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Jan 102021
 

 Further to Part I of these two articles, when a stone wall in Wellington Brae started to crumble, Aberdeen City Council decided to arrange the repair work. The city went to SUSTRANS representing ‘we have a problem’ and it secured £200,000. By Suzanne Kelly.

In Part I of this series a timeline showed different stories as to who owned the land in question. Lawyer, and then councillor and finance committee convener Willie Young said at different times he didn’t know who the landowner was, or that his dad was the landowner.

The press reported that Young and his wife were the owners according to Registry documents.

In this part of the story, Aberdeen Voice comments on emails recently released by ACC as well as those previously leaked and published.

We also acknowledge the huge amount of work done on this issue by others including the Stop the Desecration of Marischal College Facebook page, and we include their recent synopsis of this bizarre tale.

The emails:

Below are images of some of the emails and commentary, both officially released and leaked, on ‘Wallgate’. Aberdeen Voice will be happy to receive further material and is continuing its Freedom of Information efforts.

I) ‘WE have a problem’ – on 3 February 2016 someone at ACC wrote to SUSTRANS to say ‘we have a problem’ and ‘our head of maintenance has advised there is no budget to carry out these repairs which could be £250,000…’

The recipient at SUSTRANS would have concluded that as the council says it has a problem, it has no budget, it is the party seeking repair funds, etc, that the responsibility for fixing the wall was the council’s.

The council keeps a spreadsheet showing every single property it owns; Aberdeen Voice has a 2012 copy and can confirm no entries exist on it for 2012 concerning Wellington Brae.

Was even this quick, simple search conducted before an email was sent to SUSTRANS from Aberdeen saying ‘we have a problem?’ Did anyone use the council tax rolls and contact the people living at the property to ask them about ownership?

It would be good to know how the author of this email to SUSTRANS decided to word their appeal- its tone is that the problem is Aberdeen’s.

There was no uncertainty over ownership expressed, just the assumption Aberdeen needed to find the money rather than a private landowner. It is also worth noting that the report brought to councillors to accept the money that was solicited from SUSTRANS in February was not presented to them until 24 May 2017 – fifteen months after the money was requested.

Will the email author’s line manager go back and check whether or not similar representations have been made to seek funds from external sources to repair properties that the city did not own?

How was the decision made to conduct the survey, to commission the in-house 12-page detailed Bill of Quantities report made in May of 2016 (which conveniently matches precisely the estimate for repairs presented to SUSTRANS in February), and who approved this budget to pay for a survey of benefit to private landowners?

II) Leaked email – Young is well aware of, and is briefed on, the approach ACC made to SUSTRANS. At least three different ACC personnel have, according to this email, been in touch with Young.

The writer says Young gave the verbal go-ahead for the project in his council role. Young is being asked for written confirmation.

We are still not at all certain why, with his legal background, Young apparently did not caution those on the project to cease any work until it was determined who was responsible for paying for the work at the moment he was approached for his permission.

Young asked for information to be re-sent to him in a paragraph: as the scheme involves SUSTRANS paying for the stonewall work, Young will have been in receipt of correspondence/data/reports/financials concerning SUSTRANS funding in the form of documents sent by email on a matter that concerns his family’s property.

Even if you disbelieve the authenticity of this email, Young later confirms officers approached him about the scheme – wouldn’t he have asked for some detail and background then, not least to find out why it was decided he was the landowner.

III) leaked email – According to this Young, who is addressed as Councillor, has the plans and is checking with his solicitor as to whether or not he owns the land.

IV) Leaked email – indicates Councillor Young issued a verbal instruction to proceed with the works at Wellington Brae 28 October 2016.

Many public and private entities have ethics charters and anything that could be a conflict of interest or potentially fraudulent or reputation-damaging must be raised, and if a decision to proceed is taken, this must be formalised and approved.

We note that Willie Young contacted ACC’s Monitoring Officer for advice – more on that appears later in this piece.

The question here is did no staff member or officer working on this project who were asking Young for approval as a private landowner think to raise any ethics/conflict of interest concerns?

Did no one question whether it was appropriate that ACC staff and resources were deployed to help private landowner Young (or his family) to obtain the SUSTRANS grant? Would this help be given to other private landowners who weren’t on the council?

We asked SUSTRANS to comment on the city’s ARS report which said:

“Sustrans funding would have been made available irrespective of who owned the affected land…”

We have have had no response as yet; this piece will be updated when they respond.

V) ACC recently-released email – The landowner has verbally given permission.

From mid-September 2016 it appears the city acted as if it were aware who owned the land – quite possibly they knew earlier looking at the leaked emails. Who is going to do the ‘rubber-stamping’ at ACC to approve this?

In a private organisation, seeking external sources of funding, issuing tenders and evaluating bids are meant to follow strict protocol, and any expenditure over a certain threshold is meant to be carefully scrutinized for internal control as well as external legal requirements.

Representatives of legal, finance and executive teams would all be expected to read detailed reports then either object or sign off before any such moves were made. This would extend from the first email sent to SUSTRANS through sealing the deal.

It is also noteworthy that the company initially appointed after the tender for the wall work went out of business and did not have much if any relevant experience. Perhaps Audit Scotland needs to visit Aberdeen’s procedures – again.

One further thought: a verbal agreement, in legal circles, is said to be ‘worth the paper it’s written on.’

VI) ACC recently-released emails from the latest FOI – How could the Head of Maintenance be ‘adamant’ there weren’t any funds? Couldn’t they have applied to Finance for either guidance on what to do or for more funds?

The path could have been closed until the new fiscal year opened – not ideal, but April was not that far off, either: during which time the mystery of who was responsible for the repair could have been determined.

Finance could have authorised emergency finance or an advance on the next quarter’s budget; You can think you have no funds for your department for important projects – but how can you be certain – or even ‘adamant’ you have no possibility of getting any finance without asking Finance to confirm?

In the private sector, such an approach would certainly lead to a member of the finance team asking the relevant questions – such as who owned the land.

VII) ACC recently-released email shows SUSTRANS awarding £200,000 on 25 November. Formal paperwork is coming – this will presumably require the landowner(s)’ signature(s). Who signed/approved for the landowner?

Young says:

Asked to comment to Aberdeen Voice on 14 October, Willie Young wrote (which was not received on the day, but re-sent when requested on 22 November):

“You ask if it was an ethical use of my position at ACC. As the freedom of information report and the Council enquiry report shows officers of the Council did not act within agreed protocols and this led to a situation where a report that should have come to committee did not appear.

“As for my position I was convener of the Finance committee and any report would have gone to the Communities, Housing and Infrastructure Committee not my committee so in answer to your question my ethics was never questioned by the Council nor was a matter ever passed to the Ethical Standards Commission, the monitoring officer for ACC is on record as saying that I did not have a conflict of interest.

“You ask when I disclosed to SUSTRANS that my family owned the wall, the answer to that is I never disclosed that my family owned the wall to SUSTRANS indeed this was not a matter for a Councillor it is a matter for the Council Officer.

“As the FOI shows the officer moved forward with discussions with SUSTRANS without involving Councillors. The Councils own report and the FOI clearly shows that the Council requested that this work was undertaken without speaking to the owner of the land and without being in a position to know who owned the land.

“Disappointingly this matter was not even discussed by Officers with the convener of Communities Housing and Infrastructure.  It was not for me to determine who owned the land it was for the Council to determine who owned the land and contact the land owner requesting permission.

“The report which went to council confirms the council failed both those tests.”

“In respect of your final question regard complaints I can categorically say without fear or favour that not one single person complained to me about the wall before or after Storm Gertrude.” 

The City’s Report should they have closed this case? Details hidden from public.

The Audit Risk and Scrutiny Committee reported on 26 September 2017 decided Young was ‘placed in a vulnerable position’; the Chief Executive apologised for this. This internal exercise resulted in a decision which reads in part:

6.18 “Sustrans funding would have been made available irrespective of who owned the affected land…”

4.67 “It was appropriate for Councillor Young to seek advice from the Monitoring Officer in order to address any perception that he was conflicted in his interests.”

4.68 “The Monitoring Officer has stated that based on the information available to him at the time, Councillor Young did not require to declare a conflict of interest because he had not been asked to make a decision as a Councillor on the works or the grant, but rather to provide his consent as a landowner.”

and paragraph 7.9 “Councillor Young’s actions did not contravene the ICT Acceptable Use Policy as the emails did not concern any confidential information, were not protectively marked, and had been addressed to Councillor Young.”

Questions arise:

6.18 quotes a claim that ‘SUSTRANS would have made the grant whoever owned the land’: Aberdeen Voice awaits SUSTRANS’ comment. Was a repair notice served on the land owner, if so when? Would a land owner approaching SUSTRANS have had to commission and pay for a detailed survey such as the one ACC had deployed resources to?

4.67, 4.68 – At what point did Young approach the Monitoring Officer – when did Young decide the perception of conflict existed and why did it exist for him? What did Young tell the Monitoring Officer that led to the conclusion there was no conflict of interest to address?

Did the Monitoring Officer proactively look at all the angles of this situation or just what Young presented to them? Why does the MO feel they have to say their conclusion was based on the information available to him at the time – has more information come to light, and if so, did it change this position?

7.9 – How is it ‘acceptable use’ of ACC computers, office and equipment to conduct business as a private landowner? These lines between councillor and landowner should never have been blurred. It is risible to think that using the address ‘Councillor’ automatically absolves Young.

Section 2 of the Audit Risk & Scrutiny report is withheld from the public for ‘data protection reasons.’

On the case: The ‘Stop the Desecration of Marischal College’ Facebook page.

AV notes the Facebook page Stop the Desecration of Marischal College has been instrumental in researching the Wellington Brae saga. In the past it has shown that claims Mr Young made concerning the Marischal Square development were unfounded.

Young once claimed that if the unpopular project went ahead, the city would be penalised by developer MUSE to the tune of £100 million. Summoned to appear before the Standards Commission, he was cleared of lying on grounds the information given to him by officers was inaccurate.

Déjà vu. (Young apparently did not find the concept of a £100 million penalty to be extreme, and did not question the information he passed on to the public).

The ‘Stop the Desecration of Marischal College’ posted this summary on 22 November:

“Willie stated on Twitter today that no one from the council contacted the Wellington Brae landowner until August 2017. He added that it was shocking.

“What’s shocking Willie is between March 2106 and April 2017 you were aware the council had checked the land registry and believed (as per the records they obtained) that you were the landowner.

“What’s shocking is you were asked numerous times by various officers to confirm that you were the landowner and for whatever reason decided not to even though – as you said last week on this page – you were a lawyer by trade and skilled in commercial negotiations.

“What’s hard to believe, particularly after August 2016 when you were told Sustrans had agreed to fund £200,000 of repairs and after you were shown and asked to approve the landscaping of the land above the wall, that you didn’t mention this to your father over Sunday lunch.

“Knowing the wall’s maintenance was the landowner’s responsibility one might have thought a saving of £200,000 might be worth mentioning.

“What’s more the August 2017 contact date Willie assured is right, is in fact wrong. In April 2017 he confirmed to the BBC that his father owned the land in question.

“What is most interesting though is when asked if anyone was sacked Willie said ‘no, but they should have been.’

“There is little doubt the council’s governance could and should have been better but Willie has no one to blame but himself for not realising £200,000 of public funding to fix and landscape a wall and land his family owned would come back and bite him.

“To now publicly say officers should have been fired is not only a cheap shot but serves to minimise his own culpability in this whole sorry affair…”

  “You can’t help but feel if this had been anyone else’s wall the outcome would have been rather different.”

Nov 302020
 

When a stone wall in Wellington Brae started to crumble, Aberdeen City Council decided to arrange the repair work.

Rather than identifying the property owner and troubling them with a repairs notice, the cash-strapped city mysteriously decided to look to its own maintenance budget, and decided somehow that there were no funds.

Did those involved approach anyone connected with Finance to ask for emergency funding? Apparently not. Did they decide to determine who owned the land at that point and issue a repairs notice? Suzanne Kelly presents part one of a two part investigation.

As many Aberdeen homeowners can attest (including the writer), even a few slates falling off a roof or a damaged front garden wall can result in a warning letter from the city that repairs must be done.

The wall in question sat on privately-owned land and the stone wall collapse spilled over onto Wellington Brae cycle path: all the more reason why, some might think, a repairs notice should have been swiftly sent to the owners, who should have been identifiable from the Land Registry records.

This is the origin of ‘Wallgate’, a tale of council procedures being ignored, a simple matter of land ownership being hopelessly (unnecessarily) confused, leaked emails and more.

ACC officers first tried to identify and contact the property owners AFTER the money was sought from SUSTRANS the cycling/walking charity, on 3 February 2016.

Why didn’t ACC do what they have often done – identify the owners and hit them with a repairs notice?

The email author asserted that the cause of the wall crumbling was Storm Gertrude; others claim that the wall was in bad repair before then (Aberdeen Voice will try to find out whether any repair notices were served on the property, or whether any complaints had been made prior to the storm).

The city’s version of events can be found in this FOI (heavily redacted) and with comments in the Appendix to this two-part article.

As it transpired, then Finance Chief Councillor William Young apparently owned the wall – or maybe his dad – or maybe his wife – or maybe someone else.

For reasons hard to fathom, ‘Wall I Am’ was uncertain who owned the wall despite telling the press on 3 May 2017 he had sold property at Wellington Brae to his father in 1992, and despite apparently giving verbal permission for the repairs.

All will become clear – or not – shortly.

Whose Wall is It Anyway? – A time line.

Mr Young is adamant that he acted properly throughout. Would a lawyer and Councillor acting as Finance Chief/convener be expected to know whether or not he owns a property – or to act swiftly to find out whether he did if asked for permission to do with it?

If you sold your father land, would it slip your mind?

Here is a partial timeline showing dates of statements, sources, and who is apparently being treated as the landowner.

Much of this information has been published before, such as the leaked emails, but assembling this timeline illustrates how problematic all the conflicting ownership claims are, and the issues arising.

DateQuoteWho is said
to be the landowner?
IssuesSource
03/02/2016









‘WE have a problem’








EMAIL WORDED AS IF ABERDEEN CITY COUNCIL WERE RESPONSIBLE




Someone at ACC writes to SUSTRANS to ask for £250,000, wording the email as if the responsibility for repair had already been determined to be Aberdeen’s. The city’s later report does not appear to address this misrepresentation – a serious failing one might think. FOI-released email from ACC to SUSTRANS.






28/10/2016










“Following your conversation with our XX yesterday (27th October) re your verbal instruction to proceed with the works at Wellington Brae.”
WILLIAM YOUNG









Why did Willie give verbal instructions to proceed if he was as he said in 2017 unsure who owned it? Would a lawyer remotely risk acting like this? If he knew he was the landowner and was free to give these instructions, then he ‘misspoke’ in 2017 when he said officers ‘mistakenly believed’ he was the landowner.28/10/2016 Leaked Email 1.








00/00/00






















“A couple of months ago XX and myself [came] to see you about Wellington Brae. Please find attached. These show the extent of the works to be undertaken. My understanding from our meeting was that you would forward the plans to your solicitor to confirm whether you owned the area?”UNSURE






















Willie was to have checked with his solicitor and knew about the scheme ‘months ago’. If he acted promptly – and who wouldn’t to find out if they owned land or not? – then why is there still uncertainty to ownership implied in this email?














Leaked Email 2.





















00/00/00









“…we are looking for written confirmation that the works can proceed – can you reply with this confirmation?

WILLIAM YOUNG








How is the public supposed to know for certain which hat Young is wearing here, not least as he is taking meetings about privately-held land in his office by now according to the ACC report – land he is at points denying ownership of or expressing uncertainty whether he owns it?Leaked email 3. (To Cllr Young)







00/00/00









“… you would continue to be the legal landowner…”






WILLIAM YOUNG








AV has to ask why aren’t all the involved parties asking for complete cessation of negotiations until the question of ownership is 100% settled? If Mrs Young is also an owner as was claimed in the press subsequently, there is scarce evidence to show her approval was ever sought.Leaked email 3. (to Cllr Young)







26/04/2017














“The Land Register for Scotland lists William Young and his wife as landowners of the site.
Cllr Young said he was unsure who owned the land despite council officers telling him he was the land owner.
MR & MRS W YOUNG













Willie says he’s not sure who is the landowner; Land Register apparently says he and his wife are. Was Land Registry advised of the sale Willie made to his dad in 1992? What was the sale price? Were there any tax/stamp duty implications from the sale? Why was the Council not able to get this information?




Probe into £200,000 of public cash used ‘to fix Willie Young’s boundary wall’ – Evening Express






03/05/2017





















“The land in question does not belong to me. I sold land at Wellington Brae to my father, David Young, in 1992, and land in this area remains in his ownership.
“Late last year, I was approached by officers of the council, who mistakenly believed that land at Wellington Brae belonged to me.”
DAVID YOUNG





















This sale does not appear to be reflected in Land Registry records. We are meant to believe a man with a law degree did not know he owned the land and/or somehow the title transfer was not made.
Why would council officers have approached Young – through his councillor email/office – as being the owner?
Why didn’t Young immediately tell the officers he either wasn’t the owner or was unsure who was?






Willie Young confirms land at centre of row belongs to his dad
– Press and Journal
















03/05/2017



























“I told them I would ask my solicitor to check the title… and I have since confirmed that none of this land belongs either to Deeview Homes or to me personally.
“All I actually did was to respond to council officers who mistakenly believed I owned land there, to say that I was not sure of the position, and that I would ask my solicitor’s advice on the matter.
UNSURE



























While stating he sold land at Wellington Brae to his father in 1992, Young is simultaneously unsure about the title. ‘All he actually did’ also includes (according to ACC emails) giving verbal permission for work.




















Willie Young confirms land at centre of row belongs to his dad
– Press and Journal






















24/05/2017




















“The Council is in the process
of contacting the landowner to discuss the necessary agreements to access
and facilitate the works.”











UNSPECIFIED




















Eric Owens, Fraser Bell and Stephen Whyte reported to councillors requesting scheme approval. Councillors were presented with their report – without the ownership issue or Cllr Young’s potential ownership getting a mention. In private institutions this omission might be taken extremely seriously. As an aside, it is likely now a new fiscal year for ACC: would Maintenance still have had no budget? Why didn’t the report authors suggest getting the landowner to pay as an option? Councillors are often slated by the public, but they are only allowed to vote on what officers put before them.Wellington Brae – report to Communities, Housing & Infrastructure.















26/09/2017



















“Councillor Young did not require to declare a conflict of interest because he had not been asked to make a decision as a Councillor on the works or the grant, but rather to provide his consent as a landowner”



WILLIAM YOUNG
Willie Young referred to as landowner in this Audit Risk & Scrutiny report












Back to Square One: NB Willie had told the P&J on 3 May “Late last year, I was approached by officers of the council, who mistakenly believed that land at Wellington Brae belonged to me.”
Some would say the conflict arises precisely because Young is both a councillor and a private landowner, benefitting from council help with the estimate and securing finance as meetings were held in his council office and correspondence conducted through his council email. His title of Finance Convener, his position as a councillor all carried weight.
Aberdeen City Council ARS report

















14/10/2020



































“You ask when I disclosed to SUSTRANS that my family owned the wall, the answer to that is I never disclosed that my family owned the wall to SUSTRANS indeed this was not a matter for a Councillor it is a matter for the Council Officer. As the FOI shows the officer moved forward with discussions with SUSTRANS without involving Councillors.”










UNSURE



































If we accept the ARS finding that Willie was being contacted via his council email as the private landowner, it is unnecessary to talk about what his role was as a councillor. As a private landowner whose permission was required for the scheme (perfect word for it) went ahead, at some point SUSTRANS must have been made aware whose land it was they were putting c£250k of their money to work on and whether via intermediaries or not, Young must have been in the loop. Willie is right – councillors were not involved – but the landowner was – whoever that actually was. The landowner is mentioned in the 26 September email as having given verbal consent. The leaked emails show that Young was in the loop; the ARS report says he was giving his consent as landowner. If he never disclosed that ‘my family owned the wall to SUSTRANS’ it was nevertheless disclosed to the staff within ACC that ‘his family’ owned the land or they would not have sought his permission – permission which perhaps should have come from his father.Email to Suzanne Kelly from Willie Young 14 October 2020 (re-sent Nov 2020)





























Mr Young told AV:

“As the FOI (the most recent answered by ACC) shows the officer moved forward with discussions with SUSTRANS without involving Councillors.”

AV accepts this: what we have been questioning is who owned the land, why ACC was not pursuing the land owner to pay for the repairs, why Young was uncertain whether or not he owned land, and why he was being contacted as a private landowner (mistakenly or not) via his official ACC councillor email rather than a private one.

Aberdeen Voice continues this story in Part II – examining recently-released emails and leaked emails in further detail.

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Feb 022020
 

Duncan Harley Reviews ‘Beautiful – The Carol King Musical’ at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen.

As jukebox musicals go Beautiful hits the sweet spot. Familiar songs, slick choreography and simple staging litter the production.

Add Daisy Wood-Davis to the mix, sprinkle in a measure of 60’s pop culture fold-in some sugary bio and cook slowly.
Result? Mouth-watering!

OK, perhaps the bio is a little bit hazy in places. The story dwells on Carol’s first marriage and kinda glosses out the other three.

And maybe music insiders would express surprise at the portrayal of a sugar-sweet music industry bereft of draconian contracts and stingy executives.

But this is entertainment at its best, and not by any means a social history class. So, if the audience comes out smiling, all is well in nostalgia-land.

Alongside the familiar Carol King solos, and there are quite a few, the show makes great play of the fact that the early King was in essence a prolific maker of hits. But for other people.

She later found her own voice, but her early career saw her sweating as a jobbing-songwriter in Broadway’s Brill Building churning out production line hits for rising stars. Bryan Ferry, James Taylor, The Carpenters, Roberta Flack, Neil Sedaka and The Drifters all sequestrated her talent to good advantage.

Finally, she divorced from song-writing partner/would-be playwright Gerry Goffin – played here by a splendidly manic-depressive Adam Gillian.

The post-split storyline involves her own solo hits with albums such as Tapestry and Rhymes and Reasons taking the international charts by storm.

Directed by Marc Bruni and based on the book by Douglas McGrath, this musical version of the Carol King story is more than just a Jersey Boys take on the familiar hits however.

The musical reeks of empowerment through adversity and the plot moves steadily but relentlessly through the highs and lows until, at the very end – but no spoilers here, the narrative culminates in a poignant but triumphant conclusion.

Along the way the plot threads a path through sit-com and drama with some twenty-five familiar songs spread along the way.

Favourites? Daisy Wood-Davis shines as Carol with Laura Baldwin’s up-beat Cynthia a close second. Song highlights? Be-Bop-a-Lula, You’ve Got a Friend and of course Beautiful.

This musical drama is stuffed with familiar hits and features ‘guest appearances’ by the likes of Neil Sedaka, The Drifters and The Righteous Brothers at every turn – honest injuns. What’s not to like?

Stars: 4.5/5

Words © Duncan Harley, Images © HMT

Mar 212018
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

For people who care about animal welfare, supporting an animal shelter seems like a great way to help – but how many know what kind of shelter they are donating to? Last August Zara Brown, who said she was running a shelter, was found to have committed a catalogue of horrific offences.

Investigators found, for instance, a freezer stuffed with seven dead dogs and a cat.

Animals were left in dark, cold buildings with inadequate food and water and without medical treatment.

The courts were told poor Zara was depressed and was unable to cope.  She got off very lightly for the cruelty inflicted.

Then we learned she was a convicted fraudster to the value of some £37,000.

Clearly we cannot have people who are convicted fraudsters handling animals and money.

Facebook posts show that awareness of huge problems at her animal sanctuary existed long before she was ever convicted – why was no action taken?

A recent proposal to the Scottish government would see the SSPCA and police tackle the unscrupulous animal charity.  However, is the SSPCA really the right body to deal with this?

One long-running animal welfare group, Animal Concern Advice Line, likes the idea, but opposes SSPCA involvement. It recently told its supporters:

“We oppose this for three main reasons.

“1: The Scottish SPCA is the largest owner and operator of animal rescue centres in Scotland and as such should be regulated and policed by the scheme just like every other rescue and rehoming operation.

“2: Some of the smaller rescue, rehab and rehoming operatives harbour ill feeling towards the Scottish SPCA and would find it extremely difficult to be part of any scheme administered and/or policed by the SSPCA.

“3: Dumping the administration and policing of any scheme on the shoulders of the Scottish SPCA would mean that yet again the Scottish SPCA would be spending charity donations to do work which should be funded by central or local government thus reducing the resources available to the Scottish SPCA to help animals for whom no-one has a legal duty of care.”

Sadly the SSPCA has come in for a lot of deserved criticism of late. Its issues include:

  • Raising the chief executive’s salary to a whopping £216,000 without any consultation with the army of donors (I collected money for the SSPCA and donated for years – to help animals not to pay a massive salary to an executive – Suzanne).  The latest on this is that the chair has left.
  • Killing a harmless snake which was misidentified as poisonous by putting it in a freezer to die alone in the dark.  I asked repeatedly why, when the snake had already been captured could it not have been left alone until an expert could assess it – no answer was forthcoming.

When the salary of the chairman went up, the SSPCA closed its Shetland facility, with Mike Flynn of the SSPCA making the shocking claim that the SSPCA’s role was not to keep a building open in case there was an oil spill.

The facility was not strictly used for oil-accidents, and the closure dismayed residents.

Keeping the shelter open would have cost a fraction of what the chair’s salary rise was.

Initially Mr Flynn was critical of an Aberdeen scheme to kill deer on Tullos Hill to plant trees (a government report had already said trees could not be established in numbers because of the soil matrix being poor).  He was cheered for condemning the move – but when later asked for further comments on the scheme he called ‘abhorrent’ he simply stopped replying to correspondence.

John Robins of Animal Concern Advice Line has been campaigning for licensing and policing of animal rescue centres and sanctuaries for many years.

He said:

“I want to see all animal rescue and rehoming centres brought up to a high minimum standard of animal welfare, public safety and financial accountability. Sadly a small number of rescuers get it very wrong causing animals to suffer and the public to lose trust in the whole sector.

“Some put people at risk of death by placing potentially dangerous dogs in totally unsuitable new homes. Others fail to carry out  proper home checks and risk placing animals with potential abusers. Most of the problems are caused by well-intentioned people who don’t have the space, skills or finances to do things properly.

“Regretfully a few are criminals who knowingly abuse and neglect animals while conning the public and grant-giving trust funds out of money.

“It is a great pity that the many  good and trustworthy rescue centres are going to encounter a bit more red tape and expense to meet a new licencing regime but that is what it is going to take to get rid of the cowboys and criminals.

“One major problem is in finding an organisation to administer and police the licensing scheme.

“The Government wants the Scottish SPCA to run things but that would be wrong as the Scottish SPCA has more animal rescue centres than any other organisation and should not police itself.

“Police Scotland and local authorities, some of which have their own rescue kennels, have legal responsibilities for stray dogs thus rendering them unsuitable to manage the scheme.

“I suggest responsibility  be given either to the existing Animal & Plant Health Agency or to a new body created by the Scottish Government.”

A bona-fide animal rescue will either be a registered Scottish charity or will otherwise let you look at its accounts.

A genuine rescue will not be selling animals for slaughter while asking people to donate to save the lives of other animals – it is not possible to do both ethically, morally or logically (how can one pig be worth saving and another pig be worth killing?).

As the Scottish consultation points to the unsuitability of convicted fraudsters handling public donations, no reputable animal rescue will have anyone who has form as a fraudster or confidence trickster taking in donations.

Hopefully a suitable arrangement can be found, but for reasons pointed out by Mr Robins and by this article, the SSPCA should not be involved in regulating an industry it itself participates in – and which has failed in its duty.

Spotlight on Northfield Animal Haven

Despite its continuing threats to close (and its threats and insinuations against its critics), Northfield Animal Haven continues to:

  • Seek donations, buy animals (wrong for any charity, but wrong for one so apparently short of funds).
  • Sell animals at Thainstone market, where many if not all will wind up slaughtered.

Here is an extract from a previous article. Despite false claims from Northfield, neither Aberdeen Voice or Suzanne Kelly (myself) have been in any way prevented from writing about the odd goings-on at this place.

Fact Recap:

  • That Kelly Cable is a convicted benefit fraudster [3]– this calls her honesty into question;
  • That Kelly Cable denied signing for a substantial loan [4]– again her honesty was thrown in doubt;
  • That signs and funding appeals stating ‘all farm animals are rescued are misleading [5].There seem to be two Northfields – one that keeps some animals as rescues – while breeding for sale from these [6.1-3], and one that sells animals at Thainstone Market and privately where slaughter is the almost inevitable outcome [7]This schism is condemned by many animal welfare professionals including John Robins of Animal Concern Advice Line [8].
  • When cornered on this issue, Kelly has made posts along the lines of ‘everyone’knows that she operates a working farm and that the reason she uses pictures of animals in her appeal such as sheep and cattle that are not to be rescued is ‘people have asked to see all the animals’ [9]. Donors Aberdeen Voice had contact with were completely in the dark on the point, and would never have donated to money to an institution that breeds from its rescue for sales, and raises farm animals for commercial purposes.
  • That Cable used, without any contact or permission, images of animals she had nothing to do with for fundraising purposes – this calls transparency and honesty into question (the image on the left of an emaciated bovine is not an animal Cable was trying to rescue; it is from 2011 in the USA  [10].
  • That Cable has claimed to different witnesses to have disabilities and illnesses [11.1-11.4]; she has told several people these illnesses lead her to use cannabis on the farm and that alcohol and drug use by others is tolerated by her at Northfield around the 170 animals she says she cares for single-handedly. This clearly poses threats to animal welfare – and that has led to serious consequences as this article will demonstrate. This drug use should also be of serious concern to anyone using her animal assisted therapy programme.
  • There are allegations of cannabis sales which the authorities are aware of [12]. (As an aside, cannabis can be a very therapeutic medical boon to some. The appropriateness of seeking public donations while using/selling cannabis on a farm by a disabled woman who purports to single-handedly care for over 170 animals where neglect and deaths have occurred should raise red flags to animal welfare authorities and those concerned with public safety).
  • Northfield has itself posted about animals that have died ‘from a broken heart’ or overeating.
  • Northfield has also posted that Suzanne Kelly was involved in going to their farm, damaging fences, locking a pony in a food store where it ate itself to death.
  • A previous Northfield Facebook administrator, Fiona Manclark, was ordered to pay Suzanne Kelly £15,000 plus costs for repeated libel (Manclark had months in which to simply make an apology without facing any costs, but forced the matter to court). Ms Manclark spectacularly wrote to the court to excuse her failure to turn up, and in her letter she wrote that cannabis is routinely used at Northfield, a claim which fits in with other peoples’ allegations of drug use and dealing.  While many people feel cannabis use should be legalised, many would question whether a disabled woman who claims to care for over 70 animals, some of whom have died in her care from exposure and feeding issues – and who offers animal therapy to young people – should mix cannabis with an animal welfare charity offering therapy.
  • Ms Cable is a convicted benefit fraudster (see past AV articles).

This all adds up to irresponsibility fiscally, operationally, and safety wise on a worrying scale.

https://aberdeenvoice.com/2016/10/northfield-animal-haven-haven-hell/

Northfield and its supporters first began to attack Aberdeen Voice and myself when we repeated a press release (the Press & Journal printed it too) merely calling for a voluntary registration scheme for shelters which would ensure animal welfare.

What Northfield will make of mandatory regulation excluding fraudsters from running animal charities remains to be seen, but whether or not the SSPCA is involved, a regulator in this sector will spell the end for any fraudsters operating animal shelter charities.

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Oct 062017
 

For nearly 15 years now, the people at IMP (interesting Music Promotions) have been putting on a wide variety of acts on in Aberdeen.

As their name suggests these acts are not always the most mainstream of acts and the diverse shows they have put on reflects this. Acts such as Caribou, 60 Days of Static, Arab Strap, The Phantom Band, Aereogramme frontman Craig B, FOUND and more have been promoted by them in venues ranging from the usual live music venues, such as The Lemon Tree and The Tunnels, to more unusual spaces such as Peacock Visual Arts, The Society of Advocates Library and even within a large tent at the Castlegate.

The promoters – better known to friends and family as Mike, Jenny, Mark and Graeme – are turning the clock back and are putting on one of the earliest acts they promoted, way back in 2004 – Thomas Truax.

This will be Truax’s first performance at The Blue Lamp but he is no stranger to the stages of Aberdeen, having performed at The Lemon Tree, The Tunnels, Krakatoa and Musa.

If you’ve never seen him before then prepare to be blown away this eccentric performer and his collection of home-made instruments.

Support on the night comes from Barrett’s Dottled Beauty, the latest project of local psych-folk legend the Kitchen Cynics, AKA Alan Davidson.

Here’s what the good people of IMP have to say about this intriguing double bill –

Thomas Truax/Barratt’s Dottled Beauty – October 15, 7.30pm til 11pm.

We are reclaiming Thomas for his Blue Lamp debut. If you haven’t seen Thomas you haven’t seen anything like it. Thomas Truax (pronounced troo-aks) is an American singer/musician, inventor and multi-media artist.

One of the most imaginative characters on the pop music fringe, since the year 2000 Thomas has been travelling the world performing with his evolving “band” of bizarre self-made Harry Partch-esque instruments including a motorized drum machine made of bike wheels called ‘Mother Superior’ and a pimped-up Dr. Seuss-ian Gramophone called ‘The Hornicator’, as well as his venerable resonator guitar ‘Hank’.

Time Out magazine has dubbed him “The king of home-made instruments” while Splendid magazine called him:

“one of the five or ten best singer/songwriters in the world that you’ve never heard of…an exceptional talent, unique and resistant to comparison, yet fairly accessible even to casual listeners.”

Truax crafts rich, poetically evocative songs about insects, trees, technology, and a lifelong obsession with things lunar, including various reasons ‘Why Dogs Howl at The Moon’. Notable supporters and collaborators include Jarvis Cocker, Duke Special, Richard Hawley, Amanda Palmer, and the late author Terry Pratchett. Brian Viglione (of the Dresden Dolls/Violent Femmes) plays drums on Thomas’s latest studio album ‘Jetstream Sunset’.

A stubborn DIY enthusiast, he self-released his debut full-length solo CD ‘Full Moon Over Wowtown’ on his own Psychoteddy label in 2002.

It was later snatched up by London-based Breakin’ Beats for release in the UK and Europe. Numerous singles, compilations and seven other albums have followed on various labels including SL Records, Homesleep and Blang. Among these releases are an original score for a major German stage production of ‘Peer Gynt’ (by award-winning director Kay Voges), and – inspired by a meeting with director David Lynch – a highly-rated covers album ‘Songs From The Films Of David Lynch’.

Barrett’s Dottled Beauty

Semi-improvised psychedelic folk from Gayle Brogan of Electroscope / Pefkin and Alan Davidson of the Kitchen Cynics.

http://www.wegottickets.com/event/413654

If that’s not enough interesting music for you then be sure to go along to the other concerts that IMP have lined up for the rest of the year –

  • Posable Action Figures / Gordon James and the Power / Rebecca Dunn – Friday 6th October
  • The Alice Marra Quartet / Riley Briggs (Aberfeldy) – The Lemon Tree – Sunday 19th October
  • Half Formed Things / Autumn Hang – Parx Café – Saturday 4th November
  • Kathryn Joseph / HQFU / Biomechanoid / Move On Up DJs – The Tunnels – Thursday 28th December

Tickets are available at www.wegottickets.com

Feb 102017
 

With thanks to Richard Bunting, Director, Richard Bunting PR.

Record numbers of three dolphin species off Scotland’s west coast were recorded by conservation charity Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust in its marine research expeditions in 2016. 
From the trust’s specialized research yacht Silurian, volunteers and scientists recorded 2,303 individual common dolphins, 42 bottlenose dolphins and 94 Risso’s dolphins – the figures for all three species being the highest ever recorded in its annual survey seasons.

Average annual figures documented over the previous 14 years were 463 individual common dolphins, 14 bottlenose dolphins and 12 Risso’s dolphins. 

For common dolphins, these records range from 0 individuals encountered in a couple of the earlier field seasons to 1,862 during the 2007 season. 

Dr. Lauren Hartny-Mills, Science Officer of Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, said:

“The reasons for the high number of sightings of these charismatic dolphin species – and the broader effects on the marine environment and other species – remain unclear. But the intriguing findings highlight the importance of on-going monitoring and research – to strengthen our understanding of what is taking place in Hebridean waters, and to ensure well-informed conservation action.”

The latest findings were made in a research season lasting from May to October 2016, as part of the trust’s unique long-term citizen science project monitoring whales, dolphins and porpoises – collectively known as cetaceans – as well as basking sharks in the Hebrides.

These annual research surveys depend on paying volunteers, with 71 welcomed aboard in 2016 – working with marine scientists on visual surveys and acoustic monitoring with underwater microphones or hydrophones, and identifying individual cetaceans through photography.

The Isle of Mull-based organisation now holds data from more than 95,000km of survey effort. It aims to pass the 100,000km milestone during 2017, and it is currently recruiting volunteers to support this by working as citizen scientists onboard Silurian for periods of almost two weeks from April to September.

Alison Lomax, Director of Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, said: “The impressive range of species documented in our at-sea surveys last year is a powerful reminder that Scotland’s west coast ocean environment is home to remarkable marine life. Long-term scientific studies of this globally-important habitat and its inhabitants are crucial if we are to ensure a secure future for the Hebrides’ spectacular cetaceans.”

During 2016, Silurian – previously used in filming of the BBC’s The Blue Planet series – covered more than 5,000 nautical miles, compared to an average of almost 4,000 miles annually over the previous 14 years. Its crew documented more than 1,300 cetaceans and basking sharks, and recorded almost 700 hours of underwater detections of cetaceans using specialist listening equipment.

Notable highlights included a wonderful encounter with a humpback whale in the northern Minch – an hour was spent with the massive creature lunge feeding, tail slapping and swimming under Silurian, alongside a large group of common dolphins.

2016 also saw Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s first expeditions running out of Ullapool, allowing for surveys in the more northern and western parts of the charity’s study area.

Western Scotland’s seas are one of Europe’s most important cetacean habitats. With a long, complex coastline, strong ocean currents and a variety of habitats, the Hebrides is one of the UK’s most biologically productive areas. So far 24 of the world’s estimated 92 cetacean species have been recorded in the region – many being national and international conservation priority species.

Yet marine ecosystems are fragile, and cetaceans face increasing stress from human activities – including climate change, entanglement, pollution, underwater noise and habitat degradation.

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust has been monitoring marine mega fauna in the Hebrides since 1994, and from Silurian since 2002. Its surveys are partly funded by a generous grant from Scottish Natural Heritage, which supports the training of future mammal scientists.

The charity is the only organisation collecting long-term data on such a large scale on Scotland’s west coast, and its volunteers and scientists have now recorded more than 12,000 cetaceans. A short film about surveys can be seen at https://youtu.be/M_3r-GKfh8o.

Participation costs for the forthcoming 2017 surveys cover boat expenses, accommodation, training, food and insurance, and support the trust’s research. For details of how to take part, contact volunteercoordinator@hwdt.org, call 01688 302620, or visit www.hwdt.org.

 

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Jan 192017
 

With thanks to Jessica Murphy, Senior Account Executive, Citrus:Mix.

An Aberdeenshire business has announced the winner of its campaign to find the North-east’s most hardworking community hero.

The Store, a farm shop, deli and coffee shop based in Foveran, near Ellon, launched the campaign in December as a way of rewarding one inspiring individual who went above and beyond for their community in 2016.
Caroline Anderson, 43, from Potterton, was announced as the winner after impressing judges with her contributions to her local community.

Fellow Potterton resident, Sammy MacDonald, nominated her to win £100 of vouchers to spend at The Store, as she felt that Caroline deserved recognition for donating her spare time to improving their village.

The NHS support manager has lived in Potterton for 11 years and  helped to found the Potterton Community Group at the end of 2015. Since then, the group has grown from a group of mums to one that involves residents of all ages focusing on the community. The group now regularly organises events, promoting the use of local businesses and the surrounding area, as a way to inject more community spirit into the village and make Potterton more sociable for its residents.

Monthly pop-up cafes, a picnic in the park, seasonal fairs, fitness classes, an adults arts and craft group, as well as a ‘zombie apocalypse’ – a fun game that involved local children trying to find the antidote to a zombie outbreak – were all successful in bringing together residents and raising money to fund community projects.

Last year, the funds raised by the group helped to upgrade a path in the area, so that more people could enjoy the countryside surrounding Potterton. This project also received funding from Paths for All, a charity that aims to significantly increase the number of people who choose to walk in Scotland.

Andrew Booth, owner of The Store, was so overwhelmed with the number of campaign nominations that he turned to his family to help him decide on a winner.

He said:

“It was an incredibly difficult decision to make, as we received a lot of really inspirational nominations from across the North-east. I eventually read out the shortlist of nominations to my kids and mother-in-law and they helped me decide on the overall winner.

“One of the main reasons we chose Caroline was because I wanted to give her an incentive to carry on the Potterton Community Group well into the future, as it’s still in the early stages.

“After reading Caroline’s nomination and meeting her in person, it’s very clear that she does a great deal for her local community, which is what this campaign was all about. As well as working full-time and looking after two children, she has brought together an entire community through a number of initiatives that will truly benefit both residents and the area in the long-term.”

Mrs Anderson said:

“I couldn’t believe it when I found out that I had won, I almost burst into tears. I had absolutely no idea that I had been nominated and I was completely overwhelmed that Sammy had thought to put me forward. I’ve never thought that I do anything particularly special, as there are so many people out there doing inspirational things.

“Whilst I’m the main driver behind the group, it’s entirely a team effort. We have an amazing bunch of people who volunteer their time to the group and we wouldn’t have been able to achieve what we have done over the past year without them all.

“I receive so many positive comments about the group, that’s what inspires me to keep going and pushes me to do even more for the Potterton community. This year we want to focus on organising more social events, community projects and getting residents involved as much as possible. It’s hard work, but it’s so worth it when you see the strong bond that the village has formed over the past year. It’s amazing what a community can achieve when you work together.”

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Dec 162016
 

By Anne Foy.

Aberdeen police have issued an appeal to the public to disclose any information they may have regarding the drugs trade in the city.

This follows an interesting year for drugs in Aberdeen, with high-profile busts combining with a general rise in drug use to form a chequered pattern for the police drugs squads.

At a meeting with Torry Community Council, Police Scotland Sergeant Garry Garrow warned of a marked increase in drug dealing in the area, and issued an appeal for Torry residents to come forward with any information they have on drug use or drug dealing within Aberdeen (in general) and Torry (in particular) [1].

The police describe this as “not a high priority issue”, but note nonetheless that Aberdeen’s drug problems are on the rise – speaking of a potential trafficking link with Liverpool.

Aberdeen Committed To Tackling Drugs:

This has been an interesting year for those working with drugs issues in Aberdeen. On the one hand, as mentioned above, we’ve seen a steady rise in drug dealing and the antisocial behaviour associated with it. On the other, measures designed to tackle the causes of drug use and provide solid support [2] to those trying to get clean have responded magnificently to the challenge.

A project within Aberdeen Sheriff Court, which aims to identify the reasons behind an offender’s drug use and eliminate them had its first anniversary last month, and has been hailed as ‘pioneering’ [3]. The project will be expanded next year, and already has several new cases on its books. Law enforcement has been similarly hot on the issue, with hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of drugs seized in Aberdeen raids over the last few years.

However, authorities are concerned that a strong and coherent trafficking ring are at work, pumping drugs into the city through insidious routes, possibly stemming from Liverpool or thereabouts. Getting more information on drug-related activity seen by the public could help the police to shut down these routes – hence the appeal.

Aberdeen Drug Busts:

Aberdeen’s law enforcement services have a strong track record in beating drug problems. In 2016 alone, they seized hundreds of thousands of pounds [4] worth of Class A drugs in a series of raids, building upon the general success of Operation Maple (Aberdeen Police’s anti-drugs operation) in the past [5].

They also helped to bring to fruition the biggest drugs bust ever to take place in British history.

Back in April last year, authorities from Aberdeen helped to bring a vessel in the North Sea suspected of carrying drugs into Aberdeen harbour. Upon a deep and intense search of the vessel, she was found to be transporting £500 million worth of cocaine [6] – roughly the same amount in a single bust that is found in an average year’s worth of drug seizures. Impressive stuff.

Liverpool – Aberdeen Drugs Route:

However, the scale and expense of the drugs recovered in the raids does tend to indicate that there is a sustained effort to get drugs into Aberdeen, and a reasonably steady, reasonably heavy flow running down the trafficking routes. Past successes perhaps indicates that relevant information may well lead to a successful raid, which could make a meaningful difference to the problem.

It is thought that drugs may be coming into the city on a route from Liverpool. Merseyside currently has a drug-related crime rate higher than anywhere else in the UK, a reasonably recent development (crime rates had, until about 2014, been falling in Merseyside). Anyone who knows anything about this, or who has any kind of information regarding drug dealing in Aberdeen or the surrounding area, is asked to contact the police.

All information will be treated with discretion, and kept in the utmost confidence.

Sources:

[1] Evening Express, “Police Issue Appeal To Crack Down On Drug Dealing After Rise In Aberdeen Community” , Nov 2016

[2] Detox.net, “Withdrawal: Standing By Them Through It All”, Jul 2016

[3] Scottish Legal News, “Justice Secretary visits Aberdeen problem solving court”, Dec 2016

[4] BBC News, “Seven charged over £100,000 of drugs in Aberdeen”, Apr 2016

[5] Police Scotland, “Operation Maple: £2m worth of drugs seized, Aberdeen”, Apr 2014

[6] Aileen Clarke, Christopher Sleight, “How the UK’s biggest drugs bust was made”, BBC News, Jul 2016

Images courtesy of Pixabay. Copyright owner: Sammisreachers – used under creative commons licence. 

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Dec 062016
 

dons-display

Stephen McCormick quits his role as display organiser for AFC describing the club as “impossible to deal with.”

With thanks to Red Fin Hall.

In recent years, there have been various splendid displays at Aberdeen Football Club matches, most notably perhaps, at the 2014 and 2016 League Cup finals, arranged by one man, Stephen McCormick, aka Mezzanine.

The finances for undertaking this mammoth undertaking came totally out of his own pocket and from fan donations.

The last one, the stunning 20,000 red and silver flag waving display at November’s final, arguably the only positive thing about the match, cost in the region of £10,000.

AFC, like all clubs, have a Supporter’s Liason Officer (SLO). The one at Aberdeen is Ally Proctor. He is also the CEO of the Community Trust. Despite this, he has never, ever gone to any SLO roadshows, or communicated anything to help with the final display. His title just seems to an obligatory one to appease UEFA.

The so called ‘family club’ are now taking on the appearance of being anything but.

Here, in his own words, are Stephen’s reasons for his decision to discontinue putting on displays at Pittodrie.

“I spoke with a few folk involved in the display project and family and friends in the weeks leading up to the Final. Sunday’s final will be my last involvement with displays and those I spoke to fully understand why.

“The club held its AGM on Monday and a shareholder asked Milne, Yule and Fraser about those behind the display and a vote of thanks was agreed, Im not sure what that means but Milne said they had been in touch with the organisers. I can assure you now we haven’t been thanked by any of them. So he blatantly lied to a room full of shareholders.

“They had an opportunity to put some money towards the display as well but we had a deadline to meet to place the order. We had to go through the Operations department, they were meant to relay info to our chief exec to keep him up to speed as to where we were at with the funds, I received an email at 9 pm on a Saturday night from him asking where we were at despite telling Operations on a daily basis.

“They dragged their heels so we had to look elsewhere, the DST lent us £2500 which we paid back. Production of 20,000 flags takes time. I asked our chief exec if he would still like to donate something like a bus for volunteers. I never got a reply but the DST did and the club said they couldn’t do a bus as they would all be booked.

“I called Central Coaches, same firm the club use and got a bus straight away, the DST offered to pay half of that which was a lovely gesture.

“The club are impossible to deal with, they hate me that’s for sure because I stand up to them and won’t allow them to treat those giving up their spare time like dirt. How can I work with a club that contacts Ian Low at Dundee United, or the operations Manager at Inverness Caley and try and talk them into banning us from doing display at their grounds?

“When we did a foil display in the Shed at Tannadice I was taken aside and told they (DUFC) would do anything they possibly could to make sure our display was a success, which it was. DUFC and ICT both couldn’t understand why any club wouldn’t want their own fans to add as much colour to the games.

“The League Cup final at ParkRed for example the club did absolutely nothing to assist us. I had to deal with the SPFL, Celtic,and the police and all were very helpful.

“The club were quick to sell framed pictures at £70 a pop in the club shop of the display, I was never offered one.

“This display was a huge task and thankfully I had a great team to share the load, some of them will continue Im sure but after witnessing how I’m treated they will probably do future displays away from home.

“At Hampden, Motherwell, Celtic, Inverness, Ibrox, Tannadice, I have always been made welcome and always get a glowing report of how organised we were. Its just our club that make life extremely difficult to do anything and I’ve had enough.

“We also have a SLO at our club, a role given to someone in the community trust just to appease UEFA, a SLO should be someone that is known to the support and is helpful to the supporters, ours didn’t even get in touch leading up to the final, Im not even going to mention his name but another ex-cop who nobody within the support knows. Im in regular contact with SLOs at other clubs as well as Supporters direct etc and kept up to date with matters.

“It was very humbling for the support to put so much faith in me at the last 2 finals and to donate such an incredible amount was just staggering, I had several sleepless nights leading up to this game but I knew as soon as I knew the materials we would use what I was going to do. Without the supporters kindness and participation I’d never have been able to do any of them.

“Thanks also to those that helped me make it happen, you know who you are.

“Thank you all once again and good luck to those who want to try and add some colour in the future. Time to spend some time with those that are far more important than football, my amazing family.”

To say that the fans I have spoke to are annoyed at this situation is an understatement. He went on to say,

“A SLO is someone who the support have known for years, someone they have faith in. I have proved over the years that the fans have faith in me, fundraising, centenary celebrations, loads of displays, football competitions, set ups, social media. Been in touch with them for best part of 20 years.

“I also never lie to the support, that’s the one thing that winds me up about our club, I could tell you some stories like.”

Independently, another fan has set up a petition to replace the current SLO with somebody who has more interest in fulfilling his position that the title suggests.

Let’s hope that the club is taken to task over this and things change in the future.

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Nov 142016
 

Old Suzannah relects on the result of the US Presidential Election. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryTrump is in as POTUS elect – cue gushing from Spokesperson Sarah Malone saying what a ‘visionary’ he is. There is celebrating among the racists, and wailing and gnashing of teeth from those who care about the environment, about others, and the future in general.

I spent way too much time on Facebook before and after this catastrophe. There were articles to write, research to do, and crazy attitudes to try to understand and counter.  Mostly I learned that countering people who are stuck in a mindset, particularly one they acquired in childhood, is a non-starter.

Facebook was essential for my trying to figure out what people were thinking and why. I failed.

Some people even more left-leaning than I (it’s possible) have gone down the conspiracy theory hole. Hillary was an evil blood-sucking monster who the white knight Julian Assange was trying to slay. The fact that some US publications had actually printed celebratory ‘Hillary Wins’ programmes and magazines was proof positive that the election result was fixed.

I tried to counter this BS only to be told I that in effect I was naïve and had no idea what was really going on in the world. There are powerful people like the Rockefellers and Rothschilds you see – I had no idea – had you?

The diehard Bernie supporters were filled with ‘I told you so’ rhetoric. Great stuff, but hardly productive or useful against Trump.

Third party voters before the election were adamant it didn’t matter what they were doing with their vote, and that any of the candidates were able to win this horserace. There were only two people who were ever likely to win. Pity that the one with the most popular votes did not actually win the election. After the votes were counted, these third party voters were keen to deny any involvement in Trump’s victory.

The simple, black-and-white fact that they elected to vote for someone other than HRC was in effect the same as not voting at all is lost on them, and they are not going to admit they had a chance to vote against racism, sexism and nationalism – and they decided to, in effect anyway, remain neutral.

Then we come down to the far right. The only people making threats, attempting to denigrate political opponents and sharing bigoted bile were on the far right. Trump has made it acceptable to be a hate-filled, xenophobic nutter. We are going to do something about this, because unlike these hatemongers, we actually know where this kind of hatred takes the world. Is evil too strong a word for someone who hates others who are from different cultures, countries and races? Not for me it isn’t.

The most worrying aspect of this and media coverage is how dumbed down we all are, myself included. Any news report these days, however transparent the truth may be on a point, seems to have to include a counterpoint. If the sky is considered to be blue, someone will source an ‘expert’ somewhere who will explain that the sky is actually yellow, and they are given equal air time.

That’s the media. The real worry for me is the way education in the USA’s Trump-supporting states is turning children’s minds into mush. I’m not the only to worry about this phenomenon, but to illustrate, there are schools which will present Creationism and ‘Intelligent Design’ as being equally valid theories as Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

Ignoring the fact there is no evidence for apple-wielding snakes and plenty of evidence the world is just a little older than 6,000 years, pupils are taken to creation museums and taught creation as fact, fact as equally valid as the evidence-based Evolutionary theory. Not only are we filling their heads with superstition masquerading as fact, we are training them to fear a god at the same time.

Oh, and the hours spent on this blatant indoctrination, dumbing-down, and conformity-inducing dogma, we are losing the time we could be spending on teaching them to gather evidence from a variety of sources (yes, even those outside of Fox News), researching (in libraries not just on Wikipedia), and how to take information and form valid conclusions.

This is my greatest fear – we are moving away from the Renaissance values of seeking enlightenment and many people are now seeking comfortable beliefs and comforting fables to wrap themselves in. While Roma is most assuredly burning.

I’m afraid; many people are. But there are things we can do, and this is not the time to give up, but the time to redouble efforts. Figures out what you want to fight for – a better environment, biodiversity, fairer governments around the world, a decent Southern Railway service – whatever it is – and get about trying to fix it.

On a rather personal note:

This has been a crap week for me. My friend Vanessa tells me that the three main areas of your life – love, home, and money/work never seem to be in balance – get any two right, and the other falls apart.

At present, well let’s just say that I’ve no idea where I’m going to be living in the near future, I need to find my next paid stable work gig yesterday, and the love life is now a Shakespearean comedy – without the laughs.

The trump triumph hardly fills me with glee, I feel a responsibility to act as cheerleader to others when I can barely find reasons to cheer, and I can’t honestly decide if the futile hopes that exist – that DJT gets KO’d by the courts over his racketeering charge (or other charges) – are life buoys to cling to, or are sirens calling me to drown with false promises.

And while I am trying to outwardly be strong and cool, my asthma’s gone into hyperdrive, and the medicine I usually need once or twice a month to fend off an attack of CVS (you really don’t want to know), I’m eating by the handful. You can try to tell yourself you’re not stressed, but if you listen to your body, well, you can’t fool it.

Then, I momentarily feel worse because I realise how selfish I am to even think of myself and my first world problems.

I have the option of finding work (even it if’s just as likely to be stacking shelves or flipping flipping burgers at this point). I can see, hear, walk and think (well, after a fashion). I won’t starve anytime soon. Most of all, I know some excellent people, and call many of them friends. It’s a bad week or so at present, but it’s going to get better.

No one’s firing plastic bullets at my face while I’m trying to stop a pipeline going through Lakota sacred land. No one’s bulldozing the forest I live in. I’m not forced into marriage (like to see anyone try), and I can still come and go as I please (Canada remains an option).

My first world problems – your first world problems – are all things we can either fix, or try to fix. And even when we don’t succeed in our goals, be they protecting water supplies, the environment, stopping Trump’s March of the Giants – the fact that someone, somewhere tried to do some good and made any progress at all in this matrix we’re living in – may yet provide the building blocks and/or the inspiration for those who will come after us.

Then I think – it’s hard fighting against the things that need to be combatted today – but it’s a hell of a lot easier to do so than it will be for the next generations.

We have a POTUS elect who doesn’t believe in climate change, and who will have surveillance powers over – I suppose – just about everyone. He will in theory have access codes to nuclear weaponry, and once asked why don’t we use them if we have them?

He may yet lose his POTUS elect status if he goes down for the felony offense of racketeering for his ‘university’.

Students in Utah are working to find legal ways to debar him from the presidency – and there may indeed be grounds. Michael Moore is creating action lists and people are responding. There is always something I can do; there is always something you can do. Whatever it is, however big or small, please consider fighting for something now.

‘We much each of us tend to our own gardens.’

Figure out what is wrong in your own neighbourhood be it your back garden, town, country or world – and there will be something you can do to raise the issue, fight the problem, and make others care. You may not always win; you may never win, but there is much satisfaction in trying, and who knows – if enough people roll up their sleeves, things might just get better.

STOP PRESS:  The DJT Resistance wants you:  https://www.thedjtr.com/

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