Feb 082013
 

By David Innes.

The Office of National Statistics report of 23 January shows that unemployment in Scotland among those aged 16 to 24, reduced by 23000 (4.8%) from September to November 2012. 19.9% of our young people remain unemployed. The UK rate is 21%.

John Swinney, Finance Secretary was delighted:-

“These figures show that unemployment in Scotland has continued to fall for the second monthly release. The strong performance in youth unemployment over the year is particularly welcome. This month’s release sees the largest annual drop in the youth unemployment rate since the data series began in 2006.”

Angela Constance, Youth Employment Minister agreed:-

Youth unemployment in Scotland is at its lowest level since March to May 2011. Our actions to improve youth employment rates have included a guarantee of a place in education or training for every 16-19 year old through Opportunities for All, funding 25000 Modern Apprenticeships in each year of the current parliament and £8.5m to create 1400 jobs in the third sector through Community Jobs Scotland.”

An Employer Recruitment Incentive will be launched to support small companies willing to give young people jobs, backed by £15m of Holyrood funding and by £10m of European Structural funding.

Reinforcing the views he expressed in a Voice interview earlier this year, Anderson Construction Managing Director, Kenny Anderson, commented:-

“We are lucky that the self -financed Construction Industry Training Board screens potential apprentices for interview and recruitment thereafter, but demand for places outstrips supply even in Aberdeen.

“As a small company we do our bit, but it’s harder for the larger companies who used to recruit substantial numbers of apprentices annually, as they are now competing with management contractors who generally do not recruit site staff but use agencies and sub-contractors to provide the labour.”

Yet, whilst the youth unemployment rate sits at 20% and the overall rate is nearly 8%, one boss of a growing national company is frustrated at his business’s inability to fill vacancies in Aberdeen.

Jeremy Miles, Edinburgh-based Managing Director of the Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative declared:-

The big problem we have is in recruiting mechanics. It seems the oil and gas industry hoovers up anyone who has all their fingers in place.

“At present we have a couple of co-ordinator roles for senior shop floor staff and in sales. We’re desperate to recruit staff for our workshop and will soon be looking to bump up our head count for summer, but filling the current vacancies is already proving difficult.”

It was Norman Tebbit who made the notorious comment about the need for the unemployed to get on their bikes and look for work during the austerity years of the 1980s. Maybe in Aberdeen, which remains largely prosperous there’s are opportunities to take the Chingford Skinhead’s advice and kill two birds with one stone.

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2013/01/lmsjan230113
www.andersonconstruction.co.uk
www.edinburghbicycle.com/comms/site_about/job-vacancies.htm

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Dec 152011
 

Are you feeling inspired to do something for charity this festive period? Maybe cycling, walking, running – maybe not ? At least you can go along, show your support for an amazing fundraising effort and hand over some of your hard-earned cash for a great cause. Voice’s Stephen Davy Osborne caught up with cyclist Kyle Hewitt.

An Aberdeen man is cycling 1000 miles through the Bon-Accord Centre this week to raise funds for charity. Perched atop a stationary bicycle, Kyle Hewitt, 25, is undertaking the marathon mission to help raise funds for local charity Inspire and national children’s charity Barnardos.
He began peddling on Monday morning, with much support from friends, family and passersby, and hopes to reach his goal of 1000 miles by closing time on Sunday evening.

Still peddling hard, Kyle took some time to speak to the Aberdeen Voice:

“Inspiration is the biggest reason that I am here. I was inspired to get out there and do something different by people that have done something different, enduring and challenging in the past. It is really about me doing what I was inspired to do, but instead of just being inspired and doing it, I’m hoping to keep the inspiration chain going. So from one person inspiring two others, two others will inspire four others and so on.”

However, this event is just a mere warm-up for a significantly more arduous challenge which faces Kyle in the New Year. On February 18th, he will be cycling out of London’s Greenwich Park on an 18,000 mile circumnavigation of the globe, aiming to be back in London within 160 days in time for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics.

With less than nine weeks to go until he sets off, Kyle’s enthusiasm remains high.

“Time is ticking away, and even the weeks are into single figures now! It’s a whole years planning coming to a head and it’s really exciting to watch it all click in the last worrying few months!”

Kyle can be found in the Bon-Accord Centre atrium until Sunday evening.

For further information check out: www.inspired2inspire.org.uk

Sep 152011
 

By Richard Pelling.

In Town Without My Car Day takes place every September in cities across Europe (and beyond) is an event designed to promote awareness of alternatives to the car for accessing city centres and serves to promote sustainable transport that can help reduce pollution in the urban environment.  It forms an element of European Mobility Week – but will we see In Town Without My Car Day in Aberdeen this year? NO.

http://www.mobilityweek.eu/-Introduction-to-EMW-

‘What about Getabout’s Belmont Bike Festival ?’,  you say – well; few would consider that an ITWMC Day and the sorry tale of how this event came to be held onBelmont Street serves to highlight Aberdeen City Council’s commitment to sustainable transport and the environment.
http://www.get-about.com/news_full.asp?id=167&curpage=&search=clear&section=news

For background, lets consider Report EPI/11/140
http://committees.aberdeencity.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=13852&txtonly=1

This was presented at the Aberdeen City Council Enterprise, Planning & Infrastructure (EP&I) Committee Meeting on 24th May 2011, which suggested thatAberdeen host an ITWMC event in 2011 and requested that Union Terrace be the venue :

“Union Terrace remains the optimum location given the nature of the space required, the potential to use Union Terrace Gardens for some elements, the visibility of the event and the significant footfall that will be attracted and the fact that the Council already has special event temporary traffic management measures in place for the regular closing of Union Terrace for the International Street Market, and members of the public and transport operators are familiar with such diversions.”

Sounds great – Union Terrace is, of course, regularly closed for the commercial streetmarket that runs Friday – Sunday, so there should surely be no issues with closing it to hold this important one day environmental event and the proximity of Union Terrace Gardens gives extra space for say, cycling demonstrations, discussions of the visionary proposals for a Denburn Woonerf etc.
http://otheraberdeen.blogspot.com/2011/04/woonerf-for-denburn-valley-proposal.html

Union Terrace is also ideal as it is itself part of National Cycle Route 1 which in addition to being a popular commuter route in town, runs all the way from Dover to John o’ Groats (then on to Orkney and Shetland via the ferry). Sounds like it should be a done deal, but, EPI/11/140 goes on to say :

“Should the Committee feel that the impact on the road network and the travelling public will be such that they cannot support such an event on Union Terrace, officers will instead initiate proceedings to hold a smaller-scale event on Belmont Street on Saturday 17th September (although September 24th is the preferred date for the event, Belmont Street is hosting the Aberdeen Country Fair that day).”

So if the optimum location at Union Terrace – which can be shut on a weekday and all weekend for the street market – can’t be used the event will be held on Belmont Street … but not on the ideal date as that street is already closed for a regular street market then.

In fact, not only is Belmont Street already pedestrian-dominated (so it’s hardly a major concession to close it for a day), the council’s website notes that Belmont Street will beclosed at regular intervals throughout 2011 – indeed 24th September, 29th October, 26th November, 3rd, 10th, 17th & 24th December are already listed (no mention of 17th September yet though ??).

This point is noted in the original report which states :

“Although this would not strictly qualify as an In Town Without My Car Day event, as it would take place on a predominantly pedestrianised street, and would be of a significantly lesser scale, the space available should be such that some of the proposed attractions could still take place and the event should still be visible enough to attract a large number of visitors.”

Yes indeed, having the event on Belmont Streetwould not constitute a true ITWMC event.

In fact, looking at Section 4 of EPI/11/140 we see just how little commitment to the event there is. In Section 4.1 we read

“the closure of Union Terrace will involve the temporary rerouting of motor vehicles”

Well yes, isn’t that the whole point of closing off a street FOR ONE DAY a year?

“Public transport operators have been consulted on this proposal and they have significant concerns, stating the location is inopportune because of the disruption this will cause to bus services”

Disruption? That’s rich coming from First Aberdeen – look how they just closed the Bridge of Don Park & Ride site from 5th – 10th September. On another note, do you think bus operators want people to get into the habit of cycling into town?

(4.2) “The closure of Belmont Street would have minimal impact on traffic movements as vehicular access to Belmont Street is restricted and no public transport services use the street”.

(5.6) “… Closing the road on a weekend day should also limit any inconvenience to commuters and businesses.”

The minutes  of the EP & I Meeting of 24th May 2011,record that the committee resolved:

 “to support Aberdeen City’s participation in the European Mobility Week and In Town Without My Car Day 2011” – though evidently just as long as it didn’t inconvenience them too much! They also resolved to “instruct officers to initiate proceedings to close Belmont Street for a smaller scale event on Saturday, 17 September, and that the Head of Planning and Sustainable Development clarify whether this would still meet the requirements for participation in the European Mobility Week and In Town Without My Car Day 2011“. 
 http://committees.aberdeencity.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=15637

So we end up with the Belmont Bike festival.

I hope the event is a great success but think it could have been so much more. Keeping cars off what is an effectively pedestrianised street for a few hours on a Saturday really sums up Aberdeen City Councils level of commitment to the whole notion of cycling as a form of urban transport.

Sep 092011
 

With thanks to Carl Gerrard and Grampian Police.

Bicycle theft in Aberdeen is on the increase and police say it’s largely because people are not taking simple precautions. As bicycle use increases it appears that opportunities for thieves is also on the rise.
Grampian Police are delighted to be working with The Aberdeen Cycle Forum to try and remind all cyclist across Aberdeen to take proper security precautions to look after their bikes.

Constable Kevin Murray of Aberdeen Division Crime Reduction Unit Advised:

“I would ask all bike owners to take a little time to think about the exact location you are going to, how you will secure the bike and what you are going to secure it to in the street.

“This thought process can assist in preventing the bike from ever being stolen in the first place.  Most thefts are still opportunist and even if you are just going into a shop for just a couple of minutes that is sufficient time for someone to steal your bike.”

Constable Murray continued:

“A simple but effective method of securing your bike in the street, is to lock it, using a good quality lock such as a ‘D’ lock, at the dedicated bike bars found in and around the city centre. Also consider securing it to immoveable street furniture which is in line of sight of a public space CCTV camera.”

Carl Gerrard, secretary of the Aberdeen Cycle Forum told Aberdeen Voice:

“Since 2008 cycle use has increased 20% inAberdeen. It’s a sad fact that cycle theft has also increased.  The good news is that by following a few common sense tips on the ACF website (www.aberdeencycleforum.org.uk) cyclists can both greatly reduce the chance of becoming a victim and increase the chance of getting their bike back should the worst happen.”

“Having your bike stolen results in both financial costs, and the inconvenience of having to use another mode of transport.  We are delighted to be working with Grampian Police to raise awareness in this area.”

Only 10% of the bikes recovered by Grampian Police are returned to their owners due to the poor descriptions, however, owners can ensure their chances of having their vehicle returned is increased.

Constable Murray added:

“In an effort to improve descriptions provided to police  I would like to remind all bike owners to utilise the Bike Passport form which can be found on the Grampian Police website under the crime reduction pages of the advice centre section.

“It is difficult to give the police or your insurer an accurate description of your bike once it has been stolen, however if once you purchase your bike you security mark it, complete this form, which includes an image of your bike and keep it safe, it will provide a more accurate description of your bike to increase the chance of officers being able to reunite you with your stolen pedal cycle if recovered.”

For more advice on bike and shed security visit The Aberdeen Cycle Forum website at www.aberdeencycleforum.org.uk or contact your local Crime Reduction Officer on 0845 600 5700.

 

Sep 092011
 

By Bob Smith.

Noo the AWPR,  
Jist a ribbon o tar
Is bein built so fowk can gyang faister
Fae Stoney ti Dyce,
27 minutes they’ll slice
Aff the time on the clock fit’s oor maister

We maun get there quick,
Some spoot oot real slick
Time is money ye surely can see
Some steerin wheel huggers,
Are aa silly buggers
Fleein aroon fae the Don ti the Dee

We’ve aa heard the notion,
Aboot time an motion
Far fowk staun an peer at watch face
Ti see fit wye’s quicker,
Ti damage yer ticker
As fowk jine the bliddy rat race

The warld his geen mad,
Iss is affa sad
In a car some growe horns an a tail
Wi great bulgin een,
Rude signs ti be gien
Feenished aff wi a rant an a rail

Time ti slow doon,
Dee awa wi the froon
Live life at a less frantic pace
If ye maun drive yer car,
Ower iss ribbon o tar
Hae an attitude fit’s less “in yer face”

Een o life’s sins ,
Nae hae use fer yer pins
Can ye think o onything sadder
So git on yer bike,
Or gyang fer a hike
Or ye micht slither aboot like an adder

Some tak things ower far,
An worship the car
Car showrooms are noo the new kirks
Div the salesmen aa kneel,
At the eyn o each deal
Syne waak aboot wi satisfied smirks

A micht tak the piss,
Bit jist think o iss
A car’s only a box on fower wheels
We’re layin doon a tar bed,
Ti tak a  muckle tyre tread
Costin millions o poonds-we’re aa feels

 ©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2011
Image Credit: © Morteza Safataj | Dreamstime.com 

Jul 082011
 

As Voice reported previously, the Get-About Commuter Challenge 2011 ran between 18 and 26 June as part of National Bike Week. Its successes are highlighted by Carl Gerrard, Secretary of Aberdeen
Cycle Forum (ACF).
                  

During National Bike Week, thirteen companies participated in the ACF/Getabout Commuter Challenge.

During the Challenge, now in its seventh year and its fifth in partnership with NESTRANS Getabout, a total of 958 return journeys were logged totalling nearly 5,000 miles. The majority took place between Monday and Friday, with a median distance of 4.2 miles.

With many participating saying that had they not cycled they would have driven, that’s a significant reduction in traffic congestion, a saving of an estimated 800 litres or £1000 of fuel and a considerable contribution to alleviating parking problems in the city.

Carl himself said,

“The Forum has run the Challenge for a number of years now. Every year participation increases as employers realise the benefits to both themselves and staff from cycling to work. The mean distance shows that cycling to work is a viable alternative for many, and as transport costs and congestion increase, more and more are making the shift to two wheels”

This is the first year it has been a totally corporate challenge and twelve employers ranging in size from 12 staff to 15,000 competed in four categories, Small (12-50), Medium (51-300), Large (301-3000), Mega (3001-15,000).

Points were scored for the numbers cycling, journeys undertaken and for encouragement to people to cycle to work for the first time. Distance travelled did not affect the scores.

Once the scoring was totalled, the results were:


The calculation and a worked example can be seen on the Challenge website

Statistics don’t tell the whole tale, of course, and anecdotes from some who enjoyed commuting solely by their own efforts show that cycling can be a fun, safe and healthy addition to the working day.

“Many of our staff already choose to cycle to work, but challenges such as this have encouraged
those that haven’t previously done so, to give it a go. Some of this year’s participants told us that they first started cycling during last year’s challenge [as the Macaulay Institute, they came second],  and have been regularly cycling to work ever since”  – Ben Watt, James Hutton Institute

“We’re delighted to have won a trophy in the Cycle Challenge. It’s the first time I’ve cycled to work in Aberdeen and I was amazed at how quick the journey was. I’ll definitely be cycling to work again”. –  Pauline Innes, Aberdeen Office of the Scottish Government

We were delighted with the response we got from so many diverse companies and hope we can build on the progress we’ve made in future events.Donald Kent, Getabout Coordinator

I’m delighted that our campaign of encouragement has paid off and we now have more bike commuters than ever. The benefits for cycling to work speak for themselves – our staff are leaner, greener and keener than before.” –  Paul Hasting, Shell’s Bike User Group Coordinator

Aberdeen Cycle Forum began in 2003 as a voluntary organisation campaigning for better facilities for cyclists in Aberdeen and has worked with stakeholders to deliver improvements for cyclists in the city, such as advances stop lanes at junctions on Union Street, and on capital projects such as the upgrading of the Deeside Line.

It now has 250 members and is recognised by the Scottish Parliament, local authorities, police, other governmental bodies and the media as representing Aberdeen cyclists; its recent count showed cycling levels in Aberdeen have increased in the last 12 months in line with national data.
http://www.aberdeencycleforum.org.uk

NESTRANS is the regional transport partnership for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. Its objective is to develop and deliver a long-term regional transport strategy and strategic transport improvements to support and improve the economy, environment and quality of life across the region.
http://www.nestrans.org.uk

Getabout, operated by NESTRANS, is a consortium working to promote a healthy and sustainable transport choice for everybody travelling within the region, and beyond.
http://www.get-about.com

 

Jun 242011
 

“Which of our conflicting transport demands are most important?” asks Jonathan Hamilton Russell in this edit of his longer article, written to encourage debate on the future of personal and freight travel in NE Scotland.

Scotland has extremely ambitious climate change targets, yet we prioritise airport expansion and roadbuilding.

The NE economy needs transport infrastructure to allow movement of goods; people have to get to work with few holdups.

Meeting climate change targets means embracing sustainable transport usage by reducing car, road freight and air travel yet Aberdeen Airport has the fastest-growing passenger numbers in Scotland; public transport is the only option for many, but the majority are wedded to car use. Among Scottish cities Aberdeen car count is highest; Aberdeenshire has the highest rural area car usage; increasingly, Aberdeenshire residents drive to work in Aberdeen, exaggerating traffic bottlenecks.

Public spending cuts mean local and national governments face stark financial choices affecting resources for maintaining and enhancing transport infrastructures.

The days of cheap petrol have passed. Prices will continue to rise.

Bus fares are higher here than throughout Scotland.  Southbound buses are often of poor quality although local buses are of a high standard, and Aberdeen citizens, on average, are nearer bus stops than other Scottish cities’ residents.

Bus use in Aberdeenshire can be problematic, but could be increased by driving to stops and transferring to buses – less stressful than car travel. Council cuts to services for the disabled and elderly have made travelling significantly more challenging for such socially-excluded groups.

What can we do?

There’s general agreement that people should be encouraged to travel more sustainably. Cycling activity is increasing, although levels are lower than elsewhere in Scotland, and it needs to be encouraged as a healthy, environmentally-friendly activity.

Cycle pools, common in many European cities, could be created. Cycle routes to school, given priority, would provide more fun and health benefits for children than car travel. Cycle safety measures would need to be put in place, particularly at roundabouts, to make them less dangerous.

Park and ride schemes, particularly at Kingswells, are less successful than envisaged but remain a commuting option. Car-sharing, whilst becoming more common, is far from the norm. NESTRANS, responsible for planning and transport implementation, has suggested piloting car-share lanes.

Laurencekirk railway station has re-opened, but more stops are needed, possibly at Kittybrewster and Altens. The Haudagain roundabout obviously needs improving, with priority for cyclists, buses and car-sharing.

A new Bridge of Dee is needed – contribution to its cost from that area’s large retailers might have been written into the conditions when planning consent was agreed. Any new development should prioritise cycles, buses and car-sharing.

Aberdeen is a fairly small city and walking should always be marketed as a healthy, cheap and quick transport option.

Traffic lights in pedestrian high-use areas should give priority to pedestrians. 20 mph restrictions have improved safety, although limits are regularly broken by a minority of drivers.

Offering flexible working hours is effective in reducing peak-time traffic levels. Salary benefits for those cycling or car-sharing could be introduced, with car pools for staff who have to drive during  work time. Working at home, for at least part of the week, is an option as is business conferencing rather than travelling to meetings. Both would reduce business costs.

it is well-documented that increased road space leads to increased traffic

Will the increased price of petrol reduce car use enough, or do we need to introduce road pricing, viewed as the single measure most likely to effect change to how we travel? The increased motoring costs would make drivers consider alternatives.

Aberdeen would almost certainly benefit, reducing the numbers moving to Aberdeenshire as extra travel costs outweigh housing cost savings.  It is a hot potato, however, and would be unpopular due to the high levels of car use locally. Few politicians would have the courage to suggest its introduction, despite being effective in reducing car  dependency.

We also need to identify new means of financing transport developments and to maintain the current deteriorating infrastructure. Road pricing could raise those funds.

Some planning decisions have encouraged car use. Union Square adjoins both bus and rail terminals but it has also provided increased parking opportunities.

 It has had a detrimental commercial effect on Union Street, George Street and Bon Accord Centre shops, all more accessible by bus.

The proposed Union Terrace development would increase city centre car parking availability, flying in the face of the need to reduce car travel and move towards more sustainable transport methods.

All measures have advocates and opponents. The Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) for example, highlights conflicting views and interests.  Newton Dee Village fought an effective campaign to stop the road encroaching on that community; Road Sense has successfully raised legal objections, forcing public inquiries, even if of limited scope.

The AWPR has both advantages and disadvantages. It would help take freight off Aberdeen’s roads although significant volumes still have to come in and out of Aberdeen.

It would reduce travel times although there are other bottlenecks further south. It would reduce congestion at the Haudagain roundabout and Bridge of Dee, but it is well-documented that increased road space leads to increased traffic. Roads in general will become more congested.

The AWPR would help businesses. It will allow more people to live outside Aberdeen as it will be quicker, at least initially, to travel into Aberdeen but will lead to an increasingly-ageing city population.

Such demographic change will leave Aberdeen City Council with less money and greater demands on resources. An excellent deal has been negotiated in terms of local authorities’ contributions, with the Scottish Government meeting 82% of costs. These, however, have already escalated and impending substantial expenditure cuts will leave less money in the overall pot.

The low level of rail freight uptake is a national scandal. Road freight transport’s perceived flexibility sees it preferred.  Historically, there were conflicts with rail unions, who, however, are now keen for freight to move to rail. This will need increased public and private investment, less likely in a period of reduced public spending, although in terms of providing work and kick-starting the economy this option should not be ruled out. This also applies to the AWPR.

There would need to be contracts developed between the Freight Transport Association, the Road Haulage Association, rail companies, unions and government at all levels.

The replacement of the freight terminal by Union Square was a setback for future local rail freight capacity.

New freight facilities have been introduced at Craiginches and at Rathes Farm but this has not increased capacity. There are sea/rail links at Waterloo Quay and freight yards at Inverurie and Huntly. NESTRANS strategy states that development of new open-access freight terminals could be explored and if transferring freight to rail becomes reality, new depots would be needed.

Aberdeen harbour is an excellent freight facility and passenger transport gateway to Orkney and Shetland, with potential to expand both services. Currently five million tonnes of freight are exported through the harbour, but the loss of rail freight infrastructure in the station interchange area was a lost opportunity to link sea freight with rail.

We have to decide on our priorities.

Are we really concerned about climate change?

Can we move towards more community-based forms of travel from those currently privatised?

Do we want a more healthy society that walks and cycles more?

Can our business needs dovetail with our environmental needs?

Is it possible to think more holistically when making planning decisions?

Aberdeen Voice would welcome contributions to this debate.

Image credits:

RAILWAY JUNCTION © Davidmartyn | Dreamstime.com
CAR INTERIOR © Li Fang | Dreamstime.com
BICYCLE PARKING LOT © Chris Mccooey | Dreamstime.com
UTG DENBURN © Mike Shepherd

May 052011
 

With Thanks to Mark Chapman.

An 840 mile solo bike ride to raise awareness of the forthcoming public services cuts starts on 6 May 2011.  The route will be from Peterhead to Brighton (8 days of cycling with 1 rest day), going via various public service departments. Mark Chapman, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) Aberdeen and Inverness Revenue and Customs Branch President, will be undertaking this challenging solo bike ride to raise funds for three causes as well as to highlight the unnecessary cuts that are being made across the UK.

Mark will start his ride from outside of the now closed Peterhead tax office (which once employed over 20 local people) on Seagate at 8am on Friday 6 May.  On day one Chapman will call at the new Peterhead HMRC location (which now employs just one person), the Aberdeen HMRC office at around 11am, and will finish this first day in Stonehaven.

The rest of his ride itinerary is set out as follows –

Day 2 – Stonehaven to Perth (calling at Dundee tax office and call centre, and Perth tax office).

Day 3 – Perth to Hawick (calling at Cowdenbeath DWP, Galashiels and Hawick tax offices).

Day 4 – Hawick to Darlington (calling at Hexham, Bishop Auckland and Darlington tax offices).

Day 5 – Darlington to Chesterfield (calling at Catterick MOD, Skipton, Halifax and Chesterfield tax offices).

Day 6 – Rest day in Chesterfield (Mark will be meeting with the local Crown Prosecution Service PCS branch members to address a members meeting).

Day 7 – Chesterfield to Shipston on Stour (calling at Alfreton DWP and tax office and East Midlands Airport to meet PCS members working for the UK Borders Agency).

Day 8 – Shipston on Stour to Salisbury (calling at Newbury tax office, Andover tax office where Mark will be met by the local trades union council, M S Society reps and PCS members, and Salisbury tax office).

Day 9 – Salisbury to Brighton (Mark will be welcomed into Brighton at the pier at the end of his ride by PCS members and senior PCS officials).

The three causes that Mark is fundraising for and the reasons he chose these causes is set out below –

  1. The M S Society – Mark’s mum has been a sufferer for over 20 years and he has grown up seeing just how important it is for the person who has Multiple Sclerosis to have a solid and reliable support network in place.  The M S Society provides that support both for the sufferer and their carers.
  2. Val Irvine Foundation – Mark wants to help raise the much-needed funds required to allow this new foundation to realise Val Irvine’s dying wish, which was that the studio that she helped build would be used as a holistic therapy and art centre for the people of the Banff and Buchan area who are diagnosed as having cancer – as she herself was only a couple of years ago.  Friday 6 May 2011 would have been Val’s 45th birthday, making the start day of Mark’s ride all the more poignant.
  3. PCS hardship fund – this trade union is not politically affiliated in any way and they represent members who provide our much-needed public services.  They are fighting to stop the cuts in public spending in areas such as teaching, health care, taxation & benefits, and the voluntary sector, as well as protecting jobs in all other public sector departments.

Mark Chapman said:

“This ride started out as a pipedream really.  I’ve always wanted to challenge myself physically and mentally, but I’ve never had the drive to do it just for myself.  I started to get really frustrated about the way that the cuts are being portrayed to the general public ,and the fact that they were not being given the full facts to consider.

“PCS has published a booklet about the alternative to the cuts, and ideally I felt that this should have landed on everybody’s doorstep across the whole of the UK, but financially that was an impossible task.  I decided that maybe I could do something about this by getting the message across in a different way.

“PCS conference takes place in Brighton in May this year and I decided that if I could travel to conference in a less than conventional way from the north east of Scotland this year, then maybe I could raise the profile of what the cuts really do mean to everyone in the UK.

“I then saw the opportunity to also raise funds for 3 causes that are very close to my heart.  So now I am doing what I always wanted to do.  I am challenging my body and mind, but I also have an incentive as I am doing this for so many other people.”

To sponsor Mark or to find out more about his challenge please visit https://sites.google.com/site/thelongroadtobrighton/ or just type ‘Long Road to Brighton’ into any search engine.

To date Mark has received pledges totalling approximately £5,000.  Please do all that you can to help him reach his target of raising in excess of £10,000.

Mark would be happy to meet people along his route, full details of which will be available on his website.

Footnote – PCS, the Public and Commercial Services Union is the union representing civil and public servants in central government. It has more than 315,000 members in over 200 departments and agencies. It also represents workers in parts of government transferred to the private sector. PCS is the UK’s sixth largest union and is affiliated to the TUC. The general secretary is Mark Serwotka and the president Janice Godrich.

 

Apr 222011
 

Voice’s Suzanne Kelly joined those gathered outside Lush cosmetics in Union Street in Aberdeen to welcome the 5 campaigners from Lush in Edinburgh who had cycled all the way from our capital city,  collecting support, and highlighting opposition to Aberdeen City council’s proposed, unnecessary cull of roe deer on Tullos Hill.

12:30pm on Wednesday 20 April – an intrepid group of 5 Lush Edinburgh staff cycle the last few minutes of an epic trek from the Lush Edinburgh shop to Lush Aberdeen.

They are all kitted out in T-shirts with a photo of a deer, with the slogan ‘Too Deer A Price To Pay.’  They are here in answer to Aberdeen City’s Council’s threatened – economically motivated – deer cull.

The Committee told Aberdeen citizens and animal lovers:  Give us £225,000 by 10th May for fencing and tree protectors – OR WE WILL CULL THE TULLOS HILL ROE DEER.

This shocking, outrageous move by the City has prompted outrage throughout not only Aberdeen, but also throughout the world and amongst the major animal rights organisations.  The City has been largely silent on the matter, and was not answering this writer’s questions and the many pleas against the cull.  Local groups became active against the cull; Animal Concern started campaigning, and Lush got involved.

A team of over a dozen local animal lovers, animal rights activists and concerned people from all walks of life were on hand to give the cyclists a warm welcome. There were anti-cull campaigners from all over Aberdeenshire, Philadelphia, Australia and everywhere in between.  They carried signs and handed out hundreds of flyers to passers-by and many passers by stopped to chat and voice their concern – and anger – over the Council’s threatened cull.

I spoke with Helen Patterson; she had heard about the cull on SHMU FM, Aberdeen’s local station.  She phoned into the programme and has been following the matter ever since, and in her words:

“this cull is just terrible.”

The Lush involvement pretty much started when local campaigners had asked Debbie, manager at Lush Aberdeen if Lush would make the petition available in its shop for customers to sign.  She sought approval and then things began to take off.

These Lush employees who spent days cycling here to highlight this sad state of affairs, also did it on their own personal holiday time.  The Lush team – who are cyclists: Alan (trainee Manager at the Edinburgh shop), Hannah, Karen, Ross and Josette – truly gave a shot in the arm to campaigners here.  Within an hour of their arrival, local radio Northsound and Scottish TV came down to cover the story. Lush had successfully given the issue much-needed publicity.

The cycling event is only one part of what Lush is doing – Erica from Lush did not cycle up – she had been working round the clock managing this event and its many aspects.  She tells me:

“Each Lush shop has a green helper and environment representative – which is what I am.

“We keep an eye on issues, and I have been working on press releases, posters, and Facebook updates.”

Lush are giving the campaign a boost by promoting the issue on their famous, long-running ‘Charity Pot’ moisturiser.

Lush supports an astounding number of environmental, animal and human welfare initiatives around the globe; sales from the ‘Charity Pot’ moisturiser go to these charities.

The labels for the pots describe the different projects; I bought one some time back which was for an organisation opposed to the massive ‘wall of death’ fishing techniques which are depleting our oceans indiscriminately and killing seabirds.  Hundreds of people visiting the Edinburgh shop were shocked to hear of this situation, and have been signing the petition and buying the ‘Charity Pots.’

Lush has always shown this dedication to environmental causes.  Its products are never tested on animals; the natural ingredients are responsibly sourced and worldwide producers are paid fair value for their ingredients.  There is no animal testing – but there are moves afoot in the EU which may make animal cosmetic testing a horrible reality again.  If this worries you, then please contact your MEP, do some research, and say NO to this potential bureaucratic threat.

How can you help the deer?

Sign a petition – information can be found on Facebook – search for ‘Tullos Hill Roe Deer’

– or drop into Lush (Union Street near Market Street)

Write to Aileen Malone, Convener of the Aberdeen City Housing & Environment Committee

Contact your local City Councillor and tell them what you think.