Aug 132015
 
Richard Lochhead MSP, Gillian Martin and Alex Salmond MP MSP - (Credit-SNP Aberdeenshire)

Richard Lochhead MSP, Gillian Martin and Alex Salmond MP MSP – (Credit-SNP Aberdeenshire)

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP

Gillian Martin has been nominated for approval by Aberdeenshire East SNP in an endorsement meeting today (Fri Aug 14) in Ellon.
If supported by the local membership, Gillian from Newmachar will become the SNP candidate to succeed Alex Salmond as the local MSP.

Commenting on her nomination, Gillian said:

“I am delighted to be nominated for candidacy in the place where I grew up and where I am bringing up my own family. 

“For the last 15 years I have worked as a lecturer and I also run my own business producing training and information materials for the energy sector.

“As a founder for Women for Independence in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, I have seen first-hand how people have become more politically active all over this region.

“Our political landscape was transformed during the referendum and the entire Scottish electorate is now one of the most engaged in Western Europe with so many people finding their political voice.

“I hope to add my own voice to our group in Holyrood and do justice to the area which has been so well served by Alex Salmond for so many years.

“Luckily I will have the benefit of his experience close by as he serves the Gordon constituency for Westminster, as well as that of my other SNP colleagues in the North East.”

Alex Salmond commented:

“Gillian’s nomination now goes forward to a full constituency meeting this Friday.

“I am looking forward to seeing her confirmed as the candidate. She played a key part in my local campaign team in winning the Gordon constituency for the SNP and was a leading light in the Women for Independence movement nationally.

“It is great to have the chance to select such a highly talented and local woman candidate for Aberdeenshire East.”

Gillian (46) lives with her husband, John, a teacher at Turriff Academy, and two children, Louis and Eve.

She grew up in Newburgh and attended Ellon Academy before going on to study at the University of Glasgow.

She has been a lecturer at North East Scotland College for 15 years and runs her own production company making videos for the community and the oil and gas sector. She is also the executive and founder of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Women for Independence.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.

[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Jan 112013
 

Aberdeen Voice is grateful to The Point for permission to publish the following essay by John Aberdein from the forthcoming volume UNSTATED: Writers on Scottish Independence.

I have contracted an aversion to hype. It is a bog-standard Rannoch Moor aversion, neither world class nor premier league. And so, if the Electoral Commission sanctions the extra box, I might not vote in the referendum Yes – but merely Uhuh.
Imagine, if you will, a tottering pile of Uhuhs. Because we have had a measure of independence for quite some time – but what have we done with it?

We have had powers over primary and secondary education for donkeys’ years, yet our education system is confounded by hype. Quality Assurance, Higher Still, and now Curriculum for Excellence. Cream is not enough for the mandarins: they must churn the schools till they get butter.

The perfectability of children – or the system – lies within our grasp, it is implied, just a couple of documents off. I enjoyed teaching in Scotland for nearly thirty years, but to re-enter the classroom under such pressures would do my nut. We don’t need independence to sort this: we need to let a whole variety of teachers with high commitment – and proper pay and pensions – proceed with the professional confidence that accords and comes with democratic power. See the Kirkland Five. See Finland.

Similarly, we have had serious devolution for a while now, with control over our National Health Service, yet much of our individual health is raddled. We gollop fast food down, we drink like whales. Pigging and whaling it because we are not independent? Perhaps with independence – and Trident gone – we could create a new defence policy, winching our more gaseous bodies up as barrage balloons. Creative Scotland likes big projects. Otherwise, with respect to egalitarian models of individual health targeting and collective improvement, again see Finland.

And we have had a Scottish Parliament for thirteen years, re-engaged to a proud old legal system, with control over our country’s infinitely toured, dearly cherished land – yet we barely know who owns the bugger, except it isn’t us. There is a fault that lies across our land, but it is our fault, not Westminster’s. That gaping fault comprises: land theft from the commons; land left waste and underused; land exclusion still unrighted. Read the Landman: Andy Wightman.

So there is national and local hype, but a general miasma. Aberdeen, it says on an airport billboard as you enter the terminal: home of the self-sealing envelope. There’s no answer to that. A worser silence hangs about Dounreay, home of weapons-grade plutonium. And – as we seek to found a planet-saving, high-export, steel-hungry, renewables industry, we meet the sign – Ravenscraig, home of globalism (flitted). Scotia, home of hames, hame of homes, can aye domesticate apocalypse.

The leader of a party not unadjacent to the ruling party in Scotland has been backing this aberration

There was a day in my youth when you could walk dryshod across the Atlantic from Ullapool to Nantucket on the decks of the herring drifters – and that’s when they were in harbour. Tomorrow there will be just one giant trawler purser seasooker that does for the lot of us. I heard of a crew that made a squillion each one night. They landed at a shady pier and quickly banked offshore.

Real independence would include defence of biological resources held in common against our own and other pirates. Plus, to refound our country properly, nationalisation of major minerals and bringing to book all tax-evaders.

A billionaire I schooled with wants to raze the ancient elms in a sunken classical garden to raise a shrubbish granitette hoohaa instead. The leader of a party not unadjacent to the ruling party in Scotland has been backing this aberration and Scottish Enterprise has largely paid for the relentless PR.

The project to demolish Union Terrace Gardens is hailed by the exaggerators as vital and transformational when fatal and deformational would be nearer. A party that leads the call for independence would do well to wake up to its own whipped centralism.

Up the coast, a man with hair combed to the eyes, and shooting from the hip, rakes the marram out of the dunes to make a golf course. A party not unadjacent to the current ruling party in Scotland thinks this is grand and approvable and overrides the piffling independence of the local community to make it so.

Billionaire then gives Combman an honorary degree and lauds him for putting Scotland on the international golf map. Fictionalists from St Andrews to Troon are made redundant because they could not make that up. Combman, imported patriot, then has a bad attack of wind. And a party that purports to trailblaze to independence should now dump a tendency to tatty diktats?

Trees for Life are engaged in restoring the Caledonian pine forest. Some of my best friends are Scots pines, so I go to help Trees for Life root out slump-shouldered sitka spruce and replant with bonny, red-barked, strong-limbed Pinus sylvestris. It is a slow process, as many good processes are. TfL are also campaigning to reintroduce the wolf to Scotland. The last one was killed in 1746 by a Highland hunter called McQueen. Imagine the ceremony, if youse will. Scotland – I don’t know if you still remember – this is Wolf. Wolf, meet Scotland. What will the wolf think?

Culloden set a pellucid standard for antihype. But antihype is not really TV’s country

Meanwhile – another screengrab – as you stand in the centre of Inverness, an odd bus passes. Its destination board reads Culloden via Tesco. In the days before heritage got polish, if you went to Culloden, there was a wooden notice stuck in the heather which read: Dangerous Battlefield – Wear Sensible Shoes.

After independence, but not before, that same bus will be rerouted past Braw Brogues, that we may suffer no such deficiency again. More pointedly, the TV documentary Culloden by Peter Watkins was made for buttons in 1964, with shivering, bloodied local folk, some of them battlefield descendants, recruited to do the dying.

With a Brechtian yet empathic authenticity both moving and thought-demanding, Culloden set a pellucid standard for antihype. But antihype is not really TV’s country. And so after Watkins’ The War Game the following year, a scorching exposé of how kitchen door shelters don’t halt H-Bombs, TV dropped him.

Speaking of Armageddon, we are hanging on for the showdown…

As regards underworld, we once had three hundred years’ worth of recoverable coal. I went down the Seafield Colliery for a visit, a mile down at the speed of darkness, three miles out under the Forth in the dripping tunnel on the man-riding train. Many of the folk in the Fife coalfield were practically communists. So that had to be closed down, the pits flooded, mainly by Thatcher. To recruit for independence, if it is to be more than Uhuh and a yawn, we might need to reinvigorate that deep sense of the commons?

And, anent independence, most working people have none: the only power they have, if they are employed at all, is to withdraw their effort. This is not acknowledged by certain politicos, who can be spotted not on the picket line but hopping from studio to studio wringing their hands. Meanwhile capital can go on strike or abroad for as long as it likes whenever it pleases, and nobody holds it to account – there’s independence for you.

Indeed if capital catches cold from all its jaunting we purchase for it a medicine called Independence Plus. It is dispensed in a pail. As for one spoon of medicine for the rest of us, that would only encourage sloth and dependency. Before we write a prospectus for independence, I suggest we read and reread the recent works of David Harvey, Zizek and Badiou.

Yet I applaud instances where this Scottish Government has been humane

Because, with so-called independence, would the iron rule continue that capital needs its minimum 3% annual return, come what may?  Even if it means laying tram tracks annually and tearing them up, scrapping human scale crew-owned fishing boats to build supercapitalistic ones, and rooting out beloved gardens to ram some architectural crassness over them?

Or would we roll up our political sleeves in order to regain and develop our nationally-owned, locally-owned, and communally-owned sectors?

Huge questions, perhaps only fully answerable in action, once the present interim independence-seeking party helps us get there and then splits. Rather grimly, in terms of portent, at the moment of writing the Scottish government has just awarded the Orkney and Shetland ferry contract away from the nationally owned NorthLink to those ubiquitous public contract snafflers Serco. So that by the time this is published, cuts in employment and employment standards will almost certainly have followed, to ratchet up Serco’s margin.

Yet I applaud instances where this Scottish Government has been humane. The freeing of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, tempering justice with mercy, and against the fierce denunciation emanating from the US State Department, was a noble moment in our history, nobler in the annals of virtue than even Bannockburn. Albeit his conviction in a Scottish court in the first place had hallmarks of superpower subornment. Just as, in our daily political life, a footloose international media mogul has been interfering too.

In a different sphere, I applaud the Scottish Government’s removal of prescription charges, and hope  it presages the maintenance of a full and proper National Health Service. But in March 2012 a die was cast on this matter in England.

The UK coalition government, comprising two parties that,  clapped-together, would barely form a rump in Scotland, forced through the Health and Social Care Bill against universal professional advice and a million petitioners, thus laying the whole health service in England open to usurpation. I travelled to Westminster to lobby against this, but the coalition had already sold its ears.

I flew to Obama’s inauguration, and hungrily allowed myself to come under the influence

So up to 49% of beds in NHS Foundation hospitals in England are now legally available to be allocated to private patients. This will impact indirectly on Scotland as a Barnett consequential. The grant we receive for our hospitals from the annual Barnett formula pro rata block grant is calculated on what is received by English hospitals from government funding, but not from private insurance fees.

Once the temporary arrangements made to cover this have faded, Scottish health services, unless we get a grip and do something, will haemorrhage grant and be driven in the same ghastly privatizing direction.

Let me close with a confession.

It is ever easy to be lulled by the spell of hype. In January 2009 I flew to Obama’s inauguration, and hungrily allowed myself to come under the influence. At the start of the week I sang We Shall Overcome in Washington’s National History Museum – linked in arms  with African Americans who dared to hope that serious social change had come to pass. By the end of the week, back in New York, the neon high round News Corp’s skyscraper was tickering: President Orders Missile Attack on Afghan Village – 18 Dead.

On the Amtrak train between these cities I talked with Americans. Was this a fresh chapter in their democracy? We talked of many things, principally socialized medicine. They wanted none of that nasty stuff. I said, Forget the two-word dismissal: you need six words to understand the founding principle of the NHS. What are your six words? rapped a sceptic. Free at the point of need, I said. I further claimed, indeed asserted, that the USA could never regard itself as a civilized country until it looked after the healthcare needs of all its citizens.

Dear reader, I got out alive. And that exemplifies the real basis on how I will vote – if spared – in the referendum in two years time. I will vote to be in a better position afterwards to fight to keep the single greatest bedrock achievement of socialism and human decency we have: the National Health Service. And since I do not think the Electoral Commission will trouble to find peely-wally Uhuh in its vocabulary – and since the process of essay-making has cardioverted the caveats in my ageing heartbeat – I will make my vote count on the side of our life, and not for capitalism.

  • More Info.

UNSTATED: Writers on Scottish Independence, edited by Scott Hames (Word Power, £12.99).

“We are deluged by facile arguments and factoids designed to ‘manage’ the Scottish question, or to rig the terrain on which it is contested. Before we get used to the parameters of a bogus debate, there must be room for more honest and nuanced thinking about what ‘independence’ means in and for Scottish culture. This book sets the question of independence within the more radical horizons which inform the work of 27 writers and activists based in Scotland. Standing adjacent to the official debate, it explores questions tactfully shirked or sub-ducted within the media narrative of the Yes/No campaigns, and opens a space in which the most difficult, most exciting prospects of statehood can be freely stated.” – Scott Hames

The contributors are John Aberdein, Allan Armstrong, Alan Bissett, Jenni Calder, Bob Cant, Jo Clifford, Meaghan Delahunt, Douglas Dunn, Margaret Elphinstone, Leigh French and Gordon Asher, Janice Galloway, Magi Gibson, Alasdair Gray, Kirsty Gunn, Kathleen Jamie, James Kelman, Tom Leonard, Ken MacLeod, Aonghas MacNeacail, Kevin MacNeil, Denise Mina, Don Paterson, James Robertson, Suhayl Saadi, Mike Small, Gerda Stevenson and Christopher Whyte.

The volume is due to be published in early mid-December and can be ordered from:

http://www.word-power.co.uk/books/unstated-I9780956628398/

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Dec 062012
 

By Bob Smith.

Eence upon a time there wis a boorachie o fowk fae bade near the seaside. There wis Paradise Molly plus her loon Pigsty Mike an Sheila his missus. Nae far awa wis Davie Blackbeard an his gweed wife Moira and jist doon the road bade Fiesty Susie an her faimily.

Noo they aa wint aboot their business richt happily tull a foreign invader ca’ed Baron Hairmop cam oot o the sky fae a far aff lan wi his henchman Hummel Doddie.

Baron Hairmop bocht the big hoose an some o the lan roon aboot an decreed he wis gyaan ti bigg a placie faar rich fowk cwid ging fer a waak hittin a wee fite ba wi sticks an there wis tae be a tavern wi rooms faar a bodie cwid sleep in atween enjoyin thersels .

As weel  he wis tae bigg a fyow posh hoosies fer ither rich fowk tae buy or tae rint as placies fer their holidays. Bit sic things hid tae be lookit at bi jist ower a dizzen local mannies an wifies alang wi Green Marty fa hid the power tae refuse sic ideas.

They didna like the thocht o Baron Hairmop biggin on some gey special sand doons fit war aye on the move, so they wintit the chiel tae come back wi a plan fit wis a wee bittie chynged. Baron Hairmop wis fair fizzin. He wisna used tae fowk nae deein his biddin an said he wid move awa tae an emerald green isle if his ideas war refused.

Noo the heid bummer in aa Scotland, King Eck the Fish an his loyal courtier Johnnie Ninney were feart o Baron Hairmop cos he hid mair gold  than them an they fancied some fer their kingdom. So they gied in tae Baron Hairmop’s threats an said, “jist gyang aheid min we’ll nae staan in yer wye”.

Iss fair pleased some o  the local serfs faa hid knelt at the feet o Baron Hairmop pledgin their support fer aathing he did, at the same time rubbin their hauns wi glee at the thocht he micht throw a few mecks their wye.

Bit ither gweed fowk warna sae glaikit an thocht the Baron wis mair an likely tae skedaddle wi maist o his loot.

  the king winted tae bigg a fyow windmills close tae faar fowk wid be hittin the wee fite bas wi sticks

Noo Baron Hairmop wis ee’in up the hoosies an bitties o grun fit Paradise Molly, Pigsty Mike, Davie Blackbeard an Feisty Susie ained an tried tae buy them oot. “Tak a hike min”, wis their reply, wiv nae intinshun o movin. Iss fair hid Baron Hairmop teerin his hair an he got the local toon cryers Pissan Urinal an his sister Eve Distress tae help him bi spootin oot a lot of propaganda bile.

Paradise Molly, Pigsty Mike, Davie an Susie hid a lot tae pit up wi. Baron Hairmop winted them tae be forced tae sell tae him bit fowk aa ower the lan fin they got tae ken aboot iss rebelled an mairched aa ower the doons wi banners agin Baron Hairmop. Syne on tae the scene cam twa knights in shinin armour ca’ed Ant an Dick.

They wint aboot an fun oot fit wis really gyaan on aroon Baron Hairmop’s placie. The Baron wisna chuffed as fit they fun oot made the chiel look a richt bullyin cyaard.

Ant an Dick landit in the dungeons fer a wee filie bit their story fin they telt it wis heard aa ower the lan an fowk rose up agin Hairmop. The Baron hid a dark haired servin winch ca’ed Lotta Baloney fa tried tae save face bi spikkin up fer him bit he thocht aabody faa wis agin him wis morons, eejits an ither sic naisty thingies.

He didna like King Eck the Fish noo cos the king winted tae bigg a fyow windmills close tae faar fowk wid be hittin the wee fite bas wi sticks. Nae jist aat, bit Pigsty Mike hid jist won a richt gweed award fer bein  Tap o the Scots.

The last fowk heard o Baron Hairmop wis he wis holed up in his tower back in his hameland.

Hummel Doddie an Lotta Baloney war still tryin tae mak oot the Baron hid gweed intinshuns,  bit even some o his serfs didna noo believe his fairy tales. The oor o midnicht wis weerin near.

Wid he turn intae a pumpkin? Nae  chunce cos he wis een aready.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Dec 062012
 

Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly today received documents from the First Minister’s office shedding light on ‘Webgate’ – the genesis of the failed bid to build a granite web over Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens. Kelly investigates.

Aberdeen’s Granite Web is history; it will not go ahead, and the city will not be borrowing £90 million towards its construction.

Alex Salmond’s personal interest in the project was well publicised when it emerged his office had intervened in the TiF (Tax incremental Funding) bid appraisal for pilot projects in Scotland.

The appraisals were undertaken by the Scottish Futures Trust, which had placed the Aberdeen proposal 10th in the list of projects to be recommended based on a variety of financial and technical criteria.

Salmond’s intervention, at the expense of projects from Renfrewshire, West Lothian, Ayrshire and Dumbartonshire, propelled the web into position to be one of the potential pilots.

Correspondence between First Minister Alex Salmond, Sir Ian Wood and ACSEF has been released to Aberdeen Voice today under a Freedom of Information request. These letters shed further light on Salmond’s relationship with Sir Ian, who had promised £50 million of his own money towards the controversial £140m+ project.

Far from allowing local governments sovereignty over their own affairs, Salmond has shown, by intervening in the appraisal process, that central government can and will over-ride expert advice. He and Nicola Sturgeon have since said any TiF application for Aberdeen must involve Union Terrace Gardens – another intervention without precedent.

Although TiF is a pilot here, as a fundraising method it is already losing fans in its country of origin, the USA, where it is proving unsuccessful in several states. How central government can insist that a brand new, untested means of borrowing money cannot be used by Aberdeen unless it sacrifices its common good land park for a project runs contrary to cries of ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’ used by the SNP to encourage a vote for independence.

But what of Salmond’s correspondence on the subject of the web?

From the letters received, it is clear ACSEF and Sir Ian had been lobbying Salmond and his government to support the web – clearly with success. A letter of August 2011 indicates that Nicola Surgeon had been in contact with Sir Ian about the project. Here are some extracts:

August 2011: Alex Salmond to Ian Wood

“Thank you for your letter of 28 July updating me on progress with the Aberdeen City Garden Project. Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the opportunity to discuss these issues with you when she visited Aberdeen at the beginning of August…

“In relation to the TIF funding application, we are in the process of identifying further projects which can be included in the TIF pilot scheme. I understand that Aberdeen City Council will submit an outline proposal to the Scottish Futures Trust this month in accordance with the process that has been agreed. We look forward to considering this further.”
See – https://aberdeenvoice.com/2012/11/salmond-to-wood-aug-2011/

It is clear Salmond has admiration for Wood; could this have coloured his judgement when he saw fit to intervene in the recommended TiF projects?

19 July 2012: Salmond to Wood

“I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Scottish Government to thank you for the considerable contribution you have made to both the oil and gas industry in Scotland and to Scottish public life…”

[note: this contribution had not included paying NI on Wood Group staff for a number of years; the payroll was moved offshore]

“Your involvement in Scottish Enterprise Grampian and your successful previous chairmanship of the Scottish Enterprise Board have set the bar for others to follow… I have enjoyed meeting with you over recent years and very much appreciated the enthusiasm and dedication which you have brought to the Wood Group, the industry and more widely to Scotland…”
See – https://aberdeenvoice.com/2012/11/salmond-to-wood-19-07-12/

[note – initially Scottish Enterprise were supporting Peacock Visual Arts’ own plans for premises in Union Terrace Gardens. It is not precisely clear at the time of writing how the Peacock bid lost SE’s support, which quite quickly turned to Sir Ian’s favoured City Garden Project instead].

Sir Ian returned the 19 July letter in part as follows:

01 August 2012: Wood to Salmond

“I have been particularly grateful for the support your Government have provided to the Aberdeen City Centre Regeneration Project which, as you know, I believe is vitally important for Aberdeen’s long-term economic future and wellbeing.

“The vote of Aberdeen City Council on 22nd August will be crucial, and if this is positive I will obviously allocate some of my time to support the development phase of this project in any way I can, and I know there will be an important role for Scottish Government to play in facilitating this. If the vote is negative, Wood Family Trust will have no choice but to withdraw their offer of funding.”
See  – https://aberdeenvoice.com/2012/11/wood-to-salmond-01-08-12/

The first part of the paragraph above begs the question: why did the government support the City Gardens Project at the expense of others on the table, several of which were given higher ratings by the Scottish Futures Trust? Concerning the potential withdrawal of the £50 million offer, there is some ambiguity.

A statement from Sir Ian indicated this money would be deployed to charitable work in Africa, a most laudable act, indeed. The nature of this charitable work may or may not be the same as a project described on the Wood Family Trust website, in which they seek to improve the business acumen of tea plantation operatives in Rwanda, a country only just recovering from civil war, an aids epidemic, widespread hunger and poverty.

A further letter shows evidence of yet more lobbying; this time by a private trust, signed jointly by Tom Smith (ACSEF and the Trust) and Ian Wood:

28 July 2012:  Aberdeen City Gardens Trust, ACSEF and Wood to Salmond

“The concept designs will be available to exhibit to the public late September with the public asked to indicate their views… with the winning concept design presented to  Aberdeen City Council to endorse.

“The current plan is that by mid-December the city council will be in a position to approve the TiF business case prior to it being submitted to the Scottish Futures Trust. It goes without saying that the Project will not proceed without TiF funding.

“We’d be very happy to discuss this with you further… We will also be seeking some further discussion with John Swinney…”
See – https://aberdeenvoice.com/2012/11/wood-smith-acgt-acsef-to-salmond-28-07-11/

The striking feature of this letter is that it indicates the city council is not in the driving seat. The council is expected not to debate or vote; it is expected to ‘endorse’ and ‘approve.’

The Aberdeen City Gardens Trust (ACGT) is a private entity set up to run the City Gardens Project that listed Tom Smith (also of ACSEF, and formerly Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of  Commerce) and Colin Crosby (A&GCoC) as its two directors. It is therefore of further interest to note that in this letter of 28 July 2011, ACGT lobbies Salmond with praise for the scheme and seeks further meetings with both Salmond and Sturgeon.

ACSEF is paid for by the city and by extension the public, and the public were very much split on whether or not this project and its associated, high-level financing were acceptable. Precisely how ethical it was for a publicly funded body like ACSEF to forward a scheme favoured by its private sector members and also to expect the city to endorse its recommendations is unclear.

Sir Ian Wood, signatory on the ACGT letter, apparently had no official connection to ACGT (Companies House lists three directors of this trust). There seems to have been no tendering process for the ACGT to be handed a management role over the garden project uncontested and unelected.

If Ian Wood had influence over the ACGT as the letter indicates, as well as influence over the project via the Wood Family Trust, his influence over the project arguably would have outweighed that of the council. 

Remembering that the land in question is common good land, not to be changed in usage per its ancient grant, the thin edge of the web towards privatisation is a worrying precedent.

The contents of these letters raise serious questions about the continued future of ACSEF, and the genesis and advancement of the Aberdeen City Gardens Trust as the proposed management body/special purpose vehicle for the scheme. Aberdeen City Council should reappraise ACSEF’s future, and at least ensure that ACSEF is not dictating policy going forward.

The most concerning issue emerging from these letters, however, is how the First Minister and his cabinet members were lobbied successfully and elevated a scheme from an Aberdeen billionaire above more fiscally credible schemes from other parts of Scotland.

Aberdeen Voice is pleased to offer readers the opportunity to read these letters, giving an important insight into this recent chapter of local history. While the Granite Web is truly consigned to the dustbin, the actions of those in positions of power who tried to foist the scheme on the public are still very much with us.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Nov 092012
 

By Bob Smith.

A stairted tae believe in miracles
Fin a heard BBC2 wis tae play
The brilliant film “You’ve been Trumped”
On TV screens aa ower theUK
.
Fae Lerwick doon tae Plymouth Ho
Gweed fowk wid learn the facts
Aboot fit wis gyaan on at Menie
Aboot aa the undemocratic acts
.
Noo Trumpie he wint apoplectic
Ca’in puir Anthony Baxter a fool
An demandin that the BBC
Fae screens the film they pull
.
The BBC  billies said  on yer bike
Iss documentary is award winnin
We’ve nae intention  ma chiel
O iss film tae be binnin
.
Efter the screenin on the box
The shit it fair hit the fan
Wi fowk aa noo demandin
The Donald he leave oor lan
Excuses fae oor First Meenister
Sayin the film wis only ae view
Aye, een a doot ma mannie
Fit wis mair factual an true
.
True tae form the “Trump Gazette”
Plus it’s sister the “Evening Distress”
Did throwe their TV review columns
Try ti help Trumpie oot the mess
.
Bit we aa kent fitwisfit
The film it  fair blew a hole
Throwe aa the Trump propaganda
In local papers we’ve hid tae thole
.
Wull Trump cairry oot his threat
Tae sue ilka bugger he disna like?
Awa an bile yer heid min
An yer lackies can tak a hike
.
.
.
.
Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012
  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.

 

 

 

Oct 112012
 

By Bob Smith.

Trumpie he wid like tae bigg
The greatest hotel Scotland’s seen
Bit nae if they pit a winfairm
In the bey north o Aiberdeen

The mannie noo hid a rant
Agin the billies fae the M O D
Fer withdrawin their objections
Like the fowk in the RSPB

The Donald’s geen ower far
He’s  jist fair becum  a joke
Sayin thoosans o birds’ll be killed
If winfairm plans they invoke

The chiel’s ramblins cairrit on
Misca’in First Meenister “Eck”
The Donald wid like it fine
If oor Ackie got the seck

Ceest yer myn back a fyle
Dr Kennedy he didna agree
Ti award Mr Trump sic a thing
As an RGU honorary degree

Dr David wis maist affa sure
Trump wisna fit fer iss award
An the former RGU principal
Thocht Trumpie a business cyaard

So Donald min jist pack yer bags
Ye’ve fair geen ower the score
The gweed fowk o the north east
Jist fin ye a lood mou’d bore

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie”2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 122012
 

Voice’s Old Susannah comments on current events and enlightens us with definitions of some tricky terms with a locally topical taste. By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho!  I will start by apologising for a recent column; I clearly misread the signs and got carried away.  Specifically, you don’t need to worry quite so much about wearing sunscreen as I’d suggested.  I also advised to make sure your pets had enough water – well, I think we’ve all had enough water by now.

Moving swiftly along, two art exhibitions are worthy of mention this week.  The House of Annie Lennox exhibition at the Aberdeen Art Gallery opened with a bang.  Ms Lennox was in town and a party and a press launch for the show were held.

Alas I did not get to the party, but it was a treat to have early access to the exhibition.  The show is considerably expanded, and the early mementos and images from her childhood in Aberdeen show the roots of her talents and personality.

More homegrown talent is on display (albeit in Forfar) with artist Anna Geerdes’ exhibition ‘No Place’.  Anna is from the Netherlands, lives in Torry, and studied at Grays School of Art.  Her work explores questions of boundaries and landscapes; she’s had paintings in the Royal Academy of Art in Edinburgh, and I wish her all the best with this exceptional show on until 28 July.
http://www.angus.gov.uk/history/museums/meffan/exhibitions-2012-NoPlace.htm )

Looking out over foggy Aberdeen over the last few weeks (well, some days you couldn’t look very far for the haar) I peer through the mists and am reminded of the old film Brigadoon.  This fantasy version of Scotland was so old fashioned!  A bunch of tartan-clad, happy villagers in a town hidden by mist – really!

Thankfully, Hollywood has ceased any stereotyping.  That’s why Pixar’s Brave’ is so much a hit, that we are helping to promote it and its vision of Scotland.  Its far more realistic version of Scotland features tartan-clad, happy villagers dealing with witches and banshees.   Result!

Rather than definitions from our government and its great initiatives, here is a look at  some Hollywood films set amid the heather of Scotland.

Brigadoon: (proper noun; English) Movie/musical love story set in Scottish Highlands.

The tale of Brigadoon centres on a mythical Scottish town, Brigadoon.  The story opens with American tourists getting lost in the foggy weather – kind of like this past fortnight.  They had been in the countryside to engage in the perfectly legitimate, lucrative tourist occupation of culling invasive species, (ie,  hunting).

  In times past, Brigadoon was beset by evil forces.

The pair sing the memorable songs  ‘no heather on the hill’ and ‘ A forestry-managing we will go’ as they look for deer to cull, carefully hanging warning signs all around them according to their risk assessment document.

The hunters discover the beautiful town of Brigadoon, with its rolling fields, sparkling granite and beautiful development opportunities.   Brigadoon only appears out of the mists once every hundred years.  In times past, Brigadoon was beset by evil forces.

Developers threatened to turn the fields to cheap houses and transform the market square into an iconic TIF project, and put wind turbines o’er land and sea.  So the local minister prayed, and magically Brigadoon was saved from over-development, urban sprawl  and unwanted forestry schemes by being hidden in time, only to appear once every 100 years (about as often as the No. 23 bus).

The villagers prepare for an upcoming wedding; the bridegroom sings ‘Go Home With Bonnie Jeannie’ , and the villagers all reply with a chorus of ‘Go Home, Ho Malone’.    One of the Americans falls in love with the range of development opportunities on offer, and the locals sing a chorus of ‘Scotland’s open for Business,’ and ‘Smart, Successful Scotland.’  He returns to the land of his granny (near enough) and opens a golf course.  Brigadoon is never seen again.

Braveheart(proper noun; English) A documentary film made by Mel Gibson on the life of William Wallace.

This popular historic recreation has proven to the world that Scotland must be independent from England; it’s what Wallace would have wanted if he were here today.

These days some segments of the press are comparing Alex Salmond to Wallace for his unswerving moral code, his desire to uphold the rights of the common man against the wealthy and powerful, for painting his face with woad and going to battle for Scottish independence.

Apparently the referendum will be scheduled near the anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn , where Wallace saw the English off.  Salmond bravely rode into battle against Donald of Trump; he and his two merry administration men sailed to far, far New York.  Armed only with taxpayer money (about £6,300), Salmond and Trump engaged in combat at the Battle of Le Perigord (one of Manhattan’s most expensive restaurants).

I guess Salmond didn’t want to see anything that would discredit the great windfarm expert Trump

Both sides claim victory.  Salmond said windfarms were never discussed; Trump says Salmond promised no windfarms near the new Trump resort. Trump won a great victory over the moving sand dunes to tame this corner of Scotland, creating the world’s greatest golf course.

Alex Salmond is, however, not quite brave-hearted enough to watch the film ‘You’ve been trumped!’ .  He has declined several invitations to view it now, including its showing at Holyrood.

I guess Salmond didn’t want to see anything that would discredit the great windfarm expert Trump, whose address at Holyrood will go down in history for its grasp of science, economics and environmental concerns.  Or something.  This film has disturbing scenes of people being critical of The Donald and his flunkies, which some viewers might find upsetting.  The two documentary makers show Trump’s effects on the Scottish landscape and residents, as he changes nature to his own designs.

Some of these unappreciative locals selfishly refused to sell their homes to Trump and even complained when Trump’s minions  accidentally cut their water off and damaged their property.  The filmmakers were quite rightly arrested, and should have been hung, drawn and quartered for embarrassing Trump and Salmond with this film.

It is understood that any day now The Donald will create millions of jobs – cleaners, porters, dishwashers and maids wanted.

Alex Salmond, like Wallace, understands the importance of seeing what assistance foreign powers can bring to the struggle for Scotland’s independence. This is why Salmond allied himself with the great Rupert of Murdoch.  Alex  pledged his allegiance to Murdoch and apparently did all he could to help with the BskyB merger, and exchanged several messages with (soon to be former) culture secretary of the hated English, Jeremy Hunt.

This was apparently done to get the Murdoch empire to support the SNP.  Like Wallace, Salmond has been summoned to England to face his enemies at the Leveson enquiry, where he was asked to explain a few things.  For some reason Mr Murdoch said he could not remember anything about this matter.  Let’s hope Rupert’s memory improves sometime soon.

Freedom!

Brave: (proper noun; English) Animated tale of the real Scotland of ages past, complete with happy tartan-clad villagers, a princess and a witch or two.  Apparently soon to be part of the SQA curriculum for Scottish History.

Some years back, the Government and Scottish Enterprise were keen to tell the world that it was wrong to stereotype Scotland as the land of tartan, whisky, castles and sheep.  Times have changed.

According to News Net Scotland, here’s what they’re saying about ‘Brave’:-

“First Minister Alex Salmond said the movie presented a huge opportunity to promote Scotland and said: “This will present us with an immense opportunity when Scotland will be centre stage in the film with all the tourism and business opportunities this will bring.  I fully expect that as the film launches across the world, so will awareness of Scotland increase.  Brave will be the most high-profile film ever set in, and themed around, Scotland, featuring Scottish stars.”

VisitScotland chairman Mike Cantlay said:

“When better than in the Year of Creative Scotland, and where better than right here on Scottish soil, to launch Brave for the first time in Europe? 

“The film will showcase the scenery, humour and culture of Scotland, and we are looking forward to converting cinema-goers into visitors.”

  Why go and see this film, when for a mere £150 or so you can have a round of golf at Trump’s newest venture?

So there you have it – the first minister says that the most high-profile film ever set in Scotland is a cartoon with witches, banshees (no offence Aileen, Kate and Jennifer)  and castles.  Visit Scotland (which is now working with Disney to promote the film) says the film showcases the ‘scenery’ and ‘culture’ of Scotland.  We can at least look back on this film when Aberdeen is choked by housing developments to the loss of any green fields.

So bring on the new independent Scotland, battles in kilts and some witchcraft – that will put any old stereotypes to rest.

Local Hero: (proper noun) Award-winning cult film in which environmental concerns take precedence over greed.

This fantasy film depicts a Scotland which is ‘closed for business’ and as such should not be screened.  Worse still, it foreshadows  a very dubious film indeed…

you’ve been trumped: (proper noun) Multi-award-winning documentary depicting Donald Trump’s  quest for the world’s greatest golfcourse – whatever the cost.

Result!  The galaxy’s greatest golfcourse opened this week!  Why go and see this film, when for a mere £150 or so you can have a round of golf at Trump’s newest venture?

Old Susannah suggests that you might want to see this film yourself when it returns (in a newly edited version with extra footage) to the Belmont Cinema this week.  Saturday will see Baxter and many Menie residents come along (1:15 and 6:00 showings as well as 11:00 am). Details at http://www.picturehouses.co.uk/cinema/Belmont_Picturehouse/film/Youve_Been_Trumped/

Hope to see you there, so you can judge for yourself who is in the right:  an honest American tycoon trying to make an honest pound, or the area residents, mainstream Scottish media, and little-known documentary maker, Michael Moore.

Quotes:

“I heard it was boring.  I heard it wasn’t good.”
— Donald J. Trump (Property Developer)

“Factually challenged”
— George Sorial  (Trump spokesperson)

“I didn’t think I could be shocked by the abuses money and power can inflict on ordinary people, but Anthony Baxter, with a calm but steely determination, exposes the way a ruthless, greedy thug can corrupt the state, the police, the media and academia. …When a handful of decent Scottish people try to defend their homes and their environment from destruction, the angry billionaire seeks to crush them.  For showing us the reality of this “development”, Baxter is intimidated, harassed and bullied. But he succeeds in giving us a film as magnificent as the landscape he tries to save, and as warm and principled as the people who live in it.”
— Jeremy Hardy, BBC

“An amazing film….Director Anthony Baxter throws a spotlight on the contemptuous way in which Trump deals with the residents.  But most controversial of all is the way in which the potential environmental damage caused by the development has been disregarded because of the perceived benefits to the local economy.”
— Bob Ward, The Guardian

 “This is a real eye opener of a film, and a cracking piece of filmmaking from Baxter, who uses his own nous, nerve and a few judicious clips from Local Hero besides, to make a compelling case. See it and decide for yourself who are the real Brave Hearts in this tale.”
— Glasgow Herald

“A quietly angry and important film that will inspire plenty of ire in anyone frustrated by the way money and power frequently crushes anything in its path.”
— The Scotsman

“Rogue filmmaker Anthony Baxter entered the front lines of the fight against the developers to capture the outrage of the locals, who stood tall against bulldozers even as their own police force aided Trump’s henchmen in protecting his project.  This shocking investigative film aims to hold Trump—and anyone else who puts personal gain ahead of the environment—accountable for their actions as it documents a protest that still wages on.”
— Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival (Winner, Special Jury Prize)

See you in the funny pictures.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.

 

 

 

Apr 062012
 

If you are of the opinion that the City Garden Project controversy was all about what flavour of city centre park Aberdeen should have – think again. There seems to have been a much bigger picture involved here, and the politics are murky.  Mike Shepherd writes.

The power of the print media in shaping opinion

The public referendum has been held, and the City Garden Project won by the smallest of margins: 52-48%. Feelings are still poisonous in the city, as it is clear that a marginal result was swung by dubious means.

On the City Garden Project side, unregistered groups spent a disproportionately large sum of money on campaign material, whereas the officially registered groups were restricted to spending about £8,000 only.

Some of the claims made by supporters of the City Garden Project were outrageous and substantially misleading. One newspaper advert is now being investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Even Aberdeen Council were responsible for punting a justification for the City Garden Project with the questionable claim that a new park could create 6,500 new jobs in the city.

The local papers showed a bias in favour of Sir Ian Wood’s project and framed their reports to show one side in a much better light than the other (“Yes, vote for change” or “No, don’t vote for change”). Ludicrous claims were accepted uncritically – such as oil companies leaving Aberdeen if the scheme did not go ahead.

I had been advised by an expert that:

 “Newspapers are very powerful at shaping public opinion”

and:

 “You will need the support of a PR company during the campaign.”

It was very good advice, but in practice not something that a campaign group of limited influence and funds could realistically put in place. Yet, it was clear from canvassing in the street that the combined effort of relentless advertising, the glossy brochures and the press bias was having an effect.
Whereas many would stop and give me a considered analysis of how they would vote, a large minority were reflecting City Garden propaganda back at me, phrases recognizable from glossy brochures or Evening Express headlines.

Our society today is witnessing a battle between democracy and political lobbyists / PR companies. Out of this, democracy is not doing that well. It’s a shock to see this writ large in Aberdeen, but at least the Gardens Referendum result has made this crystal clear to any thinking person in the city.

Local politics

After two years of campaigning to keep the Gardens, I have been able to observe how local politics works. It is clear that the current council administration is very business friendly and they will tend to make decisions that primarily favour business interests. At just about every council meeting you will hear the phrase “Aberdeen is open for business.”

Local democracy commonly involves a conflict between what business wants and what is in the interests of the general public. For example, if Aberdeen Airport is allowed to land flights at night, Dyce residents will get woken up by the noise. The conflict between business and public interests came to the fore after the consultation on Sir Ian Wood’s scheme two years ago. Over 50 local businessmen wrote to the council asking for the result to be ignored:

‘due to misunderstanding of the project among the public’

and an ‘inability’ to appreciate its impact. The council – to their shame – did this. The current Council administration (an SNP / Lib Dem coalition) appears to favour business almost every time.

There are a number of reasons why business gets its own way with the council. Many councillors are instinctively business friendly and will tend to support projects that are favoured by local commercial interests. This is certainly true of the Conservatives on the council and of many councillors from the other parties too.

There is also a powerful business lobby. Businessmen make up two thirds of the Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Forum (ACSEF), a “public-private partnership that drives economic development in the region”. Funded by both Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils, ACSEF is a non-elected body that have been given a significant degree of control over local economic policy. There is no doubt that ACSEF exerts power and influence over the activities of both councils.

  advanced societies work by a system of checks and balances between moneyed interests and the public regard

ACSEF were involved with the City Garden Project in the early days and described it as one of their flagship projects. Two of the board members, including the Chairman Tom Smith, are directors of the Aberdeen City Garden Trust, the group that organised the architectural competition and who hope to take the project forward to completion.

Extensive networking appears to go on amongst the “great and the good”. Politicians, local businessmen, council officials and senior figures in local organisations turn up and meet at parties, functions, charity events and business meetings. One Freedom of Information request gives an indication of how much hospitality is provided to council officials for instance:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/76531/response/199821

To the worldly wise, this will not come as a surprise. However, advanced societies work by a system of checks and balances between moneyed interests and the public regard. This does not appear to be working too well in Aberdeen.

The SNP and the City Garden Project

The SNP have been intimately involved with the City Garden Project since its inception. Alex Salmond was present at the project launch  in 2008.
http://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/Article.aspx/933616

But only recently have both Alex Salmond and Callum McCaig, the SNP leader in the council, explicitly endorsed the City Garden Project.

Yet, the majority of SNP councillors have supported it throughout (the notable exception being Clr. Muriel Jaffray). This is clear from the voting records every time the project has come up for debate in the Council. The SNP support has been instrumental for the progress of the City Garden Project through successive council votes.

  Major businessmen such as David Murray, Brian Souter, Jim McColl and Martin Gilbert have now endorsed the SNP.

The SNP have a reputation for populist politics and it may seem surprising that they have embraced such a controversial project for the city. I believe that there is a much bigger picture here, and one that takes precedent over local politics. The SNP are essentially a single-issue party; they want independence for Scotland. The realpolitik of the SNP is that much of what they do is focussed towards this end.

A key aim for the SNP has been to secure the support of major business figures in Scotland. This is partly financial; the party has no natural source of funds apart from membership fees, but they are also trying to secure influence leading up to and beyond any independence date. Major businessmen such as David Murray, Brian Souter, Jim McColl and Martin Gilbert have now endorsed the SNP.

Sir Brian Souter, founder of the bus company Stagecoach, caused controversy when he donated £500,000 to the SNP in 2007. Shortly afterwards, the SNP dropped an election commitment to bus re-regulation, although they denied that there was any connection to Sir Brian Souter’s donation.

Sir Ian Wood has not given open support to the SNP, yet the SNP continue to court the billionaire’s favour. Not only has Alex Salmond given his own backing to the City Garden Project, the machinery of Government has also been used to bankroll the scheme.

Scottish Enterprise funded the public consultation two years ago and also allowed grant money to be used for the technical feasibility study. Although the public rejected Sir Ian Wood’s project in the consultation, it didn’t stop Scottish Enterprise from giving Aberdeen City Garden Trust £375,000 of public money from its available funds for major infrastructure projects.

Another niggly problem has been the concerns of Audit Scotland

The Scottish Government are keen to provide investment money for the project through TIF funding. Yet it has been established that the initial proposal did not rank very highly by comparison to other investment and infrastructure projects elsewhere in Scotland.

The Scottish Futures Trust, who carried out the ranking, has refused to make their calculations public in spite of Freedom of Information requests to do so. Another niggly problem has been the concerns of Audit Scotland, who have questioned the long term capability of the indebted Aberdeen Council to pay back a risky loan for the project.

The proposed use of valuable investment and infrastructure funds for something as trivial as building a new park is shocking. The business case is dubious and the council can’t afford the risk. Political considerations seem to have taken precedence to a strict business evaluation on the Aberdeen TIF case.

Sir Ian Wood discussed independence recently and gave an indication of what he wants from the Scottish Government:

“The Wood Group will not endorse a Yes or No vote on independence. But Sir Ian added: “What’s key is the extent to which our clients, and to some extent ourselves, anticipate that a Scottish Government would continue with a similar oil and gas policy to the UK.

“The suggestion right now, from the discussions I’ve heard, is that there’s a lot of overlap between the present Scottish Government’s thinking on the development of the oil and gas industry and the UK government’s thinking.”

He went on:

 “What’s important – and I think the First Minister realises this – is that they must provide as much clarity as possible over the next two years towards the vote in 2014, so that we minimise the uncertainty.”
http://www.scotsman.com/captains-of-industry-and-finance-join-clamour-for-clarity

I have no doubt that this will happen.

The SNP are hoping to secure a majority at the council elections on May 3rd. This is possible, but as a one-issue party they tend to do better in national elections than local elections. They are also heavily identified with the Union Terrace Gardens issue and this appeared to have cost them votes in the Scottish elections last year.
https://aberdeenvoice.com/2011/05/the-election-the-utg-effect/

If they do not get a majority, this raises the intriguing possibility of an administration run by a Labour-SNP coalition. The Lib-Dems are likely to see their vote collapse outside the West End of the city. The Labour group are vehemently opposed to the City Garden Project and it could be that a condition for agreeing to form a coalition is that the scheme is dropped.

The “Union” in Union Terrace Gardens refers to the union of the United Kingdom and Ireland in 1800. Perhaps it is ironic that the park has ostensibly become a pawn in the big game of Scottish independence. It would be immensely sad if this was the case. Aberdeen’s heritage could end up sacrificed for the sake of political wheeling and dealing.

This would not bode well for a future Scotland. As Paul Scofield, playing Thomas More, said in A Man For All Seasons:

“I think that when statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties, they lead their country by a short route to chaos.”

Mar 012012
 

Why is Donald Trump still a GlobalScot? asks Andy Wightman as he examines the Trumps’ current anti-wind energy stance and the aims and rules of GlobalScot status.

Donald Trump Jr arrived in Scotland on 28th February to further his father’s campaign against wind energy in Scotland.
His father has claimed in a letter to Alex Salmond that “foreign energy companies will destroy your country and economy” and that Mr Salmond “will single-handedly have done more damage to Scotland than virtually any event in Scottish history.”

 He goes on to say: 

“I have authorised my staff to allocate a substantial amount of money to launch an international campaign to fight your plan to surround Scotland’s coast with many thousands of wind turbines.”

One report suggests that he has allocated £10m to the campaign.

Mr Trump has also threatened to bring a lawsuit against the Scottish Government which would, he argues, delay the proposed European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre off the Aberdeenshire coast, and against which he has railed previously.

Now, renewable energy forms a major part of the Scottish Government’s economic strategy – as outlined in their Routemap for Renewable Energy in Scotland. Trump Sr has stated quite clearly that he intends to do all he can to frustrate this through an international multi-million pound campaign and by legal actions designed to delay an important experimental project. Trump Jr has arrived to carry out his father’s instructions and oversee the beginnings of this onslaught.

All of which is rather interesting in the context of a Scottish Government initiative to encourage international entrepreneurs’ support for Scotland’s economic future.

The GlobalScot network is a project of Scottish Development International (SDI) consisting of 746:

“successful executives located throughout the world. GlobalScots all have strong connections with Scotland. Each of them has a strong desire to see Scotland succeed in the global business arena”.

Currently, SDI is:

“not looking to grow the membership significantly – however we are currently looking to identify prospective members in the following sectors”. 

This list includes Renewable Energy, Offshore Wind, and Marine Energy.

No prizes for guessing what Ian Wood, Donald Trump, Stewart Milne, Brian Soutar and George Sorial have in common. Correct. They are all GlobalScots.

In April 2006, First Minister Jack McConnell invited Donald Trump Sr to become a GlobalScot. Donald Trump accepted the personal invitation and Mr McConnell stated:

“Donald has shown me a real passion for Scotland. He is a globally recognised figure who can help us to promote Scotland. I am delighted that he has taken up my offer. This is a good bit of business for all concerned.”

Membership of GlobalScot is: 

“by invitation only, personal and non-transferable.”

The published full list of members is interesting in that Trump Sr is not on the list. Has he resigned? However, Trump Jr is named. When was he invited? Surely he didn’t take over from his dad – as membership is non-transferable?

And where did George Sorial come from? Who invited him?

In Jack McConnell’s letter of invitation to Trump Sr, he wrote:

“I should welcome your participation in the GlobalScot programme because I believe that your experience, knowledge and skills can make a tangible impact on our economic development efforts.”

Which brings me to conclude with the title of this piece.

Why is Donald Trump still a GlobalScot?

Given that both Donald Trumps are funding an international campaign against Scotland’s economic interests and threatening lawsuits to frustrate important projects, it is surely inconceivable that Scottish Development International will now retain Trump as a member.

If they do not act, then the First Minister should, without delay, instruct SDI to withdraw Donald Trump’s and George Sorial’s membership of the GlobalScot network.

Feb 172012
 

Old Susannah looks at the Granite Web, and the impressive effort it has taken to spin.

By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho! Yet another vibrant and dynamic week in the Granite Web City.  Whilst Friends of Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen against Austerity, and Democracy Watch engaged in some inexpensive grassroots campaigning by flyer, the mysterious Vote for the CGP group pulled out all the stops and spent, spent, spent.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Northsound is playing City Garden Project commercials non-stop. The Art Gallery has a swish new display showing the Garden plan in its Alice-in-Wonderland perspective and garish colours, and issues of The Granite Web compete in the ugly stakes with the A3 VFTCGP colour flyer sent out before.

News reaches Old Susannah that visitors to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary are being cheered up no end by pro-City Garden Project posters on the walls. There is no escape at work either, as employees of Wood Group (no surprise really), Nautronix, and Taqa all seem to have received lovely e-mails from bosses hinting gently that they should vote for the CGP.

I do find it very touching that employers are looking after their employees so well and giving gentle guidance which puts no pressure on them at all.

Why do I call the VFTCGP members secret? Because I was told in so many words by the BIG Partnership, which does PR for this group and, coincidentally, the artwork for the CGP, that “if the members want to stay secret, it’s up to them.”

But before I return to my Myth-busting busting activities started last week – I only got through the first four of the ten Myths the CGP team say we’re suffering from – condolences to Rangers fans.

Was this one of the top Scottish clubs? Yes.

Will this leave a massive hole in Scottish football? Yes.

Will other sides face similar financial clubs? Looks like it.

I believe one tycoon is still paying some £60,000 of his own money each time his team plays. I do hope this mogul is not getting overly financially stretched. I’d again ask the question if Loirston Loch land – in a Special Area of Conservation – should really be turned into a 21,000 seat football ground with offices and museum in this climate.

  Donald’s granny was Scottish. This gives him good cause to call Alex Salmond ‘insane’

Well, I would ask, but the continuous concrete covering of anything green in Aberdeen seems unstoppable. Thankfully, we all have one tireless, gentle campaigner who is not giving up the fight for ‘Scotland’s heritage’. Step forward, Mr Donald Trump.

You might have seen one or two small news items saying that this gentle giant wants to build the galaxy’s greatest golf course on a no-doubt-underused stretch of coastline. He’s got rid of many of the view-blocking trees, but there are horrible plans to build windfarms offshore which could actually be seen by his guests, if you can believe that!

Now, windfarms don’t actually work very efficiently yet. The technology can, and should improve. But I guess we’re all agreed there are few things in life worse than being a rich golfer who might have to look at an offshore wind farm. For those people in favour of this kind of blot on the seascape, I would remind you that you’re forgetting something very important.

Donald’s granny was Scottish. This gives him good cause to call Alex Salmond ‘insane’ for supporting renewable energy. Please try to keep that in mind, thank you.

Finally, it might have been Valentine’s Day this week, but it looks like the May to December romance between Callum McCaig and Aileen ‘Ho’Malone is over. One of them is an over-blown, over-hyped, over-rated, naïve, headline-seeking soul, blissfully unaware that they are dangerously out of their depth. The other is Callum McCaig.

No more will they share a coalition; there will be no more romps on Tullos Hill; there will be no more late-night negotiations. Maybe yet the SNP will change its tune over the ridiculous cull of deer to plant trees that cannot possibly grow on Tullos Hill. Watch this space.

  the taxpayers’ side of this great granite garden bargain is to borrow £92m and pay the loan, and its interest, back over decades.

There is certainly a current in that direction, not least fuelled by public anger and the wasting of some £43,800 to date. Still, a break-up is hard to take. Final confirmation of this great bust-up comes in newspaper stories announcing that the coalition is still absolutely fine. I am thinking of offering my condolences to Mrs Robinson, sorry, I mean Aileen.

I’m still thinking on it. PS. Message to Irene – feel better soon!

And now back to debunking the debunking of the Myths. The City Garden Project seems to be the only entity that’s been presented with these Myths, and I commented on the first four last week. Here are a few choice words on the remaining five Myths. Thank you CGP for printing these not-at-all-wild and not-at-all-made-up Myths – we’re all really onside now. Their comments are in bold. Old Susannah’s are in regular type

5. It will cost the taxpayer millions of pounds – FALSE.

Sure. All this happens for free, and you’ve not paid a penny, and you won’t pay a penny. I wonder if the CGP forgot about the £422,000, or probably more, of taxpayers’ money Scottish Enterprise has already spent on this project? And, no doubt, our CGP friends don’t think it matters that some of your city councillors voted to set aside up to £300,000 of your money for legal costs.

Old Susannah is still mulling that one over. A billionaire is ‘giving’ Aberdeen £50m, but there isn’t enough money on his side of the fence to pay the legal costs the city will incur? So, rather than getting granny a new wheelchair, or providing 24/7 care at homes which have just announced cuts etc etc, Wood wants your £300,000. But this £722,000, nearly quarter of a million pounds, is small change.  we’re going to chop down existing, healthy trees, thus getting rid of wildlife that’s called the trees home for decades, if not centuries

Multiply that figure by ten and you get close to the amount of interest on the loan Aberdeen City Council has to sign for this project to go ahead, according to one of last night’s radio show speakers. Thanks to Original FM (on 105FM) for hosting last night’s debate. Anyway, the taxpayers’ side of this great granite garden bargain is to borrow £92m and pay the loan, and its interest, back over decades.

If the 6500 new jobs don’t come in and we don’t make £122m each year (I can’t wait to see how this happens), if we go over budget, if anything goes wrong – then it will cost us an unknown additional amount of money in repayments. The trams fiasco has reached a cost of nearly one billion pounds.

But this won’t cost you a cent. Honest, guv.

6. Fake, plastic trees – FALSE.

It’s a great Radiohead song but a lousy Myth. It has been suggested that fake plastic trees will be planted in the City Gardens to act as vents for the giant car park underneath. If any fake trees are seen they will be beside the flying pigs. 186 new trees will be planted, some of them mature and many will be Scots Pines.

Old Susannah doesn’t know where to start with this alleged Myth. She does find it reassuring to find that a job in public relations entails so much creative writing talent. I know of no-one who’s heard of plastic trees being part of the plan. However, if we’re building underground, then we’ll need plants with very tiny root systems. Goodbye 250-year old elm trees, one of only a few surviving clusters of elms free from disease, and home to wildlife. In comes progress. Who needs fresh air, wildlife, shade and beauty when you can have ramps?

   we’re going to chop down existing, healthy trees, thus getting rid of wildlife that’s called the trees home for decades, if not centuries

My favourite bit is the announcement that the trees stay in the Gardens forever, as wood chip and seating. Well, you can’t say that’s not sensitive to nature. Still, the BIG Partnership’s student placement has managed to make a meal of a non-existent plastic tree myth. Perhaps someone will explain how mature trees are going to be magically planted in the new Gardens?

Where will their roots go, as there is meant to be underground parking? How do we get to have a thriving pine forest in the city centre – something that doesn’t seem possible according to experts including local architects?

If Old Susannah has this right, we’re going to chop down existing, healthy trees, thus getting rid of wildlife that’s called the trees home for decades, if not centuries, plant some new trees, and have the world’s only pine forest in a city centre.

The pines must grow faster than genetically-modified Leylandii hedges if the drawings I’ve seen are correct, and of course, no-one can fault the accuracy of these precision drawings. I like the giant transparent child romping over the flowerbeds best. So, replacing grass and trees with grass, concrete and trees can be done for only £92m. RESULT!

7. It will cost people their jobs – FALSE.

As a result of the project a projected 6500 new jobs are to be created, not taking into account the hundreds of jobs that will come as a result of the construction. In addition, a transformed city centre will breathe new life across the city, helping us become a World Energy City long after oil and gas has run dry in the North Sea. Existing businesses will be retained meaning existing jobs will be safe-guarded.

These 6500 jobs are going to be wonderful! What will they be? Well, for openers we’ve seen how well Union Square has protected high street businesses. Our small high street shops are struggling whilst multinationals got a cheap rent deal in Union Square. But clearly what we need is….more shops. Surely there is nothing we’d rather do than shop, and you can’t have enough shops can you? It’s not as if a glut of shops will ever result in shop closures, price wars and endless sales, especially ‘Going out of business’ sales.

I wonder if there is any reason that a cafe culture has never really taken off in Aberdeen? Could it be that it’s often too cold, too windy or too rainy? Could it be because the City Council consistently refused to allow anyone to run a snack bar or coffee kiosk in the shelter of Union Terrace Gardens? Clearly not. One wave of the granite wand, and just like those convincing concept drawings, we’ll all be sitting outdoors in short-sleeved shirts, drinking decaf mocha lattes while Toto play on the brand new stage, in front of the existing indoor theatre.

Right. The taxpayer is propping up the AECC with extra money since it can’t make enough by holding events. Same for the Lemon Tree. But the new theatre won’t have any problems making a massive profit and creating loads of jobs.

 So, ‘how many theatres should a taxpayer prop up?’ is one question.

I for one can’t wait to sit through an outdoor electronic folk music competition in February. But, by winter, this theatre will be an ice rink, thereby competing with the ice rink the city tried to kill off before.

But no, there won’t be any harm to jobs. We’ll need people to cut down the trees and get rid of the wildlife. Then there will be jobs cleaning the graffiti off the Web. Yes, the Web will create more permanent jobs in small Aberdeen than the 2012 Olympics will create in Greater London. Rest as assured as I am on that point.

8. It will be entirely made from concrete – FALSE.

Obviously concrete will be used – would you like to relax, visit an exhibition or attend a concert on top of a cardboard box? The project has been carefully designed so there will be 95% more open, green space with a series of pathways providing access for people through, across and in and out of the gardens. These paths will be made of granite, crushed granite and wood.

By now, Old Susannah is finding the content of the dispelled Myths by BIG just a little bit patronising and smarmy. They thought they had to talk us out of believing in plastic trees. Now they explain that we need to sit on something more robust than a cardboard box. Thanks for that! Appreciated.

So, ‘how many theatres should a taxpayer prop up?’ is one question. ‘How many competing businesses should Scottish Enterprise suggest?’ is quite another. They used to have rules on displacement and suchlike, but these seem to have gone, probably about the same time as your employer started to tell you how to vote.

This project has been carefully designed. Of course it has. More green space, but somehow it manages to have a giant concrete, sorry, granite theatre which takes up some 15% minimum of the existing Gardens. They count the giant granite potato-crisp shaped thingy over the stage as green space.

 what if the architects were to give us some drawings showing how these ramps will work safely now rather than later?

Of course it won’t sustain any wildlife, and at best will be a thin wedge of sod over concrete, but if they want to call it green space, fine.

I guess these people call anything green space if they can colour it green with Crayolas on their paper plan.

Looking at the slope of the ramps both up and downwards, I’m wondering how the aged, infirm or wheelchair-bound are going to find this system easier than the current access. The current access could use an additional ramp and you could probably do this for less than £92m as well. For the truly baffled, there is ground level access on the north side, not far from the theatre. This is where vehicles somehow manage to get in.

Clearly there is no other way to ‘relax and visit an exhibition or attend a concert in this town.’ Let’s borrow £92 million and build this beauty.

9. There will be no railings in the Granite Web, people will fall from the paths – FALSE.

Safety will be paramount. The concept design shows the various walkways at different levels but the final design will show how these work safely. And, seriously, do you think any development in a country obsessed with health and safety would get off the ground without proper safety measures?

Our PR work placement is patronising us again. I might be old, but here’s a crazy idea – what if the architects were to give us some drawings showing how these ramps will work safely now rather than later? Are they going to be enclosed, and of course, not at all potential rat traps? Are they going to have fencing that somehow won’t look like Stalag 17? How will wheelchair users go up and down these steep ramps? Details, details.

Well, Old Susannah has run out of space for one week. We will return to normal definitions next week, and take a closer look at who is behind ‘Vote for the City Garden Project’. You will, of course, want to know what businesses are in this group, to make sure you can reward them with your custom. Or not.

Finally, many thanks to those brave business people who have stuck out their necks in favour of saving our city’s only unique, free, green garden.

That’s you, J Milne. It is appreciated.