Oct 242014

By Fin Hall.

Voted yesThe galvanisation of the people is only growing stronger, with groups like ‘The 45’, Women for Indy and The National Collective, working to achieve more powers, as promised by all WM leaders and has been, Gordon Brown.

Surely it is only a matter of time afterwards, that if the powers promised are granted, or if they are not, the populace will realise that we can either ‘manage quite well thank you’, or, if the latter prevails, ‘let’s ditch these liars.’

Meaning the indy situation will come round again.

Right, now I know these comparisons aren’t exactly equal, but the theory, I believe holds up.

When that fateful day in September came around, and over 80% of us trotted off to our local polling stations, to cast our vote, ( ok, I am aware that many had already put in a postal vote, but you know what I mean) we went in there with hope in our hearts and a smile of determination on our faces.

The country, as we know, was invigorated – young and old – many of us staying up all night as the results came in.

But as the night went on, it became apparent that us YES voters were in for a disappointment. A surprising disappointment.

Despite the polls, most people presumed that the independence vote was going our way.

Why else would Aberdeen council have erected double barriers around all the statues in the city centre? Actually why did they do that? Did they expect the victorious YES supporters to attack them in their celebrations with sledge hammers and pneumatic drills?

Not at all. They were just going to be sore losers and block people from perhaps climbing on them and draping them with saltire flags.

In the end it was an un-necessary waste of funds, as silent depression was the order of the day, not celebration.

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Sep 262014

MartinFordatUTGWith thanks to Cllr Martin Ford.

The local Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire branch of the Scottish Green Party has doubled in size in just a few days following last week’s independence referendum.

Nationally, the Scottish Green Party has seen a rise in membership of over 3,800, again more than doubling the total number of party members.

So far, the Aberdeenshire Green Party branch has gained over 140 new members – with more still joining every day.

John McCallum, convenor of the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Green Party branch, said:

“The independence referendum truly energised politics in Scotland, bringing unprecedented levels of debate, engagement and voter turnout.

“‘Green Yes’, the Scottish Green Party’s distinctive vision of Scotland’s potential, meanwhile rang a bell with a great many new supporters, both Yes- and No-voters. They now see our Party as the best prospect of delivering the social, economic and environmental change they want to see in Scotland.

“I am delighted to be welcoming so many new Green Party members to our local branch. The huge boost to our membership will stand the Party in good stead in the elections to come. We can confidently look forward to fielding more candidates, running stronger campaigns and seeing more Greens elected over the next few years.”

Aberdeenshire Green councillor Martin Ford said:

“An increase in membership on this scale will transform the Party’s capacity to put its case for a fairer society based on the sustainable use of natural resources – and its capacity to fight and win elections.

“The priorities the Party highlighted during the referendum are applicable to either outcome. The difference for us now is that we will have many more members contributing to getting our message across.”

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May 302014

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

DictionaryThe saying runs ‘a week is a long time in politics;’  and it certainly has been a long, eventful week in Scotland.  Congratulations to us all; we  now have new MEPs, including one UKIP member, a Scottish first.

Meet the new boss – David Coburn.  The Torygraph (sorry, Telegraph) quoted Coburn as saying:

“voters disillusioned with the Nationalists had coalesced around Ukip as a result and rejected the First Minister’s claim the BBC was to blame by providing extensive coverage of Nigel Farage to Scottish homes” 


Old Susannah is trying to work out how you can be gay and a UKIP MEP, when UKIP wants to stop same sex marriage. It’s almost as if there were some inconsistencies in this party’s policies and/or membership.

The new catchphrase on UKIP supporters’ lips is “I’m not racist but…”.  For some reason most of us want the freedom to have property abroad, move abroad and work abroad (if not keep our money away from the taxman by stashing it abroad). We just don’t want people from abroad doing that kind of thing here.

So, UKIP  has gained ground, largely at the expense of the Lib ‘no tuition fees, we’ve signed a pledge’ Democrats. I guess every very grey cloud has some kind of silver lining. Oh, and that nice man, Mr Inclusive, Nick Griffin has lost the seat the BNP once held.

But first, a quick word before definitions on a serious matter. There is a drug-related problem to be addressed, sorry to say. The P&J and its sister the Evening Express have been desperate for a fix lately, and have been experimenting with drug stories. Unfortunately too many drugs articles can cause reporters great confusion and difficulties in concentrating, thus leading to inaccurate, wild stories. Cocaine in particular can lead to a dangerous feeling over confidence.  In a very excited, highly agitated condition, the P&J reported:

“A MAJOR police probe has been launched after a stash of cocaine was found on a North Sea oil platform. Medics have drug-tested 150 workers on the Piper Bravo after a number of wraps containing white powder were discovered.

“The substance will be tested at a laboratory in Aberdeen today and is expected to be confirmed as the Class A drug.” https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/aberdeen/83802/suspected-stash-of-cocaine-found-on-north-sea-platform/

Old Susannah may only be an amateur writer, but I tend to write about things once they have been confirmed. The news professionals at AJL clearly have problems with doing lines. The head line in their story claims it’s cocaine that’s been found. Then the paper does some smaller lines which tell readers that the wraps (whatever that is) are expected to be confirmed as the class a drug.

I’m afraid it was snorts of derision all round other Scottish media when the truth came out, as alas! The wraps of cocaine turned out to be some kind of painkiller (and a legal one at that).

Unfortunately with drugs, there is always a comedown. The papers and their uber editor somehow hallucinated that cocaine was found on an oil rig. When they were forced to sober up a few days later, reality had set in, and they reported:

“An unknown substance discovered in packages on a North Sea platform was common pain relief medicine, tests have confirmed.

“Three small packages containing the substance were recovered from the Piper Bravo platform on Saturday.” http://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/news/scotland/platform-alert-substance-medicine-1.385127

Confused hacks at the papers even have one article talking about unknown substances, but the same article has a photo captioned:

“FIND: An unknown substance found on board the Piper Bravo platform has been confirmed as a common painkiller” – http://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/news/local/three-packages-to-be-tested-after-white-powder-found-on-north-sea-platform-1.380523

So you see, messing around with drugs because you think they may make you or your newspaper look glamorous or interesting can backfire badly, making you embarrassed by your behaviour for a long time to come.

Onwards with definitions as promised last week, although I find it hard to figure out if the governments want to protect our rights or spy on us, and be the only ones allowed to hold data on individuals. It surely can’t be the latter. Here are some definitions focusing on recent developments impacting on your right to privacy, your right to know, and press freedom.

‘Right to be forgotten’ : (Modern English legal phrase)- legal guarantee that in certain circumstances search engines will be forced to remove links from search results if they concern a private person who wants their past stories and deeds to be omitted from search results.

As the BBC reported,

“The Court of Justice of the European Union set a legal precedent on 13 May when it ruled that a user had the right to have links to web pages about him removed from Google’s results because the passage of time had made them ‘irrelevant'”

The Spanish man had complained that Google’s links to an auction notice of his repossessed home infringed his privacy. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-27499601

Surely this ‘right to be forgotten’ could never be used to protect lawbreakers, people with violent pasts, or UKIP members who eventually realise they don’t want to be associated with UKIP views on homosexuals and immigrants?

Somehow the EU has decided that it is not the responsibility of people who publish information on the web to take it down, it is somehow Google’s responsibility for letting people know what’s out there that should be curtailed. Perhaps we’ll decide that librarians (if there are any left) are responsible for what gets into card catalogues and publishers are off the hook for printing information that someone, somewhere wants forgotten.

What are the implications – cost, practicality, data management for search engines? Is it even possible to enact this law? I guess these minor details will work themselves out with little fuss.

The BBC also reports:-

“Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, has attacked the judgement, calling it “wide-sweeping internet censorship”, adding that it would be difficult for search firms to determine what should be removed”

Surely our EU and national governments wouldn’t try and control the flow of information, would they?

At the same time the EU wants to control the circulation of information and retention records, UK / Scottish Authorites are going about things a little differently.

Yet another policeman has been charged with spying on an ex partner via the police database. I’m sure he was just trying to keep a friendly eye on her and her family; she’s probably flattered that she’s being looked after.

Unfortunately, the law says that such records are to be used for professional reasons only. But surely we can trust the police with our private information, especially now that the government is collecting more and more data on us all the time?

School children and younger are being arrested, and their DNA and fingerprints taken. Kind of conveniently, this makes it just that much easier for the police to keep tabs on us all from an early age, whether we’re criminals or not. You’ll also be happy to know that more and more police are carrying guns.  I’m sure you feel as safe as I do.

When it comes to sharing info, there is a new scheme afoot to keep records on people with violent pasts, and let potential spouses access these. There may be issues with who controls this data, what’s included or excluded, and who makes the decisions on what to release. But as long a the authorities in charge, then it will all work out fine.  I wonder what would happen if the police started looking at the violent, criminal activities of its own members?

Press Reform: (Modern English phrase) – the ConDem attempt at press regulation in the aftermath of the news of the world hacking scandal.

In the old days, the only check on government, politicians and the powerful was a free press.  However, one news corporation used some illegal methods to get stories.  Coupled with the fact our government is trustworthy and doesn’t need any investigation, the ConDems have decided we don’t really need a free press. As the Telegraph reports:

“Late on Friday, in yet another session from which press representatives were excluded, Mrs Miller and the other parties produced the final version of their charter. There were a few small changes, but crucially nothing to address the newspapers’ central concern, which was that the charter could be amended by politicians, effectively at will. (In theory, a high bar – a two-thirds majority of Parliament – is needed, but in practice this requirement is not entrenched and could be changed by a simple majority of MPs.)

“Any new press regulator would not itself be part of the state, but it would have to conform to the criteria set down by the state in the royal charter. These are fairly prescriptive already – but if they can be changed by MPs in future to make them tighter still, a decisive line has been crossed in political control of the press.”

Oh, and the ‘Mrs Miller’ quoted in the above paragraph is the same woman who was the culture secretary; she had to leave in disgrace after the media exposed a scandal or two she was involved with.  It’s almost as if she wanted revenge on the press. Miller also had an aide try and thwart press questions by a Telegraph reporter by intimating Miller was in a position of power over the press.

Private Eye, The Guardian, i, The Independent and The Observer (to name a few) did not dish out money to the police for scoops, did not hack into 150 phonecalls of Kate Middleton’s before she married Prince William, and did not hack into a missing schoolgirl’s phone, possibly compromising crucial evidence.

But you have to be fair when you’re in government – like when many of our major banks broke the rules, lost tens of millions of pounds, and falsified records. They were all soundly punished with measures ranging from taxpayer-funded bailouts, taxpayer-funded million pound bonuses for bosses, and absolutely no punitive regulations were at all.  One paper breaks the law (with it should be noted police complicity), and it’s time to cow the entire media.

With the banking sector, it is almost as if the friendships and overlaps between government officials and highly-placed financial executives resulted in the government turning a blind eye.  Funnily enough, the government is keen to punish all  of its critics in the publishing sector. I wonder why?

So in summary, you won’t be getting information from a free, unhindered press.  You probably won’t be getting all the search results you want from Google or Yahoo!  You’ll be getting information from the government, or at least the information government will let you have.  Seems fair enough to me.

Next week:  We’ll see if we’re allowed to publish

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Nov 202012

A fundraising event to support local activist Renee Slater in her forthcoming court case will be held on Thursday 29 November at Sopranos Bistro in Aberdeen’s Guild Street. With thanks to Friends of Helena Torry.

In the 2012 Aberdeen council elections, a candidate named Helena Torry was put forward by her agent, Renee Slater.

Nothing unusual in that, you might think, until you discover Helena is a dummy.

Not your usual political dummy, we hasten to add, but an actual shop mannequin!

Local activist Renee told Aberdeen Voice:

“Putting Helena forward for election was an act of political satire. I was trying to make a serious political point in a humorous way.

“During my campaign on Helena’s behalf, I tried to bring to the fore the point of view of a silent majority of Aberdonians.

“It was a direct response to what I saw as an under-representation of certain issues in the manifestos of the main political parties, particularly the closure of social centres for disabled people and cutbacks in community and youth work budgets.”

The council’s somewhat cack-handed response to the appearance of Helena as a candidate was to report 63-year-old Renee to the police. She was subsequently arrested and charged under Section 65 part 2A of the 1983 Representation of the People Act, then released to appear in court later.

Denied legal aid, Renee faces a court battle to clear her name in January 2013, not only having to foot her own legal costs but also facing the possibility of a substantial fine.

Fundraiser organisers Friends of Helena Torry is a group of local residents alarmed and disappointed at the council’s heavy-handed reaction to what is clearly a harmless act of political dissent, a type of political satire with a long and entertaining history.

Animals, inanimate objects and historical figures have been nominated for public office many times. Notable examples are American activist Michael Moore’s nomination of a ficus plant for congress and even Caligula’s horse (which apparently won) once featured in an electoral race. Even In the most recent U.S. presidential elections, the long-deceased Charles Darwin received around 4000 votes.

Friends of Helena Torry believe political dissent has an important role in a true democracy and should not be criminalised. Local authorities must respond to criticism in a morally acceptable way and should strive to act upon those criticisms in the interests of the public it serves.

One might think the police have more than enough to cope with as it is, that a court system under increasing strain must have more important matters to attend to than a piece of harmless satire, particularly one that actually brought a smile to a great many faces, not just in Aberdeen but around the globe.

Everyone is invited along to the evening. The fun kicks off at 7pm and will include live music from local bands and a raffle, so please come along and support Renee and join the campaign to free mannequin Helena (languishing in police custody to this day).

You can also donate or buy a T-Shirt or badge from the website:


All proceeds from the evening go towards Renee’s legal costs. Any surplus will be donated to a charity of Renee’s choice.

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Nov 162012

On 7 October, Hugo Chavez was re-elected as President of Venezuela. Since 1998, Chavez and his Bolivarian movement have championed the cause of the poor in Latin America and have proved to be tough opponents to the power structure that would see them deposed in the same way that Pinochet dealt with the Allende Government in Chile. With thanks to Mike Martin.

Film showing, Monday 19 November at New King’s NK10 at 1930

Two independent filmmakers were inside the Presidential Palace in Caracason 11 April 2002, when Chavez and his team were forcibly removed from office. They were also present 48 hours later when, remarkably, he returned to power amid cheering aides and massive pro-Chavez demonstrations.

The film records what was probably history’s shortest-lived coup d’état. It is a unique document about political muscle and an extraordinary portrait of the man The Wall Street Journal credits with making Venezuela, ‘Washington’s biggest Latin American headache after the old standby, Cuba’.

This meeting has been organised by the Aberdeen Latin America Solidarity Network and is supported by the Shared Planet Society and the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign.

Everybody is welcomed to attend.

For more info: www.venezuelasolidarity.org.uk or contact Mike Martin 0797-476-3082


Aug 312012

The City Garden Project is dead. It’s difficult to believe after all these years, but despite some horrendous death throws and twitches, the beast has been slain. Mike Shepherd looks back at the good things and the bad things that emerged from this experience.

BAD: Businessmen tried to impose their will over the rest of Aberdeen.
GOOD: The people of Aberdeen fought back and won.

Aberdeen had in recent years drifted politically into a  situation where big business interests were exerting too much control for the good of a pluralistic society.

It is shocking that economic policy for the region has been devolved to mainly business interests largely beyond political control (ACSEF).

The UTG decision shows that the people of Aberdeen can still exert a brake on the rampant will of businessmen who think they can do what they want, even to the extent of taking over a public park.

BAD: The local press proved less to be the watchdog of the community and more the poodle of big business.
GOOD:  Aberdeen Voice was formed and the internet became a forum for those who disagree with the local newsprint’s version of ‘consensus’.

Freedom of Information releases show how much of our tax money ACSEF have spent on public relations, largely channelled through the local newsprint.  However, the days whereby the Aberdeen media creates the message and controls the consensus are slipping away.  The ‘editorial column’ has now lost all credibility and the free exchange of opinion and information is passing to community pages on the internet.

BAD: Public consultations and referenda have now proved to be totally worthless.
GOOD: We still have the ballot box.

The first public consultation was effectively run as a marketing exercise and was ignored because it returned the wrong result as far as ACSEF and a section of the business community were concerned. The later public referendum was run with good intentions but business interests left nothing to chance and spent their way to a totally one-sided campaign.  Both episodes did nothing to reduce rampant cynicism amongst the disaffected. However, the results of the democratic ballot through council elections could not be ignored or swayed by one-sided campaign spending.

BAD:  National politicians sided with power and wealth against the interests of the public.
GOOD: You can still punish them for the abuse of political control through the ballot box.

The involvement of senior Scottish Government politicians in a local dispute over a public park was despicable.   Sectional party interests look to have been involved in an attempt to curry favour with wealth,  power and influence in the Aberdeen area. The politician’s willingness to get involved in a divisive local issue despite potential fallout from the electorate suggests that over-riding political objectives at a national scale were at stake.  That potential fallout from the electorate happened.

BAD:  Aberdeen Council turned over wagging paws in the air at the behest of business interests.
GOOD: We are on their case.

Of all the shockers perpetrated by our Council, the worst was to allow the proposed developers of the City Garden Project, a limited company, to influence the business case for Council borrowing of millions of pounds for the project.  To show how bad this is: under normal circumstances an “allegation” like this would have provoked outrage and perhaps lawyer’s letters; but this is not an allegation; it is all there in black and white in the council’s report.  We are now alert to the knowledge that our council can do these things. They will be watched like a hawk.

BAD: The political powers have stopped bothering with building consensus over big planning issues where conflict could arise.
GOOD: The might is right approach has failed miserably.

A big lesson from the recent history of political decisions in Aberdeen –  Involve everybody and make sure that all opinions are heard and considered seriously. If you don’t do this, expect a political quagmire of horrendous proportions – UTG, the bypass, Loirston, etc, etc. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong, you have to do this properly and thoroughly

GOOD: A public park, Union Terrace Gardens, has been kept as a public amenity.
GOOD:  They will think twice before ever trying that again.

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May 172012

There was jubilation in Aberdeen today after the SNP and Lib Dems were sensationally returned to power. Samuel Clemens writes.

The March referendum result having trumped the local elections that followed it in May, the first act of the reinstated council will be to  overwhelmingly  approve the City Sky Project.
This ambitious plan by international tycoon Donald Duck and Axsef will raise the entire city to the roof level of St Nicholas House.

Keith Stuart, former councillor and now European ambassador to China said:

“Only 25,004 people voted for Labour in the elections, whereas 50.001% of voters voted for the City Sky Project in the referendum.

“Since Labour campaigned on a pro UTG ticket, it’s only democratic that they should be removed from power, made to empty their desks, have their phones confiscated, and be escorted from the city by Union Square Security Guards.”

Of the City Sky Project, Deputy Council Leader John Fletcher explained :

“Labour had intended to demolish St Nicholas House and replace it with a garden. That scheme would have cost millions of pounds and only had 99% of its funding in place.

“Then Donald Duck came along and suggested raising the entire city to the roof level of St Nicholas House, as an elegant alternative to demolition. He even offered to fund the first £5m himself. A scam like this only comes along once in a lifetime, and we all felt it was a visionary concept that could really revitalise the city centre.

“As soon as this is imposed on the people of Aberdeen I’ll be relocating to Brighton, where I can lead an alternative lifestyle.”

International Tycoon Donald Duck has strong ties with the city because his German grandmother once owned a Scottish Terrier named Jock.

Well respected accountants Price-Whatnohouse-Kline-Beecham have eliminated the need to consult specialist construction surveyors by guesstimating the project at an affordable £500m. A spokesperson said:

“We are merely acting on the instructions of our client, Donald Duck. He calls the shots.”

The balance of the funding will be raised under the tested system of CIF, or Crony Increment Funding. Council protégé Callum McChild deftly explained the workings of this complex funding mechanism,

“Under this scheme the entire city will be leased to an unregistered charity vehicle named Axsef World Domination Fund Limited for a period of not less than 525 years.

“The cost of the development will be recouped by increased business rates in the two new towns that will be constructed within the CIF zone to the North of Aberdeen. These are to be named Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

“The increased business rates will be in effect for a period of 25 years.  Although it is a certainty that this will repay the loan, any remaining debt will then in theory be recouped by confiscating and auctioning the homes of everyone living in the city or its suburbs. But that part will never happen; never in all my six years as a teenager has something like that occurred.”

Lord Provost Humptress Dumptress, who represents the ward of Steven Wiggy Construction Limited, claimed that all her constituents were in favour of the project.

“Aberdeen would have been the laughing stock of the entire Universe had it rejected The City Sky Project. The alternative is that St Nicholas House is painted bright orange with F*CK YOU stencilled down the side of it and left to stand forever, and the Art Gallery will almost certainly fall down of its own accord.”

Mike Sheepdog, Spokesman for the annoying tree-hugging luddite NIMBY Occupy movement spin-off, Friends of Aberdeen, thumped his chest and shouted


Bohmenian cafe owner Steve Bakewell disagrees with Mike Sheepdog,

“There is an alternative.  I have plans drawn up to reopen St Nicholas House as a macrobiotic cafe.  As you can see from these drawings we’ve incorporated a giant spiral staircase around the exterior which we also plan to reupholster in tasteful crushed velvet.  There will be outdoor balconies every third floor with canopies to protect patrons from all the seagull shit.”

Esteemed International Architects Diddly Squat Rankturd, who designed the world revered tourist attraction An Overgrown Field are to head up the project. Donald Duck explained,

“Yeah, this is a great deal for you limeys, these guys turned a bunch of grass into some wild flowers and folks flocked to see it from all over the world.

“It was inspirational. Charles Rankturd is jetting in to have brunch with some students at Gray’s, because Zooey thought that would be a good photo op.”

Aberdeen Voice got a sneak peak at the plans and can confirm that everything, with the exception of St Nicholas House, will be demolished in order to prep the area. We then asked 100 people in the vicinity of Cornhill Hospital how they felt about seeing the entire city being reduced to rubble.

  • White Heather Wifie felt that the city was old, dirty, covered in chewing gum, and should be replaced with something new.
  • Gilcomston Tramp said he never used the city and didn’t see the point in it.
  • The Guitar Wifie from St Nicholas Centre complained that the city was only used by drunks and junkies, and wasn’t safe to visit anymore.
  • Aye Aye Wifie fae King Street said she had a problem getting her stolen shopping trolley up and down stairs especially when it was full of Yorkshire Terriers.
  • A man with seagull feathers in his hair felt that the city was an eyesore and clearly past its sell by date.

A representative of the Federation of Small Nutcases said,

“Our members are in favour of the project, and so is everyone else.”

“It is heartening to hear that not only will St Nicholas House be preserved, but that it will be reinforced to act as a symbolic supporting pillar for the revitalised city.”

Herr Flick, spokesman for Axsef, revealed how police had to be called in after annoying tree-hugging luddite NIMBY Occupy movement spin-off, Friends of Aberdeen kidnapped his family, stole his plasma television, barbecued his dog, scrawled the world “PIG” on his wall in blood, called him a w**ker online, and hurt his feelings.

Although clearly shaken he bravely explained, “The entire inside of the structure will be one enormous arts centre, capable of holding over one million people, designed in the theme of a shopping mall. Art and shopping are integral to one another.

“Our PR company conducted research that revealed art and shopping are two sides of the same coin. This vibrant fusion of them will create a cafe culture and determine our entire weather system for thousands of years to come. The city will benefit from hosting prestigious events like Fame Academy and The World Dwarf Throwing Championships.”

The Office for Spoilt Brat Future Prime Minister said in a statement that Spoilt Brat felt that Aberdeen was lacking in connectivity.

“To get from one side to the other you have to pass through the middle or go around.  Once the City Sky Project is completed it will also be possible to bungee jump over the side then ride an elevator back up.

“People will start to move around more exploring these sorts of tactile possibilities. It’s all about connectivity, that’s why vibrant cities like Disneyland and Alton Towers are such a commercial success.”

Councillor Josh Corblimey thought that this had the potential to be just like Space 1999,

“We could have robots and stuff, and everyone could eat that mashed potato stuff that you mix in the packet and microwave.  In fact everyone would have access to microwaves, and we could communicate with each other using them.

“Microwaves would be like phones, and we could all wear suits of tinfoil, fly around in jet-packs and make popcorn. Imagine if someone farted whilst flying their jet pack? It would be ace. But I see the need to make education our priority. Happy days!”

We dug up Ex-Aberdeen Manager Ally McGab who came close to winning the World Cup with Scotland in 1978. He commented:

“The people of Aberdeen need to think big, but remember it’s a game of two halves Archie.”

Celebrity Scottish President John West Salmon was craned into Aberdeen for five minutes where he gave the project his endorsement 110% while presiding over the public execution of unpopular crazed renegade Mike Sheepdog.

Aberdeen Voice comments:

The people of Aberdeen have no choice but to welcome this ambitious scheme. The fact that the referendum was rigged is irrelevant, that’s all in the past, now we must move on with our lives and embrace the future. And the sky is the limit!

( Add your own view on this exciting venture in the comments box below )

May 152012

All good stories have an unexpected and dramatic twist to the tale and the thriller / horror / war story of Union Terrace Gardens is no exception. Mike Shepherd writes.

We left the saga with a public referendum having been held and a narrow majority gained for the City Garden Project.

The final count at the start of March saw glumness on both sides with nary a cheer heard; one side having lost the vote, bitter at the sledge-hammer tactics of their opponents; the other side staring at a pyrrhic victory whereby hundreds of thousands of pounds of advertising money had resulted in a narrow majority vote.

One campaigner described the result as like a football match where one side had fielded twenty players and still only won one-nil!

There was still two months to go until the council elections on May 3rd. The SNP had been privately hoping to see a  majority of councillors elected so that they could form an administration without any need to seek coalition partners. The political pundits thought this unlikely but still predicted the SNP to end up as the largest group in the council. It was conjectured that the public referendum would have some influence on the vote.

The SNP had been linked to the City Garden Project not the least through Alex Salmond’s comments in support of the project during the referendum campaign. The Labour party opposed the City Garden project and pledged to scrap it if they got the chance. The other main party, the Lib Dems, were split on the issue with three councillors, Martin Greig, Jennifer Stewart and Ian Yuill having opposed Sir Ian Wood’s scheme.

Kenny Watt had provided a website giving information detailing where the candidates standing for election stood with respect to the UTG issue. He had tried contacting as many of the candidates as possible. Some who I suspected to be pro City garden project were non-committal when asked.

In spite of the referendum result, candidate endorsement for the City Garden Project was somewhat subdued in the lead up to the election. Kenny’s website was widely distributed and intended as a voting guide only.

The Council vote was a surprise to many, not least the Labour party. They found themselves with the largest number of new councillors at seventeen, ahead of the SNP. This was not quite enough to form a majority (which is 22 in a council with 43 members). They did manage to secure the agreement of the Conservatives and Independents to form a coalition.

  Sir Ian Wood’s scheme is looking much less likely than it had been two months earlier

What happened? There is no doubt that local issues played a part; the proposed third Don crossing in Tillydrone and the new football stadium in Cove and Kincorth.
However, I believe the UTG controversy had a significant influence.

The Labour party saw their number of councillors increase substantially and all three Lib Dems supporting UTG were returned in spite of their party’s poor showing elsewhere.

I’ve had numerous comments from people who admit to having changed their normal voting pattern because they were so upset about what they saw as a very cynical campaign strategy by the City Garden supporters in the referendum. It looks as if the referendum result had an unexpected sting in its tail.

The Labour party, now leading the new council administration, are still committed to abandoning the City Garden Project. I make it a very slight majority of pro-UTG councillors in the new batch. Nevertheless, the political practicality is that Sir Ian Wood’s scheme is looking much less likely than it had been two months earlier.

There are several hurdles for the City Garden Project to get through before it happens, each one of which is a show-stopper if it doesn’t get the vote. The new administration has discussed organising what would essentially be a knock-out vote for the scheme. If it survives that, then there is the business case to be approved for TIF funding, the approval of a land lease and finally the planning submission itself; each separate votes.

On top of that, there will be an intent by the new administration to get on with other business and I suspect they will not want to be distracted by such a divisive issue as the City Garden Project. There will be other priorities to consider.

That’s not to say that the beast is finally dead: By no means. The rich and powerful of the land are not giving up easily.

Sir Ian Wood intends to carry on regardless and will lobby councillors individually to pursue his project. The publicly funded ACSEF have rather unwisely criticised the Labour party position and the Chamber of Commerce are joining in.

Much will be made of the public referendum result, even though the result was marginal and the campaigning by one side was totally over the top.  Labour have the moral edge in that they never approved of the referendum in the first place, voting against it on the grounds that the ballot that counted was the one on May 3rd.

There will be more twists and turns to come in this saga no doubt. But at the moment, the prognosis for the City Garden Project is poor.  It is of note that the Labour party are already discussing what happens following the demise of the City Garden Project.  This includes the establishment of the Castlegate as a cultural centre and the possibility of instigating schemes similar to the contemporary arts centre proposed by Peacock Visual Arts over five years ago.

Local author Diane Morgan is busy writing a new book on the history of Union Terrace Gardens and hopes to finish it this summer. She has a problem. The final chapter hasn’t happened just yet.

May 112012

Tally Ho and Long Live the Revolution!  Dong Dong…!  Things genuinely seem a bit more vibrant, dynamic and forward-looking since the elections.  Labour have a majority and the LibDems got the ballot-box cull they had asked for. By Suzanne Kelly.

No I didn’t get in – but I couldn’t have been much happier with the results, although we have one more Malone than I’d hoped for.  The candidate list I’d recommended got hundreds of hits in the run-up to polling day, and the results came out pretty much as I’d wanted for the deer, for UTG and for basic transparency in government.

Running was quite an experience and so was the count.  There were tired and emotional councillors and would-be councillors, some of who looked as if they’d been to the BrewDog AGM (held at the arena the Saturday before), and hadn’t been home yet.

Frenzied minions ran from computer screen to computer screen for glimpses of spoilt ballots and early result indicators. The most softly-spoken man I’d ever heard was tasked with whispering the results out to the candidates before the official announcement.

I had as much chance of winning Torry/Ferryhill as I did of winning the Grand National, but I was very very touched to have been the first choice for some 91 people.   Thank you.

A diminutive rabbit-faced woman in an eye-wateringly lurid, mustard-coloured jacket was looking tired/confused/fearful, a bit like the 22 deer which she’d ordered destroyed on Tullos Hill.  (What was with that jacket?  Did she have a job as a theatre usher to go to after the count?  Was she wearing it for a bet?  Was it some new high viz outfit?)

I almost felt sorry for her as the members of her little herd were culled one by one by the voters and each loss was reflected in her doe-like eyes.  But I wasn’t.

Speaking of culls, newspapers accuse the Government and landowners of secretly planning a beaver cull in the Scottish countryside (what’s left of it).   Surely the transparent, non-political, scientific body that is Scottish Natural Heritage would not help secretly destroy wildlife?  Must be a mistake.

In some parts of Tayside beavers were reintroduced, and others escaped into the wild and have bred for generations, and are now wild as well.  Still, some clever clipboard-holder somewhere is thinking about taking some of them back from the wild now or culling them (beavers build dams you see – something the SNH could not have anticipated).  SNH –  Where would nature be without it?

If you are interested in beavers about to be persecuted by some ambitious SNH pencil-pusher, contact Louise Ramsay of the Scottish Wild Beaver Group.

Elsewhere in the news Eduard Munch’s famous painting ‘The Scream’ sold for £120 million.  For only £20 million more you could destroy a Victorian garden and get a granite web, if you’re interested.

I was struck by how closely it resembled some of the ex-councillors at the count, and a few of the hopefuls when they learnt they didn’t get in this time.  It is also quite a futuristic painting – it looks to me like a terrified person running away from a giant granite web.

The Cults, Bieldside, Miltimber online newspaper is a simple, straightforward, informative means by which area residents keep up on the latest news.  It became however, the point of attack for Stewart Milne’s legal rottweilers.  Why you may ask?

This little newsletter had repeated the (widely-circulated) rumour that Stewart Milne and family were going to depart their big house on the hill and have it turned into a hotel.  The ordinary Tom, Dick or Stewart might simply have dropped an email to the editor to say the rumour wasn’t true, but not Stewart Milne.  Nothing short of legal representatives contacting the newsletter would do – it was SERIOUS you see.

Munch’s ‘The Scream’ also resembles the area residents’ faces when they learned Milne wasn’t leaving.  Allegedly.  I’d best not mention the rumours around the ‘heated driveway’ or the destruction of a listed home for Milne’s ‘eco-friendly’ house, or I’ll have the lawyers onto me, too – so I won’t.  And as far as any stories about liquidity problems, well, you won’t hear about them from me.

But at this rate there won’t be time for any definitions, so here we go.

Spoilt Ballot: (noun) Eng.  1.  Voting slip or card which has been defaced or incorrectly marked so as to make it void.  2.  Voting slip or card which has been marked to elect a Liberal Democrat.

Well, possibly one of the best laughs of the count was watching computer screens which displayed the spoilt ballot papers.  The voting system might be less than simple in terms of tactics and strategy, but in the end all you had to do was put a number one for your first choice, a number two for your second choice and so on – for as many or as few candidates as you wanted.  Simples.

The spoilt papers made everyone laugh.  There was someone who’d written their life story on their slip, and another person livened the proceedings up with little smiley faces.    Unbelievably, neither slip could be counted.

Then we had someone who wrote number 12 next to each of the ten candidates in their ward.  Perhaps it was a good attempt at sarcasm; I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.  Far more sarcastic was the person who chose only one candidate, and gave them a number 26 (out of 14).  Other people had four or five choices to be their second choice.

Others used ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs instead of numbers, and some people just could not keep inside those pesky square boxes.  Just for the record, the referendum voting instructions did not say anything at all about not making stray marks on the voting form, but the election did.  Hmmm.

Fix: (slang, English verb) to alter a genuine election or vote result

I am outraged!  Horrorstruck!  Shocked!  That a blatant fix could have happened in this country, perpetrated by a special interest group to further their own ends.  The BBC confirmed it today, and it is now time to take action.

Yes, Spanish drinks giant Diageo fixed the results of the British Institute of Innkeepers award for the ‘Bar Operator of the Year’.  This award had been voted to go to BrewDog (and quite rightly so) – but Diageo put the frighteners on the competition organisers, threatening to pull future sponsorship.  This is apparently neither a threat nor intimidation nor even sour grapes  according to Diageo, who are calling it a “serious misjudgement” on their part.

If you are out there James, Martin and all of the BrewDog crew, award or no, you are assuredly the Best Operator of the Millennium.

The AGM BrewDog held probably made more money than some football clubs or newspapers made all year.  On the day, sales of rare, premium top quality beer was sold as fast as could be managed to eagerly queuing crowds; hundreds of cases of beer were sold.

The shareholder meeting was refreshing on several levels – the presentations were riveting, and the premium products we tasted during the meeting were some of the best beers I’ll ever have.  It was Beer Heaven on earth.  It was international.  It was emotional.  It was tasty.  It was an AGM, but not as we know it.

As to Diageo, well I’d not forgotten how they decided to slaughter the deer which lived on a site they acquired (wholly unnecessary, but as usual, sanctioned by SNH dogma).  Coupled with trying to wrest an award away from BrewDog, war has been declared as far as I’m concerned.  I’d list all of their products, but that would take ages.  Suffice it to say that Diageo brands are off my shopping list forever.

Loss of Office: (English phrase) – to find oneself without employment.

Pity those who had found suitable employment, only to have it taken from them suddenly, abruptly, and with no guidance on a future job or career, leaving them with financial worry, self esteem issues, loss of social contact and insecurity.  It is not fair to make people suffer like that.

So my heartfelt sympathies to those of you who suffered in the 2008 budget cuts which saw beneficial programmes such as ‘Can Do Aberdeen’ cut and its employees cut off without a lifeline.  (And sympathy also those people who needed and/or worked for many services for the elderly, people with special needs and so on who lost out when a past administration decided to cut you out).

They say that in the end time redresses balance, and what comes around goes around.  Perhaps something like just desserts will be served sometime soon.

But I am out of time and space for now.  Next week:  Summertime special.

May 012012

With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

A candidate in the Torry/Ferryhill area of the city for City Councillor, has hit out at Aberdeen City Council for the slaughter of 22 Roe deer on Tullos Hill.

Suzanne Kelly  has been researching, reporting on and campaigning against the ‘Tree For Every Citizen’ scheme (a LibDem election pledge) for over a year.

Kelly says:

“The Council are hiding behind new legislation and insisting the deer were overpopulated and had to be culled.  This is a nonsense.  Firstly, the roe deer have lived on Tullos Hill in stable numbers for over 70 years .  Some of those who joined us at the Mock Funeral yesterday grew up with the deer, and are well aware that deer move from area to area.  I want to set the record straight:  there was absolutely no need to try and turn this meadow into a giant forest.  It is the city’s idea to do this against the written wishes of three of its community councils representing tens of thousands of people.

“The idea that this council is so keen to enforce any laws is laughable to people who live here.  We have had overcrowded classes, cuts in services to people with special abilities without proper consultation, higher than EU limit air pollution (Wellington Road), and years of men and women working for the council without equal pay.  A new law, open to interpretation, is no excuse for this long-planned determination of the city to destroy these deer.

The SNH and the City were planning as long ago as November 2010 as to how the public should be ‘managed’ over the cull.

“An initial public consultation for the tree scheme said that rabbit fencing would keep rabbits out.  This consultation was live when – as I proved – the cull had already been planned.  The city did not tell its citizens the trees would be at the expense of the deer, even though they knew it.  

“They knew full  well the scheme would have not passed an honest consultation.  They also never said a massive 89,000 trees would be put on this hill.  People are justly outraged.  The city now feebly claim that ‘the consultation was not about the method’ of the tree-planting.  Explaining that rabbit fencing would be needed is obviously to do with method.  In fact, the SNH and the City were planning as long ago as November 2010 as to how the public should be ‘managed’ over the cull.  This is not democracy:  this is scheming.

“The Scottish SPCA said it was ’abhorrent and absurd’ to kill deer to protect trees that don’t even exist yet.  The Scottish SPCA is very vigilant and effective in my area:  if the deer had been suffering or starving, they would have ordered a cull long ago.  Other animal welfare groups likewise think the deer were fine as they were.  As far as we can tell, there has never been a cull on this hill.  That is because these animals lived in sustainable numbers, and lived only 6-7 years.

“I was not surprised that the police decided to attend our peaceful funeral protest.  However, when they showed up at the Aberdeen branch of Lush where I was to speak later, I was somewhat bemused.

“We tried proving that the soil is scant (there is a Government soil report proving this and showing trees would be likely to topple in the rocky ground).  We tried showing that the public didn’t want this cull or a giant forest.  Since reason, democracy and public opinion didn’t work, we were forced to stage this funeral.

“It was a blow to all of the campaigners when we found out the funeral was not going to be the mock event it should have been.  It is now clear the city was given permission to shoot outside of the normal deer hunting season, and have been destroying these deer since February.

“John Robins of Animal Concern Advice Line, Deb from Lush Aberdeen, and Fred Wilkinson of Aberdeen Voice are three of the people who have helped bring this situation to light and help fight it.   They have the thanks of all the campaigners – who themselves have been amazing.

“Councillor Neil Cooney and I have been trying to promote the idea of keeping the hill as a meadow – we have no idea how much public money has been wasted so far on the trees.  The first batch didn’t take – due largely to weeds – and this cost the public £43,800.  The ‘expert’ who claims the deer must go has a vested interest:  they have been paid £44,000 so far that I know of.  Expensive deer fencing has been installed.   This is in a city with a massive budget deficit.  The whole thing is a disgrace, a farce, and an environmental disaster.

“On my way back down the hill after the protest, I passed huge swathes of land which had been cleared of gorse (home for birds as well as deer).  I remembered seeing in January a deer leap out of a gorse thicket.  The gorse thicket has been destroyed now – and I guess that deer has been shot.    People who live nearby tell me they fed deer by hand on occasion.  What an unnecessary, violent waste.”

Further information:

  • Suzanne Kelly – 07752 356 455     sgvk27@aol.com
  • John Robins – Animal Concern Advice Line     john@jfrobins.force9.co.uk
  • Reports, source material, etc:     http://suzannekelly.yolasite.com/