Sep 162011
 

Old Susannah watches the latest developments in the ‘Deen and the wider world and feels like a deer caught in headlights. Here is this week’slook at what’s happening where and who’s doing what to whom. By Suzanne Kelly.

It’s been another one of those weeks in Aberdeen. Campaigners launched an advertisement in the Evening Express highlighting the Tullos Hill Roe Deer situation ( link ). It also seems that our raptor population – golden eagles, red kites and so on – are still being poisoned left, right and centre.
Every spare bit of greenbelt land is up for development to the highest bidder here in the City and Shire, and things look rather grim on the environment front whever you turn. What do overdevelopment, the deer cull and bird poisonings have in common? The people behind them are more interested in money than our environment.

These little issues have not stopped our intrepid Kate Dean from welcoming a European delegation for a ‘Periurban Parks’ conference this week. 

Kate is slated (as ever) to give a welcome speech and explain how wonderfully well Aberdeen manages its parks and land.  I could not miss such a conference, and if you’re reading this on Friday morning 16/9, I will be sitting at said conference hanging on every word.  Who knows?  I might even have a few choice words of my own for the attendees.  But what to wear…? 

A bit of good news though – it looks as if some form of Referendum on the future of Union Terrace Gardens will take place.  As Aileen Malone  promised this referendum, we should not be surprised that it is coming about – she is a woman true to her word.  If she says we’re having a referendum, then we’re having a referendum.  If she says we’re going to start shooting deer in October on Tullos Hill, then we’re going to kill (sorry ‘manage’) deer.  Fantastic.

Finally, Old Susannah was dolphin and whale watching last Saturday morning with Ian Hay as part of Techfest’s rich programme. 

Do have a look at the other activities on offer at Techfest. Then on Sunday I had a fantastic outing with ‘Contact the Elderly’.  We all went to Crathes Castle, where the National Trust supplied a very generous afternoon tea.  Some of these elderly people are a bit confused:  they mistakenly think that once upon a time the City was accountable to its electorate, that the streets were clean, and green spaces were valued.  If only.
Anyway, they were a great bunch, and by the end of it they were fine, but I was exhausted.

Here are a few observations on recent developments regarding police and thieves….

Aberdeen Police:

I’ve got to say, I usually get good service from our local  police. Two weeks ago some maniac and his grandchildren decided to have a  family outing.  This took the form of going to the mouth of the harbour and setting fire to as many things they could get their hands on – next to a beautiful patch of wildflowers (including orchids).
For some crazy reason, I objected to this, but they were sticking to their right to burn stuff.  The police and fire services somehow saw things my way, and dealt with the situation quickly.  Thanks.

You may recall an Evening Express story about a dog-walker coming across a man in combat fatigues with a gun on Tullos Hill (he must have looked very macho indeed – I am most impressed!).  

The police answered my questions about this very quickly – but in truth they themselves haven’t much information.  I wondered if it wasn’t gull-shooting Mervyn New, enjoying a weekend away from shooting things at his workplace.  Anyway, the Council insist the gunman wasn’t there to blast  (sorry, I mean ‘manage’) our deer just yet.

Exactly how (and indeed why) someone gets permission to run around with shotguns to kill ‘vermin’ (that’s birds and small animals to you and me) is still a mystery to me, but I’m looking into it.

Aberdeenshire Police

If you’ve seen the documentary ‘you’ve been trumped!’, you  might recall a tiny, minor scene in which Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney are arrested.  Quite right, too. 

They had clearly broken the law and deserved to be arrested, as earlier that day they had gone to speak to the estate managers overseeing the creation of the ‘world’s greatest golf course’ (now taking bookings from £150 a round- see you there!).  

The poor policemen must have been very intimidated by Baxter and Phinney; their aggressive use of words like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ coupled with their undoubted martial arts skills and video camera would have frightened all but Stallone or Swarzenegger.  As caught on film, in mid sentence the police wisely jumped the pair and thrust them into a squadcar.  Only kind of language these people understand, or so I’m told.

Did they need a SWAT team?  Were MI6 and helicopters called?

My curiosity got the better of me, and I wrote to Aberdeenshire Police to find out more.  How did they usually deal with such dangerous men? How did the arrest come about?  Did they need a SWAT team?  Were MI6 and helicopters called?  

I also asked why their DNA was stored, who decided to give them a caution rather than charge them (which stopped them having their day in court – obviously saving the taxpayer money if doing nothing for justice), and why they weren’t directly told when the charges were eventually dropped? 

The shire police told me  the answers are exempt from disclosure as:

“the requested information relates to the alleged commission of a criminal offence by two identifiable individuals.  Such information is classed as sensitive personal information under the Data Protection Act 1998.”

You might think the police would want to explain the thinking behind arresting two journalists on the say-so of a rich landowner’s hired help.  You might think it possible for Grampian’s finest to explain the rationale behind the arrests without leaking any personal details (after all, it’s all on film anyway).  But you’d be wrong.

I’d also asked police what their policy is for policing the Menie Estate (which if you look at the film seems to have more cops cruising it than you’d see on Miami Vice).  This is what they said:-

“…in Spring 2009, following the announcement of a number of strategic economic and infrastructure developments, Grampian Police established a short life Critical Incident Preparation Group (CIPG) with a remit to coordinate the prepared phase of ‘critical incidents”  (Note:  if someone can explain this to me, please get in touch).

“From this, a generic, local strategy, relevant to Menie Estate and other similar developments was developed.  This has been determined as; Maximise safety; minimise disruption; facilitate lawful protest; deter, detect, detain and report those responsible for unlawful behaviour.”  

(Again, can someone help me make sense of this?  Thanks!)

For openers’ it’s great the safety and disruption of the existing residents has been so well handled! (There have been lawful, peaceful protests, so no complaints there).

However, I’m thinking about this ‘deter, detect, detain’ business relating to ‘unlawful behaviour.’ How can you deter unlawful behaviour before it happens without undermining freedom?  Answers on a postcard, thanks.  I’ll put the kettle on.

Note:

– if you happen to see Anthony ‘Big Tony’ Baxter or Richard ‘Baby Face’ Phinney, just call the police.  Do not approach these men, as they are armed with numerous International documentary awards.

A United Scotland Police Force?:

Regarding the fire I reported; the police had to call me back and I described where the generational arsonists were in detail so they could find them (although the giant plume of smoke was a bit of a giveaway). 

If I’d had to explain to a phone operator in Glasgow which part of Greyhope Road I was on about, the harbour and its remaining vegetation would be ashes.  For many reasons, I am not comfortable with this united police service idea. 

For one thing, it would cost Stewart Milne a much bigger whack to get a sponsorship deal to have his logo on police cars across Scotland.  But we do have to save money and cut corners.  Schools, hospitals, fire, police, services to the old and disabled are so last year.  We need more buildings, statues, roads, car parks and shopping malls.  The Government isn’t a charity you know.

Thieves:

Caution!  There are thieves about.  No, not just the usual people robbing off-licenses and bookies.  Aberdeen City Council has another new campaign, and is very kindly warning us that there are scams doing the rounds.

There are fake lottery prize letters, fake inheritance scams, and so on.  Some scams are small; some are huge.  And here is perhaps the biggest one in the area at present…

In a huge swindle, local businesses are targeted by letter.  They are asked to participate in an ‘Economic Impact Survey’.  This survey is run by people who will stop at nothing to get their own way and seize property .  It is Union Terrace Gardens these mercenaries want – and they want
to get the consumer ultimately to pay for having their own park taken away from them.

Here is how this remarkable swindle works.

First, tell local businesses they were ‘specially chosen’ to be in a survey. Win their confidence and they’ll be eating out of your hand.  The so-called ‘survey’ is about 5 potential options for the city centre.  Get the businesses to agree with you, and agree to hand over Union Terrace Gardens for a building project.  As Edinburgh residents know, city centre projects are a great bet.

But who will ultimately pay for turning the gardens into whatever it is Woody and Stew want?

  your vote against changing the gardens got turned into the opposite vote.

The consumer, of course.  If the business rates are going to rise from their very low, generous current levels, then the retailer/shopkeeper will have to get that extra money from somewhere.

That somewhere is in increased prices to you and me.

Of course there is not one single shred of evidence to prove that changing the gardens (i.e: putting in a car park and ‘cosmopolitan cafe culture’ ) will bring any economic benefits at all.  But with charismatic business people leading the way, the scam seems legitimate to the gullible.

Here’s one catch:  the survey results will be completely confidential: only the people who want the gardens turned into something other than what they are will ever see the results!  And obviously the survey is only for businesses – we can’t have the average person involved in this deal, can we?

You may recall a related scam some months back.  The public were allowed to vote on changing the gardens or not.  If you voted online, there was a tiny glitch (an accident?) wherein your vote against changing the gardens got turned into the opposite vote. Result!  Obviously the results of this new survey – to be seen only by the committee who want to change the gardens – will have no such glitch and will be completely above board.

Theft prevention:

Thankfully, one of our elected officials is on the case to make sure you and I aren’t ‘ripped off’.  

In the course of the City Council’s debate over the Union Terrace Gardens referendum earlier this week, one brave man stood up and said the referendum might cost a quarter of a million pounds.  He argued that the taxpayer should not have to shell out for this.  What a champion!  After all, we have statues, portraits of the Lord Provost, ‘civic cars’, Lord Provost clothing allowances and so forth that we need to pay for.

If only John Stewart – for it was he – had been able to stand up when our tax money went to paying for the initial consultation.  This consultation included an expensive colour brochure on heavy paper which clearly showed a giant concrete square with one or two trees in pots.  This was why some people misunderstood the initial consultation and thought it was going to deliver a giant concrete square with one or two trees in pots.

Never mind, John’s on the case now and will save us money.  I suggest we watch him crusade in the coming months to safeguard our city’s budget.

Next week – more of the same and a report from the Periurban  Conference.

Jul 052011
 

Old Susannah tries to get her head around the Council’s secrecy and finds them much more transparent than they had thought they were.  By Suzanne Kelly.

Firstly, I trust we are all excited about the discovery of a giant wombat’s fossil in Australia!

This lumbering, hulking, ungainly creature could not move with the times, and so faded into history. Its great big head only had a pea-sized brain which was useful only for more primitive functioning. It spent its time hoarding nuts and drinking at its favourite watering holes.

Any relation to Councillors K ♦♦♦ D♦♦♦ or N♦♦♦ F ♦♦♦♦♦♦ is curiously coincidental.

While I may have spent most  of this past week enjoying the sun as well as well as a pleasant afternoon or  two in Brewdog, I’ve not been oblivious to the things that the City Council,  local institutions and mainstream press want me to be oblivious to.  While I enjoyed champagne and plenty of Pimms  with my friends ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ and ♦♦♦♦♦♦  in the great outdoors, I’ve been informed of a few developments.

Despite the summer sun, there are shadowy  figures behind the scenes, keeping secrets, denying facts, and trying (with  little success) to keep people and stories quiet – some innocent, some not so  innocent.

‘No news is good news’ – so  the saying goes, but whoever came up with this particular phrase probably had  too much of Brewdog’s ‘Sink The Bismarck’ ultra-strong beer.  Here in Aberdeen ‘no news’ seems to mean the local,  mainstream press have decided to play things down.  So – listen very carefully, I will say this  only once…

Redacted: (adjective) – obscured,  covered up, deleted, censored.

Some months ago, I attended a special meeting of Torry Community Council at which  the Friends of Union Terrace Gardens presented their case, and a very nice lady  named Jan represented ACC (Gordon McIntosh  had been invited, but was having dinner instead).  Jan told us how everything was going to be  wonderful, and how the entire matter was going to be handled ‘in a transparent  manner’.

In fact, she used the word  ‘transparent’ half a dozen times.  I left the meeting with a warm, fuzzy feeling that if something were going on about  the gardens, it would all be transparent.  What a relief.

How very strange it was  then to open up a P&J this week and find our new Council Leader McCaig asking why the minutes of one of the Garden-related groups (and there are many  I can assure you) has been redacted.  Over the weekend I’d emailed him asking why the text had been redacted; he’s not slow off the mark, our Mr McCaig.

But what group is this redacting its papers?  It’s the City Gardens Project Monitoring  Group.  What do they do?  According to the City’s website,

“The role of the Project Monitoring Group is to oversee the City Garden project’s progress and ensure that Council’s interests, and  that of the majority of Aberdeen citizens, are protected as the project
progresses”.

I take it that makes it  quite clear why they must act in secret. It’s not a question of whether or not something will be done with the gardens – they are overseeing progress.  So – the Council’s interests are not the same  as the interests of Aberdeen citizens (minority or majority).  In all my years I never would have guessed  that.  Perhaps they should have redacted  this mission statement as well.

Who is in this group?  Who attends the meetings?  If you go to the city’s website, you can  download the minutes and reports – where you will see that all the names of  attendees have been blacked out, or in council-speak ‘redacted’, together with  lots of text.

The City was trying to keep this top secret information a closely guarded secret.  Perhaps the Monitoring Group is made up of  MI6, the CIA, Lord Lucan and Spiderman?  Whoever it is, I bet they have a dual identity, a good cover story – and probably a costume with a cape.  I hear they all meet at midnight and each have limos with blacked-out windows.

 From now on I hear that anyone in a Council committee which discusses  Union Terrace Gardens will sign the Official Secrets Act, be security-vetted,  be given a cover identity and undergo survival and torture training.

Mr McCaig has no  recollection of agreeing to this group’s identity being protected, and he wants  some answers.  Let’s hope he gets  them.  Why on earth would this be secret, and what do they wish to hide?  Answers  on a postcard please (preferably in a secret code).

Alas for our poor Council:  their secrets are out.  That nice Danny Law over at STV has announced that a simple bit of cutting and pasting reveals all.  Visit STV for further information.

http://local.stv.tv/aberdeen/news/261573-council-blunder-means-concealed-minutes-from-union-terrace-gardens-meetings-can-still-be-read/

You might also want to visit the (excellent) blogspot Other Aberdeen:-
http://otheraberdeen.blogspot.com/

It’s hard to imagine that  the City didn’t give due care and attention to this life-or-death matter of who’s going to meetings and what they are saying about our gardens.  I am stunned.  From now on I hear that anyone in a Council committee which discusses  Union Terrace Gardens will sign the Official Secrets Act, be security-vetted,  be given a cover identity and undergo survival and torture training.

For my part, one of my trusted sources told me how to spy at the hidden text a while ago, and I was sworn to secrecy – which I kept.  My secret hope was that the Council would continue to keep thinking it had successfully blacked out text that could actually be read.  We could have been onto a winner with this one.

My sympathies to the Garden Monitoring Group at this unfortunate point in time, and in particular to one of those in the group:  our very own old friend, Ms Aileen HoMalone.  Not only is the debacle an embarrassment in itself, but my very own spies tell me that since the balance of power shift, this and other committees will be re-arranged over the summer, shedding a few LibDems in favour of SNP councillors along the way.

Gag:
1.  noun – a joke or stunt designed to cause laughter or possibly embarrassment.
2.  Verb – to make another remain silent via coercion or force. 

A gag can  be a stupid remark, like John Stewart’s saying Aberdeen needs a monorail, or a  stunt — like holding a design competition for ‘transforming’ a cherished  garden into a car park/mall.  On the more  sinister side of the coin, this week both Aberdeen City Council and Robert  Gordon University stand accused of gagging their staff.

Now, obviously the opinion  of staff at ACC is held in the highest esteem by management, and at an institution of higher learning such as RGU, nothing can be held more important  than the right to free expression and intellectual debate.  There is absolutely nothing ‘Big Brother’  about Aberdeen City Council rounding up four of its less-than-grateful staff as  it did this week to tell them off.

What had the four done?  They said mean things about the City and their bosses on something called ‘Facebook’, which apparently all the young people are using.  I hope these four ingrates have apologised for having opinions.  I do know that they have been issued with a set of guidelines as to what they can or can’t say.  Sounds like a great move.

In fact, back when the cuts were being  proposed in 2008, the City very wisely told its staff that they should in no way protest against the City’s school and service closures.  Many of them did so anyway.  You might think such people are brave in standing up for education and health services, but you must remember, when you take a job for the City, you lose all your human rights.  Fair trade, I’d say.

I hope these four people are at home right  now, reading their new behaviour guidelines and composing letters of apology.  I’d certainly hate to think they’d be sending  me copies of the city’s newest Kafkaesque policies.  Or even worse – they might be creating anonymous Facebook identities so they can continue to keep us posted with City developments and dark doings.

As to that bastion of higher education, Robert Gordon University: they are also gagging for it.  You may have seen the news that RGU want the Trade Unions to go away and stop bothering them. 

This institution of higher learning has announced that since the unions are now ‘smaller’, they shouldn’t have to recognise them at all. Quite right.  Just because the University has shed a few jobs and has a few less people, there is no reason the unions should have shrunk as well.  Staff and educators alike are overjoyed by this move on RGU’s part, as they won’t have to go to any more tedious union meetings.

The staff won’t publicly say how happy they are, because RGU is, according to STV “accused of ‘gagging’ staff as dozens protest over de-recognition decision”.  I know staff who have been asked to take on more work with no pay, who have had pensions cut, and who work weekends with no extra money to show for it.  I’m sure union representation is the furthest thing from their minds.

RGU wanted the whole episode to be treated as Top Secret:  staff were told not to discuss these special Trump security arrangements

It might be worth mentioning that RGU held its staff’s safety particularly important during Donald Trump’s visit for his honorary degree.  RGU management were so concerned about the safety of its people who would be in the same building as ‘the Donald’ that they let Trump’s private security people search bags, set up security checks, and made sure no one left the building until the great man himself had gone.

Some people say that their mobile phones were looked at, and they weren’t allowed to take any photos (which would have been the first thing on my mind), but this remains unconfirmed.

Those who did get in touch told me that RGU wanted the whole episode to be treated as Top Secret:  staff were told not to discuss these special Trump security arrangements.  I would be happy for the RGU administration to confirm or deny that private, American security was given power over its staff.

Maybe they could have done what Robert Gordon’s College did, and simply lock any bothersome people up in cupboards (congratulations to Ms Michie for winning her case against the College where she was indeed locked in a cupboard.  I await news of the dismissal of the person who did this, but it hasn’t appeared yet).

News Blackout: (modern English phrase) – to deliberately ignore or censor news events. (See also ‘P&J’)

The local press simply  don’t have the time and space to tell you the entire goings on.  The P&J may have covered the story of the City Council’s ‘redacting’ text (see below), as Cllr McCaig came forward with the story.

However, if you put ‘Robert Gordon University’ into the Press & Journal’s online search feature, you’ll see a collection of innocent PR stories about boat races and an RGU student appearing in something called ‘Glee’ (whatever that is).  No RGU bashing in the P&J; they don’t want to upset that nice Mr Wood and his friends.  No word of gagging staff or staff being kettled by American private scurity.

You might also search the P&J website for the story of guitar hero Richard Thompson’s honorary degree from Aberdeen University granted  on the 5th July (congratulations by the way). 

I’ll give you that Richard Thompson is no Donald Trump (who got his degree from Ian Wood’s RGU for services to money).  Thompson has only enjoyed a successful international musical career since the 1960s, released award-winning albums, and made a particularly important collection, ‘1000 years of popular music’.  I doubt the man even has his own jet.

Don’t bother searching for news of his honorary degree award in the local rags – it’s not there.

Just as Anthony Baxter never got any newspaper coverage for his documentary ‘you’ve been trumped’ about Trump and the Menie Estate (it was held over twice and had unprecedented demand at the Belmont), the local press are making life easier for us by deciding what’s newsworthy and what isn’t.

I for one am far more interested in petty burglaries, minor football matches and cute baby photo competitions than the workings of secrecy in local government and the schemes of our local millionaires.

It is the editors at the local papers who decide what goes in (or possibly a few of the city’s richercitizens), not the reporters.

At least we don’t have a ‘News of the World’ situation.  Several newspapers stand accused of hacking mobile phone conversations – of murder victims and their families. Potential evidence has been lost and Milly Dowler’s family wrongly believed she might still have been alive since her voicemail was being accessed.  If you can think of anything lower than this, don’t let me know.

PS – the Murdoch Empire isclosing the News of the World after Sunday!  Result!  However, Murdoch is looking to take over BskyB completely.  If you somehow think this might lead to a  monopoly over news coverage, speak now.

RGU, millionaires, the  future of our Gardens, quangos, dodgy deals, secret deer cull plans:  somewhere the truth is out there.  Just don’t hold your breath waiting for it. 

Speaking of holding your breath, I’d best go  close the windows.  The wind must have changed, and the scent drifting through my open windows in Torry is decidedly not roses and violets.   Old Susannah is off for a short but much needed holiday.  I am going to turn 50 on ♦♦♦♦♦♦ and will fly to  ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ on ♦♦♦♦♦ and will stay with ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ where I hope very much to see ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦My best wishes to ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦.

Mar 042011
 

Dough, or deer. That’s the Council’s dilemma. Old Susannah muses on an extraordinary response from our elected representatives.

I’m afraid it’s another long introduction this week.

There seems to be a little confusion about what our City Council has been up to lately, so let me leap to its defence as usual, and try to dispel some misunderstandings. Peacocks and Deer seem to be in the firing line – deservedly so of course. Firstly, we had a potential grant to house Peacock Visual Arts in UTG, and Peacock put itself into ACSEF’s hands. ACSEF somehow turned this plan around and the Sir Ian Wood car park/street level UTG scheme was favoured over the Peacock plan.

It seems Sir Ian’s plans then took a chunk of the Peacock money, and the Peacock plan was overtaken by the UTG car park/shops plan. Grant money, hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money, was spent on a splendidly-unbiased consultation persuading us that we need parking more than trees. Obviously, the consultation was ignored for not reaching the desired conclusion.

The City was allegedly told by Scottish Enterprise that the grant money had to be used towards a cunning plan of some sort or other, and as the City wisely didn’t want to rush into anything, it has instead cleverly handed back £1.2 million to COSLA. I might be confused, since Scottish Enterprise had a hand in helping Peacock, had a hand in helping Sir Ian’s scheme, and had a member on ACSEF who would have known all about grant deadlines – or should have known. I’ll work that out eventually. Still, what’s £1.2 million to us anyway? And thus the Peacock was carved up.

At the same time as Aberdeen City Council lost £1.2 million by killing off the Peacock, we were going to keep a £200k grant by killing the deer on Tullos Hill to prevent them eating. I’m sure that’s clear, but just in case it’s not, we are getting £200K to plant trees in a scheme called A Tree for Every Citizen

COUNCILLOR AILEEN MALONE, PLEASE NOTE THIS IS NOT CALLED ‘ALMOST ONE TREE FOR EVERY CITIZEN’.

Alternatives such as planting elsewhere, waiting until fencing could be afforded to separate tree from deer, keeping the deer safe in a fenced area and using plastic to protect the saplings so that the deer couldn’t eat them would be too expensive. We have to keep saving money like we always do, or we wouldn’t have enough money left for consultations and hospitality. It seems like the councillors involved are now passing the buck.

So the deer were going to be shot and killed, or culled if you are of a sensitive disposition and it sounds much better. They’re tame deer, mind, who are sometimes handfed, although the pesky beasts keep breeding and eating, and don’t seem to have taken notice that we’ve encroached on their land.

By killing the deer now, you see, the trees will grow. When the trees are grown, then we have a habitat suitable for squirrels and, er….deer. This sounds like we are keeping a close eye on finances, acting humanely and doing business in an honest fashion.

The P&J is becoming increasingly critical of the Council, a most welcome trend

I was going to tell them where to put their saplings when, all of a sudden, Wednesday’s Evening Express announced that the deer can live. Perhaps the city councillors got a bit squeamish at the thought of killing all those beautiful votes they hope to see next spring?

Whatever the motive was for sparing the deer, it seemed briefly that the City had listened to the people. The moon was blue and lightning struck twice.

I personally was ready to fawn over the councillors.

Well, I should have known better. The current version of the story appeared in the P&J on Thursday morning. Its headline accurately reflected the Council’s current position – animal lovers, stump up £225,000 for fencing or we kill the deer. The P&J is becoming increasingly critical of the Council, a most welcome trend

The Council explained it had no spare money for fencing, and Councillor Aileen Malone helpfully told the P&J that only ‘about one’ person from Aberdeen had written to her protesting against the cull; the rest were from out of town. Obviously, people in different countries have no business being interested in animal rights issues. I hope any interfering ‘outsiders’ who troubled our Ms Malone will write to apologise, acknowledging that animals in Aberdeen are only the concern of Aberdonians. Honestly!

Poor Ms Malone was apparently so shocked to get any e-mail at all that she lost the ability to count. ‘About one’ is the phrase she used to describe the number of e-mails received from Aberdeen people wanting to save the deer. Readers, I will confess that as Old Susannah sent her an e-mail around February 22, including my home address, asking for the cull to be abandoned, I am that solitary person who constitutes the ‘almost one’ person who wrote to her. I like to think of myself as a whole person – but will bow to Ms Malone’s superior grasp of numeracy.

I would ask that if anyone else thinks they wrote to the Council protesting against the cull, they check that they actually did write. If so, tell Ms Malone – and be sure not to bother this busy woman unless you live in Aberdeen!

Anyone who insists on being addressed as ‘Doctor’ who is not a medical doctor runs the risk of looking like a jumped-up, insecure, power-hungry, title-fixated, inflated, self-important nonentity

Finally, I am looking at a report from the Council dated 25 May 2010 which spells out the benefits of the ‘Tree’ scheme.

It will be carried out in such a way as to ‘… value and enjoy our built and natural environment and protect it and enhance it for future generations…’ Obviously not for future generations of animals mind, and if we get rid of the deer, so much more room for us to enjoy the great outdoors.

This proposal also explains how important it is to get the community involved  – not to listen to them, just get them involved – and says that Tullos School children can help plant the trees. I personally think it would be much more educational if the children could help kill the deer as well; this would be a great lesson indeed.

And on to this week’s dictionary corner….

Are you feeling well? The following definitions come with a warning that they may cause queasiness in the reader and headaches for the champions of good health and responsibility at Grampian National Health Trust. For the record, my grandmother was a nurse as was her sister, back in the day when wards were spotless, patients were cared for, even listened to, and hospital staff were seen as the most important part of a healthcare delivery service. Yes, that was a very long time ago indeed.

Doctor: (noun)  title given to an individual awarded a doctorate by a university; a professional in the healing arts; eg a physician, dentist or veterinarian who holds an advanced degree and is licensed to practise.

The title ‘Doctor’ is applicable to anyone who has successfully obtained a doctoral degree from a recognised, accredited university. The use of the title ‘Doctor’ as in ‘Dr Marcus Welby’ is most often only limited to doctors of medicine, although in universities it may be used to address any holder of a doctorate.

Anyone who, say, donates tons of money or is a wealthy tycoon with a wig, can wind up with an honorary doctorate, but would probably not insist on being addressed as ‘Doctor’. ‘Dr Donald Trump’ for instance, would sound just a wee bit naff.  Anyone who insists on being addressed as ‘Doctor’ who is not a medical doctor runs the risk of looking like a jumped-up, insecure, power-hungry, title-fixated, inflated, self-important nonentity. That is why nobody at, say, the Council, and involved in planning for instance, would insist on being referred to as ‘Doctor’. Now let’s look at the health of our medical sector.

Maggots: (noun – plural) type of insect; soft-bodied legless larvae from for instance the fly family

In superstitious medieval times, wounds and illnesses were often treated using leeches and other bloodsucking creatures (but not councillors as far as I know) to suck away excess blood. As it turns out, the use of leeches does have some medical value – they take out dead tissue and possibly promote healing.

This made her ill, made her extremely upset, and had nothing to do with what was actually going on with her health

How extremely far-sighted then, of Grampian NHS to be using maggots. Well, they had maggots in ARI back in 2009. It seems they were found in an operating theatre area or two in the not very clean ventilation system. You might think this shows a scandalous lack of concern for hygiene, but I am sure it was a well-intentioned experiment in healing.

Consent: (verb) To agree to a condition or set of conditions, to affirm assent.

When you go to hospital, if you are not in possession of your mental faculties or cannot speak, then you are unable to give consent when required. Recently, a woman in her 70s found herself having a stroke whilst in the care of Grampian NHS.

What apparently happened was rather than realise that a stroke was the problem, the (dis)orderlies treating her decided that as a tube had come out of her arm, the best thing to do with this conscious, communicating woman was to hold her down. This took three of them and she was apparently bruised, but you know how strong these old women are. As she pleaded against any injection, they gave her an anti-psychotic medication. This made her ill, made her extremely upset, and had nothing to do with what was actually going on with her health.

You can’t expect someone in a hospital to know all the rules of course, and the patient’s wishes should not be as important as what the staff feel they should do. About a year after this charming incident, I read in the news that she was given an apology. I am sure any one of us would have been more than satisfied with that.

Hospital parking: (noun) a place to leave a motor vehicle where the price charged for doing so can be astronomical.

If you can’t afford the taxi fare to a hospital for non-emergency treatment, if you don’t have the hours to spend when you’re ill taking a number 12 bus from the town centre to a hospital – forget it on a weekend – then please arrange to be ill when you have sufficient £££s to spend on hospital parking.

If you have a sick relative – a child or older person perhaps – who is in long-term care, either ask them to chip in for the parking or taxi money, or ask them to be ill after you’ve saved up enough to be able to afford to go to the hospital. Planning ahead makes everything so much easier to afford.

A note on mental health – anyone who is experiencing an episode of depression or suicidal feelings should be treated immediately at an NHS location of their choice. A man died last month – a man who had expressed a need for immediate help, as had members of his family, but he had not gone through the proper channels when thoughts of suicide overtook him and the NHS turned him away. So, members of Grampian NHS Board, who exactly is responsible for this tragedy? Please feel free to explain it to me as I don’t understand it.

 

Feb 042011
 

By Fred Wilkinson with thanks to Aberdeenshire Cllr. Martin Ford.

According to Donald Trump ( as quoted in the Press And Journal 31.01.2011 ):

“We have consistently said that we have no interest in compulsory purchase and have never applied for it.”

The discussion which ensued in the form of readers comments below the article online has done nothing to clarify whether or not it is the case that Trump International Golf  Links Scotland ever did pursue this course of action, and it would appear that the P&J do not feel obliged to clear this matter up.
However we at Aberdeen Voice are always willing to lend our fellow journos a hand, so if anyone out there at Aberdeen Journals are interested in helping out your confused readers, read on.

Feb 042011
 

By Helen Thomas.

The residents of Menie can celebrate. The threat of being forcibly evicted from their homes has been lifted.

As reported in The Press And Journal on Monday 31st Jan Donald Trump publicly states that he will not be asking Aberdeenshire Council to use Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) to evict residents from their homes to make way for his golf resort.

Of course he also states that, “we have not, and will not, request that Aberdeenshire Council use their CPO powers to purchase houses.”

His statement is designed to make himself out to be the victim of malicious lies, whilst the Menie residents are branded troublemakers.

Unfortunately for Mr Trump however, there is documented evidence that he did make the CPO request. In the press release http://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/news/release.asp?newsID=1258 obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the Council states:

“The Council has been asked by the Trump Organisation to use its powers of compulsory purchase”.

Can it be any clearer? One does not have to be too cynical to guess that Trump’s statement is the result of a huge volume of negative publicity and a desperate attempt to manage the backlash. Resistance is growing and he knows it. People don’t like to be bullied and the threat of the use of CPOs against homeowners for his own gain is just that. Because of these lies, the Menie residents will be cautious in celebrating. They know the battle is not yet won and wonder what will come next. ( See STV Article and Video: Click Here )

They are not alone in their battle, however.

A small parcel of land next to Michael Forbes’s land, right in the heart of the potential development, has been bought by the campaigners and anyone can sign up to own a part of it. Nicknamed The Bunker, this piece of land, and the campaign solidarity it offers, is now owned by 10,000 people – and that number’s growing every day. The residents’ fight has reached every corner of the globe. The Facebook group has new requests from people wanting to join daily – from places as diverse as Florida, the Netherlands and Australia.

It’s not just ‘ordinary citizens’ either. Ex-Queen guitarist Brian May has pledged his support. The Green Party’s Leader and MP Caroline Lucas, author and broadcaster Cameron McNeish and film producer David Puttnam have all joined The Bunker.

The world is waking up to Donald Trump – and they’re doing it in Scotland.

If you would like to join The Bunker please visit http://www.trippinguptrump.com/the-bunker or join us on Facebook at http://www.trippinguptrump.com/the-bunker

Jan 312011
 

By Cllr Martin Ford.

In a statement issued earlier today by Trump International Golf Links Scotland, Donald Trump does appear, at last, to have ruled out using compulsory purchase to force his neighbours from their homes.

For the families concerned in particular, that must be a great relief.

I am delighted for them. They have shown great courage and strength.

The families have been living with the threat to their homes for over two years. While feelings of relief and joy will be dominant now, we must not forget that the residents should never have been put in this appalling position of uncertainty by Mr Trump in the first place. What Mr Trump has done today is withdraw a threat he should never have made.

In his statement, Mr Trump claims that he has ‘no interest in compulsory purchase’ and ‘never applied for it’. That is downright untrue. Mr Trump’s lawyers wrote to Aberdeenshire Council on 4 March 2009 formally requesting the Council to exercise its powers of compulsory purchase to acquire eight plots of land on behalf of Trump International Golf Links Scotland. The eight properties were listed. Included were the homes of four families.

Aberdeenshire Council could and should have made it clear long ago that compulsory purchase was not an option it would support. To that extent, the Council is as guilty as Mr Trump of causing the affected residents unnecessary worry and stress over an extended period.

The Council’s shameful failure to stand up to Mr Trump’s bullying has caused lasting damage to its reputation.

I want to pay tribute to the well organised and effective campaign run by Tripping Up Trump in support of the Menie residents. The thousands of people who actively helped the Tripping Up Trump campaign were defending important principles.

Today’s statement from Mr Trump is effectively an admission that the campaign has worked. Thank you to everyone who took part.

Jan 212011
 

‘Voice’ reader Jim Talbot responds to an article published in last week’s issue and offers an alternative view on the value of Donald Trump’s investment in the North East.

There is much to admire in Stephen Bremner’s article, most notably, his clear loyalty and commitment to his native land and his dislike of Mr Trump’s alleged bullying tactics.

Unfortunately, I cannot claim a birth origin in the North East, although my wife originates from these parts, nevertheless, I do feel a sincere loyalty to the area and a great love of the area itself, its history, culture and people.

I take issue with Mr Bremner’s assertion that only a small minority oppose The Donald’s great plan for the Great Dunes of Scotland. ( see Aberdeen voice article published 14th Jan. ) Certainly, if you believe all that you read in the local commercial press, then you might be led to that conclusion. The local newspaper reporting on this issue has been abysmally biased and at times quite inflammatory, particularly in the way in which certain elected representatives have been the target of tabloid character assassination.

I have a wide circle of friends here in Aberdeenshire, from all walks of life, and it is my experience that the vast majority are either disinterested or cannot see the relevance of the affair to much more fundamental issues, or do indeed oppose the development, even if they do not choose to give voice to their opposition. I have to say that such opposition has, within my earshot, even been expressed by ardent members of the golfing fraternity.

“Fit dae we need anither golf course fer, ye cannae fill the eins we hae” was one comment made, borne out by the fairly frequent and fervent recruitment campaigns and special offers run by many local golf courses, not to mention those golf courses which are under threat of closure or the golf developments which have been shelved…..but then perhaps The Donald’s real agenda was never just golf?

Absolutely crucial human rights are being ignored

What about spin off investment from The Donald’s scheme? Jobs in construction, outfitting, sales, catering and other service activities, not to mention the supply of materials during and after?

Friends in America have highlighted the trend for such egotistically grandiose developments to create very few jobs within a specific area, and for materials as well as labour to be sourced at the cheapest rate going from whatever source available –  not to mention that even Mr Trump has had to scale back his operations during the current recession, with projects axed!. There will probably be no loyalty to local people and the local economy to be found in such a development. The rhetoric spouted by those members of the local business community concerning the amount of trade such a development will bring to the area is largely pie in the sky, mere wishful thinking. There are no such guarantees given by such hard nosed businessmen as The Donald.

In many ways, Donald Trump, and men like him, are to be admired for their drive and obvious enthusiasm, however, all too often the people who are forgotten are the ‘little people’ – the Michael Forbes and David Milnes of this world.  In other words, you and I. Absolutely crucial human rights are being ignored and appallingly dangerous legal precedents are being set in this affair – and all because local business leaders are scared to death that the major local industry, the oil industry, is about to fold.

Climate warming scaremongering (and part of my research background was in aspects of climate change) together with an anti-global anti-oil lobby are driving the western world towards the brink of an energy supply disaster which will bring down governments and lay waste to otherwise prosperous countries. Contrary to what some would have you believe, the oil industry in the North East of Scotland is flourishing. As the traditional oil companies shrink, change direction or consolidate after major pollution incidents (due to sheer incompetence?), other “new boys” are taking their place.

The oil industry… can act as a springboard for the development of other industries.

These new oil companies are often locally based and more firmly rooted in the area. They have drive and enthusiasm for what they do – and there is plenty of oil out there with new fields being discovered on a regular basis.

Oil is an essential part of our economy and, despite the pessimistic predictions of some, could potentially be with us for the foreseeable future. Even if oil based energy and industry were to collapse, there would be generations of jobs involved in decommissioning, unless we were to leave unused plant to fester and pollute. No, the truth is that the oil industry here in the North East of Scotland, as highlighted in the Council’s own Structure Plan, is alive and well and has a potentially healthy future. Most importantly, it can act as a springboard for the development of other industries such as biotechnology, alternative energy, pharmaceuticals, scientific research, and many more.

As for tourism, well as long as it is overseen by quangos such as Visit Scotland (formerly the Scottish Tourist Board), what hope? So many friends in the tourist industry locally, at best express disappointment with the support they receive from such sources, and at worst state that it is a total waste of money.

Perhaps The Donald’s great scheme  – and a few others from other notable individuals – should be seen for what it is. Castles in the air!

Jan 212011
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

Peacock Visual Arts is hosting two exhibitions at present; Aberdeen Voice was on hand for the opening on 14th January of “Menie:  a portrait of a North-East coastal community in conflict” photographic portraits by Alicia Bruce.

To describe in simple terms the method of working used to create the images in this show, Alicia Bruce takes iconic painted portraits from art history and re-creates them.
In this instance she spent time with the inhabitants of Menie who have lived under the threat of being displaced by the Trump golf development.

As she acknowledges, she is neither the first nor the only photographer to use past art as source material for recreations, but as an essay on the exhibition by Catriona McAra explains (and as the work demonstrates) Bruce stamps something personal and clearly reflective of Scotland on her portraits.  The subjects have lived with the stress caused by the Trump development for quite some time, and their faces reflect this in varying degrees.  All of the subjects have several characteristics in common which Bruce successfully catches – different kinds of strength and earnestness.

There is strength and defiance wonderfully captured in the powerful re-creation of the iconic Grant Wood ‘American Gothic’ painting.  In this reworking featuring Michael and Sheila Forbes, Michael’s folded, tattooed arms block the would-be adversary from taking the land and farm he stands before, confrontationally facing an invisible Donald Trump, and the gallery viewer is put in Trump’s place, staring in Forbes’ eyes.  When the Voice team arrived early at the show, this piece was the first thing we could see as we peered through the gallery doors – powerful, immediately both familiar and new and it made a bold statement of strength that is still fresh in my memory.

The striking desolate beauty of the Menie Landscape is ever present in the photographs, and,  like the lost ways of life the original paintings captured, the viewer is left wondering if these portraits are capturing a people and environment doomed to soon be lost themselves like the art they are re-creating.  It is this idea that takes the photo of Molly with a gaggle of geese and changes it from a whimsical re-creation of a happier time but instead something poignant.

The show was well attended, and feelings inside the gallery ran high.  Molly Forbes said she was ‘most pleased’ with the work; she seemed somewhat overwhelmed and genuinely impressed.  Comments given to the Voice and other media present were all powerful; Gordon Maloney had this to say:

At its heart, this is not a question of what benefit this development could bring to the North East, although it’s very questionable that it would bring any. The question here is how much are we willing to sacrifice for economic gain. Do we want to live in a world where people are evicted from their homes and unique and beautiful stretches of land are ripped up to make way for hotels for rich tourists? I don’t. That’s why it is crucial to show the human side of this story; we can never forget that these are people’s lives, not just what economists derisively call ‘externalities’“.

Along with the Bruce portraits, the back of the gallery area had been used for a projection of the grey north sea waters.  Bruce also created a series of shots of boundary markers, taken at different points in time.  Near a visitors’ signing book there was a small collection in a simple frame of cards that had been sent in support to the Menie residents.  Perhaps the most poignant and heartfelt message can be found on a Christmas card sent to Molly Forbes.

My recommendation is to go to this exhibit and think about what will happen to these people and their world.

Peacock Exhibition

Picture 1 of 7

Credit: CSD Images

Jan 142011
 

By Stephen Bremner.

Money talks, but of late the people of Scotland have been notably quiet. Few people have been unaffected by the recession and the country is bracing itself for the looming cuts within the public sector. The people of the Northeast however can take some solace from the fact that their main industry for the last couple of decades is still going strong.

I often wonder what would have become of Aberdeen and its surrounding area had ‘Black Gold’ not been discovered, what with the demise of fishing, and a tourism industry that is still struggling to take off. Corporate machines flocked to the area to cash in on our newfound discovery and the good people of Aberdeen welcomed them with one hand and grabbed a fistful of dollars with the other.

I do not condone Donald Trump’s bullying tactics, but have the foresight to see that this is an opportunity that cannot go a begging

Aberdeen is now one of the most affluent areas in Scotland if not the UK, and the rest of the country look on with glowing green eyes. Yet we have been repeatedly warned that these good times will not last forever and in the next 20 years or so, if experts are to be believed, oil related employment will continue to fall and signal the exodus of Johnny Foreigner and his Yankee Dollar.

A stroke of luck then that an American Billionaire has chosen ‘God’s Country’ to host one of the world’s premium golf developments. Not so, according to a small minority who would rather reject any form of investment in order to get their faces in the national press.

Whilst I feel slightly sorry for Mr Forbes et al at facing the prospect of a CPO, any sympathy I have is outweighed by the prospect of the area that I was born in and raised being decimated by a lack of investment and surely going the same way as some of the impoverished areas in the north of England.

I do not condone Donald Trump’s bullying tactics, but have the foresight to see that this is an opportunity that cannot go a begging. Did the people who so vehemently oppose Trump and his millions also stand up and react so vocally against Shell, BP, Chevron etc, the masters in bullying and harassment of people and governments?

The simple fact is that investment of this magnitude should not be sniffed at. The doors that this development will open could provide a significant and sustained income for the region and may allow the good times to continue.

Jan 072011
 

By Helen Thomas.

Molly Forbes is an 84 year old pensioner. She is also a remarkable woman. Why? Because she has the courage to stand up to the multi billionaire Donald Trump over his attempts to evict her, along with several others, from her home to build a golf complex.

Mrs Forbes has been threatened with a compulsory purchase order that would force her from her home so that Mr Trump could knock it down to build the luxury resort. He has tried to buy her out several times but she refuses to sell.

Mr Trump’s plans have been approved by Aberdeenshire Council despite the fact that they include land he does not own, so Mrs Forbes launched a legal action asking for a judicial review of the decision.

Unfortunately she was refused legal aid so was forced to drop the case. Mr Trump is now pursuing her for legal costs.

That’s right, a multi billionaire sees fit to pursue a pensioner for costs incurred as the result of her fight against threat of eviction. And to add to it, he also wants to claim money for the inconvenience the case has brought him.

Molly’s case is up in Edinburgh court on Tuesday 11th January. It will be listed as Forbes v Aberdeenshire Council and Trump Int.

Molly has been worried sick over it, wondering if she can pay her electric bill, or her car insurance or replace her washing machine. Mr Trump does not have these worries. He is not only trying to force her from her home but effectively, make her destitute as well.

However, whatever the outcome, Molly isn’t giving up. She is taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, claiming her rights were denied by the refusal to give her legal aid.

All I can say is good luck Molly, wish there were more people like you prepared to stand up for what you believe in.

For more information on Molly Forbes and the Tripping Up Trump campaign please visit www.trippinguptrump.com

I realise that most people will not be able to make it there but I wanted to give you all the information should you want to go and show Molly your support.

I hope there will be a few of us who can make it along on Jan 11th, but I know the rest of us will be cheering her on in spirit

Helen x