May 092014

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

DictionaryBefore I get down to the usual business, at the time of writing, the fire in Crovie is foremost on many people’s minds. The homeowner  is still unaccounted for (as is a household pet), but remains have been found.

I’ve personally had a great week of travel and adventure, but that all seems a long time ago. Whoever you are, and whether you like or loathe my 150 political satire columns, I’ll ask you one thing – please get and maintain a smoke detector.

People who know me may think I go overboard in my zeal about fire issues; maybe I do.

However, I’ve had friends and relatives who are fire fighters, and all of them will tell you how very quickly a small fire turns into a room filled with fatally toxic smoke. They’d tell you to have a fire alarm and test it, have a fire blanket and/or extinguisher – and to have a fire plan.

No one cares about these details when they’re at home, comfortable surrounded by friends, family and possessions. Everyone who has lost friends, family and possessions because of a fire will tell you they wish they had cared about these details before a fire struck. I’d beg you to get an alarm if I thought it would make you do it.

A childhood friend of mine might still be around today for that matter. They couldn’t find their way out of a smoke filled room which quickly became toxic. (Mind that chip pan in particular; that’s the regional main cause of house fires).

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On the lighter side of things, The UK Subs came to town, shook things up at the Moorings Bar, and my ears are still ringing (despite wearing earplugs). It was also  Aberdeen Voice editor and founder, Fred Wilkinson’s birthday. Happy Birthday Fred.

I’ve been lucky enough this week to be in Nice on the Cote d’Azur and in Monaco. Nice has a large outdoor square – but guess what? The weather is warm and dry enough for it to be used for all manner of things year round. Amazingly, there are beautiful trees, shrubs and flowers everywhere – and no one picks the flowers or uproots the plants to be cool on their way home from a drunken night out.

No one seems to litter at all either, and I don’t think they’ve painted their pavements gray to be cool, either like we just did. Along Nice’s waterfront you won’t find giant, windowless movie theatres, shopping malls, sewerage plants or a massive industrial harbour.

It’s almost as if creating elegant, relaxing, plant-filled open spaces were more important than money. And the money pours in as the tourists can’t get enough of walking up and down the waterfront on the Promenade des Anglais. Aberdeen still has some wildlife tourists, but let’s see how long we can completely industrialise/commercialise our remaining coastline.

do not let your pets drink from the East Tullos Burn

Funnily enough, Nice has far cleaner air than we do as well. Could this be because they’ve set aside green spaces, arranged very frequent and affordable public transport, have a bicycle rental scheme, and encourage pedestrians? Funny people, the French.

One of my flights was delayed due to a minor engine fault. Some of the passengers were very cross about the captain’s decision not to fly (he seemed to think that not risking our lives instead of flying with a small engine leak was a good idea).

Quite rightly the more important passengers started grilling a young stewardess about the engine’s technical problem, demanded to know precisely when the plane would be flying, what the captain was doing to solve the problem, and other things she’d clearly have known all about. I’m surprised the poor girl didn’t put down her drinks tray, whip a spare part out of her pocket, and just fix the engine there and then.

In the end, BA were great at solving the problems and getting us all going. Thanks BA.

Despite my trying to have a proper vacation, some news stories arose in the Deen that caught my imagination.  A word of caution: do not let your pets drink from the East Tullos Burn. It may look prettier now than it did – but the water doesn’t seem to have been cleaned at all.

SEPA have insisted in the past that it’s too hard for them to find out where the pollution is coming from. And still, its American counterpart the Environmental Protection Agency manages to find out who pollutes similar little streams – like the Mississippi for instance. If only SEPA were closer to where the problem was in East Tullos. But they’d have to leave their offices and walk for 10 minutes to get to the burn.

Here then are some definitions defining the week’s news.

Pest Control: (mod English compound noun) to manage, contain and destroy vermin.

Alas!  All is not well in the Cults/Bieldside/Miltimber area.  Pesky vermin are sticking their heads into private gardens, trampling things underfoot, stumbling cluelessly around, and ignorantly destroying anything in their path.  While I definitely feel for these poor, dumb creatures, it is clear that there are just too many of them in our area.

I had hoped that measures taken in May 2012 would have lessened this particular problem, but it seems to be creeping back. I am of course for a humane solution. But something must be done about Aberdeen’s Liberal Democrats.

You may not be able to believe it, but none other than Aileen ‘HoMalone’ wants to do something about deer population.

they trampled on their own pledge not to charge for university education

Expect HoMalone 2 in the Cults area soon. Based on the popularity, efficiency and economic success of her destruction of the Tullos Hill deer (to plant trees on a windswept rubbish heap with little soil), I’m sure the residents of her Bieldside/Miltimber ward will be overjoyed.

Well, apparently ‘several’ of them will. Here’s what HoMalone wrote recently:

“Several residents in the Cults area have contacted me about the presence of Roe Deer whose [sic*] numbers are growing across Scotland. Aberdeen is well ahead of most authorities in the careful, sensitive, management of the situation. A Council team is working on a plan for managing the growing deer population. Over-population is a problem for the deer since the natural environment can only feed a certain number of deer. In the meantime please be extra vigilant when driving at dusk in the Inchgarth area.”

In large numbers, the LibDems ate their way through the city council’s funds, forcing other species, such as people in need, with health problems and the elderly to suffer.  Then in a symbiotic relationship at the UK level, they trampled on their own pledge not to charge for university education. The 2012 ballot box cull saw only five of them going; the chief doe, known as ‘Kate’ was humanely put down.

A lone stag known as ‘Martin’ looks increasingly uncomfortable, and may be leaving the old deer (‘Aileen’) for a more successful herd soon.

Don’t let this menace grow back to its pre 2012 levels. If you are in Bieldside, Cults and Miltimber, you may want to think about feeding these pests by giving them pound notes, votes or attention, even if they seem relatively harmless and innocent to you. I can assure you, the LibDems are not.

*It’s interesting  HoMalone’s written ‘…the presence of Roe Deer whose numbers… ‘  perhaps she is more sensitive than we believe and thinks the animals are people?  If you are describing things, you use words such as ‘which’; if you describe people, you use words such as ‘whose’. Perhaps she secretly isn’t an animal destroying poison dwarf ready to have any life form she finds inconvenient snuffed out?

Or is it more likely she’s just a bit ignorant of some language fundamentals?

Propaganda: (Latin origin, noun) – to deliberately spread lies, exaggerations in order to sway opinion, or further a political cause.

Old Susannah is staying out of the referendum debate.  I’m not endorsing either side.  But a poster purporting to show Labour joining up with those nice BNP lads and others like those winsome UKIP chaps found its way into my news feed.

Poster from Alistair Davidson purporting Labour in bed with unsavoury orgs.Somehow, among the tiny trickle of honest, calm, factual referendum information out there, this therefore stuck out as being a little suspicious. It had attracted a few disgusted comments already; after all – if it’s in print or if it’s a picture, it has to be real, doesn’t it?

Some people are looking at it, assuming it is legitimate, and are therefore very angry indeed at Labour.

Alas! A swift email to a Labour politician confirmed that this poster is a complete fabrication.

Labour are not in any deal with the BNP. It is almost as if whoever created this wanted Labour to be discredited; I wondered if this had anything to do with Labour’s ‘no’ stance on independence.

I’ve asked the oldest source of the poster what they could tell me about it, and this is what they wrote:

“I don’t think the poster was used in any poster campaign. It was created as an illustrative means of showing people that all these parties are grouped by a common cause and that is to keep the union.“

Funny though – the person who put the poster on Facebook didn’t let viewers know that it was an ‘illustrative means of showing people that all these parties are grouped by a common cause…’. I wonder how they got permission to use so many logos in their little ‘illustration’ for that matter?

Coincidentally, the person who seems to have first posted the poster on Facebook (as far as I can find) has one or two friends who are SNP councillors. These  include Liz MacDonald, Ken Gowans, David Turner, Shab Jaffri , Peter Johnston, Peter Grant (no relation to legendary manager of Led Zeppelin I assume), Graham Ledbitter, and MSP David Torrance.  I’m sure these people have had nothing to do with a poster campaign which was just a tad dishonest.

I’m equally sure they will be quick to have it stopped and will come forward to denounce this kind of propaganda.

If only we could keep the healthy, honest, open, respectful level of referendum debate going on for another year, I’m sure we’d all be very well informed indeed.

Botch: (modern English slang; verb) – to make a bad job of something; to fumble a task or operation.

America has so little crime because it has capital punishment; ie. a jury of your peers (well you hope they will be your peers) can convict you on the evidence (which you hope won’t have been tainted or fabricated, like the poster described above), and after a fair trial (hopefully) you can find yourself hung, shot, gassed or given a lethal injection.

Seems fair. If you don’t get a fair trial (say you are of sub normal intelligence, get a bad or disinterested legal representative, get tried by a jury who are all of a different race from you, had the police mess up, lose or ignore evidence – accidentally of course), then you can always either hire an expensive lawyer for an appeal.

America will punish criminals by death, but killing them is not supposed to be ‘cruel or unusual’

If you don’t have lots of money or haven’t really understood what was happening, then then you can hope for a pardon from the state governor (but for those who really do have lots and  lots of money, you may never have to get to trial at all).

Of course when George W Bush was governor of Texas, he didn’t pardon a single one of the hundreds of people the state executed. In fact, he mocked one of them (a woman who had finally snapped at her chronically abusive spouse and killed him).

Still, if you were innocent but had no fair trial, no appeal, no governor to save you – you might always luck out and get a posthumous pardon. So that’s all right then.

Unfortunately, sometimes an execution is ‘botched’, as happened this week to one Clayton Lockett  in Oklahoma.

America will punish criminals by death, but killing them is not supposed to be ‘cruel or unusual’ – something Old Susannah hasn’t quite got her heard around in all these years. Anyway, you’re supposed to die a nice fast death – with a room full of spectators gawping at your last moments (nothing cruel or unusual there, then).  Unfortunately, this man died in agony over the course of several hours.

It became so distasteful to the audience that the curtains had to be drawn so they didn’t see an unpleasant state execution as compared to your socially-acceptable state execution.

Yes, this was a man convicted of a serious capital crime. I guess it was just divine intervention that tortured his last hours, and not the blatant incompetence of those who didn’t know how to find a vein or how to see the lethal cocktail of chemicals was going into his tissues and not into his blood stream. Could have happened to anyone. We all botch things up now and then.

Finally, for some reason European pharmaceutical companies that make the relevant drugs (why make them in the first place some might ask) are now reluctant to sell them to the States to kill people. I guess some companies just don’t want to make money.

Next week:  more definitions

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Well, it’s been a long, fun, eventful, educational and somewhat strange 3 years and 150 Old Susannah columns for me and I just want to say thanks for those of you who read it, thanks for those who have sent information (and the occasional kind email) over time, and for those who support Aberdeen Voice. The Voice runs on donations; any amount however small is welcome; here’s a link.

All the best,


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Feb 222012

Aberdeen is a city on a downward slide. That makes for uncomfortable reading, doesn’t it? Our gut instinct, being the proud city we are, is to reject this notion out of hand, though deep down we all know it is true, says Graeme Campbell.

The cause of the rot is not easy to identify. Opinions will differ and any debate would most likely be fierce. It is perhaps best to say the gradual slip in the condition of our once grand and glorious city can be pigeon-holed to two vague categories – poor planning and the slow decline of the energy sector.
Or perhaps over-dependence on it? Two and a half pigeon holes then.

So, avoiding any unhelpful debate surrounding the way we arrived at this point, we must as a city look forward to the best possible route to a future of prosperity. We must look for a plan to return grandeur and pride to the Granite City. 

Our carefully-selected councillors, together with possibly our most successful loon, Sir Ian Wood and the private partnership Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Futures (ACSEF) think the solution to the gradual slip is a new garden. Not exclusively a garden you understand, but a garden with conferencing facilities and a café. To give all credit due, the plans certainly are impressive and whilst perhaps not so impressive in keeping with the architectural fabric of the city, we are, of course, a city not afraid of change.

In the most recent release posted through all city letterboxes, Aberdonians are directed by a host of interested parties to the key point, “You deserve it!” Well yes, most likely. But oddly, relegated to fifth, is what will be the key point for most Aberdonians. Once again we don’t want to admit this but we’re all thinking it, “We can afford it”.

Will Aberdeen City be pushed to the very brink of bankruptcy by this plan, as happened when the city took the bold decision, so long ago, to construct our now famous Union Street granite mile? Probably not. Of course, Sir Ian’s mammoth oil wealth will go some way to meeting the cost of development on the site – and only on this site, he has been quite clear on that point – the further estimated £100m will come from business rates, council tax – of course – and the heinously-complex Scottish Governmental TIF funding mechanism.

Now nobody wishes to be bored to tears by the inane workings of a TIF, so let’s not worry about that. Instead, let’s find out what other places are using TIF to create.

  • North Lanarkshire plans to spend £73m to transform the former Ravenscraig steel site, an area of quite unrivalled deprivation, to the benefit of the many people who live in the area.
  • Argyll and Bute is to extend the North Pier at Oban for £20m, further securing the town’s position as Gateway to the Islands, a major boon to the tourist industry no doubt.
  • Falkirk plans to use its TIF in a far less grand manner, by bringing about strategic road developments and improving the flood defences. Clearly a sound decision.

But the plans which should be of most interest to any outward-looking Aberdonian comfortably seated in Europe’s oil capital, come from Fife. The council there is to spend its modest £17m TIF improving vehicle and marine access to the already-thriving Energy Park Fife, where renewables are already being constructed. I know, that’s not oil, but it is very real, so let’s not sneer. Not content with this, Fife has also begun construction of the Levenmouth Low Carbon Investment Park which is set to become ‘Scotland’s foremost energy park’.

Whilst in Aberdeen we plan to spend £150m on a garden and café.

Is anyone else embarrassed? Our great city, the economic powerhouse of Scotland, is being distracted by plants and trees whilst other towns are going green in a wholly more financially-sound way. This city has the engineering and science skills, brought by the oil industry and our two modern and diverse universities, to become a world leader in the renewables field.

You don’t need to do the math to know a research and development centre, alongside a manufacturing park would be of significantly greater financial gain to the city than the redevelopment of a garden.

This brings us to the question – has the Council considered this? Understandably, Sir Ian may not be keen, but this is about so much more than the oil empires held by the few; this is about the continuing prosperity of the many.

So, as the ballot papers find their way to you, look around the city. Look for the signs of the rot brought about by poor management by those who, for too long, have only looked inwards – decision makers enjoying the security of the formerly-booming local oil industry.

Consider what the world, given the current environmental and economic climate, would look to Aberdeen for. Horticultural tips? A show in our new 5000-seat outdoor amphitheatre? Or will they look to Europe’s ENERGY Capital to lead the way to a bright new future of renewable energy? And then, as our city leads the world in technological advancement in the renewables field we will look forward to investment, to jobs and to success.

When the ballot paper lands on your doormat, consider what Aberdonians truly deserve and ensure your vote lets our council know just what you want for your future.

Dec 012011

Old Susannah looks back at the week that was, who said what to whom about what, and wonders what Saint Andrew would have made of it all.

Happy St Andrew’s Day! Old Suz is having haggis and whisky, or ‘swishky’ as the man at the next table is calling it. St Andrew’s Day reminds us of our national identity, more on that later. I read that Aberdeen is climbing up the list of ‘best places to live in the world’ and has reached the dazzling height of No. 52.

Well done everyone! And that’s before we get our glowing stadium at Loirston or our giant glass worm. We’ll be number 51 in the world before you know it.  Apparently factors like our low crime level feed into how the ratings are calculated. Congratulations to us all for living in this desirable paradise.

These statistics may or may not include the small minority of people who aren’t rolling in dosh like most of us are. The statistics on crime may or may not be being ‘massaged’ – after all, the top brass get nice bonuses if the crime levels are low. How could I think such a thing? Well, the newspapers this week may have something to do with it.

We’ve had a charming man just sent to prison; he kicked a four-year-old child in the head. Fair enough, they had been having an argument apparently.  You know what these toddlers can be like.

Another similar humanitarian’s gone down for 3 years for robbing children of their pocket money and jewellery, threatening to ‘slash’ some of them. The fact the victims were boys, girls and an autistic person just show that this particular thief was running his business in a non-discriminatory way.  He should be congratulated really. To be even more inclusive, this particular robber tried putting on a ‘Scouse’ accent.

Perhaps his career is inspiring to young people – a nine year old’s been caught stealing a car as well.  You’re never too young to learn.  I wonder if he at least brought a child safety seat on the job with him?

We’ve had older people robbed, conned and abused. Yes, in our 21st Century world, Aberdeen is the 52nd best place to live.  I’d say ‘safe as houses’, but we’ve had burglaries and fire-raising in the news as well.  Still, statistics don’t lie, and if there are experts who say we’re no. 52 in the planet, who are we to question it.

I heard something about some disruptive elements holding something called a ‘strike’. I just hope this won’t affect our place in the world quality standing. I can’t for the life of me see why anyone in such a highly-ranked city would have any reasons for unhappiness, although frozen salaries, cut pensions, closed schools, closed recreational facilities, cut school lessons, cut services and cuts to care homes might play a small role.

Someone should look into this.  Maybe if we just all looked at the brand new festive lights on Union Street, the rest of it wouldn’t matter so much.

That nice Mr Jeremy Clarkson had a solution for these ‘striking’ workers – he apparently said on air that he’d have them all shot in front of their families.  He thinks they get great pensions.  Please be a bit patient and don’t judge Mr Clarkson too harshly.  He’s got to work for a living, and probably only has a modest pension to look forward to.

It is not like him to be intolerant of other people, and as it’s the season of good will (or is it the season of ‘buy one get one free’ – I can never remember), let’s let Jeremy off the hook. We should be more tolerant, like he is.

Perhaps it’s time for some definitions.

Nationalism: (noun), The belief that a person or thing’s national origin is its most important and most defining characteristic.

Incidents of racism and nationalism are on the rise – not just in the UK at large, but here in 52nd best city, Aberdeen. Still, it’s important to remember just how important a person’s nationality is. If Donald Trump hadn’t reminded us that he has a granny from Skye, we might not have given his development the wink and the nod.

Pretty soon we’ll have the number one golf course in the world near the 52nd greatest city: it will be like paradise on earth. Believe it or not, on my mother’s side I can trace my direct ancestry all the way back to King Duncan, King Alexander and St Margaret of Scotland.

Armed with this information, I intend to ask Alex Salmond to give me privileges as well.  Maybe someone will even sell me some land in Westhills for a fraction of its value. National origin is where it’s at.

Of course if someone’s not Scottish, it’s OK to discriminate against them and you can always tell someone’s national origin by looking at them.

We know what a pure Scottish person looks like because of their Scottish characteristics. These Scottish traits come from the Egyptian princess Scota (for whom the country may be named). They also come from the Phoenicians who sailed here, the Celts who came here and the Vikings, Danes, and Norsemen who raided now and then. These pure Scottish traits also come from the Picts, and the Romans (whatever they may have done for us).

Later on continental settlers from travellers and sailors to kings and queens came from the continent. St Colomba came from Ireland, and the movement of people between Ireland and Scotland was massive. So yes – be proud you’re Scottish. After all, it’s not like a Scot is some kind of foreigner or something.

We could learn a lot from that nice lady on Youtube who had a wee bit of a go at foreigners coming over here to live.  It’s only been going on for three and a half thousand years or more as far as I can tell.  The lady in question is now helping the police with their enquiries.

St Andrew, for those who didn’t know, came from Galilee, and was Jewish-born convert to Christianity.  He had this crazy idea of preaching his religion (something to do with ‘turning the other cheek’, loving one another, and so on) to people in every country he could manage to travel to.

He travelled extensively in Europe and is also revered in half a dozen countries and the Greek Orthodox Church.  No doubt he’d be proud of the nationalism that seems to be taking hold of a few people here.  What he’d say to the giant worm or the monolith plans for Union Terrace Gardens is another matter.

Aberdeen Citizens Party: (noun) A facebook site with some 35 friends.

A wide range of rather strong opinions can be found on this site.  The Citizens Party is against Halal slaughter of animals (so am I).  It is all for capital punishment, and says that since 80 percent of people (really?) want the death penalty brought back it should be done.  I guess if a few innocent people get killed like happens in the USA, then the families can be given some kind of compensation payment. Fair enough.

This page is apparently run by one Patrick Wight; I’m told he has some form of hilarious act wherein he pretends to be a camp homosexual hairdresser named ‘Patrice’.  I really must catch that some time (perhaps around the time I want to define ‘tolerance’ more fully).

Old Susannah was surprised to read this on the Citizens page:

“Lets hope that a campaign of direct action can save Union Terrace Gardens and prevent the environmental damage which is to be inflicted upon it by Ian Wood and his yes men. The right to protest peacefully is a fundamental part of our society. We tend to forget that many of the human rights we cherish today are a direct result of protests by ordinary people who were prepared to go onto the streets ..”

I of course don’t want anything to stand in the way of Stewart getting his much-needed parking spaces, and Ian getting his eventual statue.  However, I found the above just a little bit of a contradiction to what a Patrick Wight wrote to Aberdeen Voice:-

Not affiliated to any political party?
Your having a fcuken (sic) laugh!
Your promoting the day of action rally by the political left and the unions who want to wreck economic recovery and cause public misery across Britain.”

So – a protest is fine, but not a day of action rally by the unions.  I can’t quite work out why we have unions anyway, since we’re number 52 in the world.  It might have had something to do with workers in the past not having great rights (or any rights).  It might have something to do with the infamous New York City sweatshop fire in the Triangle building–  all the workers had been locked in and none escaped the fire.

But that was then and this is now.  Public sector workers have ‘gilt edged’ pensions; Jeremy Clarkson said so.  Let’s all get behind the Aberdeen Citizens Party and protest against the gardens, but complain about unions having a day of protest.  Makes sense to me.

Next week:  more definitions, including ‘slacktivist’ – someone who likes the idea of supporting a cause, as long as it doesn’t mean doing anything much.

Nov 172011

 By Mike Shepherd.

On Tuesday a Council committee voted to defer a decision on a referendum for the City Garden Project to the full Council meeting on the 14th December.

Although an amendment was introduced to propose an opinion poll as an alternative, a vote for a referendum looks more likely.

If such a referendum was to happen it would be held either two months before or two months after the local council elections on May 3rd.

This is one of many setbacks to have affected the City Garden Project (CGP). Here is a summary of the problems facing the scheme:

The City Garden Project is way behind schedule:  It is almost exactly three years since Sir Ian Wood announced his Civic Square proposal at His Majesty’s Theatre on the 11th November 2008. Although we are close to seeing a final design, the project is nowhere near planning submission and funding is very uncertain.

The vote on Tuesday looks to introduce further delays. It also probably shunts the planning decision well into the next Council, when at least one of the proponents of the scheme, John Stewart, will not be on the Council any more, having announced that he will stand down.

The City Garden Project is unpopular: This statement gets vigorously challenged by supporters of the CGP, yet it is clearly the case. The consultation held two years ago saw a ‘no’ vote for the CGP, and various online polls have shown a consistent numerical advantage to those wanting to keep the existing Gardens. The probability is that a referendum would reject the CGP.

The Design Exhibition failed to create any buzz in the city: The Friends of Union Terrace Gardens canvassed opinion outside the exhibition while it lasted. About half of those we talked to were unhappy about the designs. Many spoiled their votes.( by attempting to vote for the non-existent ‘option 7’.) Of those that voted, a common vote was for a design that appeared to preserve the Gardens (it doesn’t), although they reported they did this without much enthusiasm.

The land issue is a headache for the Council lawyers: Union Terrace Gardens lies on Common Good land and any land transaction, i.e. assigning a long term lease to a limited company or trust, would probably require an application to a court of session to apply for a change in status of the property.

The Council lawyers are well aware of the legal pitfalls that could ensue over the details of a property transaction (as witness the pending court case between Aberdeen Council and the Stewart Milne Group).

it involves the allocation of scarce public money using non-economic criteria

Currently,Union Terrace Gardens has negligible value as it is zoned as public open green space in the local plan.  However, should this status change at a later date and the property is re-zoned as commercial space, the land value will be in the tens of millions as prime down-town real estate.

The lawyers will have to be especially careful on this issue, particularly where a long term free-hold lease could potentially be assigned to a limited company.

Funding the City Garden Project is a big problem:  To date only £55M of private money has been pledged for a project nominally costing £140M. The CGP are pushing the Council to underwrite a loan of £70M through Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) to help part fund the scheme.

Aberdeen Council’s business case was so feeble it didn’t even rank in the top six schemes assessed for recommendation by the Scottish Futures Trust. Even so, the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment, Alex Neil, has told Aberdeen Council that their TIF application may still be considered. However, the TIF would be awarded on a ‘geographical’ basis rather than an ostensibly ‘economic’ basis.

This can be criticised as very poor Government practice; it involves the allocation of scarce public money using non-economic criteria. It also begs the question that if the business case doesn’t stack up, why is the debt-ridden Aberdeen Council under consideration to be allowed to borrow money for it?

Questions are being asked in Holyrood about Aberdeen’s TIF funding. This is from an article by Steven Vass in last weekend’s Sunday Herald:

“First Minister Alex Salmond’s decision to permit Aberdeen’s £70M borrowing plan for redesigning the city centre will come under renewed fire when he is forced to answer questions in the Scottish Parliament this week.

“Lewis MacDonald, the Aberdeen MSP and long-time opponent of the scheme, said there was a “scandal lurking under the surface” around the permission. He has tabled a series of parliamentary questions demanding answers to speculation the Government’s approval overruled the economic advice of specialists at the Scottish Futures Trust, who were supposed to decide which projects would go ahead.”

Another potential show-stopper is that last year the Council decreed that borrowing money through a TIF scheme must present ‘zero risk’ to the Councils finances.  The only realistic way this could happen is if an organisation or individual was prepared to underwrite the Council loan.

This would be a major commitment to say the least, as it would involve underwriting £70M for a 25 to 30 year period. Perhaps Sir Ian Wood is willing to do this, but even for him or his family trust, it would involve a significant allocation of capital resources over a long term period.

Add to this the question of cost over-run. One architect told me this week that with the massive rock excavation operation involved and the difficulties of building over the railway line, there was no way of this project coming in on budget. Yet, very little has been said about what would happen if the costs do over-run massively.

The problems are stacking up for the City Garden Project and even three years later they are not much closer to being resolved. The patient is looking sickly and the prognosis is not good.