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….
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.
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.
– 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.
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.
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.