Aug 252015

Suzanne Kelly has been one of the main campaigners who tried to stop the Tullos Hill Deer Cull and who tried to stop the city wasting money planting trees on Tullos Hill. When hundreds of Aberdeen taxpayers signed a petition, the city’s Petitions Committee heard Kelly speak – and among other things agreed to release the entire Tree for Every Citizen scheme’s costs. Seventeen weeks went by – and what was finally released leaves much to be desired. Suzanne Kelly explains.


Still in the dark regarding deer numbers, road accident figures and financial details.

After weeks of chasing, reminding, and waiting, Aberdeen City finally released what was meant to be the complete financial costs of the ‘Tree for Every Citizen’ scheme. One fact is incontrovertible: This was never going to be a ‘cost neutral’ project.

For a scheme which officer Peter Leonard promised again and again was ‘cost neutral,’ waiting from the end of April through the end of August was excessive.

All of the costs are meant to be kept in electronic form.

A previous Freedom of Information disclosure from December 2011 came comparatively quickly in the form of an excel spreadsheet.

The city has had a government soil report for years advising that establishing trees on the hill – once an industrial and domestic waste tip – is unlikely. The soil is almost non-existent, and because of the rocky structure of the hill and the waste, trees that do grow (not that there is much sign of growth) are likely to simply topple over – according to the Forestry Commission.

It was immediately apparent that not all was right. A previous and well documented £43,800 payment to the central government was missing. This was for the previous TFEC phase failure on Tullos. Getting the then Chief Executive Valerie Watts to admit to this costly failure was problematic (see previous Aberdeen Voice articles).

The £43,800 seems not to be recorded in the August release of costs anywhere.

That was not the only cost missing from the information supplied.

In June 2010, according to the previous FOI disclosure, some £30,000 was paid too Bryan Massie and identified as ‘Granite City Forest Phase 1’ / weed control. The two entries relevant to this cost supplied before have now disappeared.

The expenditure of public funds is meant to be controlled and responsibly managed. When convener of the Housing & Environment Committee responsible for this scheme and the deer cull, Aileen Malone, famously demanded the public stump up £225,000 for fencing or the deer would be killed, charities told people not to give in to this ‘blackmail’ or a dangerous precedent would be set. The cost for fencing on the hill seems – with the information received – to be around £40,000.

The scheme that was to be cost-neutral may have cost taxpayers some £600,000 pound so far – with no forest on Tullos. And no deer.

The excel workbook contains a page for income. The Scottish Government seems to have been rather generous. Or should that be the Scottish taxpayer.

The ‘other expenditure’ worksheet the City released contains two invoices for which little description but the word ‘other’ has been supplied. In many instances no suppliers are named.

The big financial winner of the scheme is arguably consultant Chris Piper of C J Piper, taking away approximately £100,000 for being the architect of the deer slaughter and the tree planting. The planting cost some £200,000. It is unclear whether this lucrative contract was put out to tender or not: no cost for any tender exercises whatsoever appear on the financial information supplied. If there was no tender exercise, then the city should explain how it skirted procurement protocol.

Killing the deer cost the taxpayer some £14,000 pounds for 2012 and 2013. No information was supplied for 2014. It is believed that the herd had gone several decades without the need for hunters to control their numbers. (It should also be remembered that the remains of some 4 poached animals were found last January on Tullos).

A complaint as to the poor quality of the information released was made, and as told the city officer responsible to go back and think again. It was also suggested that an upcoming council debate on future deer management set for October should be deferred until the public are given the full picture of this scheme, have had a chance to react, and a chance to contact their councillors.

If the information on cost had come out in a timely fashion, that might have been different. One might wonder whether the delayed, incomplete information could have been a stalling tactic to give campaigners and residents little time to input their thoughts into the October discussion.

The council officer, Steven Shaw, Environmental Manager, who supplied the excel workbook wrote:

“Before I send it to you I have asked officers to have a check through to ensure that there is nothing missing and information included that perhaps shouldn’t be.”

As to the request to delay the October discussion on deer management Shaw wrote:

“With regards to the deer management report, it is not for you to decide when the report will be presented to committee. The service continues to work towards October’s committee for presentation of the report.”

The decision to defer or not should be a matter for the councillors to decide, not Shaw, particularly in light of the circumstances of the TFEC finances.

Shaw is also keen to establish how many deer cause accidents. He also provided a spreadsheet describing when deer bodies were found or when they were involved in accidents. The factors causing deer to move would have included the loss of habitat on Tullos – huge swathes of gorse (essential for a variety of wildlife) were removed for the trees. Greenbelt was lost across the city for a variety of other building projects as well, forcing wildlife to leave areas no longer habitable.

The number of incidents of deer being found dead, removed from roads, or involved in accidents is 47. Most of the descriptions supplied do not indicate what the cause of death was. The incidents are at a variety of locations and span 2014 and 2015 to date. Without information on whether the deer were involved in motor vehicle accidents, poached like the 5 deer killed last year by poachers in the Gramps, this data is very broad and inconclusive.

But it does show deer should be protected. If Shaw/ the pro-hunting league are trying to sell the idea of killing all the city’s deer on the basis that they are found dead, the public may not exactly embrace that logic – especially when espoused by the very people who destroyed their habitat in the first place, using the logic that when the forest becomes established, the deer would have a place to live.

The public have had quite enough of this kind of thinking, and comments on social media reflect that conclusion. The city seems to be sticking to the guidelines put out by the SNH which allow only a handful of deer on land that used to support much larger populations; these guidelines are merely that, and are considered to be very controversial by landowners, animal welfare groups and even some gamekeepers.

We await the number of accidents caused by weather conditions, alcohol and bicycles from Police Scotland. We are confident it will dwarf the deer figure. We point to the need to preserve what little biodiversity remains in the south of the city, and we have long campaigned for signs to warn motorists of deer crossing areas, as is done in other localities where there are deer.

When correct and complete information is made available, it will be released. For the 2011 FOI response and this August submission from Steve Shaw, visit

May 012015

Old Susannah recounts her latest encounter with Aberdeen Council, and gets to grips with issues in the wider world as well. By Suzanne Kelly

DictionaryChestnuts roasting on an open fire; Jack Frost nipping at your extremities; snow falling. Hope you’re enjoying the spring weather as well.

Perhaps you’ve gone up Tullos Hill to shelter under the Tree for Every Citizen forest during these wintry days. Walking through this award-winning forest, you’ll soon understand why we’ve had to blast the deer – 46 at least – to kingdom come to create this forest primeval.

I had the great privilege of addressing the city’s Petitions Committee last week; it was quite an experience.

Imagine how foolish I felt – there I was, making a presentation, and showing photos of how lovely the weeds had turned out, towering above the beautiful tree guards on Tullos, with barely a sapling rising over its tree guard – only to have Officer Steve Shaw tell the meeting that the Tree For Every Citizen Scheme was a huge success!

It has even won awards! I felt like apologising straight away – but the way things worked, I didn’t get a chance to say another word. This expert in animal welfare, ecology and car accidents (deer apparently were mentioned in 40 accidents last year) explained that deer have to be managed, that we’re in for a real gem of a forest, and that everything is fine.

Funny, he didn’t seem to be able to talk about how much this ‘cost neutral’ scheme is costing the taxpayer. I make it a minimum of £169,000 – for Tullos Hill alone. At such a bargain, I think we should kill everything that moves and turn every field into a future timber yard – for that’s what Pete Leonard is promising us – lots of income from lumber. Result!

Steve put forward a really logical, interesting, award-winning speech. I just wonder why Ranger Ian Talboys, who was happy enough to be photographed with Princess Anne and the award, didn’t want to address the meeting himself? I really thought that the scheme’s chief architect and deer hater extraordinaire, Aileen ‘HoMalone’ Malone, would have come along to wish me well, but there was no sign of her giant hair or giant shoulder pads anywhere.

Perhaps she was out stalking. Remember when you go to the polls to vote, a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for deer killing.

Happily there’s some really good economic news this past week; Scotland now has a few more billionaires and millionaires! This obviously means that their money will ‘trickle down’ onto the rest of us. Any day now. Sometimes it seems as if something is indeed trickling down on the less fortunate, but it doesn’t feel like wealth. But what a great system where the rich get richer and the poor (deserving or undeserving) can live in hope of a few crumbs from the rich’s table.

I’ve heard rumours that some of these billionaires shelter money from the taxman. I’ve also heard that one or two people need to use food banks. If so, I hope they’re the deserving poor, rather than the undeserving poor. There are one or two far left organisations out there like Oxfam and the like which claim if the really rich aren’t paying their share of tax, and are getting richer, this might have something to do with the poor getting poorer.

Then a funny thing happened, a couple of dolphins washed up dead on Japanese shores

Can’t see it myself, but perhaps if only a few people have most of the country’s money that might well mean less money for the rest of us.

If there are any accountants out there, please look into this for me, thanks.

There are other events that seem like they might be interrelated as well. The minor nuclear accident at the otherwise successful Fukushima plant in Japan is all but forgotten I know, and fair enough. This plant was otherwise a huge success for capitalism – checking the boxes for safety, and coming in at the lowest possible cost. For some reason after this minor accident, people left the area. Quickly.

Some even left their pets behind, so it couldn’t have been too serious. Then a funny thing happened, a couple of dolphins washed up dead on Japanese shores the other week. Their lungs had turned a funny white colour, and some scientists say this might be something to do with radioactivity. It’s more likely that the dolphins were just trying to be rescued from the seas and find their way into SeaWorld via Taji Cove.

Japan has lots of animal welfare experts, and some of them have a different explanation for the mass stranding.

The dolphins were depressed and decided to end it all. It wasn’t too many animals, only 150 or so, and as it’s Japan, they probably would have wound up either performing tricks in a sea world park or on a dinner plate, so it’s no big difference how they wound up anyway.

I was interested to read of Japanese experts claiming these big fish had any feelings or emotions in the first place; I thought that was why it was good to keep the Taji Cove tradition of chopping them up alive going. But I wonder – could there be some link between these beached dead creatures and that little radiation leak? Silly I know to even think it – if nuclear power was unsafe, then we wouldn’t be using it, would we.

Moving swiftly on, here are some definitions, and thoughts on whether there are any connected coincidences or causes behind them.

Nickel Ride: (Modern American English Slang) – Placing a handcuffed person in the back of a police van without benefit of a seatbelt or anything to hold onto, then driving as wildly as possible, obviously oblivious to any potential slight harm that may befall them.

A group of people in Baltimore are becoming more lawless by the day. They refuse to obey laws, respect other peoples’ Constitutional rights, and are getting very much out of hand. Indeed; Baltimore’s citizens are disobeying Baltimore police, and that’s terrible. Police brutality is a real problem: people in Baltimore are being unkind to their police.

If the police find you breaking a law, walking down a street, possibly not wearing a seatbelt or selling raffle tickets in Maryland, you pretty much get what you deserve; police are only human and with such outrageous provocation, they must react appropriately. According to online publication The Free Thought Project, these are the sorts of people harassing the police:-

“Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.”

Being a cop is a dangerous job; you never know when someone may jay walk, spray graffiti or have a mental health issue; you have to always be fit enough to help them see the error of their ways and stop them reoffending. That’s when techniques like ‘nickel rides’ or ‘rough rides’ come in handy.

he had a criminal record, and that tells us all we need to know about him

Of course the police can’t make an omelet without breaking a few skulls, and that’s what happened to one Freddie Gray. For some reason, he went into a police van a healthy lawbreaker, and well, was dead soon after one of these little fun rides.

At present, the police are saying this is self-inflicted. Suspects do that a lot – break their spines.

For some reason, coupled with the odd isolated police incident or two in Baltimore, this death has caused rioting. Some people just overreact with the slightest provocation.

Then again, these little police incidents have seen some $5 million awarded to the victims – sorry – suspected criminals in Maryland. The court actions cost another $5 million or so. Knowing that most of the awards were capped in Maryland at $500,000 gives you a bit of perspective. I’m sure all of the cases we need to know about get to court, and we all understand how easy it is to get over-enthusiastic when doing your job.

The need for reform is clear. In one other state, a man who had badly self-harmed himself (so the police say) was rightly sued for damaging police property: he’d got his blood on their clothes. That’s the kind of reform we need.

Pretty much Gray deserved what he got – first, he had a criminal record, and that tells us all we need to know about him. It’s not as if anyone in the police force in Maryland has ever broken the law. The Telegraph posted footage showing him pretending to be in pain, and two police officers are being made to suffer as they have to drag him into the van they drove him around in for half an hour or so. The Telegraph reported:

“Gray was arrested after making eye contact with officers and then running away, police said. He was held down, handcuffed and loaded into a van without a seat belt. Leg cuffs were put on him when he became irate inside.

He asked for medical help several times even before being put in the van, but paramedics were not called until after a 30-minute ride.” 

For some reason, people who are not wealthy and white are picked up by the police more often than those who aren’t. Makes you wonder.

Now, this may be leaping to a conclusion, but do we think there’s any connection between police interrogating pregnant women, helping grannies to confess their crimes with a bit of physical force, nickel rides, tasering and shooting, and people taking to the streets to protest? But just as I’m not taken seriously about deer and tree issues because I don’t have any degrees or awards, it would be wrong for me to come to any conclusions about this situation.

who can argue against a cull?

One comforting thought is the adage that everything that happens in American happens in Britain 10 years later.

Our Scottish police started carrying guns without troubling any elected officials; that was pretty reassuring and thoughtful of them.

Then they promised they would only carry weapons in life-threatening situations. But then they showed up at shopping malls and restaurants with arms, so you know that citizens have got well out of hand since the police needed to bring guns.

It’s only a matter of time before our police start adopting some tried-and tested American techniques.

Deer-related accidents: (compound modern Scottish noun) Accidents caused by deer being hit by cars.

One or two road accidents in Scotland were caused by police chases or police officers last year. A two week police operation found 13 drunk drivers in Aberdeen last June. Perhaps a couple of accidents happened in bad weather conditions, but you don’t hear much about that. And now, according to Aberdeen City’s officer Steve Shaw, about 40 accidents involving deer happened recently too.

Sometimes the deer were ‘nicked’; sometimes they were badly injured or killed. There is only one solution: shoot the deer.

For a bit of perspective on how serious the deer issue is, National Travel Survey data says the UK gets between 690,000 and 710,000 accidents per year. The sooner we kill the deer so they don’t risk getting hurt, the better. With figures like this, who can argue against a cull? It’s not as if there are any pro-culling lobbyist groups that are trying to make a molehill into a mountain.

Actually, the city have taken up the suggestion and have done a u-turn – they will put up road signs to warn motorists where deer may be. But perhaps we should save the fortune that a few dozen signs will cost, and just pay some hunters to cull these vermin (as Peter Leonard of ACC fondly calls them).

Originally the city wrote to me to say signs were a waste of time because no one reads them. This is why you won’t find signs pointing the way to the Trump Estate, to the airport, warning where elderly people may be crossing the road, or when Kaffee Fasset has a show of quilts on at the art gallery.

Shaw says this is an increase in the number of deer causing accidents! There is apparently no pattern, and it’s happening everywhere! The deer menace must get killed. He did say that some of these accidents weren’t fatal to deer, but we can’t take chances. If we kill them now, then they can’t get in accidents and get killed.

Again, Old Susannah is not an expert, as all the people in favour of planting trees on Tullos Hill are fond of reminding her. But I can’t help wonder all the same, could there be some link to our building over all of our green spaces and removing gorse from places like Tullos, where deer used to live before they were destroyed, and deer moving around the remaining green areas? Could there be a link?

Next week: election result overviews, a new who’s who, and more

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

May 012015

deer6featBy Suzanne Kelly

On Tuesday 21 April I represented the Save the Tullos Hill Deer group at Aberdeen City Council’s Petitions Committee. The petitioners had several requests; the results were mixed. Here are the results of that meeting.

With the mandate of hundreds of Aberdeen residents, and the backing of people from Aberdeenshire and beyond, a 10 minute presentation was delivered to the City’s Petitions Committee.

The issues that the petition put to the Committee were:

  1. To immediately stop culling (deer numbers may be very low based on the last SNH count)
  2. To explain how having 3-4 deer on Tullos can possibly mean a healthy gene pool
  3. To work with the police to stop further poaching (at least 5 animals were killed on Tullos and Kincorth hills in January 2014 – although Ranger Talboys wrote in an email they were probably killed elsewhere, and the poachers for some reason took the remains up the hills in question – a rather unlikely scenario, one which may show him to be biased and perhaps a bit out of touch)
  4. To erect deer crossing signs – there virtually are none in the city
  5. To disclose all costs associated with the Tree for Every Citizen Scheme and deer culling for the past 8 years

A copy of the presentation made to the city can be found here:

Culling to Continue / no clear explanation on deer gene pool

Sadly the culling will go on – at least until a review of deer issues are made in October. But with such strong, well-funded lobbyists in favour of deer culling, unless there is a public outcry, there is little hope but that Aberdeen will stick to the controversial SNH guidelines. Where we had dozens of deer in the gorse and meadow of Tullos, the SNH now want somewhere between 3 and 4 animals while the trees grow (if they do grow – which would take decades) to about 6 animals.

Animal welfare experts, landowners and gamekeepers all disagree with the SNH over culling quantities, as have cities such as Glasgow, which are being lobbied to accept the guidelines and cull. The election run-up is a good time to contact your elected officials and candidates on these issues. The Tree for Every Citizen scheme was a Liberal Democrat election campaign promise; it was meant to be cost neutral, a score on which it has failed.

Signage to increase

Another small victory is that the city seems willing now to erect signs warning where there are likely to be deer crossing.  Shaw said there is no pattern to where the 40 deer accidents he claimed happened last year are. Given that there is so much building taking place in Aberdeen’s former greenbelt, this is not a huge surprise.

However common sense will hopefully prevail, and at appropriate places motorists can be warned deer are in the area where no such warnings exist at present.  There are fewer accidents when drivers are warned of potential risks as opposed to when they are not; this is basic logic. When I last lobbied for this, the city’s astonishing reply was that ‘people don’t pay attention to signs’.

This has hardly stopped the city erecting dozens of signs of every kind all over the roads advertising all manner of events. The number of accidents caused by drunk drivers, speed, speed inappropriate to weather conditions, etc. in our are far, far dwarves the number of deer-related accidents: looking after the safety of motorists and our remaining wildlife should be a priority, the price for which should not be paid by the wildlife.


The committee seemed interested in the poaching aspect; hopefully something will be done to protect our deer populations.

Costs to be Revealed

In a considerable victory, the committee agreed with the petitioners that all of the costs associated with the Tree for Every Citizen Scheme will be revealed. Aberdeen Voice uncovered some £169,000 expenses associated with Tullos Hill alone – and yet city officer Peter Leonard promised the Housing & Environment Committee this was to be ‘cost neutral’. Leonard should have also had sight of a letter that puts the plan’s success into question.

Having made my presentation which can be found here, it was over to a city officer to speak.  I had absolutely no right to reply at the meeting.  Here is what the officer said, and what I’d say in response.

Officer Steve Shaw:  The scheme is an award winning success

Rather than ranger Ian Talboys addressing the committee, Steve Shaw did. He spoke of 40 accidents over the past year involving deer – some where drivers apparently merely ‘nicked’ or ‘bumped’ an animal and then reported this to the police. Some were collisions. A humane response might be to erect the signs that I have been calling for, rather to call for killing our deer.

There are also devices that can deter deer from crossing roads. Then again, this is a city council whose ranger considered shooting two young deer who got trapped in a Tullos fence – rather than opening the gate. I would have liked to tell the committee about that.

Weeds surround tree guards where there were once flowers and gorse; at 3 years old, there is no substantial sign of growth. Yet this scheme won awards – as Steve Shaw was proud to announce in his counter to my speech.

Talboys was presented one such award despite the clear visual devastation on the hill from its former state. This award he won was given by the Woodlands Trust.  Does the Woodland trust work closely with the SNH who is pushing its deer cull guidelines and wants powers to make them mandatory on public and private land?

Those behind the scheme

Ranger Ian Talboys was present with city officer Steve Shaw.  Talboys is a name that will be familiar to anyone who’s followed the ‘Tree for Every Citizen’ scheme; he’s a strong advocate of deer culling, and belongs to the Lowlands Deer Network, which lobbies local governments to try and encourage deer culling. It is funded in part by Scottish Natural Heritage, who favoured the scheme to turn Tullos from a meadow environment suitable for deer into the current condition it is in.

Shaw didn’t mention the group by name, and other pro-culling groups may well be involved. Considering SNH found £100,000 to give to such groups in 2014, it is no wonder that the pressure to cull is on.

The fight is still very much on to protect our wildlife, our wild places, and taxpayer money.

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

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

Apr 172015

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

Look Again (1)Apologies for the late running of this service. However, I’ve been busy getting Tullos Hill petition signatures, and writing my presentation to the city’s Petitions Committee for this coming Tuesday.

Fortunately, the brand new album from the Gerry Jablonski Band arrived to give me some new listening pleasure while I was reliving all the fun of the 2012 Tullos Hill issues.

For some reason, the blues seem particularly appropriate to some of our city’s latest comings and goings.

The city council will no doubt be thrilled that over 250 city residents on the electoral register signed the Tullos Hill petition.

They’ve signed up to get the city to stop killing the deer (at least for now – there may be very few left), and to get full disclosure of the hundreds of thousands of pounds which Aileen Malone’s ‘free’ scheme to plant trees cost us.

The signatories also request that the city seek indemnity from Scottish Natural Heritage – you may remember they made Aberdeen give them £43,800 for the last failed tree planting. This was blamed on deer browsing and on weeds.

The blame couldn’t have been related to the fact the hill’s so rocky it is unlikely any trees will withstand any high wind (in a government soil report which every supporter of killing your deer knew about). At least as my photo shows, they’ve done a bang-up job taking care of the weeds on the hill. The city’s rangers are very proud as to how much gorse they’ve been manly enough to cut and put in a wood chipper.

They’ve made it so you can see around a corner on a path they’ve widened. Result! Maybe not a great result for the wildlife, insects and birds that live in the gorse, but it kept the boys happy, and that’s what counts.

More on the Petition later – but a huge thank you from the Stop The Tullos Hill Deer Campaign to every single person who signed, shared and helped with this petition. That extends to all the people whose signatures weren’t eligible. ACC discounted hundreds of signatures. The city said some people weren’t on the electoral register (I hope everyone is registered to vote and are paying their taxes, just like our local rich do).

Also disregarded were people who live in the shire, who clearly shouldn’t be allowed to have any opinions on the city’s doings. A mere 400+ people want the city to stop this cull, the Scottish SPCA ‘said killing deer to plant trees which could be planted anywhere at all was ‘abhorrent and absurd.’

Animal welfare organisations offered to help advise on how you can have trees and deer without blasting the creatures, but that’s not much good for councillors after the hunting community’s votes. In 2012 objection to killing 36 deer was put down to emotionalism, sentimentality and other fully unacceptable traits; not to the fact the trees aren’t likely to grow.

Still, when the gamekeepers’ association also says the SNH culls are draconian, I guess that means they’re just being emotional, sentimental fools, too.

Look Again (5)

Look Again! Bruce and the Seagulls

I’m sure the petition committee members will welcome a speech from Old Susannah with unbridled joy.

I hope they remember that I may be making the presentation, but it’s the thousands of people who signed the initial petition and the 400+ people who they are answerable to. Those were the thousands of people written off in an official report as being ‘a vociferous but vocal minority.’

Old Susannah will report back well before the upcoming elections to let you know how the 5 labour, 5 SNP, LibDem, Conservative and Independent on the committee vote on the three petition proposals before them. I’m just trying to keep ‘the vociferous minority’ informed, and the objecting community councils.

As a reminder, the last time we had elections an anti-deer cull independent Andy Finlayson was voted in, defeating pro-cull, legwarmer-wearing Lib Dem Kate Dean. The LibDems saw a marked change of fortune in the Deen.

I’d hate to want our elected officials to feel hot under the collar though, or think they have some duty to listen to what the people are telling them, when non-binding, controversial guidelines from the SNH are at stake. I wonder what we’re in store for this time at the ballot box?

Mind you, I’ve not heard or seen much about the upcoming elections. There were one or television programmes which might have been debates. I just wasn’t sure if these were either beauty pageants or episodes of University Challenge. Aside from one or two newspaper articles and the occasional good-humoured post on Facebook, you’d barely know an election was looming.

Congratulations to all the parties which are keeping the electioneering so factual, dignified and honest.

I will vote, mostly because a bunch of tiresome old women back in Edwardian times made voting into a big deal. Hopefully some smart man can help me decide what party to pick, and how to mark those complicated ballot papers.

The question is how to select just one candidate from the honest, trustworthy, charismatic steadfast field? Should I vote for the people who want to kick non UK borns like me out; should I vote for the ones who want the UK to keep chipping in a little for the privilege of having Trident? Or perhaps I’ll just vote for the ones who promise to tax the rich and sell me a council house on the cheap.

Because I value safety and world peace, I’ll probably vote for a candidate who favours Trident. Trident is how the Americans keep us safe. Their missiles are right here (that makes me feel safer already).

If the US decides to push the button, then they can pretty much destroy all of Europe and make it uninhabitable for hundreds of years at least. And because we want to do our bit, the UK pays for it. After all, it’s not like we’d do anything else with a few spare billion pounds is it?

Look Again (6)

Look Again! “they may take our lives but they will never take our TOGAS”

I also value candidates who are honest rather than opportunist, and who stick to their word and their convictions no matter what, so I may go LibDem.

Aileen Malone must have known how many deer would be slaughtered for her precious trees, and how much money would be used; but good on ‘er; she stuck to her guns. Then there’s that nice Mr Clegg; he stuck to his word about tuition fees, didn’t he?

Or perhaps I’m remembering that wrong. Then again, some of the women candidates have really nice shoes. Happy voting everyone!

Unhappily, all the fun of campaigning is soon enough finished, and then we will forget all about politics again for another 5 years or so. What we really want is bread and circuses (or TV and fast food) to distract us from boring things like nuclear weaponry, torture, armed police, food banks and tax avoiders,( isn’t that right Sir Ian)?

Therefore it’s time for some cheery definitions based around recent doings in the Deen.

Look Again: (Modern Scottish compound noun) A vibrant and dynamic, forward looking (and forward looking again) visual arts festival.

Edinburgh is gearing up for another year of its Fringe, International Film, and Book festivals. Tens of thousands from around the world will enjoy over a thousand events. They will take to streets with scarcely any crowd barriers or teams of police and security guards; and somehow it still works out.

Dundee residents will quickly forget that their V&A project was millions over budget (although some of you in government knew, didn’t you?) and add another arts venue will join Dundee’s contemporary arts centre, The Discovery and The Unicorn (Dundee for some reason wants visitors enjoying themselves on its river, not just cargo ships). Aberdeen however excels at something – and that is one-upmanship.

A long time ago, art was a means of inspiring thoughts, evoking memories and feeings, stoking aspirations, and stimulating creativity. Thank goodness we’ve modernised. Our Look Again festival has reminded everyone what an art festival is really about. We had ‘top’ artists dressing up our boring, easily ignored giant sculptures of heroic figures.

Who’d have ever noticed Robert the Bruce if we hadn’t put cheeky seagull and pigeon figures on him?

Who’d have noticed a statue of some guy named William Wallace if we didn’t put some kind of dayglow toga on it?

And how else to show the kids that we’re cool and down with them other than by putting a set of giant Dr Dre’s on Robert Burns?

An outdoor arts festival is all about showing off, vibrant colours, and artwork that needs explanation and makes us ask questions like ‘why is Robert Burns holding a giant knitted ball that’s supposed to be Mercury with a big red dot on it?’ It’s about showing how clever artists are – but not so clever that every last man, woman and child can’t figure out what the artwork is supposed to mean when told.

Art festivals are whimsical, fun, vibrant, dynamic (and probably well connected). It doesn’t really matter if a person who’s painted human figures can’t do so – we can just write that off as them being an artist that is expressionist. Most of all, art festivals need to generate controversy – but not anything too bold or risqué – particularly if public money is involved.

Look Again (2)

Look Again! Public Art.

Aren’t we all wonderful? Isn’t everything bright and shiny? It was a wonderful fun festival for all the family, which avoided anything that was garish, cheap, tinny, dumbed-down, poorly-executed, forced, or which required any form of imaginative or intellectual input from the viewer.

I am sure parts of the festival were not quite as interesting as these wonderful statues, but the statues are what so subtly whispered ‘pssst have a look’ and which caught the public’s imagination.

That the public’s imagination had to be cudgelled and frogmarched around by pre-briefed, script-adhering clipboard bearers (who didn’t know how much we spent on the dressed up statues) is neither here nor there. We’ve showed our big sisters Glasgow and Edinburgh that we’re cool, we are artistic, we do festivals and we rock. Result!

I am only a foreigner here (until UKIP kicks me out in a fortnight); but in my country and in my own meagre study of art history and creating art, I had some old-fashioned ideas. These included showing respect and dignity towards the artwork created by others, be they alive or dead.

I’m sure the Wallace statue’s sculptor would have been delighted to see his masterwork turned into a figure of forced, weak laughter and whimsy.

For some reason the Gordon Highlander monument at Castlegate escaped the modernising treatment. I don’t’ know why that should have been, but surely it wasn’t because the curators of this splendid festival knew that decking this monument to a recently-closed regiment of heroes might not have kept the gullible public on side.

Maybe they’ll put paper hats on their heads and make them hold fish and chips next year; we’ll see. The absence of any material on the day to give history of the original sculptors or their subjects was a good move too; why burden people with stuffy detail when you can show them the arse of a pigeon with the saying ‘Fit Like’ on it?

The sordid subject of money should never be brought up when the arts are involved, but each ‘top’ artist who got to show their skills by decorating these statues was given a fixed budget, amount unknown. Suggestions I’ve had saying that some of these wanted to do their bit as cheaply as possible to keep profit margins up are of course just unkind.

That Aberdeen City found money in its arts budget will be huge comfort to those who missed out on any arts awards at the last round.

Equally pleased will be the photographers whose work has over time been ‘borrowed’ by the city for print and internet publication – without a cent ever being paid to the artists involved, and in many cases without even bothering to contact the artists, for whom the honour of having their work associated with ACC should be reward enough.

Let’s see what we get next year; let’s see which artists are consulted and invited. For I may well be wrong, but this festival might possibly have been the work of the usual suspects. The usual suspects have worked long and hard to make this city’s publically-funded arts scene what it is today. Perhaps they should rest from their intensive labours, and let someone else get involved.


Our local graffiti artists have outdone themselves this time; they have managed to capture the whimsical, irreverent humour of the Look Again festival and combine it with political commentary! Result! The manifestation of this appeared on political party offices in Rosemount.

Persons or persons unknown decided to do away with the boring intellectual debate side of campaigning, and took the time and trouble to paint a swastika on some of our city’s office fronts. This rather charming motif shows a certain amount of historical knowledge, so hat’s off to the bright spark behind this little episode.

Mona Lisas

Not one, but two Mona Lisas – demonstrating Aberdeen’s rich Cultural heritage

Some might think this is a mindless, crude, insensitive, illogical, brutish, violent act of a coward too afraid to put their feelings into words or to do anything positive with the options at their disposal, but that’s just nit-picking. Yes, this was the act of a young folk hero or heroine, who deserves all of our thanks for their charming display.

Then again some graffiti artists are young people who, spoiled for all the exciting things they can do in this town want to paint. Don’t they know how many different shops we’ve got?

Every part of this teen-friendly town is filled with exciting free drop in centres open hours that suit teens where they can relax, play pool, use computers, do music, dance or sit around.

It must be like paradise for them, however much or little money they have at their disposal.

We clearly cannot allow graffiti as practiced by kids today; an arts festivals like Look Again and the really happening Aberdeen Youth Festival be quite enough artistic outlets for them indeed.

If we allowed young people to for instance have a graffiti wall that might lead to all forms of self-expression.

That kind of thing might lead to disrespect for our built heritage, art that was not State-approved, and all sorts of other unacceptable, non-conservative activity. It would be awful if unartistic crude adornments added to our city’s monuments and buildings; this must not be allowed. Unless it’s paid ‘top’ artists who are doing it.

I think that’s all the art I can stand for, particularly as I stood for hours trying to get into the Art Gallery’s last open night for some years. A massive 300 strong crowd was allowed inside this time!

That’s about as many they fit into The Lemon Tree (which may be just a wee bit smaller). A woman in a wheelchair waited in this queue without complaint. After all, a 300 max was for our safety, don’t you know.

The first evening event I went to at the gallery was on the theme of World War I; it was safe to say that more than 300 people were inside, and somehow no horrendous accidents occurred. But our safety mandarins got wind of how popular this was, and decided it was a job for a few crowd barriers and sensible attendance rules.

It’s amazing how our subtle safety mandarins know how to add just that bit more fun, excitement and buzz to our city’s events. What was about the most artistic thing I’ve seen this past month? Two Mona Lisas (pictured above), queuing up to get in the Gallery on its last night until in a year or so it reopens – minus its marble staircase and with a shoebox type addition on the roof. Art is amazing.

Next week – Safety, elections, NHS Grampian, and a roundup of what the city’s great and good have been up to.

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Apr 032015

deer3picWith thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

A petition to examine issues surrounding Aberdeen’s Tullos Hill has gained sufficient public support for the city’s Petitions Committee to address the issues.

Campaigners were told today that they had exceeded the threshold of 250 signatures, and the city’s Petitions Committee will meet with the petitioners on 21 April.

Text of their petition can be found here .

In May of 2011, campaigners wanted the deer spared and for Tullos Hill to be left as a meadow and the roe deer to be allowed to remain. The hill once had a field of dame’s violets, which a city official, Peter Leonard, dismissed as ‘garden escapees’. Campaigners argued that the flowers and the gorse were important habitat and should not have been removed.

The hill is a former industrial and domestic rubbish dumping ground with serious soil pollution issues. A ‘Tree for Every Citizen’ scheme was put up for public consultation, but it omitted there was a deer cull already planned for the tree planting. When the public found out about the cull, thousands signed petitions and several community councils objected as well.

STV reported that 80% of the city opposed the scheme. The convener of the Housing & Environment Committee, Liberal Democrat Aileen Malone, demanded that the public come up with £225,000 for fencing – or the deer would be shot. Animal welfare charities and organisations were alarmed at this unprecedented demand, and people were urged not to give into the demand.

Free of charge services were offered to show the city how to grow the trees using non-lethal methods – these were dismissed out of hand.    A spokesperson for the Scottish SPCA referred to the culling of the deer for the tree scheme as ‘abhorrent and absurd.’

The public were initially told the tree planting would be at no cost to them. However, a Freedom of Information request revealed that an expert C J Piper, was paid £72,212 for services to the tree-planting scheme. Other expenses include fencing, the cost of having the deer shot, and a previous failed planting on the same hill which saw the taxpayers returning £43,800 to Scottish Natural Heritage.

The campaigners want to know what all of the expenses are both historic and ongoing.

John Robins of Animal Concern said:

“Aberdeen City Council have all but wiped out a perfectly healthy herd of deer which had existed for generations on a piece of rough land which has never been suitable for anything else. Tullos Hill evolved into its own natural habitat and should have been valued and protected for what it was and not destroyed to fit in with the grandiose plans of petty politicians. It is extremely unlikely that any new woodland will survive on Tullos Hill. The Council should stop wasting public money and leave the area to nature – in this instance mother nature definitely knows best.”

Kelly, who has written several articles for Aberdeen Voice and a report, continued:

“People feel they were misled on several aspects of the scheme.  People do not know how much money is involved,  how safe or otherwise the soil on the hill is, and why more deer must be shot. 

“There may be very few deer left in the entire city according to a recent SNH count. We want to know how much tax money has gone on this scheme, we want no further culling, and we want the city to seek assurances from the SNH that we won’t see another £43,800 bill coming our way: the trees are covered by weeds in many places, no matter how many awards have been dished out.”


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Mar 172015

At the end of March a petition asking for answers about Tullos Hill will close. Anyone interested in finding out how their tax money is being used, anyone interested in saving the city’s remaining roe deer population, and anyone who wants to ensure further money isn’t wasted is urged to sign now. Suzanne Kelly updates Aberdeen Voice on the petition that the ‘Save The Tullos Hill Deer’ group created at the end of 2014.

roe-deer-fawn-picTime is running out for a petition which could force the city to release information on its costly Tree For Every Citizen scheme and which may help save the city’s remaining roe deer from further culling.

The petition can be found here.

Anyone resident in Aberdeen who is on the electoral role can sign. Signatories have to register with Aberdeen City via the link on the petition page.

Many people have reported problems with the city’s electronic system – anyone who wants help in registering can email

Aberdeen residents may recall the Liberal Democrats’ election pledge two elections back: A Tree For Every Citizen. Who could object to such a scheme, especially as it was not going to cost the Aberdeen taxpayer any money?

Aberdeen Voice investigations have since proved this innocent-sounding scheme was costly in terms of money and in the much-loved Tullos Hill roe deer population, which had existed in the meadowlands of Tullos for decades before the scheme was rolled out. No one was told that the majority of the trees were destined for meadowland on Tullos Hill (itself an industrial and domestic waste dumping area which had evolved into fields supporting insects, plants, birds and small animals).

No one was told that a previous scheme had seen Aberdeen’s taxpayers penalised £43,800 for the failure of the previous attempt to grow trees on the hill, either. Another fact which was not included in the public consultation was the city and Scottish Natural Heritage had already decided that to implement the scheme, they were going to kill most of the existing roe deer.

These deer had not previously been seen as a problem; they were simply small animals living 6-7 years, greatly enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.

Further background on the Tree For Every Citizen Scheme can be found by using Aberdeen Voice’s line search facility.

The scheme went ahead, and the trees planted are in many (if not all) areas on Tullos overshadowed by weeds which will likely kill them. Some three dozen roe deer were slaughtered – while people were allowed to roam on the hill — as a hired hunter shot them. The city’s risk matrix didn’t think that the residents using the hill for walking, bicycling or riding motorbikes were in any danger of running into a stray bullet.

The petition took months for the city to approve its wording. It had an initial deadline which was extended when it emerged that people who lived outwith the city or who were not on the electoral roll had been allowed to sign.  The city has allowed extra time for people to come forward to sign.

The petition asks for assurances that no further deer will be shot until at a minimum the actual population is known – there may be as few as 19 animals left in the city’s remaining, shrinking green belt pockets according to Scottish Natural Heritage Figures. Deer were killed to plant trees which may never thrive.

The city will be asked to disclose exactly how much money has been spent on the scheme to date; Aberdeen Voice has figures showing that the main consultant, Chris Piper, has received in excess of £50,000 for his services to date. Tens of thousands of pounds seem to have been spent on fencing. How much money the city spent on cleaning toxic chemicals from the soil and removing debris is unknown.

The petition also wants the city to ask for a guarantee from Scottish Natural Heritage / The Forestry Commission that the taxpayer will not be expected to hand over another £48,000 should this current tree-planting scheme fail – which some believe it is destined to do.

Anyone who wants answers or who wants to protect the remaining deer is urged to sign before the end of March.

STOP PRESS: Some new information has come to light in relation to the Tree For Every Citizen Scheme. Aberdeen Voice will report soon.

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Oct 242014

By Suzanne Kelly. 

roe-deer-fawn-picAs Aberdeen continues its controversial and unpopular deer culling activities, it continues to spend tens of thousands of pounds on the cull and planting trees.

The trees planted on Tullos Hill recently were done at the expense of 34 or 35 animals which had previously lived on the hill: SNH guidelines (not law, guidelines) are being obeyed: the city and SNH intend only 3 deer should be allowed on the hill. How this can lead to a healthy herd is not understood.

As to the trees, consultants, fencing contractors and others have received tens of thousands of pounds from the taxpayer – and the indications are the plantation may well fail just as two previous attempts have.

The most recent attempt cost Aberdeen £43,800 payable for the failure alone.

A Facebook page Save The Tullos Hill Deer has been monitoring the situation, and a group meets to monitor events as well.  Although thousands signed a petition handed to the City Council at the time of the cull, this was written off by the paid consultant, C J Piper, in a report as being a ‘vociferous minority’.  This ‘minority’ included several community councils as well.

A minimum of 250 signatures from Aberdeen residents will bring the matter forward for city consideration. Campaigners advise:

“Please consider registering, and signing this petition: the more signatures from people in Aberdeen the better. We are asking the council to come clean on how much was spent so far on killing deer and …the tree scheme, to do a proper count, and to stop killing deer until we have accurate figures. 1. follow the link; 2. register; 3. sign; 4. please share. Thank you very much indeed.”

Further details of the history of this situation can be found by using the Aberdeen Voice Search feature.

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Aug 152014

In mid-July Suzanne Kelly wrote to all the City councillors and the new Chief Executive. This was following Evening Express revelations that according to a Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) count, there may be only nineteen deer left in the entire city, with only three or four left on Tullos Hill. Tullos had a deer population which was stable for decades, until the Liberal Democrats foisted a ‘tree for every citizen’ scheme on the city, and the deer’s days were numbered as the City Council refused even to consider alternatives to shooting.

In response to Kelly’s email, the City Council created a document which it sent to all councillors, but not to Kelly. Kelly has obtained this missive, and in this article seeks to dismiss its points.

baby deer

We may be in danger of losing all of our city deer.

This will be due in no small part to the recent drive to cull dozens of them at a time, on the pretexts that ‘they have no natural predators’ and that for reasons best known to scheme proponents Councillor Aileen Malone and ranger Ian Talboys, we need to ‘plant a tree’ for every citizen.

Having written to all the councillors, a few did respond with sympathetic views, advising that they were against the cull, and that they knew of the 3,000-plus citizens and the community councils which had asked for the tree scheme and the cull to be scrapped. However, many councillors never got back in touch.

Many people have since forwarded an email sent by the City Council’s media division. The media department chose to write to the councillors and the Chief Executive rebutting my email. They left me out of the correspondence.

Perhaps they knew that most of their points could readily be countered. This article is a response to the City Council’s justifications for how it treats its deer population and the low regard in which it clearly holds its voters.

Here is the gist of what the City Council tried to claim, and what I would like to say to the councillors and the City Council by way of rebuttal, a courtesy they decided not to extend to me. There go my hopes for a new Chief Executive who would be open, accountable and transparent in her dealings.

Thanks to the many people who sent me the City Council’s claims which I will deal with point by point.

  • The City Council claims there are errors and inaccuracies in an  Evening Express article of 19th July. The City Council claims the article did not report the real story regarding the roe deer population.

An interesting introduction; but the City Council fails to discount the article in this opening paragraph, or to say specifically what those inaccuracies are. They are going to address these ‘inaccuracies’ with the Evening Express. How very odd then, to remember an  Evening Express article of a few years back. This story advised that ‘two deer were found dead ahead of the planned cull’.

Well, that was true: the deer had died of unknown causes TWO YEARS before the cull. Someone in the City Council contacted the  Evening Express and encouraged this story. The City Council had no interest in correcting that little inaccuracy.

  • The City Council addresses the claim that Tullos Hill is “under threat from deer extinction”, and says this is not true. They say the survey was undertaken by SNH in January 2014 at only four of the city’s new woodland sites, out of 39 woodland sites. The sites looked at were Tullos Hill, Seaton, Danestone and Greenferns.

The SNH want to have only four to six animals on the whole of Tullos Hill, to fit in with their recent guidelines.

Perhaps the deer were hiding from the infrared sensors

These are for guidance and not legally binding, although you would not know that as the City Council repeats the mantra over and over again that deer must be ‘managed’ (ie shot).

The ranger Ian Talboys wrote an email in response to 16 deer limbs being found in a ‘suspected’ poaching incident on Tullos. More on that later. If he ever did express a desire to protect the remaining animals, find the culprits or find a means to discourage wildlife crime, he doesn’t seem to have put it into writing: a Freedom of Information (FOI) request disclosed all relevant correspondence.

Talboys says that he believed the deer must have been shot elsewhere, a rather wild claim some might think, as he thought there were fewer deer than that on Tullos:

“I would be surprised if there were enough deer in the area for anyone to be able to take four in one go so it may be the remains have been taken from somewhere else and dumped on Tullos Hill”

Perhaps it’s just as well that Talboys is not a criminologist. But the bottom line is, how can four to six deer, even if migrating between sites, have a healthy, stable gene pool and survive poaching? At such numbers exactly how will we continue to have deer on the hill?

  • The City Council’s media personnel then go on to offer conjecture, not fact, as to why the count may have been low. The count was aided by the contribution from Ian Burnett of Aberdeen City Council.

Perhaps the deer were hiding from the infrared sensors is one idea they offer. It is interesting how the City Council flits from conjecture to fact when it suits its purposes. What I asked for was a halt to any further culling, until at the very least another count was done to establish the numbers.

The apologists go on to explain in great detail how hard it is for the SNH to get accurate numbers for counting deer: temperature, other animals, weather, all sorts of reasons are given for why counts are inaccurate.

No one in the City Council seemed to have any concerns about inaccurate counting of deer when it put out its ‘Granite City Forest Tree for Every Citizen Programme – Tullos Hill Community Woodland’ document (BRN 165321 Case No 4158709).

It stated categorically that in 2011, 29 deer were counted on the hill. I will put up my hand and admit that at present I can’t find my source for the count of 70 deer in the area. However, if I am inaccurate with numbers, then I have company in the City Council’s paid professionals; only my counting doesn’t form the basis for shooting them.

Fact: the above-referenced report says that in February 2011 there were “seven bucks, ten does, six juveniles and six unclassified animals” (Page 67). The targets set (same page) were the destruction of eight bucks, nine does and seven juveniles in 2012/13 in the first killing, i.e. 24 of the 29 would be killed.

The great scheme was then to destroy four more creatures each season until 2016/17.

one of the complainants coincidentally writes to Aileen Malone with great frequency

No mention seems to appear in this 69-page report, in my opinion a highly biased apology for deer killing, that it’s hard to count the animals, or that there could be a doubt over the number of animals on the hill.

As above, councillors were told there were 29 animals on Tullos in February 2011. The hunter(s) paid to do the shooting that first season killed either 34 or 35 animals: the records are so poorly written that not even the City Council’s FOI request managed to find a figure.

So there you have it: 29 deer counted, of which 24 were going to be destroyed, and 34 or 35 were in fact killed. And now we are told it’s hard to count them.

  • The City Council’s cull apologist goes on to say that The Housing and Environment directorate continues to receive reports of, and complaints about large deer populations and the damage they cause across Aberdeen.

In response to my FOI request I was sent complaints about deer.

Oddly enough, one of the complainants coincidentally writes to Aileen Malone with great frequency, about deer in the Cults area which apparently go into the complainant’s garden. There would also seem to be one other complainer. These people must be amazed that they have moved to a countryside area and found countryside animals on private property.

  • ACC officers monitor the new woodland sites for field signs of the roe deer and evidence of deer browsing on the young and established trees, to establish the likely population of deer in the area and any impact they are having on the sites. The management of these sites ensures that there is a balance between habitats and species through weed control, scrub management, deer management, woodland management operations etc.

The public stated resoundingly that it did not want Tullos to become a woodland site. As it has gone ahead, the City Council has demonstrably left the weeds unchecked while killing the deer. The Forestry Commission clearly stated that the previous failure was related to weeds as well as alleged deer browsing.

The City Council has done nothing to rectify the poor soil matrix on Tullos. The report on the failure of phase 1 states that trees are likely to topple in the wind (wind toss) because of the poor soil matrix. The fact that debris are visible throughout the tree planting area demonstrates this fact. It is probably an insoluble problem, making Tullos an unlikely area for a forest.

  • The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 and the Code of Practice on Deer Management place a duty on anyone with deer on their land to manage them at sustainable level, whereby the population density is not causing significant damage to property, crops, woodlands, protected areas or creating welfare issues for the deer themselves through lack of food or habitat to rest up in, or causing safety issues for people.

It is voluntary code of practice we are talking about, and a contentious one at that. The above-referenced report says about the code:

“although not mandatory, [the code] incorporates the legal framework for deer management… The Code supports the voluntary approach…”  

The City Council really should stop maintaining that it is following the law, it is following a code. It’s funny, there seems no such zeal to follow codes on our air pollution levels, still failing to meet EU permissible levels for particulates for years and years. There is no such zeal when allowing class sizes to exceed government guidelines.

And yet, the deer cull guidelines are presented to councillors as if they are mandatory legal requirements which must be obeyed.

At Tullos the deer posed no threat of property damage. There were no crops, there was no woodland, only a meadow. There were no deer welfare issues, there were no safety issue for people. Any evidence to the contrary has not yet been presented to the public and a chance to scrutinise any that exists would be welcome.

In the absence of any evidence, and having proved that the Code of Practice is not binding law, and did not apply as there were no crops, no starving deer, etc. at Tullos, this is meaningless jargon and a general statement not relevant to the specifics of the low level of deer now left in the city and the small number on Tullos.

But now the City Council plays a trump card: it gets into deer vehicle collisions. The City Council says that in 2013/14

  • “the Aberdeen City Council Cleansing Teams collected 30 roe deer carcasses from the city’s road network that had been hit by vehicles and died at the roadside. …which will have caused damage to vehicles, distress to drivers and their passengers as well as suffering to the deer.”

There does not seem to be a single sign erected in the city to warn of deer crossing. And yet the City Council is aware of all of these crashes without taking any mitigating action – except to advocate deer shooting. I have campaigned for signs to be erected, as are used in many other areas.

The City Council’s response? They claim people don’t pay attention to signs.

As logic goes, this is quite a fail. If the City Council is aware of risks to Health and Safety, and decides not to use fencing, deer deterrents (there are devices which emit noises which repel deer) or to warn motorists of hazards, then that’s rather a damning indictment of how it handles public safety and how little the protection of animals, and thereby our biodiversity, means to them.

The media pros then get around to my statement that the trees are not thriving.

  • “In ACC’s professional opinion the trees are doing well. The site has been inspected by Forestry Commission Scotland as a part of the grant conditions and they are content with the growth of the trees”.

IMG_1495I suppose a layman’s photograph of tiny tree saplings planted amid rubbish, overshadowed by huge quantities of healthy weeds is a professional’s version of doing well.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

For some reason, no documentation from the City Council or Forestry Commission painting a glowing portrait of a thriving plantation was included with the FOI documents sent to me.

Since we wasted £43,800 of taxpayer money trying to plant trees on Tullos before, which were beset by weeds, no doubt the City Council asked the Forestry Commission for a comfort letter, agreeing that the trees are just fine and we’re in no danger of repeating our past failure.

I have noted that Glasgow at one point refused to cull its deer for this voluntary code. With a grandiose sweep of the pen, the person attempting to shoot down my arguments tells the councillors

  • “It is not Aberdeen City Council’s place to comment on Glasgow City Council deer management policies.”

It might not be necessary to comment on Glasgow, but it is rather useful to note that other Scottish authorities are treating the deer-culling guidelines as guidelines, and not legal requirements.

  • Finally, we get to the reports sent in to me about deer poaching. The City Council has gone on in most of its correspondence and reports to explain that deer need to be shot ‘because they have no natural predators’. .

“Given the number of deer legs found it is highly unlikely that they were taken from this site as they would have come from more deer than were known to be in the area at the time. This is the advice provided by Grampian Police Wildlife Crime Officers following their investigations. In respect of the poaching, there is no proof that the deer legs found on Tullos Hill were from deer taken on Tullos Hill or the surrounding area.”

Well, we might not have wolves in the hills, but we certainly have poachers.

An article on the scale of poaching and the money involved was in The Observer on 10th August, page 9. But the City Council has reverted to wild conjecture. Talboys had written in an email that he doubted anyone could find four deer to poach on Tullos: his theory, and the theory being put to councillors here is that the deer were poached elsewhere.

Let’s imagine the scene. Deer poachers hunt, trap and kill four deer. The poachers decide what to do next: they take the deer carcasses, all four of them, put them in their vehicle, drive somewhere close to Tullos and park. They then carry the dead deer to a spot on Tullos hill, all the while risking detection.

Then they cut the deer up, take the meat, and hide the legs and guts in a bush. Or, having cut the deer up already, apparently to ensure the meat doesn’t get contaminated, they then carry the legs and innards in their car to a parking area close to the hill, grab the sixteen legs and the internal organs, walk along the hill and hide the remains in the bushes.

I wonder what Inspector Morse would say.

We will have to wonder what Police Scotland’s Wildlife Crime Officer has to say as well. There has not been a single press release about deer poaching in our area.

So, dear councillors and readers, if you have made it this far into my comments on the City Council’s attempt to trash my arguments, thanks to those who continue to oppose this senseless slaughter. Thanks to those who have sent me the City Council’s rebuttal when it failed to do so. Would you do me three favours?

The first is to halt any deer culling until we have a better grasp of how many, or how few deer we have.

The second? Protect motorists and deer: let’s just see if putting up signs might help. You might want to ask yourself how thirty deer–related accidents stack up to the drink-related, speed-related fatalities on our roads, and how many hit-and-runs we have.

Thirdly, would someone like to please find out whether ranger Ian Talboys, who is such a staunch supporter of shooting the animals, gets any money or expenses for his role in the deer-culling lobbying entity, the “Lowland Deer Management Group?” This would be rather interesting to know.

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Jul 252014

Old Susannah locks horns with deer-slaying officials while wading through city documents on the deer slaughter going on around us.  By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryDoe! Old Susannah’s been home reading stacks of paperwork received from the City, in response to a freedom of information request. These papers are the basis for some Aberdeen Voice stories on the city’s deer ‘management’ and other issues. More coming soon.

Aberdeen City Council officers are none too pleased by this, as we’ve found out some, just the tip of the iceberg really, of what they’ve been playing at with the SNH’s blessing. Basically, we may have as few as nineteen deer left in the entire city. That’s from Danestone to Cove, Tullos to Cults. And of course, they want to kill more.

Some poor chap in Cults whose property borders the countryside says that scores of deer are coming into his garden, depositing ticks and nibbling at his little courgettes.

In effect, he wants the city to come and blast the creatures. Based on his verbal evidence this is what’s happening.

In other parts of the city, attempted dog thefts were reported; staffies were found with horrific fighting injuries, cats have disappeared, and a dog fighting ring was exposed some years back.

Well, in the same lot of correspondence in which the city is looking for ways to help kill the deer in Cults, it is also dryly explained that the police and the city aren’t interested in looking into dog fighting, because there is no actual evidence or eyewitnesses. One rule for one, it seems.

Alas! The city will be further embarrassed. The documents show that the city did not want the public to get too many facts about what’s going on.

A councillor had asked questions about roe deer culling and population, and the reply explains that the officer is afraid of giving too much information away. In another instance, deer were trapped in an enclosure on Tullos over a weekend, with not much to eat as the plants had all been killed by spraying.

The correspondence between the City’s people shows how these things work. For one thing, no one cares what happens in our parks at weekends, so don’t leave a message if it’s urgent.

Secondly, when the problem of two trapped, frightened deer was discovered, our trusty City operatives couldn’t decide whether to find a way to open the gate and shoo them out – difficult, admittedly; or just to shoot them. Decisions, decisions. Those involved were in agreement on one thing though: to solve the problem before the Evening Express got wind of it.

Got to get those priorities right you know.

The SNH thinks we should follow its non-binding guidelines, and have a maximum population on Tullos of three or four deer. How the roe deer survived for the past seven decades, minimum, with a fluctuating herd of three to five dozen is miraculous.

I’m glad the city thinks everyone knows and obeys all wildlife rules

Of course, the deer are deadly. We had a very small number of automobile incidents over the years, let’s just say slightly less in number than drunk driving and speeding-related accidents. My suggestion of putting up signs to warn motorists of deer crossing was dismissed.

As the documents explain, people don’t pay attention to signs.

Think on that when you see all the signs on the roads when you’re out and about. As per Aberdeen Voice and Evening Express articles, the remains of some animals were found in very suspicious circumstances. I had suggested erecting ‘no hunting or poaching’ signs at the park entrance. This was dismissed because you can’t put up signs for every illegal act.

I’m glad the city thinks everyone knows and obeys all wildlife rules, irrespective of their backgrounds, education and culture. So, no signs about not killing the deer, even though they were clearly being killed. Unless they’ve taken to surgically dismembering themselves.

Think on that when you next go to the ‘fun’ beach and see the signs prohibiting half a dozen recreational activities.  Trust your officials, they know what’s best. Maybe not what is best for you, for wildlife or for our levels of pollution, but they know what’s best for them.

Do feel free to drop your councillors and the architects of the deer’s demise, Aileen Malone, Peter Leonard, the SNH and ranger Ian Talboys a note of thanks. Ian is also on the board of an SNH- and taxpayer-funded group which encourages deer killing.

You will find their email addresses here. Let’s not forget well-paid consultant Chris Piper; he definitely got a quick buck from this wheeze.

Will anyone take responsibility, sorry, credit, for the crash in the deer population? No, they’re all busy being fawned over at award ceremonies for planting trees.

It wouldn’t be fair to blame LibDem Aileen HoMalone, except that for one thing she tried to blackmail animal lovers before the first Tullos cull:  pay £200,000+ for fencing, or we’ll kill deer, and the LibDem’s only election pledge adhered to was this tree scheme.

It wouldn’t be fair to blame the officers who kept repeating that we suddenly had more deer than we could manage, and who allowed 34 or 35 deer to be killed on Tullos alone in the first ‘tree for every citizen’ cull, when the agreed report said that 22 would be killed.

We were given that land to look after; we failed

It wouldn’t be right to blame the ranger, who insisted that the fairly new, and assuredly contentious SNH guidelines were put in place.

He was only following SNH orders: except that these were only guidance, and in no way legally binding.

And we all know we must follow orders without question.

That’s why the City keeps class sizes within the legal limits, for instance. It would also be wrong to blame the council for the fact that we’ve lost the parking lot near Nexen that we used to own, and the path that led from it to the hill. We were given that land to look after; we failed, and we lost it back to the private sector, conveniently for those who wanted to build on it.

No, clearly no one bears any responsibility for any of these trivial problems, and any day now there will be a lovely forest on Tullos. I’d start shopping for picnic baskets and blankets. Any day now, the nutritious soil of Tullos will produce a beautiful forest of healthy trees, trees which soon will be nearly as tall as the weeds surrounding them.

The Evening Express has two articles for your enjoyment


It’s time for some definitions relating to this week’s news from the Granite City and beyond.

Corporate Responsibility: (Modern English compound noun) The concept that a business entity’s officers, shareholders and affiliates are responsible for the ethics, behaviour, financial health and operation of the entity.

Poor Mr Donald Trump, some people just don’t understand business, so he’s just a poor misunderstood paper billionaire. So what if he’s declared bankruptcy four or so times, leaving creditors to go belly up? It’s really not his fault. I know this because he says so.

And it’s certainly not his fault that some of the casinos in Atlantic City are to lay off 1400 or so people. One or two of the casinos may bear his name, but as he’ll tell you, these businesses, with twenty-foot high letters spelling out his name are obviously nothing to do with him. After all, he can’t be everywhere at once, can he?

There’s only so much that a poor guy can take on, even if he does have the business acumen and expertise of Sara Malone Bates to rely on.

So come on now, let’s stop picking on the poor guy. It’s not as if there’s some link between the Trumpster and Trump Plaza casino, unless you count:

“…Mr. Trump serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Trump Atlantic City Associates (Trump AC) and has been President since June 2000. He has been the Chief Executive Officer of Trump Atlantic City Funding Inc. (Trump AC Funding) since June 2000. He has been the President of Trump Atlantic City Funding Inc., Trump Atlantic City Funding II Inc. and Trump Atlantic City Funding III Inc., since June 2000 … He has been the President of Trump Atlantic City Holding Inc., Trump Atlantic City Corporation … Mr. Trump has been the President and Treasurer of Trump Casinos Inc. (TCI). He served as Treasurer of Trump’s Castle Funding Inc. (Castle Funding) until April 1998 … He served as the Chief Executive Officer of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Funding Inc. and Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Holdings L.P since June 2000. He served as Chief Executive Officer and President of Trump Entertainment Resorts Funding, Inc. .. from June 2000 to 2005. He served as President of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc. (THCR), Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Funding Inc. (THCR Funding) and Trump Entertainment Resorts Holdings, L.P. (a/k/a Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Holdings LP (THCR Holdings)) …”

Visit this link for the whole list of companies Trump is an executive of, but has no relationship with, if you have a few spare hours to get through the whole list.

So you see, there’s no story there.  I hope that’s drawn a line under it for you.

The funny thing is, some people suspect that there may be some dodgy financial dealings in Atlantic City, and that the underworld may be involved. Just because BBC’s Panorama found a link between Donald Trump and the criminal element is no more reason to think he’s involved with crime, than there is any reason to think he’s involved with any of the Trump casino businesses in New Jersey.

Do enjoy your game of golf at Trump Scotland Menie Links or Trump Turnberry, safe in the knowledge that the 1400 people about to lose their jobs, and the thousands who have lost their livelihoods previously, are not likely to rub shoulders with you at a Trump golf resort. Fore!

Gene Pool (English compound noun) The potential for genetic variation within a particular species or population of a species of animal.

I’m sure we’ll all be celebrating how the Tullos Hill tree saplings were rescued from the roe deer peril. Congratulations to those who left us with three or four deer on a hill that for decades supported several dozen animals.

A spoilsport however might question the science behind the rationale for exterminating the critters. These small deer live for six or seven years on average, and are

“65–75 cm (2.1–2.5 ft), and a weight of 15–35 kg (33–77 lb)”

and females usually bear one young per year.  Such a person may conclude that the Tullos Hill roe deer gene pool has been destroyed.

According to the boffins at ‘How Stuff works’ , you need a few animals to have a healthy gene pool:

“A large gene pool provides a good buffer against genetic diseases. Some of the common genetic problems that occur when the gene pool shrinks include:

  • Low fertility
  • Deformities
  • Genetic diseases

“The two most common places to see these effects are in animals nearing extinction and in animal breeds.”

So now that we have the ‘manageable’ figure of three or four Tullos roe left, perhaps the Danestone, Sheddocksley and Cults deer will hop on a bus to Tullos for dating purposes. Perhaps the SNH, ‘Scottish Natural Heritage’ to some, ‘Shootin ‘n Huntin’ to others, have achieved what some say was their and the City’s aim: get rid of the creatures altogether and grow some trees, which hopefully can be felled and sold.

The SNH, paid for by our taxes, in turn funds a private group, Lowland Deer Network Scotland, which lobbies local government to shoot deer, in partnership with other government members, funders and pro-hunting groups. Well done guys.

And well done in particular to ranger Ian Talboys, who is on this committee. It would be a shame if someone looked into the amounts of money involved, the group’s structure (it’s not listed with Companies House) and asked questions about the use of taxpayers’ money by a national government entity to push policy onto local government. No, that would be awful.

All of the stats about how the deer will suffer if not culled to these numbers sound very scientific, but they ignore little things like the gene pool, and that being free and grazing on grass, which is apparently their preferred food, is better than being dead. Trebles all round, and enjoy your free venison, City and SNH boffins: you’ve earned it.

And that’s some of what’s been going on in the ‘Deen this week.

Later this week:  Some definitions about our privacy, and monitoring by Inspired and others. Feel free to go about your normal business: someone is monitoring your every move and storing the data, permanently.

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Jul 212014

In documents released to Suzanne Kelly under Freedom of Information Legislation, it emerges that two deer were trapped in a fenced off area on Tullos Hill in early June of this year. Emails between city officials seem to show that keeping this story quiet was a main concern. By Suzanne Kelly


Some of the fencing erected c. Oct 2011 we were told we could not afford, and which ruins the view.

Tullos Hill’s deer population may now be as low as three animals, as previously reported – but for those that remain, fencing and ‘sprayed off’ vegetation means real hardship.
Two roe deer were trapped in the narrow gas curtain fenced area in early June it has just emerged. Emails between city employees arranging for the deer to be let out of the area acknowledge that plants are being sprayed, leaving the deer even less food to eat.

The emails read in part:

“I have had a message on our answer machine over the weekend about 2 roe deer trapped within the narrow gas curtain fenced area on Tullos hill…

“I have been on site this afternoon and they are still there. As it looks like the vegetation has been sprayed off there is no real food for them in their [sic] there will soon be a welfare issue for the deer.  Is it possible to arrange for the gates to be opened so they can be gently encouraged out?”

If the ‘gentle encouragement’ didn’t work, one of those in the email chain offered a lethal solution:-

“Alternatively [name blacked out from the email] may be able to remove them with his rifle, though he may consider it too risky due to the risk of ricochet off the fencing.”

Keeping the citizens in the dark:

Two deer were stuck in a fenced area (note at the time of the initial tree for every citizen scheme, the public had been told fencing was too expensive a means to protect trees; the hill since has new fencing for the area the deer were trapped in, and wire fencing in another area) – they were stuck over the weekend without food as no one picks up messages on weekends, apparently.

Happily the deer were not shot in this case, although there have been signs that deer were killed and dismembered this year on Tullos and nearby Kincorth Hills – more on that in a future article.

Aside from either freeing or killing the deer what were the city’s correspondents interested in? Keeping this incident secret:-

“We would not want this getting into the Evening Express so we need to act as a matter of urgency.”


From the start of the plan to plant trees on Tullos, the city has controlled what information it wanted the public to have. A small selection displaying the secrecy involved includes:-

  • the public consultation discussed the methodology of planting trees but deliberately left out the culls that had already been planned. The consultation documents advised there would be rabbit fencing to protect the trees. The truth was that the city and the SNH had already planned to shoot the deer and it seems they didn’t want people to be objecting to this public consultation.  When the news broke that deer would be shot, the consultation had closed, and as flawed as this slanted consultation was, no one was allowed to comment further.
  • then Convener of the Housing & Environment Committee, Lib Dem Aileen Malone, issued an ultimatum to those concerned about the deer: give the city £200,000+ for fencing within a number of months, or the deer would be shot.
  • in response to a freedom of information request, the city initially denied that it had a debt of £43800 to the SNH for the previous failure of trees to grow on Tullos Hill. Then Chief Executive Valerie Watts had been asked at the time in a FOI from Aberdeen Voice whether there  is a debt; she denied it. When confronted with proof of the debt, she claimed that there was no debt at all, because it had just been settled recently; and there was no relation between the failed planting on Tullos and the plan to plant on Tullos again – see the Tullos Hill deer report.

Deer population decimation:

Thirty four or thirty five (precise figure unknown) deer were killed to facilitate planting trees on Tullos. This hill had been a rubbish tip and former gas-explosion risk area; but with other vegetation being ‘sprayed off’ and massive culls, it is now estimated that there are less than 20 deer in the entire city.

How the population can survive at all is a mystery – yet the city continues to stick to the premise that roe deer are a problem and the plans to shoot remaining deer continue. A private person in Cults is also complaining that deer enter his garden and should be shot.

As the population of the city’s roe deer has all but crashed and the city continues its persecution of these animals with the SNH’s blessing, further articles will be coming soon in Aberdeen Voice. We will bring you comments from those involved, from experts who wanted non-lethal means to plant the trees, progress on the trees’ growth (or lack thereof) and more.

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