Jan 242014

Voice’s Old Susannah writes from New York and looks at the ‘Deen from a slightly different perspective. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryGreetings from New York, which I guess is also a bit of a city of culture like Aberdeen is. A foot of snow fell here yesterday, which has led to strange sights. Trucks spreading salt and grit were immediately deployed to major highways and bridges. Ploughs worked round the clock clearing the major roads, then the smaller ones. Most schools were closed almost immediately after the snow was forecast. Things got stranger though.

City and town governments worked to ensure public pavements were cleared. Police were out warning motorists which streets shouldn’t be used yet, and news broadcasts gave on the spot updates.

Furthermore, recorded messages went out to all residents, telling them not to go out if they didn’t have to, advising of changes in trash collection times and so on. These recorded messages reminded people of both emergency and non-emergency telephone numbers.

Neighbours telephoned each other to see if anyone was in need of help or food. People got out and shovelled snow, ensuring that the walkways were all clear. New York, it’s a helluva town. I fondly remembered the past Aberdeen City administration, which ran out of grit, which it said was very expensive. Good times.

Perhaps a few New York and Aberdeen comparison related definitions are called for, all things considered I think New York City and State could learn much from  Aberdeen City and Shire.

Municipal Park: (Eng. compound noun) open ground, forest, beach, and other areas owned, run and managed by the public sector.

Long Island is a long, thin island perpendicular to New York. It may be fairly built up close to Manhattan with Queens being densely populated, but there is still scope for development. It has over 60,000 acres of beach, forest, meadow and woodland people can roam. However, I took a long walk on a beach, and I hardly saw any other people: this means land is being wasted.

There is a famous green space called Sunken Meadow, but I can’t find word of any plans to raise it to street level and build a public square on it.

Even without building a granite web, monolith or glass worms being built, tourists and locals seem to want to spend time playing, walking, exercising and indulging in sports in outdoor locations. Much of this land has been designated ‘protected open space’, which means no one can build on it, even if they have lots of money. I guess Long Island is closed for business and not very forward looking.

Donald Trump bid to do some work at Jones Beach

There is no local development plan created by planners and builders, and taxpayers seem to get a say what will happen.

Of course planning should be left to professional house builders, unelected groups like ACSEF and elected officials who instantly become planning experts after elections, just like we do back in Aberdeen.

Long Island has a private trust which works with the government to protect the green spaces; somehow these people cling to the idea that green spaces are good for tourism, public health, surrounding businesses and air quality.

Donald Trump bid to do some work at Jones Beach; initially an art deco building was going to be redeveloped. For decades there was a public restaurant on the beach, and Trump was going to come in, dig several more underground stories (on the beach, which sounds really exciting), and modestly call it ‘Trump on the Ocean’.  But Hurricane Sandy was given as the reason for the project falling through.

Oddly enough, other local businesses and structures managed to come back from the storm, but it proved too much for Trump. According to the Huffington Post at the time:

“The billionaire real estate mogul has abandoned plans to build a controversial $24 million catering hall called Trump On The Ocean because it’s, well, on the ocean, Newsday reports. Developers and state park officials are calling it quits on the restaurant, which was planned for New York’s Jones Beach park, citing concerns over future storm damage after the current foundation flooded.”

So, it seems that building on sandy coastlines that are occasionally hit by storms can be difficult, and moving sand and storms are sound reasons for Trump to cease construction plans and abandon promised developments. I’ll be glad to be back in Aberdeenshire where such a thing couldn’t happen.

Meanwhile back in the Deen, officials have commented on the news that the remains (legs actually) of deer were found on Tullos Hill and on Kincorth Hill earlier in January. The police were swift to correct a source who reported five deer had been killed on Tullos Hill; it was only four – you’ll all be as relieved as I am to know it’s a mere four, not five butchered deer.

With regards to the deer leg found on Kincorth Hill though, things get stranger. The person who found the leg ran into someone who claimed to be a ranger – but the ranger service claim no rangers were in the area.

it preserved the original external wall with its interesting architecture

Whether the deer were chased with dogs, shot, or otherwise killed and how much suffering was involved remains a mystery, but no doubt our ranger service and police will pull out all the stops to find out what’s going on and protect our wildlife.

You know, the wildlife that had no ‘natural predators’ according to our city officials and Aileen Malone, so that they had to be shot for the trees to be planted. At least we’ll soon have a beautiful source of lumber –  sorry community forest – that deer can live in, created by killing the existing deer and removing most of the gorse they could have potentially hidden in from whoever is killing them.

So, another ‘Well Done’ goes to those on the tree scheme. Cheers chaps. No doubt you’ll get some more awards soon.


Old Susannah visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the admission fees are optional, and dozens of schools were visiting. Oddly, there was construction work taking place to keep the building in good repair. There had been an extension built; this was a high ceiling extension with one glass side; it preserved the original external wall with its interesting architecture, yet made a nice large space for modern art.

It would of course been much more hip and happening if they had plunked a giant rectangular building on top of the existing structure, but it took Aberdeen to think of such a concept. In fact, the whole area is part of a historical district and local residents participate in preserving and celebrating the area.

Strangely, this was a natural evolution based on the artists who practiced in the area, the galleries, the high quality of the architecture and so on. If New York were better organised though, it would have a few dozen different groups, quangos and initiatives assigning names to different quarters arbitrarily, and then changing these names around every time a new shop or gallery opens or (more likely) closes.

See you in Aberdeen’s cultural quarter when I’m back – I’ll just have to figure out if it’s still on Holburn Street this week, or if the powers that be have moved it back to the HMT area or not.

I’ll definitely be in the Merchant Quarter to soak up the promised café culture.

“Described as the “beat and soul of Aberdeen” it offers some of the best dining experiences in Aberdeen, contemporary clothing shops and live music venues.”

There are dozens and dozens of small museums in New York State; many of these smaller ones are run by volunteers, and supported by private and public funds. Even the less profitable museums are retained because they are cultural assets. In short, these places and their collections should be sold to make more money. Raynam Hall for instance is a small white colonial house with exhibitions from the Revolutionary War.

Fundraising would not have worked here in one of Scotland’s richest cities

It’s small, there are no rides, and there’s not even a giant parking lot. The permanent collection will never be broken up, and for some reason local schools make cultural trips and take students to see Raynam Hall and other museums as part of their education. Sounds expensive to me.

Back in Aberdeen, we realise the value of our culture. We sell it. Thomas Glover House wasn’t pulling in enough money, so in 2012 its trustees sold furniture. As the Scotsman reported:

“Councillor John Reynolds, a former Lord Provost of Aberdeen who is one of the Glover house trustees, explained: ‘There was no money coming in and the curator had to go and the place had to close. And for the last two years the building has just been kept wind and water tight.

‘We had two options – either to sell the building or negotiate with the council for them to take it over. And that is where we are this moment in time.”

Mr Reynolds continued:

“We had to clear the place to save on the business rates which were quite exorbitant. We sold some of the period furniture – none of it Glover’s – which we had bought for the house and we put the important items we had collected into storage’.”

By the way, Glover was a little-known figure who opened up a small country named Japan to the western world; he was also involved in founding a small company called Mitsubishi. The house has been closed for two years. Yes, I guess in a poor city like Aberdeen John Reynolds was right – there were only two options – sell parts of the collection or close.

Fundraising would not have worked here in one of Scotland’s richest cities; applying for grants and loans from public and private sectors here and in Japan would not have been an option, either. Better not to have tried. But there is good news.

Glover made history; he introduced two cultures to each other, brought new art and design to the west, and made numerous contributions to Japan and Scotland. Therefore it is only fitting that his old house is to be relaunched as:

“a temple of good economic relations between Scotland and the Land of the Rising Sun.”

So, forget the Glover-related history, artwork, culture, etc. What we really need is a temple to economic relations.

If there is one thing that we do worship in Aberdeen, it is economics. Pity they didn’t think of turning Glover’s house into a temple to money earlier; no doubt that would have got the attention of Aberdeen’s great and good. Perhaps a Temple to Mammon could be built over UTG as well. There’s no word yet what form of worship will take place in the ‘Glover Temple to Economic Relations’, but I’ll keep you posted.

when the structures have sufficiently rotted, the land can finally be used for new offices or housing

In summary, New York has many small museums which get grants from the public and private sectors. School visits to these places help support their upkeep, and children get to experience the past and their culture first hand – they should of course be learning how to pass exams instead.

Such museums preserve aspects of culture and history, instead of being ‘forward looking’ and take up valuable land which could be developed instead.

By contrast, Aberdeen, the would-be city of culture, is a bit light on such field trips, has high business rates, and allows people to flog the contents of its historic buildings which are left to rot like Glover’s house and Westburn House; in a few years, when the structures have sufficiently rotted, the land can finally be used for new offices or housing.

New York’s government supports museums large and small, and I’m not at all sure if they even have a version of ACSEF at all.  Aberdeen instead pours money into worthwhile successes like ACSEF, which have the talent that’s made our retail sector what it is today.

We spend our tax money on really important things like bidding to be City of Culture and paying consultants to come up with great new city of culture proposed events like ‘gigs on rigs’ and the concert on the Dee which was to feature ships’ horns, water and horses, while our existing museums close.

It’s worth mentioning that there is one organically growing sector with a geographical area not planned out by ACSEF or Inspired: The Beermuda triangle is a reality. BrewDog and the Moorings started it with their copious selections of great craft brews; Six Degrees North and latterly Casc have opened their doors to take advantage of the growing interest in beer and the resultant potential for revenue.

This happened without any ACSEF think tanks, no outside consultants, and not even Rita Stephen. We’ve got a mini cultural/retail happening, and it’s happening because of a few innovators.  Who knows? Maybe the Beermuda Triangle will make it onto the official ‘quarters’ map one of these days.

Newspaper: (Eng. plural noun) a printed publication containing current events, stories; recent history as well as advertisements and editorials.

Old Susannah has been keeping up with the exciting news from Aberdeen as well as the more mundane New York goings on.

Here in New York, the papers vary widely in political outlook, making it very confusing to know what you should think on an issue. The New York Times, Newsday, The New York Daily News, The New York Post and a few other such minor publications vary widely in outlook, and not too many of these have lots of cute pictures of babies or newlyweds taking up the first few pages of the news.

The stories in newspapers such as the NYT and Newsday can’t be up to much; most of their pieces are available free online. You can subscribe to Newsday for instance and get both a paper copy and the full online version for just about the same cost of getting the web content of the Press & Journal (now a bargain at 1 year: £129.99).

Worse still, most of the New York newspapers print letters from readers on different sides of an issue, thus confusing readers. I can find no traces in New York’s newspapers of ‘Happy Tots’ competitions, and no articles at all about the important work ACSEF does or what its members’ opinions are. It’s as if the New York papers don’t pay attention to the important international news at all.

All in all, we have two interesting cities with coastal areas, meadows, forests, interesting architecture, and a mix of cultures. One city preserves its green spaces and historic buildings at all costs, spends money on ensuring children’s education includes culture, history and arts, has a wide range of newspapers giving different points of view, and favouring citizen-led initiatives to naturally shape policy and where culture and arts evolve naturally with public and private support.

Here’s hoping that New York will forget all that nonsense soon, and start thinking like our quangos and governments do here.

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Jun 102013

How the unelected quango that is Scottish Enterprise, with ACSEF’s blessing, put business before our environment and won the day for Trump is the question. However, getting information about what happened is a bit like pulling teeth.  Suzanne Kelly reports on her recent bids to obtain information from Scottish Enterprise about its engagement with Trump.

Scotland is well and truly open for business.  We will wine and dine with you, fly you round our protected environment in helicopters, create feasibility studies at taxpayer expense, and give support recommending existing environmental protection is overlooked.

Well, we’ll do that if you are a foreign billionaire.

Much has been written about the relationships between Scotland’s First Ministers McConnell and Salmond, Scottish Enterprise and Donald Trump.  There have been dinners both sides of the Atlantic with these key players.

The Ministerial Code prohibiting such blatant support for pending planning applications was certainly bent if not broken.

New information has come to light through Freedom of Information requests.  A letter from Scottish Enterprise’s Jack Perry to Trump following their dinner is the sort of love letter that would have made Dame Barbara Cartland blush. The new FOI requests have also raised some important questions.

Anomalies between the disclosed information and the facts do not always seem to add up.

Love-letters Straight from the Heart

Scottish Enterprise – an unelected, taxpayer funded quango provided support to the Trump organisation.   It is clear the organisation should deal with foreign investors.  Why, however, it should have recommended – and successfully so – overriding environmental protection status to create a golf club is a mystery.

Another mystery is why the taxpayer should have spent over £30,000 on a feasibility study, or provided £40,000 helicopter flights over Menie to a billionaire.

After meeting in New York for dinner with Trump, this is what then head of Scottish Enterprise, Jack Perry wrote a letter to the Donald, which can be found here:  http://menie-estate-report.yolasite.com/

The letter raises a few points as well as raising the bar in obsequiousness. In order of appearance, these include the following.

1.  Perry put pressure on the head of the Shire council in the form of a letter ‘registering his profound dismay’.  Scottish Enterprise could either have suggested new potential, less contentious locations for a course.  It could have stayed out of the political side of things. It chose to write to the head of regional government to ‘register dismay’.

2.   More importantly, Perry puts it on the table:  The Scottish Government favoured the plans.

“We concur with the Scottish Government’s contention that this is genuinely a project of national importance to Scotland.” 

The rejected planning application was called in by the Government, who had let its support of the plan be known in December of 2007.  With this predisposition noted by close government quango head Perry, how could there have been any chance of a fair outcome?  What exactly was this partiality based on?  Was it the extremely favourable business projections – which now seem rather unrealistic to say the least?

3.  Perry lobbies the other parties’ shadow ministers.  As he put it:-

“I have tried to make it clear in these discussions that the impact of Aberdeenshire Council’s decision goes far beyond the immediate issues of the Trump development but has much wider implications for Scotland’s International image and reputation as a country which welcomes investment.”

Is it really part of the remit of Scottish Enterprise to not only lobby, but to lodge a veiled threat that saying no to this project would have ‘wider implications’?

The head of a multi-million pound quango and the influence of ACSEF, Scottish Enterprise’s Regional Advisory Board – itself unelected but taxpayer funded – could be very intimidating indeed.  Indeed, Patrick Machray, then head of ACSEF, was singled out for praise in the support he lent to the Trump project, and was copied on this letter.

Perry closes his letter:-

As Scotland’s principal economic development agency, we at Scottish Enterprise wish to see your development proceed. We will continue to do what we can to help.”

And indeed they did.

Do we really want to be funding unelected bodies, Scottish Enterprise and ACSEF, to act in a manner that sidesteps or pressurises our elected officials?  It seems we do.

Freedom of Information Conundrums

Getting information should be easy, and responses to FOI requests accurate and complete.  The recent replies received from Scottish Enterprise raise as many questions as they answer.  Here are some issues arising.

1.  Hospitality

A fairly comprehensive question was posed as to any hospitality/gifts that might have been received from the Trump organisation:-

“3.  Details of any hospitality (event, gift, accommodation, etc.) offered to any member of Scottish Enterprise or Visit Scotland  from Trump International (including Donald Trump, Trump International Golf Links Scotland, Trump International, and The Trump Organization) which pertains to the Menie Estate, Balmedie, SSSIs, setting up business in Scotland, environmental laws, finance available for golfing ventures in Scotland).”

The answer sounded reasonable enough at first:-

“In accordance with Section 17(1)(b) of FOISA, I can confirm that Scottish Enterprise holds no information relating to any gifts or money received from Trump International, or the other related parties listed.    To comply with Scottish Enterprise’s Code of Conduct, the organisation maintains a register of gifts and hospitality received by employees from companies.   I confirm that a search of the register has been undertaken and no entries relating to gifts or hospitality from Trump have been registered.”

However, Jack Perry’s letter to Donald Trump opens as follows:-

“You may or may not recall that I had the pleasure in October 2005 of joining you for lunch in the Trump Tower with the then First Minister, Mr Jack McConnell….”

Who exactly paid for this lunch?  While much has been written about the subject, it is not at present clear whether the taxpayer paid for the lavish meal (steaks and shrimp in Trump Tower are not exactly inexpensive), or whether Trump did.  If it was the taxpayer, how extremely generous of us, particularly when McConnell should not have been there anyway.

If it was Trump, then the cost should have appeared on Jack Perry’s hospitality details:  Scottish Enterprise are saying no hospitality had been registered.

2.  Funding

An excellent article on this meeting can be found in the Scotsman at http://www.scotsman.com/news/scottish-news/top-stories/how-jack-of-clubs-came-up-trumps-for-donald-1-1411884

It mentions two helicopter flights paid for by Scottish Enterprise– the Scottish taxpayer picked up the tab.  The Scotsman article reports:-

“The billionaire’s golf company was lavished with attention. Two memos released by SE show that – at a cost of £4,800 to the public purse – the agency paid for two helicopter tours of Scotland, taking in the golf course site, as they showed off the country to their deep-pocketed American friends.

“A further e-mail shows they offered to meet the £40,000-50,000 cost of a feasibility study into the Menie Links site. Trump’s people were impressed, “raving” in August last year about the way enterprise agency officials were courting them. All was set fair for a deal.”

However, when asked a fairly clear question about funding:-

 “2. Details of any funding applied for, granted, or rejected for Trump International (including Donald Trump, Trump International Golf Links Scotland, Trump International, and The Trump Organization) which pertains to the Menie Estate, Balmedie, SSSIs, setting up business in Scotland, environmental laws, finance available for golfing ventures in Scotland) by Visit Scotland and Scottish Enterprise.”

The reply ignored these flights:-

“I can confirm, in accordance with Section 17(1)(b) of FOISA, that Scottish Enterprise holds no information within the scope of your request.   SE has not received any applications for funding, and has not granted, or rejected any applications for funding for Trump International, or the other related parties listed.”

It seems fairly evident that supplying flights worth c. £40,000 would have constituted funding granted.  Money was spent in connection to the Menie Estate.

3.  Time Warp

A FOI question pertained to the quote from Jack Perry appearing on the Trump website.  This quote reads:-

“As Head of Scottish Enterprise, Scotland’s main economic, enterprise innovation and investment agency, I welcome the progress on Trump International Golf Links’ development in Aberdeenshire. The overall aim of Scottish Enterprise’s Tourism strategy is to achieve higher value add through the development of such premium resorts and experiences for visitors.

“We value the commitment which the Trump organisation is demonstrating by commencing work on the site at Menie, as this type of new resort development, will deliver modern, high quality accommodation and facilities to Scotland. This is critical to our ambition to help Scotland realise more value from our tourism assets. The development will attract higher spending visitors from across the UK and overseas and will further support Scotland’s position in the global market as the Home of Golf.”

“Jack Perry, Chief Executive, Scottish Enterprise”

The website did not pre-exist the course.  The quote refers to work commencing on the site.

Scottish Enterprise would have us believe, however, that no correspondence took place between it and Trump. The FOI had specified that correspondence from 2008 onward was being requested.  Bearing in mind the pre-approval letter from Perry to Trump was from December 2007.  This was the FOI question:-

“1.  Copies of correspondence to and from Visit Scotland and Scottish Enterprise on the one part and Trump International (including Donald Trump, Trump International Golf Links Scotland, Trump International, and The Trump Organization) on the other part, pertaining to the Menie Estate, Balmedie, SSSIs, setting up business in Scotland, environmental laws, finance available for golfing ventures in Scotland).”

In February this was the answer to that question:-

“We have carried out a search of our files and can advise, in accordance with Section 17(1)(b) of FOISA, that Scottish Enterprise holds no information within the scope of your request.”

As it seemed unlikely that a quotation from Perry got onto the Trump website with no correspondence taking place; a new FOI was launched.  The question SE was now asked included the quotation taken from Trump’s website.  This simply could not have been made before 2008 – not with the reference to work commencing.

The December 2007 letter to Trump from Perry was before the subsequent government approval of the scheme.  It was time to ask Scottish Enterprise to explain, and the following questions were sent;-

“2.1 Given the answer supplied below, that no correspondence took place between Scottish Enterprise and the Trump Organisation, please explain how the above text was sent to the Trump organisation, under what circumstances, and at whose instigation.

“2.2 Please also explain the apparent inconsistency with your previous reply that there had been no correspondence between the two entities.

“2.3 If it now seems that there was correspondence between the two entities, please now submit such correspondence.”

When thus virtually cornered, SE replied:-

“Following an extensive search of files, I can confirm, in accordance with Section 17(1)(b) of FOISA that SE does not hold any information to respond to your question.  Any communication officers that could have dealt directly with the Trump Organisation have since left Scottish Enterprise and, in accordance with our retention policy, we would no longer hold files which would allow us to confirm how the quote referred to above was provided to the Trump Organisation.

“Your previous FOI requested information held from 2008 onwards.   The response provided was therefore accurate within the scope of your request.

“Please find attached a letter from Mr Perry, former CEO of SE, to Donald Trump dated 7 December 2007.    I confirm that this is all of the information held within the scope of your request.”

The correspondence ends with the statutory advice that an investigation of how the FOI request was handled can be requested.  It is a fair bet to assume it will be.

If an organisation like this quango doesn’t keep correspondence – including that sent on behalf of its CEO – then accountability simply doesn’t exist.

Does Scottish Enterprise have carte blanche and a blank chequebook?  We could be forgiven for thinking so.

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Feb 022013

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

Bells rang out; glasses clinked as toasts were made; there was dancing and connectivity in the streets (although stolen cars whizzed by). Champagne corks popped dynamically. After many long years, the granite web has been sent to the land of ‘the tooth fairy and unicorns.’  This web has ceased to be. It is an ex-web.

Coincidentally, and I am sure completely without malice, the SNP immediately warned Aberdeen not to count on extra cash from central government. This cash should be coming from increased business rate tax collection (or the tooth fairy – details are hazy).

Nicola Sturgeon apparently still insists that the only way Aberdeen will get any money is to raise our garden to street level, according to a leaked letter. 

Whether this garden-raising demand is enshrined in law somehow seems just a touch dubious. But, Sturgeon or no, we are not having a granite web.  And that is a result.

No more pictures in newspapers of perfectly groomed flower beds and outdoor stages in front of theatres. No more drawings of steep ramps ascending to great heights, only to descend again for no real reason, free from any safety features, structural supports or architectural rationale. We’ll not see the woman sitting in the green grass growing over the potato-shaped wedge of concrete or the giant floating boy any more.

Skateboarders, graffiti artists, ACSEF members and Sir Ian are thought to be inconsolable. However, with his £50 million soon to arrive to help African charities, the end of the web project isn’t all bad.  Every granite web has a silver lining.

Other than that, Old Susannah had a delicious, fun, engaging time at Norwood Hall’s Burns Night Supper. The company was great; the food was special (best haggis, neeps & tatties dish ever), the conversation was genuinely vibrant and dynamic.  The man who addressed the haggis did so in great style.

On Friday it will be time to see local improv troupe Wildly Unprepared, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary last week.  This week’s show starts at 8pm in The Belmont Cinema.

On Saturday, I’ll probably take my usual jog around the lighthouse in Torry (have to keep fit somehow). Running by the Nigg Golf Club, I get to see golfers out in all sorts of weather – extreme winds, torrential rains, snow, you name it.

I conclude these golfers are very fit people, especially if you compare them to protestors in New York City, which must be a very fragile breed indeed. A one-hour long Manhattan protest was called off this week, as the winds might have reached 20 miles per hour.  Safety first I guess. But perhaps there was something more to this protest being halted.

And with that, time for this week’s definitions.

Rent-a-mob (mod. Eng. compound noun) – a group of people who seem to be endlessly attending protest after protest, especially if organised by grass roots leaders.

The above definition from the excellent Urban Dictionary needs to have a second meaning added. This may possibly due to the intervention of Trump organisation supporters. Old Susannah is happy to explain.

Adverts appeared on the intranet; an organisation called Ovation was willing to pay stand-ins, extras, and just random people $20.  All you had to do was be in New York City on Wednesday 30 January and stand behind ‘speakers’ at a protest in front of the British Embassy in Manhattan. Of course most people in New York would gladly have spent an hour fighting UK renewable energy for nothing.

Still, this very generous offer from Ovation was I’m sure just a nice way to say ‘thank you’ to New Yorkers for doing their civic duty by telling the UK not to put up wind farms. It must have been a generous act, otherwise to the cynical it might have looked as if someone was trying to manufacture a stage-managed, fake protest for their own personal ends

I wonder who might have wanted to pay people to back up protest speakers in this situation. I suppose we could try and make a wild guess.  For openers, whoever put out this open call  for a rent-a-mob would have to have some kind of connection both to Manhattan and the UK. Second, they would have to have something against wind turbine energy.

Third, it would have had to be someone with lots of money to rent, – sorry – to reward the would-be protestors. Fourth, it would have had to be someone with something to gain by acting against wind farms being built in the UK.   Yes, it will be hard to find anyone fitting this description. I’m totally stumped.

Even sadder still is that this noble paid protest somehow got rumbled. The person who first found the advertisements alerted the ‘Tripping up Trump’ Facebook page (although I can’t imagine why they decided to tell this particular group about it).

The British Consulate and New York media were alerted.  The ads which had been in publications such as Craig’s List, suddenly disappeared.  But before we could find out who the mystery anti wind farm warrior was, they showed an even more generous side to their nature.  The reason given for the protest being called off was that it was going to rain. And, the winds might even have gone up to 20 miles per hour.

It does occur to me that Trump International on the MenieCoast said it would have jet-setting pro golfers and celebrities  year round, and a round of golf on this course could take about 2 hours. All I can say is I’m glad Trump golfers will not have to face anything as harsh as rain or 20 mph winds. I wonder if you get your money back if the weather gets that severe and you can’t play golf?

Frost Jacking  (mod. Eng. compound noun) the theft of a motor vehicle which the owner is trying to clear of snow and ice before it can be driven.

Never mind any Stig-themed car stealing Facebook Pages; things have moved on and taken a seasonal turn. Frost-jacking seems to be the new fashionable grand theft auto crime. This past week in Belfast, on one morning 9 cars were stolen in 90 minutes.

When the weather is very harsh and cold (even worse than rain and 20 mph wind), people will start their icy cars in the morning to melt the frost and heat the interior. Unfortunately, some of these people haven’t got the memo that there is actually a small bit of car crime going on, so they leave their cars running, getting nice and warm, and they go back into their houses.

Amazingly, some thieves are finding it convenient to steal an unwatched, running, warmed up car. Who would have thought?

Still, I’m sure that crime around the UK is set to take a sharp nosedive, as a new, brilliantly clever police initiative is announced by the ConDems.

Police ‘Direct Entry’ Scheme (UK Government initiative) – a scheme in which highly-ranked foreign police personnel will be allowed to join the UK’s police in senior positions over the promotion of existing UK police personnel.

What could be a better idea than sprucing up UK’s policing than by putting in foreign government police officials in charge? I can’t think of anything that could go wrong there.

Existing police who are hopeful of working their way up the ranks will be delighted to be passed over in favour of police from other countries. Obviously legal, cultural, social, and political bumps may need to be smoothed out.  It might take a few days or even a week or two for someone with no experience of policing in the UK to get to grips with our laws, arrest procedures and so on, but let’s give it a go, shall we?

Apparently, this great scheme is going to be the end to all problems, such as that lovely Leveson enquiry had a wee look at, by wiping out corruption. It is going to accomplish this by promoting people much quicker, and getting foreign police supremos to take the top policing jobs here.

According to the BBC, the brains behind this new plan (Police Minister Damian Green) said there was direct entry in other services, including the Army and the prison service. Fair enough – those sectors are in great shape.  Green apparently commented:-

“… there is no organisation in the world that cannot get better and it must be the case that if you widen the pool of talent, then you will get even better policing in this country.”

Fantastic.  Perhaps they can incorporate some of the USA’s armed response philosophies, or other countries search and seizure policies (search warrants optional), or even some of those extremely effective interrogation techniques found in other countries still.

I believe the law is still on the books in Singapore that vandalism is dealt with by fines, custodial terms and caning (which will split the skin and leave permanent scars). I’m sure high-ranking police there will fit right into how we do things here.  Turkey may be in the EU, but there are still a few wee issues such as alleged torture, and arrest of journalists. Oh wait, we’re already doing that here.

Anyway, let’s get some of those police officials here; I’m sure it won’t take them any time to whip our laws into shape and lead our police to better practices.  Result!

For some reason or other, Steve White, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, seems to think police need to learn police work through first-hand experience and through progressing through the ranks over time. I hope he overcomes this old-fashioned idea before it gets him in trouble.

So, just when you think the ConDems can’t do any more for us, they surprise you again. Thanks guys.

Next week:  more definitions, more news, and the latest crime fads revealed.

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Jan 242013

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

Another busy week in Aberdeen passed in a flurry of activity, culminating in the excellent BrewDog party celebrating the new factory opening. Live band Little Kicks were great, and so were the BrewDog crew.
A team assigned to the outdoor barbeque were positively heroic; hundreds were fed delicious food irrespective of the raging snow. A good time was had by all.

In the news this week are several stories involving common sense. Firstly, the elegant, ladylike, cerebral polymath Helen Flanagan, celebrated Coronation Street actress and model, told the press she is unhappy at being thought of as being a brainless, big-breasted airhead.

She has illustrated her intelligence and sensitivity with acts such as posing with a gun to her head days after a US gun spree left dozens dead. 

Also supporting the view of her as an intellectual, the article in which she claims to be a misunderstood genius is accompanied by a photo of her half-dressed. Brains, and talent, too.

Like most of us, I’ve been watching the ACSEF website with great anticipation for the the latest meeting minutes just as eagerly as I wait for the next episode of Coronation Street. I’m sure that when I last looked about a fortnight ago, there were only the June 2012 minutes out. But to my great joy and excitement, I see that the September AND October Minutes are out! Result!

These minutes, recently added to the hallowed ACSEF website, serve as a reminder to our elected officials to not step out of line. It is important they understand power structures and their place in the system.

ACSEF is, quite rightly, calling Barney Crocket to in effect ‘explain to the class’ how it will be possible to renew our city centre if we don’t turn our only green space into a concrete – sorry granite-clad concrete – web. He and Gordon McIntosh must do so at the December ACSEF board meeting.

Just to clarify, Barney is the leader of the duly-elected majority in local government, and ACSEF are quango hangers-on, some from self-promoting business backgrounds and others from yet more quangos, paid for by city and shire taxpayers.   I guess Barney better learn his place. This is what the minutes said (but no doubt you’ll rush off to read them, too):

“Councillor Crockett… confirmed Aberdeen City Council’s alignment with the ACSEF Action Plan and vision [what is that?], but highlighted the need for the ACSEF Board to take account of the City Garden Project decision.

“The Board questioned how the desired outcome of regenerating and improving the attractiveness of the city centre, which the City Garden Project had sought to deliver, might be achieved without this and other key linked projects.

“The critical importance of anchoring the oil and gas supply chain in the area for the long term and role city centre regeneration could play to support this was stressed.   It was suggested and agreed that a presentation and paper be provided to the December Board meeting outlining how the City Council planned to address the aim of city centre regeneration.”

I am very pleased our elected representative has to explain to ACSEF, including Stewart Milne, why Milne won’t be getting the web he relies on to make his beautiful glass box Triple Kirks offices a huge success (with parking). I might not be clever enough to be able to see how a granite web will anchor the oil business here (where it needs to be logistically anyway) – perhaps I should ask Helen Flanagan to explain?

Elsewhere the minutes show that ACSEF plans to dictate policy to the city and shire councils whether on housing or education. We can all sleep easily.

By the way, I’d actually love to stop writing about the web, or The Thing That Wouldn’t Die as it is more affectionately known.

Trouble is, the Press and Journal, and the other ugly sister, the Evening Express, won’t let me. They are going to try to print an article every other day forever on why the web will fix the problem of the changing face of retail. And all it will cost us is our Common Good land, fresh air, environment and our only city centre free recreation ground.

Yes, people around the world will stop going to visit Niagara Falls, the Taj Mahal and the Louvre and come instead to Aberdeen’s web, where they can shop in brand new, multinational shops. It is always a joy to see those acid-pastel coloured fantasy web sketches showing floating giant children over flowerbeds in a landscape free from any litter, graffiti or crime.

Makes my day. Keep running those beautiful photos and comments from leading businessmen, and I’ll keep praising them as they deserve. Today, it’s Mr Koot’s turn to be singled out for my admiration).

Multi-tasking: (modern English gerund) ability to competently do several things simultaneously.

You really have to hand it to Mr Koot, Taqa company’s supremo in Aberdeen. He’s found the time to tell the P&J this week how embarrassed he is by our city centre, and how the granite web is the answer to all our prayers. He told us this a few times now, but somehow it’s still newsworthy.

I conclude he must be a socio-economic whizz able to predict future marketing trends, concluding that internet retail is not the way to go, and shop-building is where it will be at. I am grateful, as we all are, for his relevant input into the web debate (even if some of us wish it would finally just go away).

He even generously wrote to his employees at the time of the referendum, telling them in a nice paternal way to vote for the web. Some people might equate getting an email telling them how to vote as taking serious liberties, coercion, intimidation, and using employment as a platform for propaganda.

I’m certain, however, he had nothing but the employee’s democratic rights and best interests at heart. This is what he wrote to staff in February before the vote:

“From a business point of view, this project is very important to economic and employment prospects in Aberdeen. It will help attract new energy industries and new companies to the City, and will provide a new city heart with significant garden, recreation and cultural amenities, with no additional cost to the Council Tax payer.”

Wow – you get something worth £140 million for free!  Why didn’t we do that again? Not only does he have the time to analyse what’s wrong with Aberdeen and tell people who depend on him for their livelihoods how to vote, he successfully runs Taqa, the Abu Dhabi oil firm.

Why do promotional web articles keep appearing with giant photos in my Press and Journal?

I guess anyone can drop the ball. As you might have noted in the news, Taqa had a wee problem this week when hydrocarbons escaping from one of its platforms in the North Sea caused an evacuation and a shut-down of the North Sea Brent pipelines. This was rather large in the news from 13-15 January.

Still, this talented master of multi-tasking found time to run the oil firm and campaign strenuously for the granite web since at least 2010. In fact, less than one week after the financially disastrous Taqa North Sea incident, Koot still found time to get into the P&J to say how embarrassed he was by our city centre, and the web was the answer. I guess you have to decide where your priorities lie – a huge North Sea oil problem and its aftermath, or the web.

Taqa is sending Koot to Iraq.

Just one more thing: you could ask yourself: “Why do promotional web articles keep appearing with giant photos in my P&J?” Is there perhaps a public relations agency, toiling away with no thought of monetary reward but interested in getting a web built?

Is there a PR agency writing these releases getting paid from somewhere, perhaps the unelected group Vote for the City Gardens Project (aka Stewart Milne and mates)?

I personally hope we find out that ACSEF is paying for all this, using our taxpayer money where it will do the most good. Perhaps we should ask our elected officials to look into this? We could ask ACSEF, of course. I’m sure they’ll be happy to clarify.

Gross misconduct: (Eng. compound noun, legal) severe negligence in the course of one’s given duties.

We have seen in our area nurses struck off for drug offences, abusing patients, stealing, even having inappropriate relationships with psychiatric patients. Two stories of nurses were in this week’s local papers.  One was a nurse who found a child wandering around, presumably after being left alone in a car.

Details are unclear; she should have called the police and stayed with the child it seems. She did, however, ensure the child’s safety.

Elsewhere, a convicted wife killer, suspected of also killing his first wife is fighting for his nursing license (should he ever get out of jail). Proven to be a mercenary, cold-blooded killer and pathological liar, he thinks he should be allowed to continue in the caring profession.

One of these has been struck off permanently; one will have some form of hearing from the Royal College of Nursing.

The Nursing body wants to remind everyone how seriously it takes striking a nurse off like it has done in this case, and told the press such action is never taken lightly. Can you guess which nurse’s career is over?  That’s right, the murderer may remain, for now, a nurse; the other person has been struck off. Great system we’re running here.

Time for me to get back to the ACSEF website! More next week, perhaps a look at the serious mistake Glasgow’s made by rejecting designs for George Square. Have they ever considered the benefits of a granite web, I wonder?

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Jan 112013

By Mike Shepherd.

“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”  So said Karl Marx.

The Scottish press has recently been full of echoes of the City Garden Project. First up was Dundee’s unfortunate Victoria & Albert Museum project, where a shortfall in funds has caused serious delays in its completion.

And what do we read in the Guardian this week?

“When the V&A at Dundee project was unveiled in January 2010 the promoters claimed they could quickly raise more than £45m – divided into three £15m chunks to come from the Scottish government, national bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, and wealthy private philanthropists and corporate donors. Two of these have not materialised: the scheme’s only financial backer at present is the Scottish government …. But no generous private donor or cash-rich corporation has yet committed money.”

Aberdeen’s City Garden Project was also £15 million short of private funding, and was also looking for support from the Lottery Fund to the tune of £20 million. The financing for the City Garden was based more on hope than reality and had the project been approved, it would very likely have run into to the same difficulties as Dundee.

Next up is Glasgow. The Council want to revamp George Square. A short list of six designs from international architects has been drawn up à la City Garden Project and one looks remarkably similar to an early design, the one with glaikit people walking aimlessly across a vast expanse of city square.

The language coming out of Glasgow is very similar to the tired clichés that were inflicted on the Aberdeen public for the last four years:

  • International hoohah“Glasgow City Council say the project has ‘caught the imagination’ of the international design community.”
  • Overblown hyperbole“This redevelopment is a hugely exciting moment in the growth of the city as Glasgow strives to forge ahead and meet its future challenges.”
  • Iconic“The prestige of the companies competing to redevelop George Square is a clear indication of just how iconic it is around the world.”
  • – and horror of horrors: “Funding of up to £5m from the overall investment programme will enable early delivery of phase one of the George Square redevelopment with an additional £10m assumed within the Buchanan Quarter TIF Business Case.”   Oh dear, TIF…

And as if that wasn’t enough, take a breath before reading this one:

“A leading figure in Glasgow’s SNP group has called for a speedy poll on the plans to help decide the fate of the city’s George Square… ‘I’m calling for a city-wide referendum on the George Square proposals, similar to the vote last year in Aberdeen.’”

And finally, one of the Glaswegian activists involved in the campaign (and organising a demo against the plans next month) wrote on Facebook:

“This is a topic of sometimes heated debate, but it seriously doesn’t need to be. We can all be mature and listen to the opinions of others without resorting to personal comments. It’s important that this page gives a good, positive message about what we want for George Square – there are obviously others that disagree with us and that is their democratic right in this country! 

“So let’s all keep the level of debate to a high standard here! Otherwise, we’ll never be taken seriously enough to gain any substantial political support!”

Good luck with that, then…

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Dec 212012

How Sir Ian Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suz (with apologies)

T’was the night before Christmas in old Aberdeen
Or should I say Whoodville, yes, that’s what I mean
Every Whoodie in Whood-ville
Liked Christmas a lot…
But Sir Ian Grinch
Did not like it one jot!

The town settled down for a long winter’s nap
Except for this one crinkly, creaky old chap
Sir Grinch hated Christmas! It might be because
He didn’t believe in a Sanity Clause

The children were nestled all snug in their beds
But Sir Ian Grinch was pacing instead.
Perhaps Ian’s head wasn’t screwed on quite right.
It could also be he was simply just tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
Was the Whoodies in Whoodville said no to his mall.

Out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
When Grinch said the ancient great trees didn’t matter
“Let’s cut them down and let’s build some parking!”
But the Whoodies thought Grinch was really quite barking.
Now this Grinch wanted granite – a web of it really
With shopping and theatres and parking, ideally.
But the Whoodies said ‘No’ to his project ‘It’s crass!’
We want our trees and our wildlife and grass.

It was his way or no way, he’d not give an inch
So the web was abandoned; this angered the Grinch

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave Whoodville a vibrant and dynamic glow.
“If there’s no web for me then I’ll make very sure
“My money will go and help Africa’s poor”
“That will fill all the Whoodies with remorse
(“And I’ll avoid being taxed at the source”).

Ian was grouchy and grinchy, indeed
The size of his heart was no match for his greed
He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whoodies,
And envied their happiness and all their goodies

On Christmas day all of the Whoodies would gather
Down in their Gardens for coffee and blather

Whoodies, young and old, would sit down to a feast.
And they’d feast! And they’d feast!
They would start on Whood-pudding, and rare Whood-roast-beast
Which was something Sir Grinch couldn’t stand in the least!
They’d do something he liked least of all!

Every Whoodie in Whoodville, the tall and the small,
Would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing.
They’d stand hand-in-hand. And the Whoods would start singing!
They’d sing! And they’d sing!

The more that Sir Grinch thought of the Whood-Christmas-Sing
The more Ian thought, “I must stop this whole thing!
“Why, for seventy years I’ve put up with it now!
I MUST stop Christmas from coming!
…But HOW?”

Then he got an idea!
An awful idea!

“I know just what to do!” Sir Grinch said with a sneer
“I’ll steal every trace of their Christmas this year.
“I’ll threaten to take my web money once more
“And threaten to give it to Africa’s poor.”

“And while I’m at it I’ll steal all their stuff”
(It seems being a billionaire wasn’t enough)
Sir Grinch owned most Whoodville it’s certainly true
His wealth would have satisfied both me and you
But when the old Grinch couldn’t get his own way
And get his Web built, then he vowed they would pay

He made a quick Santy Claus hat and a coat.
And he chuckled, and clucked, “Why you handsome old goat!”
“With this coat and this hat, I’ll look just like Saint Nick!”
“All I need are some reindeer…”
The Grinch looked around.
But since reindeer were scarce, there was none to be found.

(The reason that no deer were found in the town
Is Grinch’s friend Aileen had had them shot down
Her cruelty and greed caused a Whoodville petition
The people agreed there will be no repetition)

Did that stop the old Grinch…?
No! Not one little bit
“I’ll just need to call on a couple old gits
“If I can’t find some reindeer, I’ll make some instead!”
(I think the poor man must be oot of his head)
So he called lackeys Tommy and Colin to come
Which they quickly did, those poor dears were quite dumb.
And he tied great big horns on top of their heads.
(It seems that these lapdogs were easily led).

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
The old Grinch couldn’t wait ta get oot and aboot.
He loaded some bags
And some old empty sacks
On a ramshackle sleigh
And he hitched up dogs Tommy and Colin, whey hey!

Then the Grinch said, “Giddyap!”
And the sleigh started down
Toward the homes where the Whoodies
Lay asleep in their town.

All their windows were dark. Quiet snow filled the air.
All the Whoodies were dreaming sweet dreams without care
When he came to the first house near to Union Square.
“This is stop number one,” The old Grinchy was there.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, probably had too much sherry.
And he climbed to the roof, empty bags in his fist.
Then he slid down the chimney. A rather tight pinch.
But if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch.
He got stuck only once, for a moment or two.
Then he stuck his head out of the fireplace flue
Where wee Whoodie stockings all hung in a row.

He stole left, right and centre; he got on his knees
He swiped BrewDogs, Glenfiddich and Zeppelin CDs
And just to increase the Whoodies distress
He left unsold copies of Evening Express.
And he stuffed all their gifts in his sacks and then nimbly,
Stuffed all the bags, one by one, up the chimney!

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
Then he slunk to the icebox. He took the Whoods’ feast!
He took the Whood-pudding! He took the roast beast!
He cleaned out that icebox as quick as a flash.
Why, that Grinch even took their last can of Whood-hash!

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And stole all the stockings, he was such a jerk!
Then he stuffed all the food up the chimney with glee.
“And NOW!” grinned Sir Ian, “I will stuff up the tree!”
“I’ll have theatre seats carved from it, just wait and see
“Down with the trees, turn their wood into chip
“For my web and its theatre” (he was quite a dip)
Then he heard a small sound “This can’t be good!”
He turned around fast, and he saw a small Whood!

Twas Marie-Lou Whood, who was not more than two.
The Grinch had been caught by this little Whood daughter
Who’d got out of bed for a cup of cold water.
She stared at Sir Ian and said, “Santy, why,
“Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?”

But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick
He thought up a Whood lie, and he thought it up quick!
In that he had practice, his cunning renown
A cunning which had torn Whood businesses down

“Why, my sweet little tot,” the fake Santy Claus lied,
“There’s a light on this tree that won’t light on one side.
“So I’m taking it home to my workshop, my dear.
“I’ll fix it up there. Then I’ll bring it back here.”

So he fobbed off the child with yet more of his lies
The master of false promises, spin, alibis
And he got her a drink and he sent her to bed.
And when Marie-Lou Whood went to bed with her cup,
He went to the chimney and stuffed the tree up!
Then the last thing he took was the fireplace wood.
His hatred of trees and his greed were no good.

He did the same thing
To the other Whoods’ houses
Leaving crumbs
Much too small
For the other Whoods’ mouses!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the hair of his head was as white as the snow.
When he packed up his sled he was most ecstatic,
(By this time the Grinch was extremely erratic)
He had all of their presents! The ribbons! The wrappings!
The tags! And the tinsel! The trimmings! The trappings!

“I’ll just head to the Gramps and on old Tullos Hill
“I’ll fly-tip these presents” (so much for good will)

“Pooh-pooh to the Whoodies!” the old Grinch was singing
“This year they’ll be no Christmas bells ringing.
“They’re finding out now that Christmas was snatched
“Oh what a brilliant idea I have hatched.
“They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!
“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
“The all the Whoods down in Whood-ville will all cry BOO-HOO!”
“They’ll say ‘Give us a web for we now need it more
“Then food, clothes and shelter would help Africa’s poor’.
“Give us more malls, and give us more shopping!
“They’ll beg for my web – oh those Whoods will be hopping!”

“That’s a noise,” grinned the Grinch,
“That I simply must hear!”
So Sir Ian Grinch put his hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow…
But the sound wasn’t sad!
Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so!
But it WAS merry! VERY!

He stared down at Whood-ville!
Ian could not believe
Despite all of his efforts to plunder and thieve
What met his eyes was a shocking surprise
Each Whoodie in Whood-ville, the rich and the poor
Was singing! He shook to the core.
He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming!

Somehow or other, Christmas survived!
In fact you could even say Christmas had thrived.
He stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?”

“It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
It was as if shopping was not the reason
For people to celebrate during this season.
Even without lots of designer gear
Somehow Christmas had still made it here.

And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
And what happened then…?
Well…in Whood-ville some of them say
That the Grinch’s small heart
Grew three sizes that day!

And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light
He said “Look what I just found when passing through Torry
“Nicked presents, which fell off the back of a lorry”
And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!
And he…
Ian Grinch carved the roast beast!
Merry Christmas to All, and to All a good night!

Well if you are reading this dear Mr Wood
You still have a chance to make everything good
Why not help the poor both here and abroad?
Doing so would be the greatest reward.

We need our green space, clean water and air
Even the finest web could not compare.
We’ve things in this town nowhere else to be found
So lay off our gardens, our common good ground.

If you want gratitude you’d get it indeed
By helping the helpless, the people in need.
So many things you could do with your money
The difference you’d make – it’s not even funny.

Next time please ask us, don’t dictate your plan
People are asking what kind of a man
Would cause such division, pitting friend against friend
Ian your web plans have come to an end.

Give up the ghost, take up some other cause
That’s all I’m saying – goodnight –

– Santa Claus

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Nov 162012

Voice’s Old Susannah surveys the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond, and smells something fishy while she’s at it. By Suzanne Kelly

Tally Ho! The masked ball was a huge success socially and financially; its use of Union Terrace Gardens was inspired. This great common good asset made money both for the city (I assume a fee was charged for using UTG – it normally is) and for the charity – and all during hours the park would normally have been closed.

Organisers Balmoral Group announced they hit their £50,000 target with a thousand or so to spare, all for the benefit of the Friends of Anchor charity. What’s not to like? (Someone was there in a gold deer head mask: I wonder who that was?)

I have good news for all fans of great literature – news that can only add a touch of class to our City of Culture bid. It was reported at the weekend Aberdeen Journals Ltd is to branch out into fiction – and not just their usual P&J and EE kind of fiction, either.

Someone on the board must have read 50 Shades Of Grey and decided this was the way forward in the 21st century – yes, the Journals is to start its own erotic literature publishing company! Will this feature people sending in readers’ wives photos just like the EE does? We shall see.

No doubt this is a move calculated to stimulate young minds, and absolutely nothing to do with cashing in on the latest, no doubt flash-in-the-pan trend for cheap mummy porn. One wonders how one of their books might open? Hmmm…

“It was at an ACSEF meeting he first caught her eye, or rather her eyes lingering on his bulging portfolio just a tad longer than might be considered decent in polite company. His interest well and truly aroused, he quietly checked out her assets from beneath hooded lids while scanning her CV, impressed by its list of the quangos she had dominated while the taxpayer paid through the nose.

“But could she handle his inducement? Would she help with his erection if he gave her 50 million big ones? Could they spin a beautiful web together? Questions, questions, and as he chewed them over, she glanced in his direction, wondering how he would feel if she started talking TIF. She didn’t want to go too far, too fast, too soon. But she needn’t have worried. They were made for each other.”

With all the comings and goings of these past few weeks, I can’t help but feel something fishy is going on. The Scottish Government’s (legal? really?) insistence that UTG must be developed is giving everyone who cares about the park a haddock. At this stage, with the city divided, it is very shellfish indeed of Wood to continue carping on. Central government won’t clam up either: we either build over our park or it’s no TIF for us.

Pretty soon, the SNP/Scottish Government is going to have to tell us exactly what piece of legislation it is that enables them to insist we develop UTG if we want TIF funding for other projects. Several Freedom of Information requests await reply, very simple requests asking exactly what communications have passed between Holyrood, Sir Ian, ACSEF and the rest of the usual suspects regarding the future of UTG.

You might recall TIF in Scotland was rolled out as a pilot scheme, with no real rules about what land must or must not be developed. On the other hand, the TIF model as practiced in its US birthplace is already creaking, and creaking badly. Designed to be used only for the regeneration of disused brownfield sites in deprived areas, unforeseen difficulties with the TIF funding model in the States are in most cases causing havoc.

Here, we could be forgiven for thinking central government has something against the greenbelt and SSIs of Aberdeen City and Shire, or even that they have a secret agenda of sucking up to the rich at every opportunity. I wonder what discussions have taken plaice?

Our previous collection of councillors included an old trout or two, not to mention Councillor Coral. They were old school and fell for the Granite Web hook, line and sinker. Not since the days of the Krays has anyone had so much pressure piled on as our new councillors – but at least they aren’t out of their depth like the old lot.

BTW I didn’t set out on porpoise to do any bad puns, but I was having such a whale of a time at BrewDog the other night (where coincidentally people named Fisher and Squiddy work), that by some fluke fishy jokes just came to the surface!

Now it’s time to look back at last week and mullet over. Without further delay, I offer you a chance to trawl through my small school of definitions that I hope will be good for the sole.

Sturgeon: (proper noun) a particularly primitive type of large fish, has not evolved much in 100 million years

This particular bottom feeder lacks any real teeth, although its posturing makes it look most fearsome. It survives in its murky habitat (Holyrood) largely by using its large nose and sense of smell to navigate.

Though it tries to push smaller fish out of its way, the Sturgeon tends to be outwitted by smaller, quicker species. Mostly known in North America, the pallid Sturgeon has been seen in Scotland of late (Edinburgh specifically), where it reputedly swims with sharks. The Sturgeon in question is looking more pallid by the week.

Somewhat ironically, the future of this fish is in jeopardy – its natural environment has been negatively impacted by mankind, whether through overfishing – or excessive building. Our local politicians might well learn a thing or two from the Sturgeon’s decline.

Puffer Fish: (proper noun) genus of fish known for slow speed and deadly poison

The Puffer Fish writes PR prose, known as ‘puff pieces’. They may, for example, tell you to enhance your land by building glorified walkways and redundant theatres. Puffers might look a bit dumpy in stature but they are often garishly coloured (or have lots of expensive fashion accessories).

Their comic appearance should not deceive anyone; they are filled with some of the most deadly venom on the planet. They are highly sought after but can still poison clients who sample their wares e.g. the delicacy fugu is poisonous if incorrectly prepared. Still, people are willing to shell out plenty for puffer fish. though  it should be noted they are not that quick to react to stimulation, and find moving quickly or gracefully rather difficult.

Salmond: (proper name) A rather common sort of a fish; goes with anything

The Salmond is identified with Scotland – an independent Scotland. Sought after and easily angled by rich businessmen who visit the Northeast in search of real estate deals, land and money.

The Salmond is one species which seems not to mind wind farms. Red Herrings are often found when the Salmond is in the area. This fiercely independent fish is often found swimming against the tide.

Craw Fish: (noun) a crustacean with large grasping claws; an omnivore, devouring plants and fish whether they are living or dead

Stitched Up Like A Kipper: (Eng. phrase; exact origin unknown) to be tricked, entrapped, cheated etc.

I can’t think why this phrase having to do with being badly used, manipulated and conned should have sprung to mind. If I can find any examples, I’ll let you know.

Well, I’d better get my skates on – sea you next week!

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Oct 312012

Another wonderful week has flown by in Aberdeen, and at this time of year, additional spookiness is in the air. By Suzanne Kelly. 

A Sweet Lily Adams cupcakes decorating session produced these holiday favourites; I hope you like.

Old Susannah also had a delicious dinner at La Stella.

Sadly I missed Wildly Unprepared’s Halloween evening at the Belmont, but I’m told it was a scream.

BrewDog launched this year’s ‘Movember’ charity event in aid of combatting men’s illnesses. Please support them if you can, just drop in to find out how. And thanks to Graeme Milne for giving us his Victoria Road ghost story as well.

In the news this week international observers denounced a recent vote as a backward step for democracy, marred by “the abuse of power and the excessive role of money”. For some reason, these observers think that abuse of power and money influenced the Ukraine’s recent vote.

Perhaps next time Aberdeen has a referendum, we should call on their services.

I am worried about  ACSEF – if they are keeping their minutes up to date (and they would of course) then they’ve not done anything since 19 June – some four and a half months. I for one am happy to keep paying tens of thousands of pounds to keep them going, meetings or no meetings. However, there is not much time left for them to get in the required two further full meetings before year end.

The elapsed time since 19 June is a lot of time for our best business brains to be thinking of new schemes. Could this coven be concocting anything even more hideous than the granite web?  Be afraid, be very afraid. Back in June, they had this to say:-

“ACSEF 5 Year Plan and Scheme of Delegation

“Rita Stephen outlined the progress being made in the development of the updated Economic Action Plan for Aberdeen City and Shire [must have been a short outline – OS]. The Plan has been given the title of “Building on Success” and not “Building on the Future” as stated in the report [An ACSEF report that is inaccurate – this is a first – OS].

“Discussions still ongoing with relevant leads as to the shaping of the actions within the Plan and also with Partners on the drafting of specific pieces of text [this sentence would be more of that ‘transparency we’ve heard so much about – OS].

“The structure of this Plan will follow the previous action plan format but will include more visuals/drawings/impressions etc [excellent – hope it’s the same team that did the granite web’s visuals – I liked the giant floating child in particular – OS]. “

Phew!  That’s a load off my mind. If they were planning to build on their future, I’d recommend they get a structural survey done first.  Besides, ‘Building on Success’ sounds much safer than building on their future, doesn’t it? I reckon they have slightly more success than they do future. Then again, if they’re going to build on their success, at least they’re planning something not as grand as the granite web, theatre and bosque.

But be warned. If they’re going to build on their success, what form might that take?  I kind of think ‘building on your common good land and seizing it by means of a private trust’ would be an apt name; perhaps I’ll suggest it.

Yes,  Halloween was Wednesday; many an oddly costumed character has been seen prowling the streets. Grotesque neeps with faces marked with pain, greed and/or anger are rife at this time of year, mostly in Marischal College or the Town House.

Did you know Marischal College has a ghost? Its corridors are said to be haunted by a wild-eyed, frightening  spirit of a woman who once briefly worked  in the building.  She is thought to still haunt the area, hoping one day to return.

A few weeks before Halloween, a very small group of people believed they saw her, this time in front of Marischal. The group was very small indeed  (I’m told it was some kind of mini protest), so there is no way to corroborate that particular sighting, which unusually happened during the day. However, there have been no further sightings of  ‘The Woman in Leggings’ since that time.

Perhaps her spirit will fade away over time, as occasionally happens in the spirit world.

Time for a seasonal look at some scary movies.

The Haunting: (director Robert Wise, starring Russ Tamblyn, Claire Bloom, Richard  Johnson and Julie Harris. 1963)

This black and white movie from the same director who gave us ‘West Side Story’ still has the power to send shivers up your spine. ‘A lame remake with Catherine Zeta Jones can’t hold a ghostly candle to this original.

In it, a team of alleged professionals set off inside a haunted gothic-style house called Marischal College. Their experiments prove costly, particularly on one member of the team who really isn’t the full shilling; she is later forced to depart.  The townspeople ‘don’t come nearer than town, no one will come any nearer than that’ afraid of the horror that lurks within. You never really see a ghost, or for that matter all the £60 million that was sunk into the old college – but the plumbing acts up for no reason mysteriously.

Frankenstein: (1931 – Boris Karloff, Colin Clive)

A mad, wealthy, unbalanced power hungry madman rules his small hamlet from his lofty castle called Triple Kirks, but still needs more power and money.  He orders his lackeys to assemble the lifeless parts which will be turned into a monster to do his bidding, which he calls ‘ACSEF’.

ACSEF starts humbly enough, doing as its master wishes, but once reaching full power, it begins to run amok, and causes devastation on the town, called ‘Aberdeen.’ While some of the assembled business and public sector parts which are welded into the monster have come from good, the brain was that of a dangerous madman, and it is the brain driving the creature to violence.

The creature does briefly call for our sympathy, it is created by all of society to some degree. However, when its path of destruction proves too much, it must be destroyed, and the townspeople rally. Killing the beast proves difficult, and it does come back in several sequel films. But it is always ultimately destroyed by the power of good.

Poltergeist: (1982, directed by Toby Hooper; written by Steven Spielberg).

A family move to a new housing development, which has been built on former greenbelt land. The real estate developer is all smiles as the family moves into its new suburban, urban sprawl neighbourhood. But things are not as they seem. The electrics don’t work too well.

Funny substances start oozing out of the walls, and the chimney catches fire. The toilets aren’t hooked up properly. In one particularly horrific scene, more than eight people are in the kitchen at one time, and the floor promptly collapses. Not for the faint-hearted, or for those who like to have parties in the kitchen.

Dead of Night: (1945, several directors; based on an HG Wells story).

An architect or perhaps home builder is trapped in a time loop for his past sins such as trying to cheat a city out of money in a land deal. He keeps reliving an evening all over again, where people tell ghastly stories for hours. It is indeed a full council meeting.

One story he is forced to endure concerns a ventriloquist and his youthful dummy. The ventriloquist pulls the strings and works the little puppet, but things slowly go mysteriously wrong. The puppet, which of course should do exactly as the ventriloquist wishes, starts to speak for itself, with  some embarrassing consequences for its master. This happens at a BBC debate about a garden.

Eventually the dummy’s antics help to undo his puppet master, who winds up a complete wreck. Was the ventriloquist actually someone with two personalities – one a generous benefactor doing charitable works, and the other a tax-shirking, land-grabbing robber baron? It is up to the viewer to decide.

The Malone Witch Project: A film in which a single-minded, arrogant woman sets out on a vanity project and winds up getting herself and her two misguided pals (played by Leonard and Tallboys) lost in a very hostile environment.

Her initial contempt for the townspeople she briefly speaks to at the beginning of the film comes back to haunt her. In their foolishness they wind up bickering about pointless things, ignoring the dangerous peril their careers and the Lib Dems are in.

In the end, the woods are desecrated; gorse is ploughed up and underneath lies pollution, rock, but no soil. In the end, the innocent are slaughtered. A harrowing  film to which Old Susannah is pleased to report there will be no sequel.

Next week:  who knows?  Happy Halloween!

Sep 262012

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s event’s in the ‘Deen and beyond in her quest to expose the uncovered even at risk of getting under the skin. By Suzanne Kelly. 

Footdee was transformed into an Ibiza foam party this week. Trees and bits of tree were trashed by the wind. Old Susannah wonders how those 89,000 trees planted on Tullos hill are doing.

They may be too small to be toppled by the wind just yet, but that was exactly the kind of weather that will be strong enough to knock them over in a few years’ time. The soil matrix is poor, according to the Forestry Commission’s soil report.

Thankfully it doesn’t rain or get windy in Aberdeen very often, so I’m sure the trees won’t have any problem at all.

The gusts this week knocked over trees and battered cars, but fear not, they weren’t severe enough to spoil Aileen Malone’s hairstyle, which was fetchingly lacquered in place.

Last Saturday she was adding glamour to the 45-minute demo, in a fetching off-white suit. I’d have thought she’d be in a hunting outfit.

They say that ‘size isn’t everything’ and that ‘length doesn’t matter’. Clearly the few at Saturday’s protest against Aberdeen City Council concurred. There were around 70 (I’m being generous) people protesting against Aberdeen City Council for 45 minutes.

You might have thought it was an outdoor rave: ex-councillor Kate Dean was trendily dressed in fetching leggings and a Cove Bay Rangers supporters’ top. I guess this further illustrates that she has no ties to the club which might have remotely prejudiced her handling of the Loirston Loch planning hearing.

Financially or otherwise, someone who might be biased towards one side or another of a hearing isn’t supposed to be the convener, as previously detailed. Anyway, Old Susannah showed up to watch the demo, with a friend and a doggie, and had a chat to some media acquaintances. They were most amused that they’d shown up in the middle of a weekend to cover a demo supposedly by four or five hundred, to find instead between sixty to eighty people, including infants and toddlers.

I learnt a few new vocabulary words from some of these hacked off hacks, but best we don’t define those.

Aileen Malone, councillor, protesting against the council.  Hmm.  Presumably she was protesting against the amiable Martin Greig, Lib Dem, who voted against borrowing £90 million or so for granite walkways. It will be interesting to find out how this move by HoMalone will be viewed by her current party members and by other sitting councillors.  And we shall.

Tom Smith wrote a heart-wrenching, or perhaps ‘stomach-wrenching’, letter to the P&J in response to a letter by one Dr. Howard Gemmell.  Dr Gemmell was disappointed that the city has been split over the UTG situation, and the lack of Wood’s/ACSEF’s willingness to compromise.

There are some absolutely charming comments on the petition which Wood might enjoy

Smith doesn’t seem to agree that there was unwillingness to compromise. I guess he missed all of Sir Ian’s statements to the effect that it was his way or no way, it was the Web or nothing, and if he couldn’t have his Web he’d send the £50 million to help Africans.

Old Susannah started a petition, now with about 175 signatories, asking Wood to honour his February pledge and send the money to do good in Africa instead of getting rid of the city’s lungs.  There are some absolutely charming comments on the petition which Wood might enjoy; it can be found at http://www.gopetition.com/sir-ian-send-your-50m-to-africa

Smith goes on to say ‘there is no strident political campaign by business or Aberdeen City Garden Trust.’  So before getting on to this week’s themes, here is one non-related definition first:

Strident: (Eng. adjective) Characterised by harsh, loud, aggressive noise or commotion.

ACSEF?  Aberdeen City Gardens Trust?  Big Partnership and 300-plus radio adverts?  The letter signed by a hundred businessmen complaining that without a Web we’re doomed?  Strident, these guys?  Never!  I’ve never seen a more refined, elegant polite request to hand control of public, Common Good land over to a private company before.

A member of the royal family playing games in the nude.  A member of the royal family sunbathing in private.  Another royal, Lady Gaga, accused of being ‘fat’.  The naked rambler’s naked ambition.  Kylie’s bottom, again.  A host of issues have made the nude, sorry, news this week.  Here are some relevant definitions to get to the bottom of things.

Right to Privacy: (mod. Eng.; law) The right of an individual not to endure surveillance, be harassed, photographed, recorded, etcetera, as guaranteed by EU Human Rights law, unless there is a legal reason or a journalistic need to expose truth in the public interest.

Apparently, Individuals’ right to privacy is guaranteed in the European Convention on Human Rights.  Journalists however are able to collect and reveal information if it is in the public interest to do so. Smash criminal gangs? Expose illegal activities? These are the kind of things the old-fashioned investigative reporter used to get up to.

But why risk danger, spend ages researching topics, and wind up with a story buried deep in a newspaper if it’s printed at all? After all, not all papers are interested in exposing truths. I wish I could think of an example or two of this.. All you need is a long, long telephoto lens, a decent camera, some recording equipment, and you’ll be in the tabloids earning lots of dosh with little effort. Result.

A newspaper can print a story if it has not been illegally obtained, and if it is definitely in the public interest to print it. This obviously means we need nude photos of the royal family. What could be more in the public interest than that? Perhaps a certain young man was foolish in the extreme to have had a wild US holiday captured in snapshots.

It’s a pity there weren’t any older, wiser professional people around him to stop photos being taken without spoiling the fun, or at least to ensure that the young man was fully aware of the consequences.  If there had been any such experienced, sober professionals around, this particular upset could easily have been avoided. Good on the Sun for printing the photos.

It’s not as if the Sun is in any way an opportunistic paper that will do anything for money.  Beloved of those caught up in Hillsborough, and celebrities and politicians who may have been hacked, thank goodness we’ve got the Sun.

However, a female member of the Royal family was sunbathing at a private French chateau when she was photographed topless. Who could I be referring to? She was photographed by someone with a long lens who was apparently standing nearly half a mile away. She had a reasonable expectation of privacy, and it was taken away from her. Result!  More public interest photos!

Whether or not you are a fan of the royal family, celebrities, sports people, politicians, all these groups of people are contributing by helping our kindly, intrepid newshounds to make a dignified living.  But the stories wouldn’t be as much fun without photos…

Paparazzi(Italian, plural noun) Packs of journalists and photographers who follow famous people around, looking for photo opportunities and stories to sell to tabloids and cheap magazines.

The paparazzi have done a great job so far, and they couldn’t keep it up without people buying magazines.

Whether it’s a drunk singer getting out of a car showing underwear or skin, whether it’s an ageing Peter Falk aka Colombo in California being literally chased by a pack of news hounds (the poor man was old; he was upset and confused when cornered and photographed), or a celebrity’s child going to school, all are fair game for the paparazzi.

After all, everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame, or so I am told, and ‘all publicity is good publicity’. The famous should be grateful that the ever-attentive photographers trail their every move, spying on them, their family and friends.

If you’re famous enough, your accidental death may likewise get a good set of photographers recording it. You’ll be most grateful I’m sure. Old Susannah thought that there was a law and a code or two stopping the exploitation and hounding of celebrities, but apparently there aren’t.

So, keep on buying those mags. Find out who’s been seen cheating on whom, who got drunk, what colour underwear they had on. Most importantly, keep buying these worthy news periodicals to find out crucial things like who looks too fat or too skinny.

Body Image(Mod. Eng. psychological term) The mental picture we have of what we look like to ourselves and the rest of the world.

Anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders were once a comparative rarity confined to teenage girls. However, people of all sexes and ages are suffering these days in increasing numbers.  The problem? Who knows. It’s certainly nothing to do with paparazzi and the celebrity mag. It is mere coincidence that any star in a bikini or ‘revealing outfit’ is immediately deemed to be too thin or more likely too fat by the press.

For one thing, the camera adds ten pounds to us all, or at least that’s my excuse. For another, we’re saturated in images of people who are close to physical perfection, because they’ve been airbrushed. Somehow, when someone doesn’t look quite as tall and thin in real life as in their movie poster, the press is free to speculate whether they have ‘cellulite’.  And ageing is definitely a no-no. Botox to that.

There is obviously no link between the media obsessing over every inch of a celeb’s body and other people wondering if they are beautiful or not. Any link between people binge eating or starving themselves has nothing to do with this tiny societal pressure to be perfect.

Lady Gaga, it is being claimed, has no right to any privacy. So her ex pa claims in a New York law suit. I think Gaga might beg to differ. She has recently posed in a bikini as a response to people saying she’d got fat. As a teenager she suffered eating disorders.

It is almost as if she thinks her music is somehow more important than what she looks like. But here’s the thing: just because someone poses for a photo when there is a photo call or an event on, does it mean they should be photographed in their private time? Of course it does!

Thankfully girls have many positive role models. There is Jordan for instance. Buying quantities of silicone, taking your clothes off, and having a ghost writer are what we want our young girls aspire to.

Exposure: (Eng; crime) exposing oneself wilfully, for instance to young children or in public.

In Aberdeen, a man was spared jail this week. He continues to go out in public and expose himself to young children. What a freedom fighter! Just like our friend, the Naked Rambler.

You might think Old Susannah would rush to defend the Naked Rambler’s right to be naked wherever and whenever he wants. Absolutely!

The thing is, other people’s rights not to be disturbed by the Rambler exposing himself aren’t as important as his right to be naked. He was recently asked to stay clear of a children’s play area when he was naked. He refused. What a hero!

There is a silly old saying ‘your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins’. Surely this doesn’t apply to our naked freedom fighter. So what if something like one in five women can expect to have some kind of sexual assault in their lifetime? Why shouldn’t this nude guy be free to make people wary of a potential attack? Why should anyone have the right to keep their child from seeing him?

An American criminal legal professional I know brought up the subject of crime and nudity once, it was one of those conversations. She said that in her years of court experience there were usually only two reasons a man shows up naked somewhere: one is because they intend a sexual assault; the other is because they are going to kill someone and don’t want to get blood on their clothes. But let’s just let everyone go around naked, shall we? How can that lead to any intimidation or discomfort?

Sadly, we don’t live in an innocent, nice world any more. Some say we never did. By the way, the Naked Rambler has two children by one of his ex-partners. She asked him to keep his clothes on to visit his young children and he refused point blank. Now that’s truly heroic, sacrificing your children’s right to a father so that you can get naked.

Confidential to ‘Forgetful of Bucksburn’:  Sorry you forgot about all the charming posts you put on Facebook extolling the various good points of the EDL. If you need any reminders of what you wrote, just let Old Susannah know. I’ve got screenshots saved and backed up, and I’ll be  happy to refresh your memory.

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Sep 232012

After a long build-up, vitriolic postings on FaceBook, and a call to the media to attend a protest by hundreds of people, a group of approximately 70-80 stood outside Marischal College today for three quarters of an hour.  Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly attended.

Background: Aberdeen has been split over a controversial plan to build a £140 million pound series of arches over Union Terrace Gardens called ‘the granite web’.
The city is far from financially sound, and would need to borrow some £70 million minimum to build the scheme, which would also see the felling of ancient trees – some of the few trees in the city centre.

Those against the scheme point out the city has vast areas of disused brownfield, some of which are becoming arson hotspots which could be the site of any futuristic architectural projects.

The web’s opposition also cite that simple improvements to the gardens are affordable and would be sympathetic to the existing area, and that money should be spent on other projects and restoring services cut under the previous LibDem/SNP coalition.

Proponents of the granite web cite projections made by PriceWaterhouse Coopers, which was paid some £44,000 pounds to create projections for the scheme and research the TIF scheme by scheme supporting agency, ACSEF.  These projected benefits included 6,500 permanent new jobs and no cost to the taxpayer.

It has been shown the taxpayer has already picked up a substantial tab for furthering this project (see https://aberdeenvoice.com/2012/02/the-great-city-gardens-project-gravy-train/ ).

An advisory referendum was held; the Labour Party stated from the start it would not be bound by this referendum, which saw the pro-web side narrowly win.
Various issues arose with the referendum, and an anonymous group placed hundreds of radio adverts via the BiG Partnership which were found in breach of code by OFCOM.

PwC refused to say whether or not the ads’ use of its projections as fact was appropriate, as a ‘private company’ (actually  the PwC invoices are made out to Scottish Enterprise) had commissioned the work (which the taxpayer paid for).

Labour’s election pledges included stopping the granite web, and Labour wound up with a majority in the council at last May’s elections.

The Protest:  A Whimper not a Bang
The organisers included Chad West-MacGregor (who resides in the USA according to his FaceBook page, but who now says he will stay in Aberdeen); they had told the assembled media before the event that hundreds would be in attendance.

A video of the speech can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u57XTEus84

This proved optimistic in the extreme.  The weather was dry and sunny; the date selected was apparently the most convenient date for those who wanted to attend, even if there would be no one in the City Council’s Marischal College to protest to.

This lack of relevant audience did not bother the organisers, who posted on their FaceBook page:-

“Providing hundreds of us make an effort to attend, we will have several media photographers and journalist’s [sic] there to show the entire country that we were there and we were loud. Barney’s back hair will be sticking up when he opens the front page of the EE or the P&J and sees his council building swamped with protesters.”

STV reported:-

“More than 400 people had said they would attend the event on Saturday outside Marischal College to vent their fury at the decision to axe the plans to transform Union Terrace Gardens.  In reality, it was probably only around 60 people who turned up to the demonstration but the organisers felt the small band of protesters made their point.”

Organisers have made different representations as to the number of protestors; the FaceBook page linked to the protest has posts from organisers saying there were less than 100 present, but a different post says the organisers had more than 100.

This Aberdeen Voice reporter and her friend were present and counted approximately 70-80 people (more than STV counted) – but there was some fluctuation as people left.  There were about ten media professionals covering the event – 1 for every 8 protestors by my account, or 1 for every 6 by STV’s figures.

The two higher-profile attendees were former councillor Kate Dean and Aileen Malone.  Dean held a Cove Bay Supporters Club banner and wore leggings and the club’s shirt.

Aileen Malone’s presence was something of an oddity. The protest was against the council she is elected to, and she had made it plain that the remaining five Liberal Democrats on the council were not subject to a party whip when the vote on the granite web was held.  Precisely why she felt the need to protest against her own party members – who did not all vote for continuing with the granite web – is a mystery.

The Facebook Pages
A page using Barney Crockett’s photo to represent the organiser (for some odd reason), and an ‘event’ page were launched.  The FaceBook pages caused controversy with a wide range of offensive posts.

After one person, ‘Sasha Molyneux’ mocked someone who had been abused as a child, one person who planned to go on the protest said he now would not.  This person was then attacked for being ‘an anarchist plant’ by Molyneux.

Many posters asked the web pages’ administrator(s) to step in and stop the abuse, but the posts are still there (as at 17:30 22 September 2012).

The web ironically was supposed to attract talent from outwith Aberdeen.  Non-Aberdonians and Aberdonians alike were put off by more posts from Molyneux, who wrote:

“Isn’t it strange that inabootcomers like Suzanne Kelly from New York USA (got a current Visa I hope), Alasdair Johnston from Ayrshire, Richard Baker from Edinburgh, Lewis MacDonald from Lewis via Insch, Willie Young from Stonehaven (we’ll let him off with that) and countless other dissidents seem to think they know what’s best for Aberdeen and it’s [sic] citizens. All the while there are others who can trace their ancestory [sic] back hundreds of years to people who have hewn the very rock from the ground that Aberdeen is built from, taught in the schools that were built with that rock, employed generations in factories run by local entrepenuers [sic] and generally built this city from the ground up and afforded others a lifestyle that they enjoy today. The abuse and disrespect coming from the above mentioned individuals is absolutely disgusting and an extreme isult [sic] to our history and heritage and really if they are not happy they should go elsewhere and learn some decorum and basic manners.”

Most of those mentioned above had not even posted on this page.  Brian Scott then countered with:-

“I can hardly believe my eyes. Has some one actually posted a comment about incomers not having a right to have their say on issues because they cannot trace their roots to Aberdeen despite them setting up home here? Isn’t that racist and reminiscent of a certain political party that takes their mandate from a 1930’s movement originated in central Europe?”

Voice’s Suzanne Kelly quoted Sasha’s earlier anti-incomer post (above) and Sasha replied:-

“I know what I said and i’m glad it is on record because it is the truth. As Annie Lennox once said a North East of Scotland upbringing puts a rod of iron in your soul so just remember that. Your Bully Boy tactics and general disrespect for the people in general don’t go down too well with the people up here and if you think you are being smart and clever just consider this we are a pretty stoical bunch up here and we will break you in the long run.”

 The subjects brought up by pro web factions also included one man’s assertion that the English Defence League is a “peace loving group”, and its leader ‘inspirational’.

There was heated debate back and forth between the two camps, but the radical extremist posts of Molyneux and others from the pro web side were considered by many to be highly inflammatory and seem to constitute what is called ‘trolling.’

It is clear that these extremists do not represent the views of all of the pro granite web faction, but it is clear that the FaceBook page administrators, the organisers of this event, gave tacit support to these posts by allowing them to remain and by not banning the posters.

The organisers seem to indicate they will hold more such events.  Aberdeen Voice will keep you posted of any further developments.