To sponsor the group please write a cheque made out to Aberdeen SPSC and send it to:-

SPSC Aberdeen, 21 Broadfold Drive,
Aberdeen, AB23 8PJ,
or donate online at http://www.scottishpsc.org.uk.

References and links: 

[i]    International Court of Justice (2004), ‘Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’, online at: http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?pr=71&code=mwp&p1=3&p2=4&p3=6&case=131&k=5a

[ii]   Amnesty International (2004), ‘Israel/Occupied Territories: Wall should be dismantled in line with court decision’, online at: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=15477

[iii]   Ibid, and Human Rights Watch (2010), ‘Separate and Unequal: Israel’s Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”, online at: http://www.hrw.org/node/95061 (see page 15)

[iv]   Bimkom (2005), ‘Between Fences: The Enclaves Created by the Separation Barrier’, available online at: http://eng.bimkom.org/_Uploads/4GderotEng.pdf (see page VI)

[v]  International Court of Justice (2004), ‘Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’, see point B.  Online at: http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?pr=71&code=mwp&p1=3&p2=4&p3=6&case=131&k=5a

[vii]  Human Rights Watch (2008), ‘Off the Map: Land and Housing Rights Violations in Israel’s Unrecognized Bedouin Villages’.     Available online at: http://www.hrw.org/en/node/62284/section/1 (see page 28).

[ix]  See The Jewish Chronicle (2011), Cameron’s JNF split: it was Israel’, available online at: http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/49789/camerons-jnf-split-it-was-israel

Jun 222011
 

Voice’s Dave Watt invites readers to come along to a Talk/Discussion on Palestine

The Aberdeen branch of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) are hosting Zaytoun representative Sandy Stuart‘s talk on his experience of the Palestinian olive harvest.

This is an excellent opportunity to come along and find out about Palestine and a chance to buy Palestinian produce.

“I first became involved with Zaytoun/ Palestine as a distributor for Palestinian products about 7/8 years ago and have been active in this ever since. It then seemed a logical step then to go to the West Bank and support the farmers directly during the olive harvest.” - Sandy Stuart

Zaytoun is a Community Interest Company founded in 2004 to create and develop a UK market for artisan Palestinian produce.

The company is a cooperative, and a member of the International Fair trade Association.  As a member of the International Fair Trade Association it’s Primary objective lie with the welfare of the producing communities

Quakers Meeting Hall,
98 Crown street, AB11 6HJ
30th June 2011 at 7:30pm