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 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.

Apr 192011

With thanks to Alan Brown of Lush, Edinburgh

Four members of staff from Lush Cosmetics in Edinburgh embarked on Monday upon a three-day cycle from their Princes Street shop to the Lush shop in Aberdeen.
They will be wearing t-shirts bearing an image of one of the roe deer inhabiting Tullos Hill and emblazoned with the campaign’s slogan, Too Deer A Price To Pay.

They will be travelling with letters opposing the slaughter, which they will hand deliver to Aberdeen City Council.

This cycle marks Lush Edinburgh’s protest against the proposed slaughter of the roe deer that inhabit Tullos Hill in Aberdeen. Aberdeen City Council are proposing to plant trees on Tullos Hill as part of their Tree For Every Citizen scheme, but in order to protect the trees, they plan to slaughter the roe deer who have lived on the hill for generations. This is not only cruel and unnecessary, but would be ineffective as a method of tree protection.

Aberdeen City Council have responded to the numerous communications from the public opposing this cruel slaughter with an ultimatum – if the public cannot donate £225,000 to pay for tree sleeves and fencing to protect the saplings by 10th May 2011, then the slaughter will go ahead and the deer will die.

Lush Edinburgh refuse to play victim to this threat and simply wish to say to the council that they should put the Tree For Every Citizen scheme on hold until they have the means necessary to put tree protection implements into place. While they believe that planting trees is positive action, killing these animals in order to do so is completely senseless and the planting should not even be considered until humane tree protection can be put in place, so that both the trees and deer can exist.

Alan Brown, from Lush Edinburgh said:

“We applaud the council for wanting to plant trees in our community, but surely this can be done without slaughtering a herd of innocent animals. We feel that as the plans currently stand, it’s too dear a price to pay”.

From Monday 18th April until Wednesday 20th April, Lush Edinburgh and Lush Aberdeen will be donating all proceeds (minus VAT) from their popular hand and body lotion, Charity Pot, to the animal rights groups in Aberdeen.

These groups have been working incredibly hard to protest against this cull and using their own funds to pay for publicity materials for their campaign. This is applicable to both the full-size and sample-size version of the product.

Date: 20th April 2011, with cyclists arriving in Aberdeen at 1 pm.
Location: Lush Aberdeen, 81 Union St, Aberdeen

Please come along and welcome the cyclists on their arrival, and show your support for the campaign.

You can keep up to date with the cycle and the great work that they are doing to help this campaign here:

Lush Cosmetics, established 15 years ago, has been driven by innovation and its ethics. Creators of pioneering beauty products such as the fizzing bath ballistic, shower jellies and butter creams and solid shampoo bars, Lush places emphasis on fresh ingredients like organic fruits and vegetables.

Lush operates a strict policy against animal testing and supports Fair Trade and Community Trade initiatives. Lush leads the cosmetics industry in combating over-packaging by running public awareness campaigns and developing products that can be sold ‘naked’ to the consumer without any packaging. Lush has been awarded the RSPCA Good Business Award for 2006 and 2007 and the PETA Trailblazer Award for Animal Welfare.

More info –

Apr 152011

It’s been yet another lively week in the ‘Deen; by the time this is published, Old Susannah will have been on SHMU radio discussing the fate of the Tullos Hill Roe Deer, election leaflets will be pouring through your letterbox, and petrol will reach £2 million a gallon.

At present there are still no answers to relevant, specific questions I sent to the Council’s tree men and Aileen Malone (aka ‘HoMalone’ – when left in charge of something, chaos breaks out and hilarity ensues.  Well, that’s one possible origin for this nickname).  But I’ll keep trying.
Those environmentally friendly folk at Lush are throwing themselves into the battle with gusto. A team is cycling up from Lush Edinburgh and should arrive around 12:30pm this coming Wednesday at the Lush shop in Aberdeen’s Union Street.

Their slogan against the cull is a good one:  “Too Deer a Price.” Their efforts and those of people and organisations from local to international level might make a difference yet.

However, those nice people at the Scottish Information Commission have some concerns over one of my Freedom of Information requests, which – believe it or not – the Council answered late, answered by refusing to answer and offered to do an inquiry which might well have never happened. Another few years and I might have a good story for you. Don’t hold your breath.

Finally, you may recall that Aberdeen’s former head, Sue Bruce, landed up in a job for the City of Edinburgh, much to our great sadness. The capital has since found at least five of its employees were involved in a massive fraud to do with awarding work and projects without proper tenders taking place and paying for work that was never done.

Makes you glad to be in the Granite City where fraud is unheard of, where there is never any City employee helping the police figure find out where £300,000 of taxpayer money went, where work always goes out to tender properly and is never just given to local builders automatically.  But, onwards to some defining words for this past week.

(Noun 1) – member of herbal family of plants characterised by slender shoots of green leaf, a grazing crop suitable for herbivores such as cows and sheep.  Just don’t mention the deer).
(Noun 2) – slang term for cannabis sativa, a substance which can allegedly temporarily impair the consciousness of the person who smokes or otherwise ingests the leaves and or buds of said plant.
(Verb) – to bring another’s wrongdoing to the attention of the public or authorities.  All of which bring us nicely to …John Stewart, Council Leader – a man apart.

Hundreds of people heard this pearl of wisdom from JS and raced to Union Terrace Gardens with rolling paper, matches and things called bongs, only to be disappointed

His critics allegedly call him names and go to his pub to hit him. But they can’t silence him. If the Church of Scotland deserves an ASBO for not behaving as he wants it to, he’ll say so by grassing them up to the local newspapers.

It is hugely surprising that his Press & Journal claim that the Church of Scotland deserved an ASBO (see last week’s column) didn’t get taken up internationally.

Also, in a really brave move, he’s called our attention to a little-known fact.  Brace yourselves: in John’s own words:

“there is not much in Union Terrace Gardens except grass.”

‘How did he work that out?’ I can hear you ask aloud as you read this over your cornflakes.

Stone me.  Hundreds of people heard this pearl of wisdom from JS and raced to Union Terrace Gardens with rolling paper, matches and things called bongs, only to be disappointed.  It seems that John was complaining that the parking lot to be was full of the kind of grass you walk on, or eat if you are a deer that the Council hasn’t yet shot, (sorry, culled).  Either that, or he took all the funny grass for himself and his friends on the Council – that would explain quite a lot.  How did our society let this happen?

“Let’s face it, Union Terrace Gardens, apart from a few trees and the floral crest, is just grass”

Our intrepid Council Leader told the Press & Journal:

“This (the design competition) is an excellent opportunity for Aberdeen to show how good it is at creating gardens. We will see what comes through from the design brief, but I am quite looking forward to seeing the designs.”

Well, so far Aberdeen City has shown how good it is at losing arts funding, keeping schools open, caring for the elderly, and ensuring that no fraudsters are operating within the council stealing hundreds of thousands of pounds. Aberdeen has also shown how good it is at propping up the AECC, selling land at millions of pounds less than market value, filling in potholes and closing libraries.  A mere £140 million pound project poses little challenge – even if we have no money.

Someone in the City Council attended the meetings – yet the head of the Council claimed to have no idea the project existed

There is no reaction yet from governments in New York, Paris and London – but in light of John’s comments they will be swiftly moving to check their city centre parks for grass and make any necessary corrections. Let’s all hope that after the design contest, which we are all eagerly awaiting as we struggle to pay bills, buy food and petrol etc. will ensure that there is none of this grass-type stuff left over.

I can only hope that John stays away from grass lest his otherwise astute judgement, financial acumen, people skills and fine mind suffer.

Tory councillor Alan Donnelly quite rightly asked:

“What planet do people think we are living on if they think we would support the destruction of Union Terrace Gardens?”

Well, it could be the same planet that saw Aberdeen City’s ACSEF spending some £300k (meant for Peacock Visual Arts) on a consultation showing, er, a big concrete square where the gardens now are. That’s some coincidence.

Deja Vu
(French expression) literally ‘already seen’.  A spooky feeling that you’ve been there before.  As Aberdeen Voice historian Alex Mitchell alluded to in one of his excellent articles on the City’s history, the £1.2 million pounds of funding that was lost to the City as ACSEF, the City and (£750 million pound a year taxpayer funded) Scottish Enterprise bravely battled to kill Peacock Visual Arts long-planned expansion was not the first time the City scored such a colossal own goal.

Cast your mind back some 5 or 6 years.

The Citadel had been earmarked for an arts centre.  It wasn’t going to be turned into a parking lot or shopping mall and there definitely weren’t going to be any deer or any grass:  everyone could have been happy.  The plan was written up and many meetings took place – the City, arts leaders, etc.  No one knows to this day precisely why we didn’t get a plan to the Arts Council on time (spooky!).

Kilroy Silk wanted to distance himself from the party because he thought they were ridiculous.  How bad is that?

Someone in the City Council attended the meetings – yet the head of the Council claimed to have no idea the project existed. If memory serves, the sum was probably £1 million and change. So if you get the feeling that your cash-strapped City had lost Arts Council funding previously – you are correct.

Was it a bit of history eerily repeating itself – or is it possible that the City has not been very well managed and organised for a few years?  Something to think about.  Ask your local Councillor or get out a Ouija board and try to contact the LibDems.  While you’re at it; ask them about the deer, Loirston Loch, services for the elderly and school closures should you make contact.

(collective noun) Comedy troupe such as Bremner Bird & Fortune, Monty Python, The Goonies, and the Lib Dems.

Faced with the Kafkaesque deer, Union Terrace Gardens, and Loirston Loch horror stories, we need to keep our spirits up and what organisation is better placed to give everyone a much-needed heartfelt laughing fit than the  United Kingdom Independence Party?

He might not be a part of the UKIP posse any more, but the very thought of colourful (literally) TV personality Kilroy-Silk alone should get you chuckling.  You might not know it, but the UKIP party has had more infighting than the SNP/Lib Dem coalition.

There apparently was a UKIP candidate in East Kilbride who had a whole laundry list of fascist policies; the UKIP mainstream disowned him. In fact Kilroy Silk wanted to distance himself from the party because he thought they were ridiculous.  How bad is that?  Their MEP member Nigel Farage has made some errors of judgment including appearing on Have I Got News For You (unaware that he was the biggest laugh of the night) and as well as car crash TV, this UKIP leader has serious slapstick form.

On the day of the General Election in May, Farage’s two-seater plane got entangled in a UKIP banner it was trailing and crashed shortly after take-off from an airfield in Northamptonshire – no one was hurt.  Vote for them if you like – can’t be worse than what we’ve got, and they obviously have a sense of humour.

Next week:  More of the same


Apr 142011

By Deborah Cowan.

Lush stores in both Edinburgh and Aberdeen are hoping to raise awareness for the ‘Save the Tullos Deer’ campaign by having an Edinburgh to Aberdeen cycle ride.
Team members from Lush Edinburgh are giving up part of their annual leave, to cycle to Aberdeen beginning on Monday 18th of April with an estimated arrival in Aberdeen on the morning of Wednesday 20th April.

They will be wearing T-Shirts with the logo ‘TOO DEER A PRICE TO PAY’ and hope to raise awareness of the campaign along the way.

The Aberdeen City Council intend to plant saplings on Tullos Hill as part of the ‘Tree for Every Citizen’ project. It is feared that the deer that currently residing on the hill, will eat these saplings, and so a cull of the deer is planned go ahead on the 10th of May 2011, unless the citizens of Aberdeenshire can raise £225,000 by this date to prevent the cull. This money would go towards deer proof fencing, tree guards and other deer proofing measures that the council is unwilling to provide and instead have chosen to go with the cheaper alternative of culling the deer.

However, Lush and other concerned citizens feel the onus should not fall on the public to raise the cash or that if the public are to fundraise to save the deer, then the time frame provided for this is too short and unrealistic.

Opponents of the deer cull are not saying that the ‘Tree for Every Citizen’ project is not a creditable initiative and many applaud the scheme for planting more trees around Aberdeen. However Lush feel the culling of the deer is unnecessary and cannot support the needless destruction of wildlife when there are better alternatives that could provide a deer proof environment for the new saplings and an improved habitat for the deer, who are some of the primary inhabitants of Tullos Hill.

Lush also points out that culling the deer in the Tullos Hill area will not prevent other deer from moving in and grazing on the unprotected saplings anyway, with a net result of destruction of the saplings and the needless loss of a unique local deer population.

Lush are encouraging all concerned members of the public to show their support by signing the in-store petition at Lush Aberdeen on 81 Union Street.

Also, all proceeds made from purchases of Lush Charity Pot (hand and body lotion) on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the ‘Save the Tullos Deer Big Cycle’ will go towards helping the local Aberdeen groups campaigning against the deer cull and pressuring the Aberdeen Council into looking at the viable alternatives to wholesale wanton destruction of local wildlife.