Jul 082016

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

DictionaryHurrah! Result! We’re to leave Europe. Or maybe not – no one knows for certain what Scotland’s future looks like at this point, but isn’t it fun and a bit exciting?
And we might get either Michael Gove or Teresa May as the new PM! The Brexiteers Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson as so magnanimous in victory that they’ve scarpered.

You might compare their running away from the result they pushed for to insects running to hide when you turn over a stone, but I know that they’re just getting ready for some further selfless acts of heroism.

Another hero who shuns the limelight is former PM Tony Blair. With the Chilcot report released this week, you’d expect Tony to take the credit for the Iraq war. After all, he saved us from those Weapons of Mass Destruction. Thanks TB.

Looking at this week’s news, here are a few little facts you might enjoy:

When the dust settles a bit on Brexit, Old Susannah will revert with more facts – that’s if anyone’s saying anything factual at all. While Scotland voted to stay, the Brexiteers said that the EU was costing us £350 million a week which could be better spent on the NHS. Clearly that in no way meant that any money saved would be spent on the NHS, which of course is in fine shape anyway.

In far more important news, it was the Portsoy Traditional Boat Festival last weekend, and the weather was largely fine. The Black Isle Brewery was on hand, as was Dyce’s new brewer, Fierce. They have some delicious gear, I bought a lovely wheat beer and a coffee and vanilla concoction. In the meantime BrewDog’s launched a few Jackhammer Variants; Jackhammer being my favourite brew with off-the-scale bitterness.

Blackhammer is my favourite; I hope to see it around for a long, long time. BrewDog is also doing its bit for up-and-coming music and comedy talent; comedy troupe Wildly Unprepared have been doing their improve thing on Thursday nights in Underdog (the venue beneath BrewDog Castlegate). Hope to see you there.

One person though has managed to end years of The Malt Mill’s and Downstairs’ nurturing of fledgling bands. Someone moved to a flat near to the venue – a venue with ‘LIVE MUSIC’ in giant letters proclaiming that the Malt Mill, which looked like a bar with live music to the rest of us – and you’d never guess it – there was live music going on at night!

If only there had been some clue that a flat on a busy commercial road close to a long-running music venue and bar might not be quiet at night! Now Old Susannah understands that people need to play music for whatever reason, and I suppose there should be some allowance in society for that kind of thing in small doses.

It was always going to be the event of the year

Perhaps the venue should have just spent £100,000 from their petty cash and soundproofed the place. After all, if you put on live bands, that means you’re rolling in money.

Hopefully we’ll get something useful in place of The Malt Mill – like a mobile phone shop or Estate Agent. And from now on, let’s all be very, very quiet when we are out on the streets late at night.

Perhaps the hero who forced this closure could let us know when it’s convenient for the rest of us to make any noise on Holburn? I’d absolutely love to hear from you. My words of congratulations for your fighting for your individual right to quiet (rather than using ear plugs, moving, or just getting used to it) and successfully closing down a place for the rest of us to hear new bands are ready any time you want to hear them. I salute you.

Finally, we will all remember where we were when celebrity misogynist Donald J Trump flew into Menie this past week. It was always going to be glamorous with Sarah Malone in attendance. It was always going to be the event of the year with the Press & Journal present. But when Rupert Murdoch AND Jerry Hall flew in as well – what can Old Susannah say? Words cannot convey how exciting this was; it was like being a part of history in the making.

How unfortunate then that a few spoilsports decided – I can’t imagine why – to hang up Mexican Flags near the course. It’s bad enough these people live close to the course in houses The Donald finds unattractive, but to add to the visual pollution – well, that was unforgiveable.

Perhaps not as unforgiveable as Trump’s people: cutting off residents’ water and electricity supplies, calling the police to arrest lawbiding journalists, blocking access for the disabled at various points on the estate, threatening a grandmother with eviction, stopping Michael Forbes from salmon fishing, or threatening to use compulsory purchase orders to steal homes – but it’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

(NB – the residents decided not to stage a personal protest, but to just have the flags reminding the world of Trump’s bigotry towards Mexico and everyone who isn’t a white male billionaire. The massive amounts of news cover the flag protest generated in advance of the visit was remarkable. The brief, chaotic, rambling words of Trump to a few score of journos just didn’t cut it. With all of her professional qualifications i.e. being a former beauty queen, the polished, finely-tuned press call on the day was what I expected.).

But at this rate there won’t be any definitions, and I very much want to get back to that part of this column. By the way, this column will finish with No. 200. That will be quite enough for this format, but it doesn’t mean that I’ll take my eyes off The Granite City. Anyway, a few words – about trees and consultations in Aberdeen.

Consultation: (English noun) An exercise in which various experts and/or stakeholders are asked for their opinions and facts on a particular subject.

Peterculter Tree Cull consultation: (Aberdonian noun) An exercise in which various experts and/or stakeholders are asked for their opinions and facts on a particular subject, and the majority of people involved don’t get a look in. and facts are overlooked.

DSCN1516Secondly, the trees were old, and we’ve got enough old stuff around here anyway.

Then there was the fact that the trees were cutting down the amount of sunshine reaching one or two people in adjacent housing.

I for one know that if the sun’s not streaming in my Scottish windows 24/7 365/365, it can only mean the trees (not clouds, storms, snow, hailstones) are blocking the light.

Of course, some of the more intrepid people actually go outside when it’s sunny – but you can hardly do that if you’re living somewhere as dangerous as Peterculter.

So the city got back some responses from people who hated the trees, and cut them down.

Some councillors were very quick to defend this action too. Some councillors said that the trees were diseased and posed a hazard. That must have been a hell of a tree disease. On the one hand, it must have come up very quickly – or surely the city would have taken action before now.

On the other hand, it’s a pretty interesting kind of tree disease when instead of getting rid of the trees (or heaven forbid trying to treat it), you can decide what to do about the trees not by saying their diseased and cutting them, but by asking residents what they want done with the trees.


One person at least tried unsuccessfully to get through to the relevant people at the city, but as we know, the city responds instantly to any and all queries.

Another funny thing is the city’s existing tree management policy. It seems to say that if it owns trees that are not close to a dwelling, they aren’t going to cut them down.

It’s not that I’m cynical, but I’d love to find out what the disease was that was so bad the trees had to come down but not bad enough that the residents’ opinions could have stopped it. For more info, see here.

Some people claim their responses to the consultation were unanswered. Would the city ever do that?

Tree for Every Citizen scheme: (Aberdonian noun) An exercise in which various experts and/or stakeholders are asked for their opinions only if they are from the SNH or stand to make lots of £££ from killing deer on the hill, or wear shoulder pads (Aileen ‘Ho’Malone), in which consultation existing plans to kill deer are deliberately left out, stopping the public from taking much interest, so their opinions can be ‘managed’ in the words of the SNH. 

No one objected to the proposal – until it was too late. Funny that they didn’t announce the cull when they mentioned the other operational details (rabbit fences).

Even funnier; they refused to listen to free advice from experts on how to have trees and deer. And now we have no deer and no trees. We do have a consultant who’s at least £100,000 better off. And ranger Ian Tallboys got an award from Princess Anne. Result!

The award-winning, manicured Tullos Hill forest will provide a cost-neutral lovely recreation area for city residents. Only that it’s cost a packet, cost the lives of 38 deer (give or take – the city’s record-keeping is so bad we don’t know), and the trees are in such poor shape we’ve been warned that we might have to give the government its grant money back.

That would be nothing new, the previous attempt to plant trees on this former garbage tip with very poor soil didn’t work, either – I wonder why – and cost us £43,800.

Sometimes there is no need to bother even with a token consultation, as the people of Bedford Road can tell you. If they didn’t read page 47 of the Evening Express, read community council notes and city papers – and magically deduce that a ‘bus gate’ meant they would not be allowed to drive on their street again, then it’s their tough luck.

No one thought it necessary to write to them to ask for opinions; although funnily enough, the Peterculter residents were written to about cutting down the trees (apparently 2 people said to cut them – and that was good enough for ACC).

You don’t have to consult the public over minor details like the Marischal Square project either. Just tell them an iconic, smart, forward looking building will breath new life, etc. etc. into the area, but the architects will respect the importance of Provost Skene’s house: then hope they won’t notice when the reality is nothing like the original promise.

In fact, the reality is so much better! We can barely see the provost’s house now, and I hear we might get a hamburger joint. AND – the Press & Journal are going to move in! The best loved, most cutting edge newspaper in the best-loved, most cutting edge building! Result! as they say.

Next week: Blair, Brexit, Boris

PS – An observation

I was walking through Torry one early evening, past where a small green space off Victoria Road has a small but pretty collection of flowers. A couple were there, possibly Eastern European. We said hello as I passed. They had a little girl. She was smiling from ear to ear, pointing at the flowers, and jumping up and down.

Completely devoid of any prejudice, mindless hatred, greed, or ill-will, she was just delighted to be with two obviously adoring parents, looking at beautiful flowers.

I wondered whether it was too much to ask that we stop hurting our kids by pouring our prejudices and poisons into them. Will this girl be one of the 5 who will eventually be sexually assaulted? Will she encounter kids at school who are mean to her – because their parents taught them to hate people who are ‘foreign’ or ‘different’?

Will she be encouraged to study whatever she wants to study – science, art, languages, history – or will the system channel her into ‘girlish’ activities or will well-meaning people make her study things which lead to well-paying jobs while forsaking arts and philosophy? If she were a Muslim/black/Native American/Asian child, what kinds of barriers, doors and hatred would she be experiencing before long.

I wondered, is it too much to ask that with all the problems we’ve left for the next generation that we can at the very least manage not to fill these little people with hatred and just be nice to them instead? The answer, sadly, is that it probably will be too much to ask. I hope she remembers how happy, free and innocent she was that night. I wish she could live like that always – if she and her peers could, then there’s a chance we could have another world and a far better one.

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Jun 302016

Peterculter tree fell (4) By Peterculter resident, Diane McKay.

A whole belt of healthy well-established trees is being cut down in Peterculter. This work was planned for August, but is happening today, now.

It has been very difficult to get any answers from the council: they told me this morning that some residents have complained of falling branches.

But surely this doesn’t necessitate the destruction of the whole belt.

I only moved to the area late last year. The main reason we bought the house was because of the beautiful majestic backdrop of mature pines.

Back in March, fifty-two local residents received a letter from Alasdair Wilson at the council, saying they were considering taking the trees down. It offered options either to remove them, remove some of them, or to leave them. I responded, stating that I would prefer it if the trees were left alone, because they enrich the area, support wildlife and also provide a windbreak for the houses.

I received no acknowledgement. I emailed again to check if my response had been received. Again, I received no answer. I tried phoning Mr Wilson, using a number I was given from the main Council office, but no answer. I tried half a dozen more times, then tried the Council again. They gave me the same number again and said they would contact Mr Wilson and tell him I was trying to reach him. Again, nothing.

Then on the 31st of May we got a second letter saying there had been only thirteen responses, with seven in favour of retaining the trees, a slight majority, and that they would be felling them all, with work starting mid- to end August. I emailed back, also contacting the local community council, and three local councillors, asking them to reconsider.

Then on Monday morning out of the blue we awoke to the sound of chainsaws. At this point I had not been given any reason whatsoever for the trees being felled. I then received a short email from Mr Wilson, saying:

“It is assumed that the silent majority have no strong opinion and are happy for us to continue.”

He gave his mobile number, so I was able to contact him at last and express my dismay. He said they had time to do the job just now, so were going ahead.

He said that in the past some properties had been damaged by falling branches. I asked him if the trees could just be monitored and maintained and he told me it was too late because the trees had not been properly maintained previously. He told me the number I had been given twice by Council staff was obsolete and just reaches an empty office.

Peterculter tree fell (5)I contacted the RSPB, who said they recommend felling after mid- to end August, as originally planned, to avoid disturbing nests.

I then heard back from Councillor Marie Boulton, who said that some residents in the retirement houses on the other side of the tree belt felt their houses were dark and damp, and that they felt threatened when returning home at night. More street lighting had been put in, but according to Councillor Boulton they still felt threatened, and felt ‘unsafe’ sitting out in the communal areas.

There are twelve of these houses for elderly people, so even if all six responses in favour of felling came from those houses, then that is still only half of them. The trees are at the bottom of a slope, so the roots probably absorb huge amounts of water. It is therefore possible the houses may become damper with the trees gone. Also, there are other communal areas away from the trees for people to sit outside.

Apart from my own view that the trees should stay, I believe the Council has handled the situation extremely badly, by not supplying information or explaining or justifying what they were doing; in fact, by not answering queries at all until after the felling had begun. It also seems pointless asking residents for their opinion if they then go ahead and do whatever they want.

The council has told me that any trees with nests will be left temporarily, but I believe the noise and destruction of adjoining trees will cause birds to abandon their nests.

There was a local ‘consultation’ with most responses being in favour of keeping the trees, but the council have gone ahead anyway. There are few enough trees in the city as it is. With the construction of the bypass, and all the house building locally, we need to be protecting trees, not destroying even more.

There are plans to replant the area, which is at least some consolation (to future generations anyway).

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Oct 032014

Previous administrations sold off property at a fraction of real value (funny, no one can find the details of the police investigation that was meant to happen – watch this space). They also wrote off £11 million in unpaid debts. Here is a snapshot of where you tax money was deployed last year. The trend of arms’ length bodies, quangos, quasi-charities, consultants and private companies hiving tax money off continues apace. Here is a small snapshot of where some of your money has gone. By Suzanne Kelly

brucepicCongratulations to Sir Ian Wood, lifetime achievement winner of a Northern Star business award. How wonderful.
A ceremony was held this past week; dignitaries ate dinners, media bodies were hired (Fiona Armstrong, compere) to appear and/or film this event, run by the Chamber of Commerce.

As self-congratulatory beanfeasts are concerned, this is not without precedent. But perhaps you should realise that you are helping to fund all these events at least in part, while being told there is little in the way of funds to keep schools open, to help the homeless, to provide round-the-clock care to those who need it and so forth.

Figures for this year’s awards are not made public, nor are they ever likely to be completely transparent, as there are now so many entities taking a slice of the pie.

Last year charity Station House Media Unit received some £2,300 for filming this event. The Chamber of Commerce has received a huge sum of money from us this year. During the Union Terrace Gardens referendum, it sent invoices between ACSEF unnamed contractors and the city council footed the bill.

When asked to name some of these suppliers – for instance whoever it was who received £150 (give or take) for a photo commissioned to show that UTG was ‘inaccessible’ (there is a huge sloping entrance by His Majesty’s Theatre), the Chamber wrote to say it was a private entity, and as such was not required to explain a thing.

A long, long time ago if you paid your tax, the government would directly use your money to buy goods services and employ people. Alas, this led to huge problems – such as your being able to clearly trace how much of your money was spent and where it went.

This is the age of the devolved responsibility entity, of quangos, special purpose vehicles and other entities which serve to obscure where your money goes and make salaries paid to those who act in these middle-man bodies invisible.

Tax money here in Aberdeen flows rather steadily to bodies such as Aberdeen Inspired, ACSEF, Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce, Station House Media Unit, and a host of consultants large and small.

While some of these bodies undoubtedly do good work – did they really provide value for money in 2013? And those that are social enterprises – does that put them above scrutiny? Does doing charitable work or providing training mean that any transparency as to how taxpayer money is spent should go out the window?

Here is a brief outline of how Aberdeen taxpayer’s money was employed in 2013 in a few situations.

A Tree For Every Citizen.

With great pride, Councillor Aileen Malone explained that this scheme had to be done in the most cost-effective way: it was only fair to the taxpayers seemed to be her approach. She was the convener of the Housing & Environment Committee, and pushed this scheme through claiming shooting the existing deer on Tullos was the only affordable thing to do for this great scheme (see Aberdeen Voice issues past).

In 2011 the taxpayer coughed up some £40,000 pounds to kill deer, raise fences and spray pesticide on the trees.

Here is a look at the invoices paid in 2013 for keeping the Tree for Every Citizen scheme going (note – this may not be a full list of costs):

Company/Consultant Invoice date Brief Description Amount inc. VAT
Bryan Massie 19/12/13 TFEC – Site management, weeding 2493.49
Bryan Massie (invoice 629) TFEC – Tullos maintenance 9,943.98
Bryan Massie 17/5/13 TFEC – herbicides – St Fitticks, Westfield, Seaton, Balgownie 4303.80
Bryan Massie 17/5/13 TFEC – Tullos ‘beating up’ and tree shelter 16,682.04
Bryan Massie 12/2/13 TFEC – Tullos 28,968.00
Sub Total 62,391.31
C J Piper / Chris Piper (noted for report claiming only a ‘vociferous minority’ objected to the TFEC scheme, said report not mentioning the tens of thousands of pounds he would be paid) 1/10/13 Preparation of strategy; time at £375 per day 12,000
C J Piper / Chris Piper 26/9/13 Scoping, survey, spatial plans 6,000
C J Piper / Chris Piper 26/7/13 Professional fees £950; travel 675 6,000
Sub Total 24,000
Minimum cost to taxpayer 2013 for Tree For Every Citizen Scheme 86,391.31

Combined with previous expenditures of £83,598 known to have been spent on the scheme, perhaps we could have let the meadow and the deer stay. (note: a petition asking for full disclosure of the costs, and a moratorium on shooting more deer until population figures are known at the least is awaiting approval from the city for its wording; it will be launched soon. This petition will also ask for a ‘comfort letter’ from the SNH/Forestry Commission: the city had to pay £43,800 back for the failure of Phase 1).

So £83,598 added to the above £86,391 makes £169,989. How the procurement exercise for our experts was carried out likewise remains a mystery.


But if Aileen Malone insisted fences were too expensive back in the day she had the deer shot as being an economical solution (in logic defying animal welfare charities such as the Scottish SPCA and Animal Concern) – she did have a point: fencing is rather expensive. Here is a summary of invoices received from Alpha Fencing in 2013:

Alpha Fencing.

Invoice date Brief Description Amount inc. VAT
26/314 (included in 2013 accounts) Airyhall 20,333
26/3/14 8,205
30/8/13 Duthie 4,671
22/8/13 Glashieburn 2,185
4/2/13 8,939
12/8/13 7,875
Total 52,208

Perhaps there are other fencing contractors; Alpha catches the eye as they were involved in work on Tullos. If other fencing contractors likewise earned money from the taxpayer last year, perhaps we will be told what companies are involved.

Big Loser.

One area in which money was saved concerned the loss of the Big Partnership contract. Despite having operatives charging between £40 and £65 per hour, the invoices were not huge, and stopped c. May 2013.

Stewart Milne.

Stewart Milne’s companies have not done too badly out of the Aberdonian taxpayer. There was the small matter of land in Westhill sold to one of the Milne companies for a pittance, with the understanding that any profit would be shared with the city. That never happened and the Milne entity took the city to the highest courts in the country before losing (cost of this legal action unknown).

At the same time, the Milne machine won work worth nearly £10 million. In 2013 invoices submitted for contracts with Milne were as follows:

Brief Description Amount
Hayton Road 30,044
Bryon Park 47,130
Rorie Hall 28,097
Total 105,271

Aberdeen Inspired

Perhaps someone from Aberdeen Inspired will be inspired to share with the business rate payers – i.e. the consumers – precisely what it does with all of the money it is given from the council. We’ve had bunting; the city has stumped up extra money for those trash compactors dotting the street. (nb – is there no waste segregation in these bins and if not, are we not just adding to landfill by using them?).

Inspired has also decided to use mobile phone signals to trace our footfall in the area; tracking how much time is spent inside a shop for instance. Data protection lobbyists are very concerned about the technology involved; Inspired insists it is completely anonymous.

At any rate, what is kept secret is how much anyone connected with Inspired is paid, how their procurement process works, and who is making the decisions. In case you think there is nothing more to Inspired than small change for craft stalls and banners, here is what they received from ACC last year:

Invoice date Brief Description Amount inc. VAT
2/10/13 Bid Levy Collection, both outstanding and collection, plus VAT 148,326.32
2/7/13 715,292.94
14/2/14 (in 2013 accounts) 30,038.73
12/8/13 28,235.52
29/3/13 21,695.80
2/10/13 9,550.00
Subtotal re Bid Levy 953,139.31
4/12/13 Trash bins 18,489.60
25/10/13 Trash bins 18,489.60
(date unclear) Ice rink 12,000.00
(date unclear) ‘wayfinding project’ 31,830.60
Subtotal non Bid Levy 80,809.8
Total invoiced by Bid/Inspired to ACC 2013 1,033,949.11

It would be interesting to see where all of this money has been used, what the overheads including salary are, as the tattered bunting blows in the breeze. No doubt some good work has been done – but what is the cost, what has been done with this consumer-generated, taxpayer-supplied million pounds: and has it resulted in increased sales for those who voted the scheme into existence?


Station House Media Unit engages in training, and helping disadvantaged area residents interested in the media; it publishes brochures for and/or with the council. Last year SHMU was criticised when it used photographs created by people who had not given advance permission and who had not been offered payment for their work – this would be a standard business practice for any publisher.

SHMU reacted badly to exposure of this situation; it may well be a charitable institution doing good work – but that does not put it above scrutiny.

Considering that so much of its funding comes from the public, it would be interesting to see what salaries are paid, what the overheads are, how procurement is done, etc, etc. – but again, this is a body that while funded largely by the public is not accountable to the public under Freedom of Information legislation.

Here is a selection of some of the funds SHMU received last year: the Council had 43 pages of documentation pertaining to funds sought / funds released to SHMU:

Invoice date Brief Description Amount
29/11/13 Pertains to community support fund grant offer; 1,624
31/5/13 Filming Start Awards (Chamber of Commerce award ceremony to business; Sir Ian Wood received a lifetime award in 2014) 2,300
Quarterly funding of 13,750/quarter 55,000
Winter 2013; Spring 2014 7 community magazines 11,929
4/12/13 Additional cost for 7 magazines 1,624
(date unclear) Training 8,500
7/12/13 Connecting communities through community media 16,750
Sub total for this selection of SHMU invoices 97,727

There were a number of youth employment-related invoices as well.

But far and away the biggest earners of the invoices examined were the Chamber of Commerce and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Secret Chamber.

The Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce acted as a de facto go-between during the Union Terrace Gardens referendum; ACSEF would commission work across a wide spectrum of services and price brackets. This would be invoiced to the City Council via the Chamber of Commerce.

Invoices of this type seen by Aberdeen Voice did not disclose who or what organisation performed the work undertaken. What procurement procedures were followed and if any ACSEF members directly benefitted from these invoices remains unclear at present: there seems to be no obligation ACSEF or the Chamber of Commerce to say how taxpayer money was spent.

Thirty one documents were presented by the City Council’s finance office covering invoices and funds paid to the Chamber in 2013. Some were for miniscule amounts such as breakfasts. Some were just a bit larger:

Invoice date Brief Description Amount
 29/11/13 Sponsorship of transport to Rio £542.48
30/4/13 2112.00
28/6/13 2112.00
13/11/13 324.00
29/11/13 542.48
18/6/13 Northern Star 7,800.00
1/10/13 Membership 2,838.00
6/8/13 Offshore Europe Breakfast 588.00
28/2/13 Research 4,560.00
31/12/13 Research 4,560.00
28/2/13 1080.00
31/12/13 540.00
29/11/13 2,160.00
29/11/13 7,020.00
20/2/13 1,140.00
Total for approx. half of the 2013 invoices £37,918.96

Beancounters Beanfeast.

The accounting firms have done quite well this year. KPMG made a tidy £10,740; this was positively modest compared to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

PwC may be remembered for its projections during the UTG referendum: its projections for the web’s construction and associated prosperity were, shall we say, enthusiastic. As per an earlier article on the subject:

“PricewaterhouseCoopers have come up with some grandiose projections including the creation of some 6,500 permanent jobs and £122 million flowing into Aberdeen every year until c. 2023: all because of the granite web. PricewaterhouseCoopers were first paid £41,000 and change for TIF-related work in March 2010. Other invoices followed, and so far I have been shown by Scottish Enterprise £71,000 worth of PwC invoices.”

The firm still enjoys the generosity of the Aberdonian taxpayer. Its consultants received hundreds of pounds per day each; its invoices covered a spectrum of services from the (scandal-hit) crematorium to fraud work. Here is a list of their 2013 invoices to ACC in round figures:

Invoice date Brief Description Amount
15/7/13 Pinewood 1,800
3/2 170,949
20/3/13 HMRC 1800
15/7/13 9,600
15/10/13 5,200
9/7/13 2,400
3/12/13 33,270
17/7/13 30,229
16/9/13 (included c £19K for crematorium) 78,142
15/4/13 165,889
18/12/13 59,281
21/11/13 86,540
8/11/13 13,678
1/5/13 2,940
29/5/13 11,206
6/8/13 Letter to HMRC 900
Total to PricewaterhouseCoopers 2013 673,824

Summing Up.

The city has joined the ranks of other municipalities that have ‘outsourced’ functions in order to save money. This growing trend does not always stand up to scrutiny. Consultants are needed to run services which, if were previously not-for-profit when in the public sector, need to be profitable for those who have chosen to run them.

In days gone by, the reason people paid tax was that there were some functions – education, good health care, etc. – which ideally should be free of the need to turn a profit. Our taxes were meant to benefit the people and the causes that needed help.

As more and more outsourcing is done, transparency moves away. The city’s accounts this year allude to an incident of fraud. Is it possible that the more people and entities that grow around managing services, the higher the chance there is of fraud? Does the increasing lack of transparency lend itself to those who would commit fraud?

Can a private company such as PricewaterhouseCoopers that stands to make money if (for instance) a granite web is built be entirely trusted to be 100% impartial on weighing up the practicalities of a project which would benefit its profit line?

Should the city weigh more carefully how its arm’s length bodies engage in procurement? From the 2013 figures, a case could be made that the city needs to look into its financial arrangements more carefully (and that’s before we look at the costs of outsourced health care).

Audit Scotland had some strong recommendations to the council several years back. If lessons have been learnt, let’s hope we get a clearer picture in the future of where our money is going.

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Nov 012013

By Duncan Harley

St Nicks in the building ofThe old Aberdeen Council office building formally known as St Nicholas House is being torn down piece by piece after less than fifty years.

At today’s prices, the £2m cost of the 1965 project may seem small fry to many Aberdeen residents, who are more used to municipal architectural bills on a far grander scale.

Granite-built projects such as Marischal College, which lies just across the road from the part-demolished 1960s concrete multi-storey office block, often last for hundreds of years at a far lower cost per century.

Of course, in its day, St Nicholas House was seen as the way ahead in terms of municipal architecture. Scottish Secretary Willie Ross officially opened it on the first of May 1970. The retiring city architect, George Keith, was present at the opening. Seemingly St Nicholas House was one of the “outstanding features of the considerable role Mr Keith played in the design of post war Aberdeen.”

Many city residents were looking forward to its demolition. The blowing up of the building was a favoured option, and camera enthusiasts are reported to have been enthusiastically checking out vantage points all around the city in expectation of the event. However the building’s tightly contained position within the city centre precluded destruction by an explosives team, and the current demolition carries on piecemeal.

Aberdonians are this week invited to comment on plans to re-develop the site. Gordon McIntosh, Director of Enterprise and Planning, has described the new proposals by Muse Developments, as “exciting.”

If you care about the future of your city, take a look at the consultation exhibition at Aberdeen Art Gallery. It runs until November 2nd and is free to view. Employees from Muse Developments Ltd and the Aberdeen City Council will be on hand to advise and listen to your comments.

Until 8th November, you can have your say online. Relating to Marischal Square, views are being sought on transport options for Broad Street. An online questionnaire will be open until 22nd november.

A more detailed scheme to re-develop the site is expected to be lodged with the City Planning Department in a few months.

Comments to the Marischal Square Working Group can be sent via Councillor Marie Boulton, Depute Leader of the Council at :  mboulton@aberdeencity.gov.uk

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Oct 042013

North East MSP Christian Allard has warmly welcomed Scottish Government funding to improve cycle infrastructure.

Cyclistes Auld Alliance with Christian Allard French born MSPAt Scotland’s first cycle summit in Edinburgh on the 24th of September, Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP described how the £20m will be spent over the next two years.

The funding will provide a significant enhancement to the support the Scottish Government is already offering to local authorities to promote active travel.

The SNP MSP said:

“Like all French people I was born on a bicycle and very much used my bike as a mode of transport in my rural village in Burgundy, France.

“Years ago when the cycling route on the A944 was built, linking my home town of Westhill to Aberdeen I was very sceptical.

“I did not believe that the people in the North East of Scotland were ready to travel by bike. We were, and now the number of commuters is very impressive.

“I am delighted the Scottish Government has made this extra funding available to improve cycling infrastructure.”

The French-born MSP has written to all local authorities in the North East, asking how this extra funding will help them to accelerate future cycle projects.

Mr Allard added:

“Improvements in infrastructure are one of the most important measures in getting people who don’t currently cycle to consider getting out on their bikes.

“I would encourage people to take up cycling and get involved in events like the Auld Alliance bike ride from Edinburgh to France.  I had the privilege to wave them off from Parliament with Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP at the end of August.”

More info:

Transport Scotland announcement: https://transportscotland.presscentre.com/content/detail.aspx?ReleaseID=296&NewsAreaId=2
Auld Alliance Bike ride: http://www.prenticeevents.com/news.php?extend.104.3

Photo: Christian Allard MSP with cyclists on Auld Alliance Bike Ride

Jul 122012

With thanks to Kenneth Watt.

Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYP) Kris Chapman (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) and Justin Rheiner (Aberdeen Donside) have challenged First Bus over the consultation that is currently taking place on the proposed bus routes.

Meeting with First Bus Representatives at the Douglas Hotel during the recent public drop-in, MSYPs Kris Chapman and Justin Rheiner highlighted serious concerns over the lack of public awareness of the proposed bus route changes and the absence of public engagement to allow the public to positively engage with the consultation process.

Following the meeting, newly elected MSYP Kris Chapman ( pictured ) said:

“I was pleased to see First Bus recognising their failures in the consultation process and have taken on board our suggestions in which the proposed changes to the bus route will be being made public available from the First Bus shop on Union Street in the near future.

“Young people rely heavily on their local bus services and make up a significant proportion of First’s customer base.  It is therefore essential we work with First Group in order to address concerns that our constituents’ voices are listened to in order to ensure vital services are changed in a way that works for as many people as possible.”

MSYP Justin Rheiner, who is also LGBT Officer at Aberdeen College, commented further:

“It is important that as these changes to the bus routes are only proposals they can still be changed and modified to suit the needs of regular bus users and this is why we want to see more people engage with the process to ensure these changes work for everyone across Aberdeen.”

MSYPs from across Aberdeen, along with Aberdeen City Youth Council, will continue to engage First Bus to ensure that the public’s concerns are being heard.

Kris who is a full-time Researcher with Subsea UK and was elected in a by-election in June is making the First Bus consultation his first campaign in Aberdeen.

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Apr 062012

Suzanne Kelly, Independent candidate for Torry/Ferryhill in Aberdeen City’s Council elections, speaks out against the Green Party for its apathy over the controversial Tullos Hill roe deer cull, in light of the Greens fielding a candidate in Torry/Ferryhill.

When I was with the Green Party, I explained clearly on several occasions what was wrong with this cull and Aberdeen City’s ‘tree for every citizen’ scheme.

However, the Greens decided that the party was not going to take a stand on this, one of the most controversial environmental and democratic issues in the city.

Some of the longer-serving Green party members sympathised with me, but there were newer members who didn’t see what the big deal was with the city shooting these deer.

I couldn’t believe it, as I’d previously explained and written in detail that the trees are unlikely to grow and the cull is flawed. People wrote to the Greens to ask for their stance on the matter, but still the party didn’t want to stand up against this cull.

I have been campaigning actively to stop this specific roe deer cull for over a year. The Scottish SPCA branded the Tullos cull ‘abhorrent and absurd’ for killing deer to protect trees which don’t even exist yet. Many other animal welfare groups oppose this cull, and thousands of people have signed petitions against it.

Three community councils condemned the consultation and cull last year, and more recently these councils sent an open letter to the city, asking for the scheme to be halted. I don’t believe the trees will grow, as the hill’s soil is very scant and the ground cleared for the planting is extremely rocky, and is covered in industrial and domestic waste (there is a soil report by government officials which confirms this).

Three community councils object to the cull and the city’s so-called ‘consultation’ on the tree scheme. The consultation did not mention deer at all (but it did cover rabbits and rabbit fencing). The consultation also failed to say that a massive 89,000 trees would be put on the hill. No one in the area wants it – and even though the city has started, the opposition will continue.

I’d been writing about this issue for some time, and The Green Party knew that the cull was specifically to plant trees and not for deer welfare issues. I am so very disappointed in the Green Party over this issue.

The Aberdeen Green Party is running a candidate against me in the May elections. I have a chain of emails between members of the Green Party and me from this time last year. Some of the Greens’ comments include:

“I don’t think the party as such should have a position. I certainly don’t want to get involved in this”

“I don’t understand why these 30 deer (or whatever number it actually is) are so different and attracting so much attention.”

“Also within a relatively few miles of Tullos are large numbers of cattle and sheep that will be killed so people can eat them. We do not have a policy of enforced vegetarianism.”

This last statement was particularly, amazingly patronising, and the remark is completely off the point of why these deer are to be killed.

There was no way I was going to stay in the Green Party after this. For a party calling itself ‘green’ to stand idly by while a meadow and its wildlife was destroyed was beyond the pale. How they can possibly stand for election in Torry and expect me to stay silent about their stance is something I can’t understand either.

I have previously explained to a local member and a national member that I would have to publicise how the Greens view Tullos Hill. I did give fair warning that I would go public about how they decided to look the other way concerning Tullos.

I’m happy to have competition in this election, but people need to know the Greens could have helped when it mattered – and didn’t. If I stay quiet, some people will simply think the Greens must care about the hill and the deer – I have to let them know the truth.

The elections are to be held on 3rd May. Torry and Ferryhill will be represented by four city councillors.

I served on the Torry Community Council for three years, and I have always been involved in helping people in my area and further afield whether it be fighting school closures, charity work, or helping some of our older people. One of the newer local Green Party ‘higher-ups’ apparently said ‘Suzanne doesn’t stand a chance of winning.’ Well, I am determined to prove them wrong.

Mar 202012

With thanks to John F. Robins, Secretary, Animal Concern Advice Line (ACAL).


Three Community Councils representing neighbourhoods close to Tullos Hill have issued a last minute appeal asking Aberdeen City Council to call off the deer cull planned for Tullos Hill.
In a strongly worded open letter the Community Councils, which represent over 25,000 Aberdonians, accuse the City Council of using underhand tactics to get backing to plant trees on Tullos Hill as part of their Tree for Every Citizen initiative.

They claim that,

“the public consultation was seriously flawed and made no mention of a deer cull. Community Councils and the general public were given incomplete information, allowing ACC’s intention to cull to remain unchallenged”. 

When the intention to kill the resident roe deer eventually became public knowledge there was an outcry with many Aberdonians telling the City Council that if the Tree for Every Citizen project meant killing the deer they did not want any trees planted for them. The Community Councils say the City Council dismissed local public opinion and have pleaded with the Council to change their mind at the eleventh hour and to,

“Listen to the voices of the people who elected you, cancel the cull and let the Tullos Hill deer live”.

For over a year Animal Concern Advice Line (ACAL) has been supporting local campaigners in the battle to save the Tullos Hill roe deer. John Robins of ACAL welcomed the intervention of the Community Councils. He states;

“This is a severe embarrassment to Aberdeen City Council.

“They can no longer claim that opposition to the deer cull is coming from outwith Aberdeen. Three Community Councils representing over 25,000 Aberdonians have made it perfectly clear that they want this cull stopped. On Sunday of this week the CEO of the National Trust for Scotland admitted on national television that they had made a mistake by undertaking a mass cull of deer on the Mar Lodge Estate. 

“The very same advisors who were behind that cull are the people advising Aberdeen City Council to kill the deer on Tullos Hill. There is still time for Aberdeen City Council to avoid making that same mistake. All they have to do is respect the wishes of the people who elected them and call off the cull.”

  •  The Open Letter signed by Nigg, Torry and, Kincorth & Leggart Community Councils can be viewed here.
Feb 292012

Shakhaf Barak wrote to a friend highlighting the history behind the current referendum that is dividing the city. He has kindly allowed Voice to use it, almost verbatim as the deadline approaches for voting.

Dear Friend,
Here in Aberdeen there is a bitter referendum taking place, and it could go either way. Over 70,000 people have voted thus far, in a city of barely 212,000 souls, and both sides have reported each other to the police. Central to this story is a 250-year old city centre park, Union Terrace Gardens, and the billionaire oil tycoon seeking to redevelop it.

Union Terrace Gardens are similar to Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens, lying in the natural amphitheatre of the Denburn valley, the Denburn being a stream which flows right through the city, underground where it borders the Gardens. Much of Aberdeen’s best architecture was clearly envisaged to overlook this area.

The Gardens are home to a cluster of 260-year old elms trees that once formed part of the Corbie Haugh, a historic wood which ran through the valley. This is among the largest concentration of healthy mature elm trees in Europe, and they are reputed to have escaped Dutch Elm Disease, not only due to their isolation, but also because the pollution of the city has afforded some sort of protection from it.

Both the park and its beautiful Victorian toilets are Grade A-listed, and all of the trees are under preservation orders. Up until as late as 2003, the Gardens formed the centrepiece of Aberdeen’s Britain In Bloom entry, and they were truly stunning, but since then expenditure has all but ceased, and the toilets have been closed for several years.

In 2008 a local arts organisation, Peacock Visual Arts (PVA) was granted planning permission for an award-winning and sympathetically-designed arts centre to be built into the hillside of the Gardens. This would have meant felling a small number of trees but none of the elms. The design was universally acclaimed and it was hoped that this scheme would help regenerate interest in the Gardens.

Enter Sir Ian Wood, one of Scotland’s richest men, and chief of Wood Group PSN. Sir Ian decided that he’d like to redevelop the Gardens by building a five-storey bunker in their place, whilst covering over the adjoining railway line and urban dual carriageway, with the entire roof of this construction forming a flat civic square at street level. It was not entirely clear what would be installed in the bunker, although speculation was rife to say the least.

He offered the council £50m towards the cost of this project, which was mooted to cost £140m. This was possibly an optimistic figure since Union Square, a similarly sized shopping mall with none of the technical difficulties or prior excavation work, cost £250m to build. The council felt this offer was too good to refuse, but the some members of the public were up in arms.

Sir Ian decided to put the proposal out to public consultation and promised to walk away should the public reject it.

The ‘consultation’ was commissioned by Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future (ACSEF), a publicly-funded unelected QUANGO, and conducted by The BiG Partnership, Scotland’s largest PR company.

It many ways it resembled a marketing exercise. The bulk of participation was via a website, which asked several questions with a somewhat loaded feel to them. For technical reasons, the question on whether or not to proceed with the plan defaulted to a YES vote.

If, during completion of the questionnaire, any previously-given responses were subsequently amended, this again defaulted back to a YES vote. When the results were released, it became apparent from the comments sections that may people who had intended voting NO had instead been recorded as YES voters.

Over 10,000 people participated in the consultation, and In spite of it’s technical oversights, the public voted against the Civic Square proposal by 54%-46%, a healthy and significant majority. However the PR machine kicked in and somehow spun that the 202,000 people who had not participated possibly represented a silent majority in favour of this scheme.

  Critics described it as a cross between Tellytubby Land and a skate park

Sir Ian decided not to walk away, and the project went to a council vote. The council voted in favour of taking the plan forward at the expense of PVA who by that time had 80% of their £20m funding in place. It has subsequently been alleged that some of the PVA funding was diverted into the new project.

The BiG Partnership now re-launched the plans under a new name, The City Garden Project (CGP). It was claimed that the outcome of the public consultation was that the public were broadly in favour of a garden as opposed to a civic square. Any implication that they were actually in favour of preserving the existing gardens was ignored.

The interested parties now felt that the best option was to redevelop the Gardens by building a five-storey bunker in their place whilst covering over the adjoining railway line and urban dual carriageway, with the entire roof of this construction forming a new garden at street level.

The whole thing had an air of déjà vu.

This time it was decided to hold an international design contest, paid for with public money. Six designs were shortlisted from hundreds of entrants. One, The Granite Web, bore a striking resemblance to Civic Square concept, albeit with less concrete and more greenery. Critics described it as a cross between Tellytubby Land and a skate park.

The local press heavily promoted the Granite Web design from the outset of the contest, leading with it on their front page and providing it with more photo coverage than the other designs. It was almost as though it had been ordained.

The public voted, and spoiled ballots aside, all indications were that The Winter Garden design proved the most popular. An independent poll confirmed this and put The Monolith in second place.

Tellingly both of these designs retained much of the topology of the existing Gardens. Word on the street was that The Granite Web was not a popular choice, but we’ll never know for sure, because a decision was taken not to release the results of the so-called public vote to the public.

It was then announced that the winner of the private-public vote would be put forward to the selection panel, along with another design. The self-appointed selection panel consisted of Sir Ian, some other influential people from the oil industry, an architectural consultant on the project payroll, and a councillor who backed the project.

The two designs discussed were the acknowledged public favourite, The Winter Garden, and you’ve guessed it, the joker in the pack, The Granite Web. When the panel announced the result, it should have come as no surprise to anyone that they had chosen The Granite Web, yet there was a shocked silence, and even those had come out in favour of the redevelopment initially appeared bemused if not downright confused.

The original Civic Square was mooted to cost £140m, with £50m coming from Sir Ian, £20m from the private sector, and the rest to be borrowed through a Tax Incremental Funding (TIF) scheme. Any over-run would be covered by the council (read local taxpayer) .

Only £5m of the private sector contribution has materialised thus far, but there has been an announcement that The Granite Web would be significantly less expensive to build than the previously-envisaged, but somewhat less complex, civic square. Sir Ian has offered to personally fund up to £35M of any cost over runs, should they occur.

The TIF proposal cheerfully bends all the guidelines of TIF funding. TIF is intended to be used to redevelop brownfield sites, with the loan being repaid over a 25 year period through increased rates recouped from any businesses setting up in the redeveloped area. The city council had already approved planning permission for two new industrial estates on the outskirts of town, under the business case for the TIF funding, these new estates become part of the TIF zone, so in The Granite Web’s case, sections of the TIF zone are located several miles away from the actual redeveloped area.

The predictions are for 6,500 jobs and £122m annual revenue to the local economy, all based on the new industrial estates, which have no obvious linkage to The Granite Web, operating at full capacity. Even if one were to accept that any new jobs could be somehow attributed to The Granite Web, the figure of 6,500 seems unlikely given that the London Olympics is only projected to create 3,500 jobs.

Either way, the setup feels a bit shaky; the truth is that these jobs and their associated revenue will accrue with or without The Granite Web.

By this time, councillors seemed to be getting edgy and unwilling to green-light the project, so they decided to hold a public referendum. Any group wishing to campaign was required to adhere to an £8,000 spending limit, and for this they were provided with 300 words of text in the voting pack.

The packs went out, but unfortunately some of the Retain lobby’s statements were mangled due to a ‘computer error’. The voting packs were closely followed by a big money public relations mail bombing campaign by The BiG Partnership promoting The Granite Web. Publicity materials went through every letter box, pro Granite Web articles dominated the press, and adverts were played around the clock on the local radio stations.

Apparently this expenditure was permitted by virtue of being funded by an ‘unregistered’, and as yet anonymous, campaign group – whatever that means! I guess it’s a bit like not having to pay tax because your parents never applied for a birth certificate, who knows? By this point, things were becoming surreal to say the least.

The referendum closes on 1 March and it’s a bitter fight that has divided the city. For example, an oil company boss has made a complaint to the police alleging mail hacking and cyber bullying. The police claim they are taking this allegation seriously. There have also been two arrests possibly related to claims of vote-rigging, but ultimately no one was charged.

The town has gone berserk and it’s civil war all over Facebook. It’s as if we’re all experiencing a really, really bad shared dream. I just dread to think what we’ll all be waking up to on Saturday morning.

Feb 242012

Peter Veritas makes the case for voting “Retain”.

1.  There is a very real danger that the City Garden Project will bankrupt Aberdeen.

The City Garden Project (CGP) is planned for a greenfield site which would require substantial excavation. It is a five acre, five storey, underground construction that would span both a main road and a railway track

It’s roof would be required to hold approximately ninety thousand tons of topsoil, the same weight as the worlds largest aircraft carrier.  It is projected to cost £140M.

Union Square, which is of a similar size, was built on a flat brownfield site with good access. The final cost was £250m.

Marischal College is a much smaller existing building that was recently renovated.  No major construction was performed.  The final cost came to £65M.

Given that context, how can we be expected the believe the estimate for The City Garden Project is realistic? Should the City Garden Project experience a similar scale of overspend to the Scottish Parliament Building or the Edinburgh trams, then the shortfall could conceivably be of the order of £360M.  The city, which is already £560M in debt, would be liable for this overspend.

It could not be rolled up into the existing loan, and would require immediate payment.  Failure to cover the overspend would result in us being left with a dirty hole in our city centre.  The only options open to the council would be to auction off it’s remaining assets, such as the other parks, to property developers, and to increase council tax  massively.  Public services which have already suffered severe cuts would be totally decimated.

2.  Aberdeen has suffered badly from previous developments.

St Nicholas House, the New Market, The Denburn dual carriageway, the Denburn Health Centre, The St Nicholas Centre, and Virginia Street are all universally acknowledged as failures that now blight our urban landscape.  Aberdeen lost many beautiful buildings to clear the way for those developments.

The people who campaigned against those architectural and planning atrocities are also campaigning against The City Garden Project.  They’ve been proven right time and time again. Perhaps it’s time we listened to them?

3.  We already voted against this Project under a different name.

There is something sinister about the City Garden Project.  It was originally conceived as the City Square Project (CSP), and envisioned as a five acre flat concrete piazza.  That proposal only emerged after Peacock Visual Arts were given planning permission to embed an unobtrusive arts centre into the hillside of Union Terrace Gardens.  Sir Ian Wood pledged £50M to build The City Square, but promised to scrap the Project if the public rejected it.

That was then put out to a flawed public consultation, in which the public voted against by a substantial majority, despite the online survey mysteriously defaulting to a “yes” vote.  Sir Ian then reneged on his promise and continued to push the concept, the council ran roughshod over the electorate, and by the casting vote of the Lord Provost, consigned the Peacock plan to the dustbin.

Sir Ian has consistently stated that he will only contribute his £50M to this particular proposal and nothing else, and that if we reject his proposal then he will divert the money to Africa.  His behaviour is baffling.

4.  There has been an air of deception around The City Garden Project.

The City Square Project was rebranded as The City Garden Project.  During the Project’s second coming the public were presented with six designs and invited to vote on them. None Of The Above was not a option.

Aesthetically, the public appeared to favour the Winter Garden design.  From a conceptual perspective The Monolith design was arguably the most cohesive.
The appointed panel then refused to release the outcome of this public vote and instead selected The Granite Web, a design for which very few people acknowledge having voted, and which many people considered to have been among the weakest.

CGP propaganda has continually claimed that Union Terrace Gardens are a dangerous place, but Grampian Police crime figures reveal that they are actually among the safest places in the city centre. Neighbouring Belmont Street, which the plans propose to connect to the Granite Web, is statistically the worst area for street crime.

Under the rules of the referendum, registered campaign groups are limited to £8k spending to maintain a level playing field.  However a mysterious group of anonymous business people has allegedly ploughed £50K into sending pro-CGP propaganda to every home in Aberdeen City.  This is not within the spirit of the referendum and is arguably a breach of the rules.

It has been claimed numerous times that the 250 year old elm trees in Union Terrace Gardens are diseased, but a recent report by a tree surgeon has given them a completely clean bill of heath.  These elms are among the last surviving in Europe, and they flourish both due to their isolation from other elms, and because the pollution of the city prevents Dutch Elm disease from spreading to them.  These trees are all covered by a preservation order.

5.  Those arguing in favour of the City Garden Project are mostly connected to it in some way.

Scotland’s top public relations firm were engaged to promote the Project, which may be why the majority of stories that have appeared in the local press have been fawningly in favour of the CGP.

Those who have argued the merits of the Project, both in the press and on-line, are interconnected people with an as-yet unknown agenda.

In addition to the numerous PR professionals being paid thousands of pounds each day to present the case, there are several property developers, the owners of assorted the premises on Union Street, and various oil company executives.

No fewer than three city councillors, who backed the Project, recently announced that they intend to stand down, and have also revealed that they are planning to leave the city.  Virtually all of those involved are members of Acsef, Scottish Enterprise, the Institute of Directors, and The Chamber of Commerce.  The same dozen people feature time and time again in the groups which have come out publicly in favour of the Project.  The same people wearing different hats.

6.  The economics have no basis in fact.

Tax Incremental Funding (TIF) is intended to fund the redevelopment of brownfield sites.  Businesses which later setup in and around those sites pay increased business rates which repay the cost of the development in a similar manner to a mortgage.  The business case for this Project bends the rules since the increased rates will not be gathered for the site itself, but from two new industrial estates, located several miles away and for which planning permission has already been granted.

The 6,500 jobs and £122M of projected annual revenue are a product of these new industrial estates working at full capacity. This is almost  guaranteed to occur anyway without The Granite Web.

Furthermore, the paid author of the reports is PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), which has recently been fined £1.4m for audit failure.  PWC rates the TIF case at Risk Level 3, where 4 is the highest risk.

7.  To save the architecture of the Denburn Valley

None of the Granite Web mockups, artists impressions, or video, have addressed the issue of the rear elevation of Belmont Street.

This is home to some of Aberdeen’s most spectacular architecture, descending right down to the level of Denburn Road.  Architecture which will be obliterated when the CGP connects to it, some five storeys further up.

Most of these buildings are either local businesses or publicly owned concerns, and several of them have picturesque balconies below the finished level of The Granite Web.

8.  To retain our sheltered park.

Union Terrace Gardens lie in the Denburn Valley which offers shelter from the wind and urban pollution.  Raising the area up to street level would turn it into a wind trap.

The wind would howl round the concrete walkways and other architectural features of the granite web, plants would struggle to survive, and people would avoid the area, preferring instead to travel along the relatively sheltered confines of nearby streets. It’s a fallacy to claim that this development would enhance connectivity.

9.  Union Terrace Gardens have been cynically starved of funding – in order to ‘pave the way’ for this redevelopment.

Union Terrace Gardens was the centre piece of Aberdeen’s famous successes in the Britain in Bloom contest.  Over the course of the past eight years the council has cut funding, with the result that the Gardens are no longer maintained at previous award-winning levels

The beautiful Grade A listed public toilets were closed, the famous giant draught boards were ripped out, the winter skating rink was no longer installed and concerts and other public events were discontinued

A modest investment would both regenerate the Gardens, and improve access to them.  There is no need to risk bankrupting the city for what amounts to no additional benefit

10.  The curse of Corbie Haugh.

Back in the seventeenth century, the area where the Gardens now stand was a wood called Corbie Haugh. The ancient Scots word for crow is corbie and the wood was named after the crows which gathered in the grassy valley and within the bank of elm trees. The elm trees in the Gardens date back over 250 years to that eighteenth century wood.

An ancient legend, The Curse of Corbie Haugh, holds that when the crows depart, the city will be ruined. If the elms are chopped down, the crows will indeed depart, and if they city ends up burdened by an additional £360m of debt, then it shall indeed be ruined!