Aug 092013

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho!  I hope everyone is enjoying a vibrant, dynamic, smart successful summer with lashings of connectivity.  Tartan Day in Aberdeen was good fun, and once again the gardens were used to good effect, even if they are a dangerous, dreary, dark hole filled with criminals.

There was a re-enactment of a highwayman’s trial in the Tollbooth; suffice it to say the accused didn’t get a lesser sentence for pleading guilty, his difficult childhood or drunkenness weren’t hauled up as reasons for leniency, and the sentence wasn’t a few hours of community service.

Old Susannah’s also been to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which rightfully attracts talent and tourists from around the world. 

For the next few weeks Edinburgh’s intriguing private spaces, as well as public areas, will be given over to performances, workshops, a book festival, art/craft, food and drink.

I enjoyed a lovely meal in the Signet Library, which is transformed annually into the Pommery Champagne bar.  The public gets to see inside amazing venues like this, enjoy them for social occasions, and at the same time gets to appreciate the spaces Edinburgh has to offer.  Would that we could do that here, with our empty shops and interesting spaces.

The atmosphere is friendly; there is something for everyone, and people come from around the world. My hotel, the Caledonian Waldorf couldn’t have been more elegant or more service-orientated; a minor omission of an ingredient in a meal was more than made up for by complimentary dessert wine.

While I don’t often get to live it up, when I do so in Edinburgh, the Pommery and the Waldorf – and the local BrewDog bar for a bottle of new Electric India – are the places to be.  Sometimes you just need a little luxury.

It will be hard to write any form of satire this week that would be able to hold its own against the Salmond – vs – Aberdeen Council / Labour prose currently flying around town.  In brief, Salmond decided to spontaneously issue invitations to the press to witness his spontaneous visit to local Bramble Brae elementary school, coincidentally where a by-election was taking place.

I’m sure anyone who wants to wander into a school will be just as welcome

He, his team and the press thoughtfully bypassed the head teacher and Aberdeen’s Chief Executive, Valerie Watts, thus saving them paperwork and worry; they just went into the school, into the class and had a lovely visit, posing for photos.

For some reason, Valerie Watt took exception to this school visit, thinking that someone should have asked her first (she probably just wanted to get her photo taken with Alex).  She wrote to Salmond, and from there things got a wee bit messy, with accusations of ‘kamikaze’ councils and general name calling coming into it from Alex’s side.  Sexism got a look in as well with men only and women only golf clubs adding fuel to the fire.

Barney Crockett and Salmond have locked horns.  Watts should have realised that the First Minister can do whatever he feels like doing without checking with anyone; this is perfectly acceptable, and I’m sure anyone who wants to wander into a school will be just as welcome.  Clearly if other by-election candidates had been creative, they could have done the same.

Rhonda Reekie of the Greens should have marched into a school for a press call; Willie Young could have found a class full of students, rounded up their parents and the press for some handshaking, and none of the pro-SNP faction would have found anything amiss I’m certain. (What the class teacher thought of this visit and if/how they dealt with it would be nice to know).

Bramblegate reminds me of a lovely pro-granite web visit some school children had back in the day just before that referendum, which also went down well with parents.

Anyway, Alex can go into schools for press calls.  In contrast, it is very wrong for Councillor Martin Ford to speak to the BBC as a councillor while on Aberdeenshire Council premises. Word is that the Shire’s Chief Executive is still fuming post Panorama, and straining at the leash to give Ford a dressing down.

No answer is forthcoming yet to my email to Chief Mackenzie about where such a rule is written down, how many other councillors ask for permission for such meetings, and whether Mackenzie would then have an undemocratic power to stop such interviews/press calls as didn’t suit his purposes.  Thankfully, Mackinitupashegoesalong makes certain that all councillors follow the code of conduct.

surely no councillor could possibly owe us an explanation

He pointed this out in his letter to the Petitions Committee, saying how unnecessary any public inquiry into the Trump debacle would be.

Quite right too.  No doubt should any of the Shire’s councillors be found wanting in terms of obeying the code, they will be dealt with accordingly.  But surely no councillor could possibly owe us an explanation for his or her conduct – other than Ford of course.

All these arguments are splashing around the Press and Journal, which has given them another occasion to get comment from UK politics’ most heavy hitters.

Only a month ago they managed to find a window of opportunity in Kate Dean’s diary to do a three page spread, so we could benefit from her words of wisdom over the failure to get the web built (which ‘we will all regret’; ‘we’ll all remember where we were when the web got kicked into touch’, etc. etc.).  Now her little dog Toto, aka Kevin Stewart, has given a few words on the Alex Salmond-Barney Crocket-Valerie Watts tag team event.

Where does the P&J get these incisive commentators from?  Additionally, another City Council ex, John Stewart, now in Manchester running a parade or something, says “I’m so glad to be out of it now”, demonstrating his gladness by offering to comment from the sidelines in order to snipe at Crockett.  Many of us thought he was ‘out of it’ in one sense or another from time to time when he was still here.

All this fighting talk makes me think some related definitions are required, so without any further hesitation, here are some terms for this week’s definitions.

Circular Argument: (compound English Noun) An argument that is flawed by containing, as fact, the same thing it is attempting to prove, e.g. “The story I read in the Press & Journal is true because I read it in the Press & Journal.”

There are no circular arguments to be found in our part of the world, thank goodness.  But sometimes I wonder – if MEMAG didn’t exist, would it be necessary to invent it?

MEMAG wasn’t needed at all really; it wasn’t like Trump was going to go against the approved plan or do anything possibly detrimental to our environment.

MEMAG has authority to prevent damaging activities

But thankfully, MEMAG was put under the Trump organisation’s financial control.  Arguably, MEMAG was invented to keep the Trump organisation in check.

By holding the purse strings, by not showing up for meetings, and by in effect pulling the plug on MEMAG, the Trump Organisation was in control of several levels of the organisation set up to keep it under control.

The shire council’s Formartine Committee once had a report which read:-

“If permission is granted a section 75 agreement is imposed to ensure that the impact on the nature conservation interest is minimised and that no hard engineering works are involved in stabilising the sand dome and dune system and that MEMAG has authority to prevent damaging activities, that a rigorous landscape evaluation is undertaken and that no commitment is given to either the height of the hotel and holiday apartments or the eventual number of houses for sale, that a minimum of 40% of the energy requirement for the hotel, holiday apartments and homes is generated on site using renewable energy  technologies and that the employment benefits are derived locally with preference being given to those living within the North East and those attending the proposed university course.”

In the end, the now evaporated MEMAG group was about as effective in its remit as Father Ted was when holding up placards reading ‘down with this sort of thing’ and ‘careful now’

Old Susannah will find it hard to come up with any circular arguments; but in the mean time I leave you with this thought:  in order to prevent the Trump organization committing damaging activities, the Trump organization was in charge of an organisation called MEMAG which was in charge of preventing the Trump organisation committing damaging activities.

What could be simpler?


Aberdeenshire Council might be a little confused.  They’ve twice written to me to say :-

“Aberdeenshire Council have not authorised any restrictions on Menie Estate in relation to statutory access rights afforded under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.” (email to me of 7 August 2013).

Result!  Everything’s fine!  I’ll have to make sure to tell the Menie residents and visitors this.

However, the Shire’s outdoor access person also wrote to me on 26 March 2013:-

“As noted above we are aware of a number of concerns relating to outdoor access at Menie and are currently working to resolve the issues. It is my preference to utilise my time achieving the formal concerns already raised; I suspect these concerns are shared by the residents you note in your email. 

“As I hope you will appreciate the provision of access rights is not always clear and straight forward as much as we will continue to seek acceptable access rights for the residents of Menie and general visitors we also have to consider and balance the rights of the landowner to undertake their business and manage their land. 

“On a positive note I would say that the land managers at Menie have indicated they are keen to resolve concerns over public access and as such we are working towards a solution that provides a satisfactory level of access whilst taking into account the concerns of the land manager and their land management activities.”

On the one hand, the council didn’t authorise any restrictions relating to access rights at the Trump estate.  On the other hand, they are keen to resolve concerns over public access and want to provide a satisfactory level of access while taking in Trump’s concerns.

So – no restrictions are allowed, but the restrictions that do exist are being looked into, in other words. I trust that this shining example of clarity demonstrates that the council are completely clear, everything’s fine, and there is no need for a public inquiry.

Pre-emptive Strike: (compound English noun) to start an altercation or conflict in order to prevent being attacked.

The best defence is a good offence, and one of the high visibility adherents to this strategy is Alex Salmond. You might say he is very offensive at times.   But he is rather good at well-timed pre-emptive strikes.

Trouble over wining and dining wealthy American planning applicants?  Outcry at a pre-planned ‘impromptu’ visit to a school where your party is fighting a by election?  Scandal over legal advice taken over EU membership post independence?  Draw attention away from tiresome  trivial problems by launching an attack of your own.

After Watts wrote to Salmond, he hurled in a grenade or two, calling our council ‘a kamikaze council’ for refusing to build his pal Ian Wood’s dream web.  If Salmond says we’re looking disreputable, we should definitely take his expert word on the subject, which he knows quite a bit about.  So the name-calling began, with Salmond using one of his favourite words ‘ludicrous’ in response to the Watts’ letter.

Old Susannah seems to remember that a Kamikaze pilot was basically a suicide bomber wishing to take out as many of the enemy as possible.  I don’t seem to be following Salmond’s use of the word in the context of Aberdeen City not having a web.

The ensuing name-calling and Crockett’s defence of his one-year old council are dominating the printed press.  Little issues like Alex’s own failings are being edged out of the limelight by this little contretemps.  So, what, if anything, might Alex like to deflect our attention from?

Well, there was that lovely visit to Bramble Brae.  Meeting Alex might have swayed people to cast their vote for him, and naturally, no other candidate was given equal time.

I guess the chance to meet Alex drove such concerns away

It might be worth asking which reporters were invited, and if they were more than just people following any story leads blindly and printing any press releases they get without question – whether any recipients to the SNP invitation contacted the opposition candidates to share this event’s details with them.

If, say, the BNP decided to drop in on the local primary children and their parents, and invited members of the press to join them on such a happy occasion, you might be forgiven for thinking that the reporter receiving such an invite might see the story differently, get in touch with the school/Watts and ask what was going on.   But I guess the chance to meet Alex drove such concerns away.

Getting back to issues which Alex might be a bit coy about, which his attack might overshadow, we do have the smashing idea of setting up a national body to oversee every child.  Not just children from broken homes, children with special needs, or children in need of supervision who have had brushes with the law – every child.

Some people are actually critical of this great scheme, and have foolish questions about cost, legality, human rights, potential for abuse and so on.  Better send the ‘Kamikaze’ attack out first.

We still don’t know how Europe would deal with the nascent Scotland; and if Alex has legal advice, we’re not going to get to see it anytime soon.  Currency, passport, border control, military issues are not thrashed out yet, and whatever side of the referendum debate you’re on,  you should be happy to just trust the government about all these minor details – what could go wrong?

Arguably, these are enough definitions for now.  Tally Ho!

PS – it’s not too late to get involved in the Butterfly and Moth count – which is pretty important considering all the green space we’re concreting over or clearing.  Details here –

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  14 Responses to “Old Susannah’s Journal No. 129 – For Argument’s Sake”

  1. Suzanne excels herself here! A shaft of wit and insight, cutting through the pervading filth and mendacity. I particularly like her example of a circular argument!

  2. Alex Salmond is correct, our Council is Kamikaze, they ignored the wishes of the people with the CGP and have done nothing to slow the decline of our City Centre. Turning down a £50 Million gift to improve our centre and making it a party political issue once the people had already spoken will never be forgotten.

    Suzanne does well to get her Brewdog mention in but omits to mention the huge government grant they have just received, shame on you for putting your political interests before a story regarding your favourite company.

    I have no political leanings but must say the difference between the SNP helping local business and the local council attempting to play at being politicians is in stark contrast, one comes out shining, the other a shambles.

    • You constantly neglect to mention that only about 20% of the populace voted in the dodgy referendum supporting CGP George. Hardly, “the wishes of the people”,is it??

      • Ron,

        There was a 52% turnout with 45,301 voting in favour of the project, that is in spite of the scaremongering from the no camp, that’s an incredible turnout for a vote on a garden.

  3. Kevin Stewart is now a lobby fodder on-message MSP, who always looked out of his depth as a cooncillor, heaven help us. The former leader who now heads up Manchester’s Pride is John Stewart, of the pro-CGP persuasion, but otherwise a seemingly able politician.

  4. The whole Bramble Brae saga bemuses me. What was the class teacher and Headmistress/master doing when they were apparently invaded? DOesn’t say a lot for our super secure schools does it. Mind you, it could have been worse. It could have been Barney Off His Rocket and not the illustrious fish that forced entry. Now that would have been scary for the poor wee kids.

  5. Sorry George but figures gleaned from census figures and council’s website suggest your figures are a wee bittie oot.
    Population of Aberdeen City 224,970
    Population eligible to vote 192,067
    Votes cast including 92 spoilt votes 86,568

    Now even allowing for the fact I was not top of the class for maths I make that about 45.1 % not 52% as you quote
    You conveniently forget to mention that 41,175 were against the CGP. 4,126 of a majority is hardly a ringing endorsement for the project

  6. 1 is a majority Bob, considering the misinformation spread by the no side I’d call 4,126 a massive majority.

    And then DIRECT democracy was ignored and we were left with a dank almost no go zone in our City Centre.

    Those who shout loudest tend to be heard, the socialists did the shouting as a rich man was involved. Same old story in Aberdeen, the silent majority get ignored, their votes even get ignored.

    Where are the improvements that were promised? I see nothing but a decaying centre when we could have had a dynamic vibrant centre to be proud of, the best thing was we didn’t even have to pay for it. Green space would have doubled and it would have had easy access for the infirm, disabled and families.

    The activists move on to the next campaign proud that they’ve blocked badly needed redevelopment, do they care that DIRECT democracy was ignored, do they heck, they know best.

    • Who’s spreading misinformation now George ? Dank?Almost a no go area.? Try telling that to all the people who sat in the sunshine in the gardens over the past few months[loads of photos on websites to prove this fact}and funnily enough went unmolested by the so called “undesirables” We have also the wee small problem of the original public consultation vote, before which, Sir Ian Wood said he would walk away if that vote went against him. It did and he didn’t.HE didn’t accept a democratic vote then, preferring to carry on the fight until he got the result he wanted. So he is as guilty of thumbing his nose at democracy as is the Labour council who overturned the result.Remember we were all warned by the previously SNP led council that the referendum result would not be binding. Who’s to say that an SNP led council would not have ignored the result had it gone the other way. Here we go again George, it was all socialists who were responsible for the 41,000 voting the way they did,and they all did it because a rich man was involved. Shades of the same argument you have used over your support for another rich man Mr Trump. I have rarely read such a load of drivel

      • Bob,

        I’ve lived in Aberdeen all my days and was not even aware a consultation was taking place, I’ve also read people boasting about how many times they voted in the said consultation, hardly a democratic vote I’m sure you’ll agree.

        The only fair way was to ask everyone in the City, one person one vote, this they did and the result was clear.

        I’ve no doubt they park was busy in the hot spell we had, is that enough for you? The park being busy for a handful of days over the Summer Months? Try going there from September through till May and the result will be very different.

        A street level square covering the rail lines and road would have provided much more green space and would have been perfect for street markets, concerts, ice rink in Winter, cafe’s and bars with outdoor heating, our very own Covent garden/Trafalgar square with grass areas attached. It would have been accessible to all, my father is wheelchair bound, how does he get from the bus stop on Union street into the garden? How about the young family with prams en tow?

        Actually I’d challenge you to go look there right now and tell me how well utilised the space is and how many people are in it, the last I went was the day of the International street market, Union Terrace was heaving with people, myself and my family were the only one’s who had taken some food into the garden, apart from two dodgy looking people in an archway it was deserted, it should be a focal point, a natural gathering place.

        And I can assure you that the protests were Socialist led, scaremongering about huge debts and how it would bankrupt the City, all utter rubbish.

      • Bob,

        It was the same people who were at the forefront of both the UTG and the Trump protests, it doesn’t take a genius to work out their real agenda, in my opinion of course.

    • When ever I read George Smith’s posts I have a wee laugh to myself, as I’m sure he must be the double of Alf Garnett…………”BLOOMIN SOCIALISTS” !!!

  7. “I’ve no doubt they park was busy in the hot spell we had, is that enough for you? The park being busy for a handful of days over the Summer Months? Try going there from September through till May and the result will be very different.”

    It’s a PARK, George, min. Ken, a PARK.

    Fowk tend nae to ging to parks when it’s weet, snawin or caul, as a rule.

    If you can provide me wi user statistics for Hazleheid, Duthie Park, Seaton Park, Stewart Park and Victoria Park, in the period during which you say UTG is teem, and show me that per square metre they are any better “used” that UTG, I will donate 50 quid to a charity of your choice.

    I put “used” in inverted commas, because its needs definition.

    I love Lochnagar. I admire its snowy corrie, or as Byron described it “the steep, frowning glories” fae Kingseat efter I’ve peched up the brae fae the Pitmedden road on my bike, it’s a magnificent spectacle as it hoves into view at Tullich on the A93 jist efter Cambus O May, it lowers ower the hale o Deeside as you approach Kinker fae Torphins, it is so magnificent that there is a marked viewpoint on the Tarland road, jist east of the Culsh Earth Hoose that allows you to breathe in the visual magnificence of the plain between Pressendye and the Mounth. It is a magnificent natural resource.

    That’s how I “use” Lochnagar. I have climbed it often, but nae every day.

    Do you want Lochnagar made into a theme park, or have the corrie riven in twa to allow folk to walk straight through fae Deeside to Glen Doll withoot haein to dee a that tiring climbing? Maybe if a wealthy “philanthropist” offers enough, the fowk of Braemar and district could have a non-binding referendum on it?

    Likewise, even when I’m nae in UTG, I love looking ower it fae Union Brig and seeing HMT dominate that bonny slope. I “use” it every time I walk doon Union Street. Try it, it might cheer you up.

    Happy now? (I suspect nae, but hey-ho).

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