Aug 072014

Old Susannah gets to grips with Granite City Gripes such as shooting, snooping and serious tax avoidance, allegedly.  By Suzanne Kelly

DictionaryIt’s been a colourful week in the Granite City; referendum and Commonwealth Game Fevers have swept through town. Who can forget those beautiful Commonwealth Scottish uniforms with their pastel tartans paired with floral shirts, the Scottie dogs, and the dancing teacakes? It’s so good to see we’ve broken out from any stereotyping.

I do wonder how the other companies which paid to have their products promoted in the games feel, knowing that Tunnock’s were approached by the organisers who wanted to use their product in a dance number? The sale of Tunnock’s cakes is apparently up by over 60%.

I wonder if the same is true for well-known Scottish sponsors Kellogg’s, Gatorade and Heineken? I think a dance number with a sixpack of beer would have added to the festivities.

The artful dolphins dotted around town are great; it’s wonderful to watch kids climb them and break off little chunks of them for souvenirs. It’s great to know people are interacting with them by vandalising and torching them, as well. For those who want to have a good look at these great sculptures, I’d get in fast.

For those of you who don’t actually want to ride a dolphin sculpture or take a chunk of one home, then be sure to see the adorable mini dolphins in the libraries; there is a trail for kids to follow, and if they visit all the dolphins, they get a goody bag. This initiative may have been modelled on similar events in other cities, but it is a good one.

The Eid celebration took place in Union Terrace Gardens; could it be the city’s organisers are mellowing a little? Despite there being tents and crowds, there weren’t scores of police, private security, crowd barriers, anti-climb paint or any of the usual high security measures the city usually pays for when someone wants to have fun. Let’s hope they tool up for the next event.

With the good things that are going on, any little issues seem to pale into insignificance.  However, here are a few such little issues and some definitions.

Routine Patrol: (Modern English compound noun) – a beat or patch secured by police (formerly without guns).

Mark Williams, chief of Edinburgh’s police has put armed men on routine patrol. What could possibly go wrong? This is also what Police Scotland has done – increasingly armed its routine patrols. If the police are all now toting guns when responding to incidents, such as the recent argument in an Inverness fast food restaurant, it can only be a good thing.

The chief of police says there really aren’t that many more armed officers. He’s kindly taken it on himself to dole out the guns without bothering the nice folk in Holyrood, local government, or the citizens (heaven forbid). To give the guns out now, and deal with Holyrood later seems like a great strategy to me.

All these armed cops will probably save the taxpayer a fortune in trial costs in the long run. Perhaps it might seem to the unduly wary that when the police are dictating terms to the politicians, carrying guns where they didn’t before, searching thousands of children in on-the-spot, warrantless detentions, we are well and truly in a police state.

I’m sure you feel all the safer for it. The local Edinburgh councillors are against it, but what does that matter? They’re not the ones with the guns, so their opinion will remain just that, opinion.

Old Susannah does have one little question though: since the police and a host of authorities are spying on our computers, our phone calls and our video, wouldn’t it be better to prevent crime than to shoot people? Thankfully, the authorities say there won’t be any escalation in the criminal element getting armed as well. No, that would never happen.

Police Scotland is sending armed police to that hotbed of crime, debauchery and sin – the Belladrum festival. I’m sure all this information is comforting, but if you wish to join MP Danny Alexander, and petition the cops to lay down their arms, here is a link

Actually, I have one other thought. This week (and not for the first time) American police shot the wrong man; this was in Los Angeles. It’s good to know that can’t happen here. This may be the same police force that laid siege to George Copeland’s empty flat, took him into custody days later, and tried to get him to say a pink feather duster could have been mistaken by them for a gun.

No, there will be no problems with this scheme at all.

Sure a few innocent people will be shot; Harry Stanley in London was shot when he carried an antique table leg securely wrapped in a blanket; a member of the public thought it could have been a rifle. Jean Charles da Silva e de Menezes was a Brazlian on his way to work on a tube train when he was shot several times.

Happily the police rallied round after the shooting – to tweak their stories and the records, and to spy on the bereaved family. I know I feel safer for it.

Spying on civilians? Surely that’s not going on. Well, maybe just a little, but only if there are really good reasons.

Springboard: (Modern English proper noun) company which monitors footfall and visitor movements in private and public spaces.

Inspired had an inspired idea – they’d spend £100,000 on the company Springboard to see where you and I are going in the Business Improvement District, how long we’re spending walking around, and how long we linger in shops. They say the data is all anonymous. They are also apparently holding it ‘permanently’ as per their website

Do have a look at the technology being used – by tracing signals from your mobile / using sensors, they’ll know how long you stay in the tattoo parlour, how long you’re in the STD clinic, how long you linger in the pub, etc. etc. This is to understand your shopping patterns – anonymously of course. But with your phone number, and imagery.

Naturally you want some person knowing where you are and what you’re doing, and also being able to match that up with your credit card use in a shop if they really put their minds to it. It’s reassuring to know that such data is anonymous and will never be used other than for the purpose of monitoring your movements.

Alas, there are one or two issues. You don’t get the chance to opt out, even though various data protection agencies have grave concerns about this technology being anonymous.

Who will look at data, and will they be as saintly as the police? The police, sadly, have been in the news in the past, for the odd occasion when police officers have spied on their partners, ex-partners and so on, using surveillance info illegally. Don’t worry; it couldn’t happen in the private sector.

151011-1217001There was a time when I fell afoul of this technology in Aberdeen, and it wasn’t my shopping that the security guards were monitoring.

Back when we had a vote on the beautiful designs proposed for Union Terrace Gardens, I went to the Academy shopping centre the day before the opening.

A colleague had told me he was harassed for trying to take photos of the exhibition space – even though he was on the very public Belmont Street.

I went to see what was up. On Belmont Street I looked in the window, took photos and took photos of the exhibition poster which was placed on Belmont Street. Well, I also went inside the Academy, and all of a sudden noticed security guards were looking at me, and coming towards me. As I’d done nothing wrong, but wanted to avoid the hassle my colleague had, I abruptly left.

I walked around for a bit, then went into the Bon Accord & St Nicholas Mall. I hadn’t been inside for more than a minute when the guard from the Academy accosted me.

The story of that little encounter is here.  I contacted the Academy to protest my treatment by this guard, and to ask whether they tracked me (signs inside the mall advise that you are being tracked by your mobile; these are easy to spot if you are 8 foot tall). I never did get an answer.

I will let you know what Inspired have to say about this tracking system – and about their current financial issues (pay rises seem to have possibly been made to friends and family; this is being contested). Inspired are funded by the local businesses who incur extra costs for the bunting and spying. I wonder how a business would make up for increased costs?

Surely not by increasing prices to customers, though. Apart from the private funding, you and I gave them at least £50,000. More on that later. A spokesperson has helpfully been in touch to say they have nothing to say. We shall see.

Trust: (Eng. legal compound noun ) mechanism for ensuring a person or group’s money is used towards a specific purpose, governed by trustees.

In 2012 I was worried upon discovering The Wood Family Trust had only £29,163,000 in its treasury; it had spent £2,355,000 on an assortment of charitable acts, pensions for its personnel, and of course salary and overheads. At the time I suggested we should all pitch in.

Imagine my pleasant surprise to see that they’ve found a slightly more secure financial base – perhaps some of you did drop the odd tenner into their kitty. The trust might not be out of the woods yet, but they have a healthier £53,199,000 balance with some £5,388,000 going on charitable activities, salaries, pensions, expenses, etc.

They are still funding their competition; school children compete in groups with local charities (obviously animal charities are excluded) to work on presentations. After votes are cast, the winning charity gets the £53,000,000.  Sorry – the winning charity gets around £3,000 – give or take.

Those that didn’t win the popularity contest can console themselves that they expended time and money towards trying. This teaches children a valuable lesson – winning is all-important in this winner-take-all world. No doubt you’re as much in favour of them learning this lesson as I am.

The idea may still be to get into ‘venture philanthropy’ and kindly lend some of the millions to tea-plantation owners in Rwanda, apparently in partnership of some sort with Lord Sainsbury, who might be able to find some use for the extra tea grown by those they’ve lent money to.

The fact that tens of millions have been sitting around for a year or two should in no way suggest that any form of tax evasion is going on. It’s not as if it’s a scheme whereby people are paid via an offshore tax haven so that some company or other avoids paying UK National Insurance. I’m sure I heard of some company doing this immoral scheme. If I wood have remembered the company, I’d let you know.

‘Why not just give money away to good causes?’ I can practically hear you ask. How very naive.

In venture philanthropy, you lend money out to a good cause, and get a gold star for being charitable. The people you lend the money to are in your debt, until they, er, pay their debt. This of course bears no resemblance to the medieval feudal system. The rich would allow peasants to grow food on a patch of land, and the peasant would give a share to the rich lord.

It would never happen here. Or in Rwanda. Why give money away for free if you can avoid taxes and get some of it back in due course?

Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland: (Scottish government report) – paper claiming that there are financial imbalances within Scotland. As far-fetched as it seems, it’s just possible that some children and pensioners are living below the poverty line, while at the same time, a small minority are living with extreme wealth. No, I’ve not seen any evidence for this, either.

However, the government has this to say:-

“Poverty in Scotland has increased in 2012/13. While the rate of poverty increased for all groups, the largest increase was in the rate of child poverty.

“Relative poverty, before housing costs (BHC) in Scotland has increased to 16 per cent for the whole population, a 2 percentage point increase on the previous year. In 2012/13 there were 820,000 people living in poverty, 110,000 more than the previous year.

“Relative child poverty (BHC), increased to 19 per cent in 2012/13, up from 15 per cent the previous year. In 2012/13, there were 180,000 children living in relative poverty in Scotland, 30,000 more than in 2011/12. This reverses the trend of declining child poverty over recent years.

“Relative poverty (BHC) among working age adults in 2012/13 was 15 per cent, an increase from 13 per cent the previous year. This brings the number of working age adults in relative poverty to 480,000, an increase of 70,000 compared with 2011/12.

“Relative poverty (BHC) among pensioners in 2012/13 was 15 per cent, an increase from 14 per cent the previous year. There were 150,000 pensioners in relative poverty in 2012/13, 10,000 more than the previous year.”

I must admit I have seen relative poverty; my uncle Ned is always borrowing fivers.

If only there were some way to crack down on tax avoidance, and get money to those who need it for food and shelter. Oh well, if you think of anything, do let me know.

Next Week: How the city organises its important documents (or doesn’t), and that Nice Mr Trump turns his attention back to Menie

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  14 Responses to “Old Susannah 159 – Dancing Cakes, Tax Shelters & Guns”

  1. Ach Suze, the Commonwealth Games uniforms were …. erm …. colourful. The Scotties and dancing teacakes were fun. Everyone had a ball (excluding some of the police and security staff it seems) and everyone fell madly in love with the lovable Weegies. A good few medals were forthcoming so it wasn’y a bad show after all.

    Armed police? Well we’ve had them in airports for many’s a long year and I don’t recollect any of them shooting at random to move the queues on a bitty faster. Armed police have always been present in our midst, just not so highly visible. Strange, it’s the politicians and press that are leading the wails of anguish, not many members of joe public seem so perturbed. Personally, if I was in the process of being mugged and a gun toting cop appeared, pulled out his weapon and placed it to the temple of my assailant, I would be for ever grateful. If it happened to go off in any ensuing struggle it would save the country a small fortune in legal and custodial costs. It costs a small fortune to give out Community Service Orders which can be onerous as sitting in premises off King Street drawing pictures etc. That does a whole lot to serve the community. Let’s face it, there’s a section of the community who need to be kept in check so the rest of us can live relatively in peace. If certain individuals have to change their nether garments because a bobby pulls out his weapon, I’m all in favour. You must be well aware that certain criminal elements have access to guns (notably in the drug dealing fraternity) and that has to be combatted.

    Aberdeen has one of the highest level of CCTV resources in the country. Personally, I feel safer because of that. Snooping by private companies is another thing. Of course, we could all turn of our mobile phones in the BID district and thwart them, but we’re a lazy lot. Apparently Facebook are even better at it and, if you’re really clever, you can thwart them also. The joys of new technologies eh.

    Charitable trusts have always been a vehicle for tax evasion. Worse, in my view, are the companies that make a small fortune badgering us to support some charity or other while not advising us that up to the first year of “giving” to the good cause goes in to the coffers of the chugging company. Bit of a bummer that.

    Finally poverty: We are, apparently, one of the richest nations on earth. We can afford nuclear weapons, but can’t afford to support the poorest and most vulnerable in society. Kids go hungry and pensioners freeze. Bankers and politicians in Westminster cause mayhem and expect the poorest in society to pay the cost of their little fiasco. Maybe independence will improve matters, maybe it won’t. One thing’s for sure, if the wealth of the nation was actually used for the benefit of it’s residents, that would be no bad thing and we would actually have a government that we directly elect and can remove should we choose to. That would be no bad thing either.

    • Here’s a thought Ron. The Police witness a struggle but are unsure who is the mugger and who is the potential victim and shoot you by mistake. Still grateful?

      • I think you would find , in that scenario Bruce, the facts would be self evident. Perhaps the person screaming, “HELP!” might give some guidance?

  2. Ok so Little Red Riding Hood would be safe whilst the rest of is would just have to take our chances then. Your blind faith in the forces of law and order, or at least our very own new State Police Force, suggests an endearing child – like innocence on your part. Ron. Unfortunately, some of us have direct experience of the serious issues related to the routine arming of police officers. Believe me, it is not something to be treated lightly.

    • In my limited experiences with The Police and legal system Bruce, I have always found them to be professional and competent. Perhaps yours differ for whatever reason.

      • Given such a level of professionalism and competence, how do you think your experiences would be improved by the routine wearing of firearms?

  3. new petition against routinely arming police is here

  4. My daughter and two of her friends actually won the Bucksburn academy leg of the Wood family trust competition, the food bank in Aberdeen that benefited from the £3000 were over the moon. All the kids who took part actually went to visit and work with their chosen charities, many of them still do to this day.

    How on earth can you find a downside on what is a great initiative? In my opinion you’re bitter at any local rich person, one only needs read your weekly vitriol on Trump, Wood and Milne but for god sake, credit where credit is due. This is a nationwide project and gets kids interacting with charities, as you’ll have researched this perhaps you’ll tell your readers how many charities benefit “yearly” from the £3000 gifts?

    How easy it would be for Mr Wood to go buy an island and give two fingers up to the World, instead he invests time and money into his charity, you really think someone of his age is doing this to hide a few quid from the taxman?? One wonders if he’d not upset the author here by daring to improve the City if he’d still come under attack.

    • Dear Author,

      You may have missed the question but I did ask how many of these £3000 gifts are handed out yearly? could you please be so kind to answer it.

  5. Its great to mention tax avoidance, but I cant help but think a good percentage of tax revenue is just simply wasted.

    if your talking about big multinational corps then fine, but the only way for the man in the street to get rich is tax avoidance, Our economy doesnt work if everyone is rich and nobody is poor. If you are poor, then its the economy’s job to keep you that way. New money upsets the balance.

  6. Dear Bill Stephens, The answer to your question is that I don’t know how many school children have been made to compete against each other, or how many charities have expended energy on a competitive exercise, only to walk away with no funding. It’s to me rather a cruel exercise – ‘winner take all’ competitive approach to doing charitable works, which is decided on a voting system – and there is a tendency for friends to vote for friends. What I do know is that £50,000,000 is sitting around somewhere, and a few million has been spent on administering the scheme, while we have people in Scotland needing to use food banks. Animal charities are under more stress than ever before – and such charities are exempt from consideration of this scheme. To me it’s controlling, it’s unfair, it teaches that winning is all, and inevitably charities will invest their valuable time competing against others and walk away with nothing from a scheme run by a billionaire.

    • Every secondary school in Scotland is involved in the scheme. The charities have to expend no energy what so ever, the schoolchildren do all the work. In an ideal World it would be great to give every charity money but of course that isn’t possible. Your friends voting for friends comment is way wide of the mark, the judging panel comprises of teachers, they decide who wins on the merit of the debate put by the children.

      As I’ve previously said the winner this last year in Bucksburn was the Someone cares food bank, they got £3000 that they were delighted about, obviously Aberdeen has many secondary schools so tens of other local charities benefited. The kids get to engage and work with charities, they learn debating skills and the bonus is some charities get much need cash, you may deem that a cruel exercise I think the opposite, I think it’s a very valuable lesson for children not far from embarking on adult life.

      Don’t you agree that even having a charitable trust and funding it to the tune of £50 Million is an admirable act? I think you’ve dropped the ball on this one and your dislike of Mr Wood has taken over.

      BTW If you can back up your argument with some hard evidence I’d love to hear it, perhaps a single charity that felt the scheme wasn’t good for them and actively cost them time or money? Look forward to your response.

  7. Thought this may be of interest. This is feedback from the YPI scheme.

    Case Study: What happens next?

    Putting the children first
    We’re always glad to hear some fantastic post-programme
    engagement stories from our students, teachers, or charities
    and in 2012/13 a group of pupils from Westhill Academy
    in Aberdeenshire were a great example when they became
    increasingly involved with their chosen charity – successfully
    raising thousands of pounds for Children 1st.
    Despite losing out on the £3000 YPI grant, the S3 group of pupils
    – Kelvin, Callum, Nathan, Stephen and Ola – wanted to continue
    to support their chosen charity. They went on to deliver their
    final presentation in front of over 300 ladies at a fund-raising
    lunch in Westhill, collecting £11,000. As well as this, the group
    visited a nearby primary school where they presented to parents,
    raised awareness of the charity and in turn, increased their funds.

    Puppy love
    A group of pupils from Crieff High School, Perth and Kinross, had
    a slightly different follow up to YPI where they had the honour
    of naming a Guide Dog puppy. S2 pupils Nina, Danielle, Eilidh and
    Iona chose to support Guide Dogs Scotland when they took part
    in YPI this year. After losing out in the final, the pupils went on
    to raise more than £1500 for the charity – the target amount to
    allow them to name a puppy. This was reached by fund-raising
    activities including organising a musical extravaganza named ‘The
    Cold Wet Nose Appreciation Society’ at a local hotel. The group
    have now set a target of a further £1000 to sponsor the puppy to
    become a fully-fledged guide dog. The pupils chose two names
    – Alfie and Bobbie – and the school voted, with Alfie being the
    number one choice by 5 votes.

    • wonderful. I’m glad some charities get some money. As stated before on other articles, I’m not happy with £50,000,000 sitting around in a charity account, with teaching children that charities should have to compete against other (usually other unrelated but worthwhile causes) and jump through hoops in a winner take all setting, etc. As you may recall from another article of mine, the Wood Family Trust takes as well as gives: it billed the city for some £20,000 in 2011 if memory serves. I think we can safely say we disagree when it comes to the WFT

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