The Scottish Information Commissioner has agreed to investigate Aberdeen Voice’s complaint as Aberdeen City Council claims ‘it doesn’t know’ how much rent Aberdeen Journals Ltd pays for space in controversial Marischal Square.
Several parties have tried to obtain this information; and the information commissioner is investigating Suzanne Kelly’s formal complaint into the city’s recent refusal to disclose details.
According to an article published on Jan 27:
“Marischal Square.. is 75% let [after] just over two years… it is on track to achieve 100% occupancy later this year, defying critics who opposed the scheme and claimed it would become an expensive white elephant…”
Whichever Press & Journal hack wrote this piece praising Aberdeen City Council’s contentious (and ugly) Marischal Square development likely did so from the offices the paper got cheaply from…ACC.
You could be forgiven for thinking a newspaper should not take a free rent deal from a council it should be investigating (and there is plenty to look into), but the P&J and sister paper Evening Express did just that.
The £107 million Marischal project achieved the unthinkable: replacing a hideous 70s building with an even uglier office complex, while managing to immure the 16th c Provost Skene’s House inside a claustrophobic glass tomb. It ruins the setting for Marischal College across the road, as previously reported on by Piloti.
Other businesses thought to be enjoying sweetheart deals and free rent periods include multinationals with Chevron and EY set to move in. Why precisely such firms need to be subsidised is a mystery.
True to form, the city is releasing as little information as possible, however many FOI requests it receives.
It reluctantly admitted:
“Aberdeen Journals have been offered a rent-free period,”
and the current headline rent is £30 per square foot.
What dates the free rent covered, who agreed this deal and other details are ‘confidential’ according to the city. Despite public money being used to create the building and the public purse subsidising multinationals and newspapers, the city has clammed up. The Scottish Information Commissioner’s office is expected to investigate.
ACC insists only management company CBRE knows how much rent each company pays, and that ACC only gets the total figure of rent CBRE collects. CBRE are saying nothing.
We do know that:
“The total rental income received via CBRE for Marischal Square to 30 September 2019 is £849,936.61.”
The start of that time period? ACC aren’t saying.
Exactly how much the building cost to build, how much in debt the cash-strapped city is, and what negative impact Marischal Square has on companies that were already desperate to rent existing office space remains a mystery for now. But, as the P&J reported in January 2020, the building is ‘an award-winning success’.
Things moved on a bit since the paper reported on what it once called a ‘controversial’ and ‘contentious’ project. Councillor Willie Young claimed it would cost millions not to proceed with the project, but the P&J reported on March 5 2015 that there was scope to cancel the plans as some protesters wanted.
What possibly could have changed the paper’s position?
Tally ho! I’m missing Aberdeen and want to visit. If anyone wants to add me as a guest to the Northsound Business dinner, I’m in. Tables are £1250, and it’s at the Marcliffe, as previously mentioned.
Richard Thompson turned 70, and threw the best birthday party/concert I’ve ever been to, or am likely to ever attend.
The Royal Albert Hall three-hour extravaganza was unlike any show ever assembled before.
The music was a masterpiece of curation. Folk music, early RT songs, Fairport, torch songs, epic rock and humour were all on show.
The multi-talented, marvellous Marc Ellington performed ‘The Bonnie Lass of Fyvie-o’ beautifully.
Where do we start with the Thompson family – Teddy was awesome; Kami stunning, and Linda was there. I eventually had to stop counting the many Thompsons present as the music took me away.
There were some soloists who I definitely will go out of my way to see in future. There must have been 20 people onstage by the final pieces. Harry Shearer was mind-blowing in his Spinal Tap Derek Smalls persona, performing the moving, elegant ‘She puts the bitch in Obituary’.
The entire Thompson clan sang one of my favourite-ever protest songs, ‘That’s enough’.
‘Cry me a River’ transported us to a different time. For the last two pieces, a final guest star emerged: David Gilmour. ‘Dimming of the Day.’ ‘Fat Old Sun.’ the talent on stage was unsurpassable, and when Gilmour and Thompson played together as Fat Old Sun reached its crescendo, I think I cried some happy tears. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njeoAIX1Slw .
I’d been backstage for some pretty wonderful times at the RAH before, but I’d never seen a crowd anything like this before. Alas, I didn’t get to meet Mr Gilmour, whom I’m told I should meet. Maybe one day.
He also signed a photo and CD for Willows Animal Sanctuary,
In the bar it was Thompsons to the left of me. Thompsons to the right of me. Thompsons in front of me. Harry Shearer, Michael (RT’s remarkable percussionist), other stars, and Marc Ellington peppered among the partygoers.
I found myself next to Richard for a few minutes, and looking around at the lively, deliriously happy crew, I asked:
“So Richard, you going to do anything interesting for your birthday?”
We laughed – or I think he did. I believe he gets my sense of humour by now. If not, that’s going to be the last invite I get. But what a night; beyond uplifting. Happy Birthday Mr Thompson.
I never ask for autographs as a rule from anyone, but I did of Richard twice. Ruth MacPherson was a great friend to Aberdeen Voice; she was meant to come with me to see him play at the Music Hall years ago.
She was ill with lung cancer, and on the night, she wasn’t up to it, which saddened her greatly.
He signed her a cd which I passed to her, and I know she treasured it. He also signed a photo and CD for Willows Animal Sanctuary, helping raise funds. Guitar hero indeed.
Moving swiftly along – as I must rush to London Brewdogs now that the collaboration festival is live (they brew scads of new beers with other breweries and each bar gets a few different ones. And yes, I’m a shareholder).
Since I’ll be out sampling new brews, I’m turning this 199th Old Susannah column over to a very special guest.
Aberdeen Voice has obtained the secret diary of…. Damian Bates, former editor of Aberdeen Journals Ltd.
I’ve added a few historic notes to the diary entries so you can see what was going on in the world at the same time Master Bates penned his thoughts. I hope you enjoy reading Damian’s thoughts on his pal Trump and how he had death threats.
It would be wrong for me to question the minor ethical dilemma or two that arise.
THE SECRET DIARY OF DAMIAN BATES
16 October, 2019
Only 18 days before I, Damian Bates, will tell everyone at Northsound’s business dinner what a great guy my personal friend Donald J Trump is and how great my tome is! Sarah’s out shopping for the right dress and shoes (of course) for this great honour. Do you know I’ll be joining some of history’s great and good by speaking at this dinner? I, Damian Bates, will now be spoken of in the same breath as past speakers: Alastair Campbell, Lord Digby Jones and Ed Balls. I told some of my old colleagues about being asked and who the past speakers were, and they smiled and said I was a perfect fit. I got where I am by hard work, not by coincidence; I don’t believe in coincidences. Now here I am, a friend of Donald J Trump. Me, Damian Bates who coincidentally edited the only newspapers where Trump was coincidentally building the world’s greatest golf course! Me Damian, who was coincidentally married to Sarah, The Face of Aberdeen Beauty contestant who I coincidentally chose to be the face, and who I coincidentally married! Sarah who Donald J Trump then coincidentally chose to run his golf course, despite my Sarah not having a stitch of relevant experience. No, I don’t believe in coincidence me, just in plain hard work. And being in the right place at the right time. On reflection, I probably put one or two articles in the papers that praised the Menie golf course. But I only did that because it’s what people wanted. But the thing is, no one knows Donald J Trump like I do. He’s really just a nice, kind down-to-earth guy. If only everyone could know him as well as I do – they’d like him as much as this humble, hard-working newspaper editor does. I’m a family man, me. Did you see the photos on my Facebook page? I still get people saying they can’t believe it’s really me pictured at the White House and then at Air Force One! And my Ferrari – I mean really. Did you ever see a cooler car? I think it matches my sunglasses really well – I spent days picking out the right pair. And my haircut. It goes with the glasses, don’t you think? And my car. And now because my tome, Donald Trump The Real Deal is doing so well all over the world, Northsound Radio want me to speak at their business dinner this year! Time to get out my White House pen and start writing! I could hardly believe it when one of his aids gave me an official White House pen, it even has the presidential seal logo on it. If the metal clip on it says ‘made in China’ that just shows what a great businessman Donald J Trump really is. Now let’s get writing; I think I’ll comb through my diary to get some great anecdotes for my speech. What will be the high point? The time Trump got Eric and my great friend George Sorial, who’s also very close to Sarah, to move paintings around at Turnberry, or the fact Donald likes to eat KFC? Hard to tell which of those two is more of a show-stopper.
In other news …..
President Trump sends a letter to the Turkish president, telling him to ‘make a great deal’ or Trump will ‘crush’ Turkey’s economy. The letter continues ‘history will… look upon you as the devil if good things don’t happen.’
Today I did an interview with Northsound to promote my speaking at their business dinner in November about my tome! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnQh6w2ere8&t=10s I revealed for the first time that I’ve had death threats – oh yes. Can you believe it? Death threats against a journalist! Against me! People have to respect reporters and editors; we’ve got integrity and we’re here to give you the news. I did tell the interviewer not to ask me what these threats were about or when, or ask when I reported them to the police or why I didn’t seem to have ever mentioned them before. I also explained ‘I was the captain of the ship; the ship was far more important than I was’, I said. I might have steered that ship towards the Menie Estate and away from any Trump critics (believe it or not he has some), but nothing more than any other editor whose wife works for Trump would have done. I thought one of the recording crew said something about ‘a rat leaving a sinking ship’ but I couldn’t be sure. I tell the interviewer there are many tomes out there that claim to tell readers what Donald Trump is REALLY like – but they are by people who haven’t even met him. How can you know what someone is like unless you have dinner with them at their club which your wife manages? It’s like when people write about Hitler or Pol Pot who never met them – what can such authors really know? My tome has it all – our phone calls, dinners, interviews – and what an impartial observer I am. Trump’s been honest with me and I’ve been honest with him. I might not have been honest to the readership of the P&J or EE about these dinners, phone calls and of course the wife’s job – but there you go. Some reporters just report about the things he says and does, like telling the Ukraine president to get him dirt on Biden, or sending Ivanka to high-profile international meetings, or saying journalists are the enemy of the people who should be roughed up. But he laughs and jokes, and is a great guy. Some people write that he yells at his staff and it’s chaos – but I never saw that, so it can’t be true. My tome will say that – he can be wrong sometimes! Ground-breaking!
In other news ….
At Trump’s insistence, the federal death penalty has been reinstated, despite evidence that innocent people given unfair trials have been convicted, some executed.
June 13, 2019 ( Damian Bates adds photo of him with Trump in the Oval Office to his Facebook page.)
Wow. I thought my Ferrari was really cool – but wait until my friends see this photo of me in the Oval Office while Trump sits at his desk! That’ll really impress everyone! Maybe I should put in my tome about the time I said ‘Mr Trump, sir, Donald – can I call you ‘DJ’?” He looked up at me from the TV and, get this – with more than a hint of his genius – he said ‘No.’
In other news ….
North Carolina man Craig Hicks, pleaded guilty to fatally shooting three Muslim university students back in 2015. The women’s father said the killings were part of rising bigotry against Muslims.
Prosecutors said Hicks had brandished a handgun to intimidate a Korean neighbour and a black remodelling worker. Relatives of the victims have asked federal authorities to charge Hicks with hate crimes.
Hate crimes have spiralled upwards since Donald Trump’s election.
Trump called for a ban on Muslims travelling to the US, which has an estimated 4-7 million-strong Muslim population. This was to be, in his words ‘…until we can figure out what the hell is going on.’
Trump recently offered to hire out US troops to Saudi Arabia, a nation with an appalling human rights record, implicated in the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi on 2 October 2018.
He was believed to have been dismembered while alive in Turkey in the Saudi consulate – the Saudis claim the murder, involving several Saudi agents and a bone saw, was ‘a spur of the moment’ event; an audio tape makes it abundantly clear it was premeditated. Trump refuses to listen to the evidence. newly-released-transcripts-tell-gruesome-moments-saudi-columnist
Five journalists at Maryland’s Baltimore Gazette are shot dead. This followed Trump’s repeated speeches casting journalists as purveyors of fake news and enemies of the people.
April 17, 2018 (Damian Bates adds photo of Air Force One to his Facebook page.)
The best day ever! It’s not every day a hard-hitting, honest newspaper man like me gets to hang around with his busy pal Donald J Trump and go to Air Force One, that’s the president’s plane by the way. Someone wanted Trump to sign some paperwork – but he said he was busy – with me! This is the kind of friendship we have, and that’s how I know the real Donald J Trump – a great guy who’s hardworking and as honest as I am. Must take home some of the Air Force One branded cups and sick bags for Sarah – she loves anything with a prestigious logo, like my Ferrari.
In other news …..
President Trump held off imposing sanctions against Russia for its backing Syria. Nikki Haley, then UN Ambassador for Trumpistan had announced the sanctions the day before.
The Washington post reported:
“The additional sanctions were expected as a response to Syria’s suspected chemical weapons attack. Moscow opposed the sanctions, and Trump didn’t sign the order. Haley had said Sunday on CBS News that the sanctions would target Russian companies linked to equipment used in the alleged chemical attack.
Old Susannah rides back into Aberdeen, well, back onto Aberdeen Voice’s pages anyway, picking up where she left off, defining the terms that define the indescribable goings-on in the Deen and Shire. By Suzanne Kelly.
It’s been a while, but with all the exciting things going on in the dynamic and vibrant city of Aberdeen, I couldn’t stay away.
This column traditionally opens up with descriptions of what I’d been drinking and doing in BrewDog bars, so why not now? I’ve visited BrewDog Brighton (Drank my first Dog F – a rich, heady dark offering) and BrewDog Clerkenwell to enjoy Obzest – very citrusy and refreshing.
I never hid the fact I’m a shareholder. I’m glad I’m a shareholder. So are at least 100k other people.
I bring BrewDog up not just because I wish I were at the Flagship this minute, but because from the first time I owned shares and wrote about BrewDog, I told Aberdeen Voice’s readership.
To do otherwise would have been dishonest. And still we had complaints: I was writing about the biggest new thing in town, the UK’s fastest-growing drinks company started by two young men paying a living wage, making phenomenal brews, being politically active and irreverent.
No one ever has to pay to read Aberdeen Voice; and if you were a donor who didn’t like my offerings, then you could either stop donating or simply not read the bits you didn’t like.
If, however you were an Aberdeen Journals Ltd subscriber (there are still some apparently), you paid for years while being played – and not for small beer.
Damian Bates never told those buying the local rags he had a financial interest in Trump doing well in Scotland.
He kept quiet about his wife’s working for the toupèed toddler.
I sometimes wonder whether those who insisted I shouldn’t write about BrewDog ever insisted Damian shouldn’t be allowed to print dozens of pro-Trump advertorials and stories, while directly helping his family’s wallet?
Aberdeen Voice allowed my morally-indignant critics to have their say. Have you ever yet read a word in the P&J admitting this ethically challenged editor used the papers to firm up the Mrs.’s position under Trump? No, you never did.
Trump is a regular guy, as you’d find out if you buy a table
Tally ho! Northsound Radio is holding a business dinner – only £1250 per table at the 5 star Marcliffe Hotel and Spa (homophobic ‘jokes’ from the owner included at no extra charge).
Who got the huge honour of speaking? Why, Master Bates, who’ll tell the guests about his book and what Trump is really like (he hates fancy food).
It must be interesting to be a reporter who’s pals with a man whose hate speech has got reporters beaten and even killed. But Trump is a regular guy, as you’d find out if you buy a table.
This is nothing to do with Brexit, food shortages, rioting or the yellowhammer documents. I recommend a first aid kit, some BrewDog, and old unsold copies of the Evening Express for insulation and starting campfires.
Alas though! I’m upset for poor Prime Minister Johnson, who was slammed by the courts, ruling his closing Parliament was illegal. I’m so upset I can barely see through my tears. Now there’s a man who’d better get his emergency survival bag ready.
PS. I recommend Steve Coogan’s latest offering, Hot Air. One reason I wanted to see it was to see Declan Michael Laird. I’ve written about this young Scots actor in the past and things are starting to go, deservedly, extremely well for him.
The highlight as expected is Coogan’s soliloquy: he plays a cynical, manipulative right-wing DJ. In his speech he describes virtually all our current societal, governmental, media failings.
I didn’t have any preconception of what Declan would be doing in this – but he’s wonderfully hilarious as a wealthy young Russian trustafarian living in Coogan’s uber-rich building. Hot Air is well worth your time.
Herewith some definitions
Exploitation: (Noun) Taking something of value from a source and profiting considerably more than the source does.
Friday was some kind of climate protest day, and I’m sick of the exploitation of children by adults who have selfish motives.
It’s awful to see young people who don’t understand the real world being manipulated to the point they care more about species extinctions, plastic entering the food chain, unprecedented climactic events -when they should care about clothes and getting rich.
How would you feel if your child went on some rally when they should be safe at school?
Or unless they were in a school where politicians entered at will without any permission or vetting, like when Alex Salmond descended on Bramble Brae Primary with his team.
Since that happened, Mr Salmond had sex abuse charges leveled at him. Just like his friend Donald Trump. No, no reason to get clearance people who want to wander into schools to take pictures.
Or there was the time a bunch of suits and Sarah Malone took photos of young people in their new Trump International football strips.
The shire told The Ferret’s Rob Edwards years ago the shirts were in line with policy (even though it really wasn’t true).
You might think that’s old news. However, the shire told me a different story recently: they now say the shirts were nothing to do with them after all, but a private group of parents organised it. Parents who were allowed to go into what certainly looks like school property and photograph students – with a couple of besuited men with them.
For marketing and promoting a private business. Owned by a man with US mob and Russian ties, accused of sexual crimes. That seems to be OK too.
In the same way the police release photos when trying to solve a crime, I want to know: who are these people? Does everyone in this photo have DBS clearance to be hanging around young people? Did they get permission to use this gym in their wonderful photos?
Aberdeenshire doesn’t care but I do.
Yes, keep the students in school; a day away to exchange ideas and support each other over their future is far less important than whether Sarah Malone wants a photoshoot or Salmond wants to boost a candidate.
Maybe Aberdeen Voice should just print up some t-shirts for the frisbee team, head to a school, and take photos of kids holding up AV shirts? I’m sure the shire would have no problem with that.
he does know his Nazi regalia, I’ll give him that
If young people have to be out of school for some ‘environmental’ reason, then it should be for something practical. Like planting marram grass to stabilizes Menie’s moving sand dune system.
The shire insisted the planting was approved by educational environmental bods. I found out that was not remotely true. But at least the photos of the kids planting the grass that ruined the dunes were lovely; I’d not be surprised to find the EE was selling prints for a tenner, as they do.
All this climate change talk is obscuring what’s really important in this life: how you look.
Sexy Dinesh Dsouza reckons Greta Thunberg’s braids mean she’s emulating an old Nazi poster of a child in braids (he does know his Nazi regalia, I’ll give him that). Somehow he objects to Danish student Greta looking Nordic – she should do something about that.
And those braids – so very traditional and childish; almost like she was a young person or something.
The teen certainly needs fashion advice too: there are so many exciting styles coming out of third world sweatshops (Ivanka can give some pointers here as she owns so many – speaking of pointers did you see her tasteful blue shirt worn t the UN?).
Perhaps anti-bullying champion Melania can serve as a role model too. I wonder where that jacket she wore on her way to visit caged refugee children got to, you know that one that said ‘I really don’t care do you?’ That would look so cool on Greta.
Finally, a bit more orange make up would put some colour in Greta’s cheeks too don’t you think – get rid of that ‘Nordic’ look? Trump could make a recommendation or two here I think. Kids today, eh?
Rent: (Noun or verb) A fee paid by a tenant to occupy real estate. Unless you’re the P&J renting from ACC.
It’s only taken about four months for ACC to partially answer my freedom of information request on what Aberdeen Journals Ltd is paying to be in Marischal Square. You know, I think they’re getting faster.
Why would anyone think that ACC was giving AJL a free ride or sweet deal on rent? Maybe it was the talk at the time, the odd article or two, or the fact Bates put out an email denying it was remotely possible.
Here’s two findings from my FOI: I’m sure this all sound as legit and believable to you as it does to me:
“Aberdeen City Council personnel, Chief Executive, Elected Officials and staff have NOT accepted any discounts, hospitality, gifts, favours from Aberdeen Journals Ltd and its companies for the period 1 January 2017 through the present day (Sept 19).”
So for nearly two years, not a soul at ACC took so much as a free lunch, newspaper, paperweight, pen, calendar, theatre tickets, dinner for three years and nine months. Wonder at the fact-checking here.
The Council wrote:
“The headline rent paid per square metre paid by AJL at Marischal Square is £322.92.”
And just exactly what is headline rent?
Headline Rent: (Compound noun) Rent paid under a lease after the end of any rent free or reduced rent periods. It is an artificially inflated rent which ignores the rent-free period or any other concessions given by the landlord to the tenant in return for a higher headline rate.
So.. from the definition, we can conclude AJL got some kind of a sweet deal for at least a while.
Who would have guessed – and what was it exactly? (I’m on it).
By the way, looking at city centre commercial rents on large properties the £332.92 per square metre per annum hardly looks like an inflated rate at all – it looks average.
If the city says this figures is a headline rent it means AJL was definitely paying less than the average going rate for a brand new building. And of course, there is nothing unethical about a newspaper cozying up to government, just because the press is supposed to serve as a check on government.
Someone needs to tell Damian Bates.
When the move was still being discussed, he sent an email:
“.. it is not correct to suggest there is any ‘state aid’ around any potential deal…” (But there was – otherwise no headline rent).
He continued in this July 2016 email:
“… we have not sought nor will we be seeking anything with the council subsidizing our lease…”
Whether they asked for it or not – looks like they got it. Here’s to Aberdeen: home of the world’s most generous taxpayers.
But why be upset? It’s not as if your tax money has been used to support Scotland’s most pro-Trump mainstream news vehicle. It’s not as if that newspaper took money off you every time you wanted a P&J or EE to line the canary’s cage, while hiding Bates’ personal financial link to Trump?
If you ever have awkward questions about the city’s dealings (maybe while you’re wondering why they’re charging you £30 a year now for green waste), you can just call the local press with your scoop. They’ll be right on it I’m sure.
PS. the City has recently taken out a few more million plus pound loans. Result!
Math quiz: Select an answer from (A) through (D):
If AJL has 19,000 square feet (which is 1765.15 square metres) and is now paying £322.92 per square metre (presumably per annum) and paid a lower figure previously, then:
(A) the cost is £570,000 per year; (B) aren’t we taxpayers generous; (C) they got a very good deal initially to be paying headline rent that is around the city average – did the taxpayer get left holding the bag again; or (D) all of the above.
The bottom line? We can rely on the City to get best value for taxpayer money and to be transparent with its taxpayers, and on AJL papers for unbiased, investigative reporting. Well at least to the same standards we’ve become accustomed to.
I have much more to say, so there’ll be a further column or ten – that’s either good or bad news depending on your perspective. But I see the word count increasing, and with it the editor’s patience decreasing. More soon.
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As the Aberdeen Press & Journal gets into the festive spirit by announcing on its front cover today that ‘there ain’t no sanity clause’ and it’s dangerous to encourage children to believe in him, Old Susannah aka Suzanne Kelly marvels at Damian Bate’s organ yet again, and how it has seized the spirit of good will with its attack on Father Christmas.
At this time of year, it’s important to realise how lucky we are, and to think of those who are less fortunate, who suffer, who are abused.
Imagine spending your days in a no-hope situation. A tyrant forces you to do things against your better nature. You are humiliated on a daily basis, and people openly laugh at what you are doing.
Let’s take a moment then and pause. We have our problems. We might have money and health worries. It’s freezing cold.
But at least we don’t have to write for the Press & Journal and Evening Express under Damian Bates and Sarah Malone Bates.
Some poor soul had to write the infamous ‘TRAITORS!’ article back in the early days of Trump’s planning campaign depicting councillors who dared to vote against the unprecedented Trump golf plans.
Some idealistic young thing who years ago dreamed of a career in journalism now takes orders to write articles praising Damian’s wife’s forays into running a 5 star resort (or is that 6 diamonds – as Turnip awarded himself a few years back?). Imagine the overpriced coffee, the clunky ‘temporary’ clubhouse where the invented ‘Trump family crest’* asserts itself on every piece of furniture, paper serviette and presumably loo roll too.
And you have to submit copy saying it’s fabulous.
While you are instructed to write yet another review of MacLeod House and its beautiful concrete fountain, all around you local writers are firing off Freedom of Information requests, digging into Companies House files, and uncovering stories which actually constitute investigative journalism while you try to find 250 words about why the chicken supreme is worth £40 per head, all the while ignoring the giant plaque staring at you through the clubhouse windows proclaiming that you are on the world’s largest sand dune system.
You might like to say something about this being a blatantly untrue fabrication – but you don’t really dare to do so.
At least you get paid for it. Rather like those girls around the harbour. At least they don’t have to put their name to their handiwork. And quite understandably, many of the AJL articles go without anyone claiming a byline.
And now this week one of you was handed an arcane, clearly deliberately provocative piece from two academics who believe perpetuating the Santa Claus fable is akin to child abuse. ‘Give me a front page story on Bad Santa’ Damian or one of his minions told you.
And you did it, didn’t you?
Did you care this angle has been done before? Was what you were going to bring to the argument so brilliant you didn’t care? Maybe you were happy to get away from Trump for a little, or you were happy to try and forget the real news stories in our area that a reporter would want to cover – Marischal Square and its genesis, who is linked to who in the curious companies Sir Ian Wood and others still keep afloat even though (theoretically) the Union Terrace Gardens parking lot scheme (for that was all it really was) is dead in the water.
Maybe you don’t want to think about the fact your newspaper (for lack of a better word) will soon need to metaphorically tug its forelock at the city council: what other newspaper would even remotely consider taking a free rent from a city council? Can you even keep track of the number of city council stories and dealings that should have been investigated by the local printed press?
No, you are now going to Google elves, Santa, and present your findings on the new throwaway theory Santa is Bad Santa. Someone else is going to look into Muse, Trump, Inspired, fraud inside the council, etc. etc. But not you or your fellow Aberdeen Journals writers.
And Result! Good for you!
The Facebook P&J page has hundreds of hits on this story. Of course most of them are ridiculing the fact your boss put this on the paper’s front cover, and some are angry that young children will see this and dissolve into tears – thus spoiling photoshoots for your next ‘adorable tot’ competition. Hits matter on Facebook to your boss – even if the paper is not exactly flying off the shelf. You may well put this into your cuttings book – another front page story for you.
At least it beats the brains out of having to type for the umpteenth time ‘breathe fresh life into the beating heart of the city’ and such. How do you breathe into a heart anyway? How fast can you as an Evening Express reporter type the phrase ‘vibrant and dynamic?’ Do they pay you for the word much as some other professionals are paid by the hour? I’ve always wondered.
Maybe someday they’ll give a Pulitzer for incisive, pithy front page stories about the Tooth Fairy’s negative psychological impact on children. Perhaps that brilliant headline your paper used when a young man was missing ‘search called off due to unforeseen circumstances’ about a no-show psychic should have received more acclaim – how the family must have laughed! But not today.
Just maybe your Father Christmas article will lead to bigger and better – there is no shortage of crackpot experts with degrees who write ridiculous papers to get noticed – not that the attack on the Santa belief wasn’t a serious, scholarly work. You’ll find them – or Damian will find them and tell you to write up an op ed. Can a piece about the Loch Ness Monster be that far off now? I guess we all aspire to something.
perhaps time for you to pick up an actual newspaper and see what other writers are doing
So, many of us who contribute to Aberdeen Voice will keep doing the work you’re too busy to do. We’ll keep revealing that despite Trump’s declarations to the contrary, he was definitely seeking compulsory purchase orders against his neighbours. That was an AV scoop, and it doesn’t seem you picked up on that.
Guess it didn’t have the gravitas a piece on the Easter Bunny will do when you write it.
We revealed the literally cozy relationship between the P&J and Trump International Golf Links Scotland. We found out how much money from the public purse was spent promoting the risible UTG project. Did you like looking at those lurid images of the ridiculous ramps arching over an impossible landscape of trees and open air theatre month after month?
You’ve gone all out to help the council (usually). Remember the Evening Express story designed to lend creedence to the city’s plans for killing the Tullos Hill Deer? The deer were going to be killed to plant trees on Tullos despite public outcry to just leave the hill, wildflower meadow and deer alone. The trees aren’t growing, but the deer are dead. Your paper helpfully announced ‘Two Deer Found Dead Ahead of Cull’ – implying the poor creatures needed to be culled for their own good. Then I found out it was fully two years before the cull was proposed that the deer were found dead of unknown cause. Your paper never did cover my story that deer had clearly been slaughtered in the Gramps – severed limbs were found. The preposterous claim Ranger Talboys made was that the deer must have been killed somewhere else, then the poachers marched up two different hills to deposit the limbs. I guess there wasn’t room for any of this as well as another review of MacLeod House. The ‘cost-neutral’ tree scheme Peter Leonard of ACC forced on the taxpayer has now cost a five-figure sum – obviously that’s not newsworthy to Damian.
As I write, it’s nearly 6pm – knocking off time for you, or perhaps time for you to pick up an actual newspaper and see what other writers are doing. Does it bother you to read Monbiot, Rob Edwards, people who care about corruption, the environment, the threat Trump poses to world stability – or are you genuinely content writing about the latest P&J sponsored award show held at the AECC and who won a golden cabbage or whatever it is given out that helps generate advertising revenue and PR for your stable of publications?
From the rest of us, we feel sorry for you. It’s not news you’re writing. It’s not investigative journalism your paper offers as a norm. You are sucking up to your advertisers (remember when a certain diminutive housebuilder reportedly threatened to pull his advertising if you ever wrote a critical piece on him again? I do). The press should serve as a check and balance on the council; in the P&J’s case, the council’s cheques for ads total £200,000 a year, and press you into service.
Adios to ideals; to dreams of reporting and investigating, or choosing what stories to follow. The rest of us feel your shame, and we pity you. This has taken enough of your time though, and you will likely have a beautiful tot or beautiful bride layout to work on.
Some of us managed to believe (or half believe) the Santa Claus/Father Christmas mythology without it turning us into megalomaniacal would-be fascist dictators, preening newspaper editors whose Facebook page consists of a series of selfies and little else, or a woman in a job over her head who will do anything for money, however much that means swallowing racism, sexism and nationalism – just hypothetical examples of personality disorders, mind you.
I am very thankful. Thankful I am never going to work for you or those you serve.
STOP PRESS: Be sure to take your children to Santa’s Grotto at the Trump International Golf Links Scotland; if you’re going to scar the offspring for life, do it somewhere where they know about great big men with odd hair promising lots of gifts to people who do what they are told to do (even if those gifts never materialise). A tenner a tyke.
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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]
While pondering whether to offer Aberdeen Press & Journal and the Evening Express a free base for one year in the controversial Marischal College office building, Aberdeen City Council has certainly been helping the paper financially as it spends £200,000 per annum on advertisements in the papers.
A recent Freedom of Information request shows that the city council has advertised in Aberdeen Journals Ltd’s local papers to the tune of £626,500 over the last three years.
This is a mean of £205,500 per year.
The breakdown is as follows:
2016 – £199,818.78 (up to 25 October 2016)
2015 – £219,123.87
2014 – £197,513.68
The City explained:
“Unfortunately, we are unable to provide a breakdown of each expense. The types of expense that ACC would use Aberdeen Journals for would be, for example, Public Notices and Job Advertisements.”
The city also claims it would be too expensive to get a breakdown of what these ads are.
Aberdeenshire Council on the other hand spend a grand total of £6,998 on advertising with the two newspapers over the same three year period. When asked to check the figures, the Shire spokesperson confirmed this figure was all-inclusive.
The city declined to give a breakdown, stating there were a staggering 3,000 invoices for the time period, and the cost to them of collating the information was over £3,000.
There IS such a thing as free rent.
The City Council declines to answer whether it is planning to give free rent to the P&J or other future Marischal Square residents.
“The discussions in relation to the proposals for the AJL terms have involved the advice of external property agents, the Council’s development partner and a number of Council officers. The Council officers involved were Head of Finance, Head of Land and Property Assets, and Asset Management Manager.”
The P&J editor Damian Bates seems unsurprisingly keen to move to the building his papers previously called ‘controversial’.
“It’s in no-one’s interests for it to sit empty and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to head back home; back into the city centre where we belong and where The Press and Journal started its amazing journey more than 270 years ago.
“We are now a multi-media business and this prospective move will provide a bright future for the Evening Express, P&J, Energy Voice and all our other products and sites. The council has been our landlord since approximately 1970 so nothing is going to change.”
Some Free Advice on Free Rent, Expensive Advertising and Ethics.
Some notices must be published in newspapers for legal requirements. Job advertisements appear on the City Council’s website, which is free to access by anyone with a computer, and anyone with a library card can access computers for free. There is no excuse for cutting services while spending this kind of money on advertising.
Considering that jobs can be easily, freely posted on the city council’s website, and citizens are told that services and that citizens were told budget cuts have to be made, cutting down on advertising should have been a priority. In January Finance Committee Convener, Cllr Willie Young told the council’s advertising vehicle the Evening Express:
“It’s possible third sector organisations could see funding cut…We have to look at everything.”
Perhaps before any other services are cut, Aberdeen City Council might want to think twice about its advertising spend and giving new office space away for free, with the taxpayer picking up the tab.
“…Aberdeen continues to lead the way for prime office rents, with Ryden reporting a current price of £32 per sq ft – higher than Glasgow’s £30 figure, with sites in Edinburgh and Dundee generating £28 and £15 respectively.”
If the city could and should be making money out of the massive eyesore which could have been that civic square everyone in a position of power once Jonesed for (oh Sir Ian, where art thou? Why didn’t you want the civic square there? And I note that ‘Opportunity North East Limited’ has extended its accounting period so it won’t have to report at the end of this month now and has until the end of March 2017 – your comment welcome Sir Ian), and if the city has to ‘look at everything’ to find money – why should Aberdeen Journals Ltd. enjoy this largess?
Then again there is a small moral issue. For most of the rest of the UK, a newspaper has a duty to investigate with impartiality, serving as a check on government and a check on the powerful. As it stands, the P&J’s alliance to the editor’s wife’s boss Donald Trump is a dark stain.
Can the P&J really morally afford to be indebted to the city council it should be investigating, or has any pretence of journalism now left the building. We should be told.
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Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.
Hurrah! Result! We’re to leave Europe. Or maybe not – no one knows for certain what Scotland’s future looks like at this point, but isn’t it fun and a bit exciting?
And we might get either Michael Gove or Teresa May as the new PM! The Brexiteers Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson as so magnanimous in victory that they’ve scarpered.
You might compare their running away from the result they pushed for to insects running to hide when you turn over a stone, but I know that they’re just getting ready for some further selfless acts of heroism.
Another hero who shuns the limelight is former PM Tony Blair. With the Chilcot report released this week, you’d expect Tony to take the credit for the Iraq war. After all, he saved us from those Weapons of Mass Destruction. Thanks TB.
Looking at this week’s news, here are a few little facts you might enjoy:
When the dust settles a bit on Brexit, Old Susannah will revert with more facts – that’s if anyone’s saying anything factual at all. While Scotland voted to stay, the Brexiteers said that the EU was costing us £350 million a week which could be better spent on the NHS. Clearly that in no way meant that any money saved would be spent on the NHS, which of course is in fine shape anyway.
In far more important news, it was the Portsoy Traditional Boat Festival last weekend, and the weather was largely fine. The Black Isle Brewery was on hand, as was Dyce’s new brewer, Fierce. They have some delicious gear, I bought a lovely wheat beer and a coffee and vanilla concoction. In the meantime BrewDog’s launched a few Jackhammer Variants; Jackhammer being my favourite brew with off-the-scale bitterness.
Blackhammer is my favourite; I hope to see it around for a long, long time. BrewDog is also doing its bit for up-and-coming music and comedy talent; comedy troupe Wildly Unprepared have been doing their improve thing on Thursday nights in Underdog (the venue beneath BrewDog Castlegate). Hope to see you there.
One person though has managed to end years of The Malt Mill’s and Downstairs’ nurturing of fledgling bands. Someone moved to a flat near to the venue – a venue with ‘LIVE MUSIC’ in giant letters proclaiming that the Malt Mill, which looked like a bar with live music to the rest of us – and you’d never guess it – there was live music going on at night!
If only there had been some clue that a flat on a busy commercial road close to a long-running music venue and bar might not be quiet at night! Now Old Susannah understands that people need to play music for whatever reason, and I suppose there should be some allowance in society for that kind of thing in small doses.
It was always going to be the event of the year
Perhaps the venue should have just spent £100,000 from their petty cash and soundproofed the place. After all, if you put on live bands, that means you’re rolling in money.
Hopefully we’ll get something useful in place of The Malt Mill – like a mobile phone shop or Estate Agent. And from now on, let’s all be very, very quiet when we are out on the streets late at night.
Perhaps the hero who forced this closure could let us know when it’s convenient for the rest of us to make any noise on Holburn? I’d absolutely love to hear from you. My words of congratulations for your fighting for your individual right to quiet (rather than using ear plugs, moving, or just getting used to it) and successfully closing down a place for the rest of us to hear new bands are ready any time you want to hear them. I salute you.
Finally, we will all remember where we were when celebrity misogynist Donald J Trump flew into Menie this past week. It was always going to be glamorous with Sarah Malone in attendance. It was always going to be the event of the year with the Press & Journal present. But when Rupert Murdoch AND Jerry Hall flew in as well – what can Old Susannah say? Words cannot convey how exciting this was; it was like being a part of history in the making.
How unfortunate then that a few spoilsports decided – I can’t imagine why – to hang up Mexican Flags near the course. It’s bad enough these people live close to the course in houses The Donald finds unattractive, but to add to the visual pollution – well, that was unforgiveable.
Perhaps not as unforgiveable as Trump’s people: cutting off residents’ water and electricity supplies, calling the police to arrest lawbiding journalists, blocking access for the disabled at various points on the estate, threatening a grandmother with eviction, stopping Michael Forbes from salmon fishing, or threatening to use compulsory purchase orders to steal homes – but it’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?
(NB – the residents decided not to stage a personal protest, but to just have the flags reminding the world of Trump’s bigotry towards Mexico and everyone who isn’t a white male billionaire. The massive amounts of news cover the flag protest generated in advance of the visit was remarkable. The brief, chaotic, rambling words of Trump to a few score of journos just didn’t cut it. With all of her professional qualifications i.e. being a former beauty queen, the polished, finely-tuned press call on the day was what I expected.).
But at this rate there won’t be any definitions, and I very much want to get back to that part of this column. By the way, this column will finish with No. 200. That will be quite enough for this format, but it doesn’t mean that I’ll take my eyes off The Granite City. Anyway, a few words – about trees and consultations in Aberdeen.
Consultation: (English noun) An exercise in which various experts and/or stakeholders are asked for their opinions and facts on a particular subject.
Peterculter Tree Cull consultation: (Aberdonian noun) An exercise in which various experts and/or stakeholders are asked for their opinions and facts on a particular subject, and the majority of people involved don’t get a look in. and facts are overlooked.
Secondly, the trees were old, and we’ve got enough old stuff around here anyway.
Then there was the fact that the trees were cutting down the amount of sunshine reaching one or two people in adjacent housing.
I for one know that if the sun’s not streaming in my Scottish windows 24/7 365/365, it can only mean the trees (not clouds, storms, snow, hailstones) are blocking the light.
Of course, some of the more intrepid people actually go outside when it’s sunny – but you can hardly do that if you’re living somewhere as dangerous as Peterculter.
So the city got back some responses from people who hated the trees, and cut them down.
Some councillors were very quick to defend this action too. Some councillors said that the trees were diseased and posed a hazard. That must have been a hell of a tree disease. On the one hand, it must have come up very quickly – or surely the city would have taken action before now.
On the other hand, it’s a pretty interesting kind of tree disease when instead of getting rid of the trees (or heaven forbid trying to treat it), you can decide what to do about the trees not by saying their diseased and cutting them, but by asking residents what they want done with the trees.
Another funny thing is the city’s existing tree management policy. It seems to say that if it owns trees that are not close to a dwelling, they aren’t going to cut them down.
It’s not that I’m cynical, but I’d love to find out what the disease was that was so bad the trees had to come down but not bad enough that the residents’ opinions could have stopped it. For more info, see here.
Some people claim their responses to the consultation were unanswered. Would the city ever do that?
Tree for Every Citizen scheme: (Aberdonian noun) An exercise in which various experts and/or stakeholders are asked for their opinions only if they are from the SNH or stand to make lots of £££ from killing deer on the hill, or wear shoulder pads (Aileen ‘Ho’Malone), in which consultation existing plans to kill deer are deliberately left out, stopping the public from taking much interest, so their opinions can be ‘managed’ in the words of the SNH.
No one objected to the proposal – until it was too late. Funny that they didn’t announce the cull when they mentioned the other operational details (rabbit fences).
Even funnier; they refused to listen to free advice from experts on how to have trees and deer. And now we have no deer and no trees. We do have a consultant who’s at least £100,000 better off. And ranger Ian Tallboys got an award from Princess Anne. Result!
The award-winning, manicured Tullos Hill forest will provide a cost-neutral lovely recreation area for city residents. Only that it’s cost a packet, cost the lives of 38 deer (give or take – the city’s record-keeping is so bad we don’t know), and the trees are in such poor shape we’ve been warned that we might have to give the government its grant money back.
That would be nothing new, the previous attempt to plant trees on this former garbage tip with very poor soil didn’t work, either – I wonder why – and cost us £43,800.
Sometimes there is no need to bother even with a token consultation, as the people of Bedford Road can tell you. If they didn’t read page 47 of the Evening Express, read community council notes and city papers – and magically deduce that a ‘bus gate’ meant they would not be allowed to drive on their street again, then it’s their tough luck.
No one thought it necessary to write to them to ask for opinions; although funnily enough, the Peterculter residents were written to about cutting down the trees (apparently 2 people said to cut them – and that was good enough for ACC).
You don’t have to consult the public over minor details like the Marischal Square project either. Just tell them an iconic, smart, forward looking building will breath new life, etc. etc. into the area, but the architects will respect the importance of Provost Skene’s house: then hope they won’t notice when the reality is nothing like the original promise.
In fact, the reality is so much better! We can barely see the provost’s house now, and I hear we might get a hamburger joint. AND – the Press & Journal are going to move in! The best loved, most cutting edge newspaper in the best-loved, most cutting edge building! Result! as they say.
Next week: Blair, Brexit, Boris
PS – An observation
I was walking through Torry one early evening, past where a small green space off Victoria Road has a small but pretty collection of flowers. A couple were there, possibly Eastern European. We said hello as I passed. They had a little girl. She was smiling from ear to ear, pointing at the flowers, and jumping up and down.
Completely devoid of any prejudice, mindless hatred, greed, or ill-will, she was just delighted to be with two obviously adoring parents, looking at beautiful flowers.
I wondered whether it was too much to ask that we stop hurting our kids by pouring our prejudices and poisons into them. Will this girl be one of the 5 who will eventually be sexually assaulted? Will she encounter kids at school who are mean to her – because their parents taught them to hate people who are ‘foreign’ or ‘different’?
Will she be encouraged to study whatever she wants to study – science, art, languages, history – or will the system channel her into ‘girlish’ activities or will well-meaning people make her study things which lead to well-paying jobs while forsaking arts and philosophy? If she were a Muslim/black/Native American/Asian child, what kinds of barriers, doors and hatred would she be experiencing before long.
I wondered, is it too much to ask that with all the problems we’ve left for the next generation that we can at the very least manage not to fill these little people with hatred and just be nice to them instead? The answer, sadly, is that it probably will be too much to ask. I hope she remembers how happy, free and innocent she was that night. I wish she could live like that always – if she and her peers could, then there’s a chance we could have another world and a far better one.
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Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Deen Nae een were stirrin, ye ken fit Ah mean?
ACSEF members were nestled all smug in their beds
Visions of brown envelopes danced in their heids
Lady Helen in her kerchief, and Sir Ian in his cap
Had just settled their brains for a long winter’s nap
When out on their lawn there arose such a clatter
Ian sprang from his bed to see what was the matter.
Away to his window, he flew like a flash
Hoping no one would try robbing his cash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of granite to objects below
When what to Sir Ian’s beady eyes should appear
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer:
“There’s no right of access to land near my home
“I’ve got lots of money so you’ve no right to roam!”
Twas a little old man with a red suit and beard
“Could this be a communist?” Ian Wood feared.
Santa approached, getting out of his sled
Turning to Ian, this is what he said:-
“Perhaps greed and age have made you grow thick
“For as any fool knows I am St Nick.
“I’ve come to the Deen to reward the good
“On second thoughts I could skip you, Ian Wood.”
“The thing is, with the greedy things that you do
“I just don’t think that I can believe in you.”
At this Ian faltered – he so wanted presents:
“Hold on now Santa, I’m not one of the peasants.
“Let’s talk for a moment so I can explain
“How you can maximise your capital gain.”
“Pay your elves’ wages from an offshore tax haven
“Hoots Santa – think of the dosh you’d be savin’.
“Perhaps you should start a ‘Claus Family Trust,
“And there’s ‘Venture Philanthropy’ – yes, that’s a must.”
“No taxes to pay and you’ll save lots of money
“Stop giving away gifts for free – it’s not funny,”
“Just because poor people put up a tree
“Doesn’t mean you should give gifties for free.”
Santa sighed, saying “Thank you indeed Ian Wood “I think though that you just might be up to no good.
“If you paid your taxes, if you weren’t so greedy
“I dare say that others might not be so needy.”
“I’ll bid you good night; I’ll say no more.”
“But do say hello to your close friend, Mrs Craw.”
Donner, the lead deer, was slightly perplexed
“Well Santa, which house will we fly to next?”
“Let’s go to the Milne house since we are quite near.”
And off flew St Nick, the elves and the deer.
“Santa, this heated driveway is quite nice,
“It’s totally clear of all snow and all ice.”
Stewart Milne’s ‘eco’ house had some curious features
This driveway was welcome to Santa’s cold creatures.
“Just one gift for Stew, here, do have a wee look”
St Nick was clutching a nice brand new book
“What is it called?” asked a curious elf
“Football for beginners” – Santa laughed to himself.
“I don’t know that Stewart kens much o the game
“He cares more for money, still all the same
“In the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of Yule “This book may help him ken the offside rule.”
Away the deer flew with the sled full of gifts
“Hey,” Comet said, “D’ye ken Milne wears lifts?”
All the deer laughed until it was clear
That towards Aileen Malone’s house they were drawing near.
“Don’t be afraid of that witch” Santa said
“Who as we know had your comrades shot dead
“Deer, if anyone needed the loo,
“We’re over Malone’s house. Yes I think this will do.”
Over Malone’s roof they arrived in a twinkling,
And soon every reindeer and elf started tinkling.
“There are those politicians who will tell you, by heck
“that really it’s raining as they pee down your neck.”
“So do your business – relieve yourselves here.
“In memory of 36 Tullos Hill deer.”
The deer did their business and some of them tittered
“With only 5 LibDems she must be embittered.
“At the election her side got quite trounced.
“Change course for the Bates’!” St Nick announced.”
And soon Santa stood on the Malone-Bates roof
“No wonder that these newlyweds were so aloof
“No news in the press of their marriage was blurted
“To ensure their financial interests weren’t hurted.”
Perfect gifts for these lovebirds Santa had found;
Down their chimney Santa jumped with a bound.
But just as our Santa started to speak
He was scared by a monster which started to shriek.
Santa stared at the thing which wore a night gown
Could this be some kind of a beast or a clown?
Its hair was in rollers, its eyes were cucumbers
Its face was green mud: “You interrupted my slumbers!”
“You’ve got ash on my carpet! Turn around and get out!”
The hideous thing did shriek and did shout.
Santa twigged who it was, she normally looked fairer
It was ‘The Face of the Deen’, the lovely bride Sarah:
“In order for my great beauty to keep
“I need many hours of deep beauty sleep.”
“Oh Sorry,” said Santa, “my fair beauty queen
“I ken now why you are the Face of the Deen.”
“From me you will not hear any further peep
“Clearly you’re behind on your beauty sleep
“I’ve just some small gifts for you two then I’ll go
“Back to my sleigh outside in the snow.”
“I’m amazed at the way you two work close together
“Let’s hope that there won’t be any stormy weather
“Like when the course fell into the North Sea last year
“And the cold’s perhaps wrinkled your sweet face my dear.”
Sarah said, “I’ve got an old man and he gives me presents,
“My beautiful face put me above other peasants
“He pays me to run the world’s greatest course”
(Mrs Bates showed not even a sign of remorse).
“Well then Sarah, I’ve two little gifties for you
“A gallon of wrinkle cream, och aye the noo,
“And a book you should read , it’s called ‘Golf can be fun”
(For she hadn’t a clue when all said and done).
“No need to thank me, I’m just here to serve
“And I do think you have got the gifts you deserve.”
As the sleigh left, its bells made a sweet tinkle
Sarah ran to the mirror to check on her wrinkle.
“All these liars and cheats, they do make me cross
“But let’s pay a visit to Sarah Bates’ boss”
The elves were astounded- “Santa don’t be a chump”
Santa answered “I do have one giftie for Trump.”
Donald was home, counting his money
And planning a trip to somewhere quite sunny:
“Where can I go next to get a good thrill
“With lions and tigers and bears I can kill?”
The Donald thought people loved him – the great hunter
But everyone thought: ‘what a horrible c*nt’ – (Er,
sorry ‘bout the language but thinking of him
Makes my blood pressure rise and me head start to spin).
The Don said “I built this course for my auld Scottish Nanny”
St Nick replied “Now just you listen here, mannie
“I’ve got a list of who’s nice and who’s naughty
“Or arrogant, scheming deceptive and haughty.
“No gift for you – no ifs, ands or buts
“But please take a voucher –it’s for ‘Supercuts’.”
Izon Security arrived on the spot
They’d been spying on locals – they do that a lot: “Get out of that sleigh and let’s see your ID!”
Santa replied: “Are you talking to me?”
“Get stuffed you great b*stards” Santa said with a hiss
“Has the right to roam been reduced to this?
“You’ve no right to spy or to hassle good folk
“And this golf course is really one heck of a joke.”
With a jingle of bells St Nick and his team
Flew over the Great Dunes of North Aberdeen
“Come on deer and elves, there are good folk in need
“The ones who are victims of all this crass greed.
“The ones who are teachers and nurses and such
“They get paid very little yet do very much
“The children who don’t have enough food to eat
“Aberdeen may be rich, but some live on the street.”
“There are people who help the sick and the poor
“Some help animals too, and of this I am sure
“Those who help others with no thought of themselves
“They are the real saints, the real Santas and elves.”
Santa and his team spent the rest of their night
Giving out presents to good folks’ delight. Ask yourselves this “Am I naughty or nice?”
If you’re a bad one, take some advice.
Flaunting your wealth, and harming others
Ruins the chance that we have to be brothers
If you can help, then you should get stuck in
Greed, don’t you know is a terrible sin.
It’s never too late to fight the good fight
Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!
Lies, Damned Lies, and The Trump Effect (or 74% of people don’t remotely trust the Evening Express).
Credibility is stretched to new extremes by claims made by the Chamber of Commerce and the Marcliffe’s Stewart Spence concerning ‘the Trump effect’. Numbers, surveys and statistics are used in attempts to demonstrate how positive an impact Trump is having on Aberdeenshire tourism. Suzanne Kelly peeks behind the curtain at the little man pulling the strings, using a satirical survey to demonstrate just how easily statistics can be massaged.
Trump International Golf Links Scotland hasn’t exactly been booked solidly, if its own online booking tool is anything to judge by.
But an assortment of people and institutions which were leading the call for the course to be built are hard at work, convincing us that we’re all better off with money flowing in.
There may be some money coming into town indeed, but here are a few thoughts before we swallow the bait whole.
Ninety-three percent increase in room sales to golfers at the Marcliffe! Such a precise claim, it has to be accurate doesn’t it?
Many people who’ve heard this statistic are accepting it as proof of Trump having a positive economic impact.
There is that magic number 93 again. It’s a high number, it’s echoed by Spence, the Chamber of Commerce, and in a few press releases that have been turned into press articles by some of our printed press. This is, in propaganda terms, positive reinforcement; a claim is made, it is repeated, it is not explained in depth by those who want you to believe it.
It starts to sink in.
We have the precise-sounding number ‘93’; we have had that figure reinforced in different media. You would be forgiven for drinking from the trough you’ve been led to and take it for granted that it is true and not to be questioned.
But numbers can be made to do almost anything you want them to do. Is the glass half empty or half full? The answer depends on the spin you put on it.
A satirical survey was carried out for one week concerning the Evening Express; over 50 people replied to it. In truth, 52 people replied to it – but if you say ‘over 50’ people – then the reader can imagine higher numbers.
Taking that logic forward, let’s consider again the Chamber’s claim that the ‘golf halo’ is benefitting hotels ‘by up to 93%.’ This statistic is nearly meaningless.
How many hotels were in the survey? How many benefitted by 93%? How many benefitted considerably less than that? How many tourists were counted and how was it done? What was the mean (the figure arrived at by adding all the results together and dividing by the number of hotels)? Was the mean significantly less than 93%?
Without further details such as the length of time the assessment covers, what other events were on which could have increased tourist numbers, how was the measurement made, this ‘up to 93%’ means next to nothing.
Furthermore, from most reports it is apparently the Marcliffe’s Stewart Spence claiming this 93% increase for his hotel.
The Marcliffe is a nice spot. Do hundreds of people stay there? No.
In fact there are 7 suites and 35 rooms.
Therefore this 93% increase is not likely to mean any huge number. For one thing, Donald Trump is known to have stayed at the Marcliffe; no doubt some of his large entourage stays with him. Let’s just say Trump gets one suite when he has stayed: Doing the maths, this is a 14.28% increase in suites used for visitors to the Trump course.
Depending on who’s doing the statistical analysis, you could also call this a 100% increase in Trump-related visitors from the time before the course.
The Chamber’s report also reads:-
“These figure relate to the golf ‘season’ from May to date and Mr Spence considers that by the end of September, this figures will have increased further to the point where rooms booked by golfers are three times as high as bookings in 2012.”
Coming in at something less than 93% increase – a 5% increase is reported by Jury’s. This is buried in the Chamber’s article, and Jury’s less boastful claims also credit a discount offered as well as theatre and other events than golf being a factor. But again, is the Marcliffe really imposing a survey on all of its well-heeled guests?
Is it guessing who’s playing and who might be playing? Without knowing the methodology used and the numbers involved, Mr Spence’s guess is just that. Furthermore, he’s hardly likely to do anything but insist the numbers are up; it might just be in his interest for us to think all is rosy – and for Mr Trump to hear him making such positive noises.
There also seems to be a faint hint of arrogance at suggestions that Trump is now why people are coming to our area to golf. There are after all more courses than this new one.
What questions you ask and whether or not they are slanted can generate virtually any statistic you want to generate.
Getting back to the spoof Evening Express survey, here are the results:-
Question: Do you Trust the Evening Express?
Yes when it comes to cute baby competitions
Not Even Remotely
Total Number of Respondents
Question: What do you think can be done to improve the Evening Express?
Sack the Editor
Protect the jobs of the workers who it seems face more job cuts
Allow reporters to investigate stories and write their conclusions up freely
Stop taking items that are 3 days old and recycling them
Total Number of Respondents
Question: What do you think of first when you think of the Evening Express?
Sarah Malone Bates, VP at Trump Golf, Winner of the EE Face of Aberdeen Contest, and her subsequent marriage to Damian Bates, Aberdeen Journals Editor in Chief, and the wee potential for a conflict of interest this creates
The balanced, reasoned, multifaceted approach to local issues
The lovely pictures of the granite web, printed at the drop of a hat
The time their headline read ‘two deer found dead ahead of cull’ and the deer actually
died a year before of unknown causes?
Total Number of Respondents
Question: What would you most like to say to the EE Editorship?
Print facts without bias
More people read Aberdeen Voice………
propaganda isn’t journalism.
Just give up.
Print a newspaper, not a comic
What will you do when there is no more oil? You’ve sh*t upon the people of Aberdeen for many years (on behalf of your advertisers), so there will be no-one to cry when your advertising revenue dries up and your paper goes bust.
Not printable, I’m afraid.
Have you considered journalism as a possible change of career ?
Well done for speaking up for the silent majority in Aberdeen, those who shout loudest usually get what they want, that’s why our City is such a mess.
Print the truth
Why and when did he decide that Joseph Goebbel’s style of propaganda was appropriate for a local newspaper?
Get out of the pocket of big business.
The only content from local areas is of vandalism or babies. If there is any cultural events happening that the EE haven’t sponsored – they will not find its way into the paper. Certainly have no decent article written about them.
You’re a crook and an obsequious lickspittle of corrupt and greedy businessmen
Well, hello, I suppose as I didn’t realise it had an editor. Thought some PR company just collated their press releases. I would also like it to campaign for chips to be wrapped in newspaper once again – then it would have a purpose
Take a reality check
Can the editorship read?
Balanced! Not a lot of crap typed by keyboard warriors!
I used to think this paper was the only one worth buying, until it printed a story about me that was utter sh*te.
Stop printing sh*te!
we want proper unbiased news not some fatcats pipedream
so long and thanks for all the fish
How do you manage to sleep at night.
Get a grip.
Stop promoting Donald Trump, Sir Ian Wood and Stewart Milne.
Get tae …
Get a divorce, mate.
Nothing …. because anything I say will be taken down, changed beyond recognition, put in quotes and used against me in a skewed context.
What is the difference between the EE and a bucket of shite? The bucket.
Being the “Millionaires Best Friend” and slanting the news accordingly, may be profitable, but as a newspaper, ???? shameful.
Get Ye behind me Satan!!!!
Stop sucking up to “Big business”
Question: What would you like to see done to the EE headquarters?
Build a granite web over it
Turn it into an outdoor theatre
Give it to Aberdeen City Gardens Trust (an unelected private company) to manage
Turn it into some kind of credible business
Total Number of Respondents
It should be noted that the respondents were anonymous; I did not ask anyone to reply, and I did not reply to the questions myself. When setting up a survey, it is possible to target specific audiences. I was asked if I wanted to purchase an option to have specific kinds of people given my survey to answer; I declined.
When it comes to surveys you are being asked to put your trust in, you may want to determine who the respondents were and how they were chosen.
Aberdeen’s Evening Express seemed a likely candidate for this illustrative, satirical exercise for several reasons.
Firstly, they are more than happy to print the conclusions of the Pro-Trump lobby.
Secondly, there is a good, recently disclosed reason for that: Aberdeen Journals Editor in Chief is married to Trump’s Vice President, not that you learnt this from the paper itself.
Thirdly, on occasion their coverage of issues could be what you might call slightly bias.
Fourth, the paper is running its own survey as to ‘mending our broken heart’. This survey starts from the premise we are broken-hearted over not having built a granite web over our only city centre green public space. Their campaign in favour of building the web was nothing short of ferocious.
Now they want us to believe they are interested in mending the huge divisions the issue caused, and that they merely want to get our opinions. Not everyone would agree their survey comes from a place of neutrality with a goal of peace-making. They therefore seemed a good candidate to illustrate how surveys can be slanted.
The EE survey questions all had set answers (except the last one). Those who live in Aberdeen City will recall being given similar ‘straightjacket’ answer choices when it came to choosing a shortlist for potential designs for Union Terrace Gardens.
The choice to leave the gardens as they are and just improve them was not given to us, forcing us to choose one of 6 (mostly abhorrent) designs.
What the public did actually vote on and comment on in this exercise remains a mystery. Despite the public purse paying (at least in part) for the exercise, an unelected Limited company consisting of 4 people refuse to let us have the results. Perhaps the Hotel Association will want to come forward with the raw data they have collected regarding Trump .
The Evening Express survey was leading – were leading questions asked of hotel guests?
Using the logic employed by the Chamber, I could write an article now saying ‘Up to 98% of Aberdonians think the Evening Express is Dreadful’.
One thing my survey did was to ask for comments. No two are alike. Not only do they all say different things while conveying the same general message, none of them were from the same IP address. Bear that in mind, and go back to the public consultation as to whether or not to allow the Trump complex to overrule the SSSI protections.
Of course both sides had recommended their followers to either support or object. However, a startling number of supporters came in via email – and dozens and dozens of these are wholly identical.
Identical not only in terms of the wording being verbatim, but the fonts and even the line breaks. Of course these were all counted as individuals weighing in. While many organisations will use form letters, usually this is pointed out when responses are counted – this does not necessarily seem to have taken place with the Trump application.
do not accept any conclusions until you know how big the sample was
It is one thing to say thousands of people support a course of action – but it is quite another thing to say that thousands of people sent in precisely the same replies supporting a course of action. (Does government look at things like IP addresses? It might be worth doing so in future).
Let’s assume that massive hordes of golfers are now coming here because of the Trump course. You would therefore expect the course to be running at capacity. From eyewitness accounts of people living nearby, this is not the case. Even the online booking system used by the Trump organisation shows there are often many un-used tee times almost every day.
The next time someone tells you there is ‘up to 93%’ of an increase in something, or the next time you read a statistic somewhere, do not accept any conclusions until you know how big the sample was. Do they mean 93% of ten thousand people? Or are they talking about 93% of 7 suite and 35 bedroom guests?
If someone tells you there is an increase in an activity, find out what the time period is, what other factors could have influenced the increase (were people flocking to an area, say for an event like Offshore Europe?). Ask whether the person or group giving you the statistics have a vested interest in the matter at hand: does Mr Spence want to encourage Trump and co. to continue to visit his hotel?
Do VisitScotland want to validate their ongoing claims as to the benefits of the Trump course? Does the Evening Express have any reason to want to regurgitate pro-Trump statistics? Unfortunately numbers, as well as people, can be deceptive. Without having more information such as who the respondents were, the raw data and background, statistics are meaningless.
Put another way – at least up to 93% of survey data and statistics are unreliable.
Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
The state of the EE has proved divisive in our area.
Some see a dark hole that should be rid of druggies and alcoholics. Some think it is a waste of space, empty of any meaningful content.
Some see a cute place to look at baby picture competitions.
Have your say on the future of this once-loved institution.
Answer questions which are in no way leading, and have your say. Participate in this survey, the completely scientific results of which will be shared with government, Star Fleet Academy, and even ACSEF.
Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.
Tally Ho! Summer time and the living is vibrant and dynamic. Race for Life takes place in a fortnight; Duthie Park will reopen in style on the 30th; Willows is holding an open day on the 22nd, the Portsoy Boat Festival runs all this coming weekend, and much more is going on.
As soon as time permits, I’ll write about the RGU degree show held last Friday. Visitors and staff alike were impressed at the quality of the work.
With the BrewDog Annual General Meeting days away, I can barely concentrate for excitement.
They are also releasing more shares, and no doubt my purchase of another two shares will throw my moralistic critics into a tailspin.
Not only that, but I have accepted my first ever ever gift from someone I’m writing about.
The piece should be in today’s Aberdeen Voice, and I am sure it will do as much to restore your faith in our police as it has done for me.
Anyway I initially refused the gift, but not wanting to upset my contact, I acquiesced and accepted it. Readers will have to decide on their own how corrupt this makes me and how biased and obligated to my source I am. I have accepted, as a gift for writing about something, a tiny piece of macaroon, and an (unopened) packet of popping candy.
I intend to share this at the Aberdeen Voice anniversary party; more on that eventually from our editor, Fred.
Suffice it to say Aberdeen Voice is now virtually 3 years old. I shall wait by my mailbox for congratulatory letters and telegrams from old and new friends, from Neil Fletcher and Kate Dean to Stewart Milne and Donald Trump. I keep trying to convince editor Fred Wilkinson to either marry one of the Trump children or open an erotic publishing arm to boost our standing and income, but he seems a little less than keen.
So Alas! We won’t be in the same league as Aberdeen Journals anytime soon. Still, I live in hope.
My BrewDog and journalistic freebies euphoria as been tempered by the surprise announcement that Aberdeen did not get further with its City of Culture bid.
You’ll never guess the suspected reason, so astutely pointed out in unbiased fashion by the 20 June Press & Journal. They are 100% certain we’d have won this prestigious award if only we’d built a granite web over Union Terrace Gardens. I’m sure the culture judges simply didn’t do their homework. I just hope they didn’t get distracted by our little hiccoughs regarding culture.
we shot our 70 year old herd of harmless roe deer, bulldozed their meadow
Did they care that we allowed the Foyer to close? It provided structure and support to young people with problems while allowing established and fledgling artists to show their work with openings attended by many sections of Aberdeen society.
Did the culture judges care that in a town of billionaires and multi-millionaires no one would rescue – for a mere £5k – Limousine Bull? Bull provided affordable studio spaces in Torry for new artists, held art classes, ran exhibitions, and improved the cultural life in Torry.
Did the judges care that while ‘transforming’ Aberdeen we shot our 70 year old herd of harmless roe deer, bulldozed their meadow which was home to many species and turned it back into a barren rubbish tip, studded with saplings destined to die? Did they care about how we closed services to young, old and people with special needs and abilities?
Of course not – like the rest of the world, they wanted us to borrow £90 million, rip out the only city centre green space without tombstones on it, and build a bunch of ramps that went up and down. And that’s why we lost. I hope you feel as ashamed as I do.
This devastating loss of a prestigious award, which saw giant spiders in the streets of Liverpool costing only a million pounds or so is crushing. Still, we live on.
Thankfully we are being castigated over the loss by arbiters of good taste, John Prescott and the Press and Journal.
Some folks suspect the P&J had a vested interest in supporting their advertisers’ granite web dream project. Others still think the P&J and its sister the Evening Express contrived in subtle ways to gently, subliminally convince the public the web was the answer to our prayers, but I can’t find any examples of any such behaviour.
Where did our culture bid go wrong? We had a guy painting himself different colours and sitting in the window of an independent record store that couldn’t afford to keep going. We took web saleswoman Rita Stephen and put her in charge, ostensibly because she knows how to sell things like, er, the idea of a web.
John Prescott wants Barney Crockett to be ashamed
We have missed our one and only chance to be a city with webs that people want to live close to. As the P&J suggests, we should ‘Hang Our Heads In Shame’.
And on that note some definitions.
Shameless:(Eng. adjective) to fail to, or refuse to acknowledge or display remorse, guilt or regret when conditions merit it.
When our betters tell us to be filled with shame, we would do well to obey. When our conscience tells us we have done wrong, we should admit it and show remorse.
The Press & Journal want us to be ashamed for not building the web. John Prescott wants Barney Crockett to be ashamed – Crockett suggested Aberdeen was edged out of the all-important Culture contest in part for being a rich city compared to the other contenders.
Who should know more about shame than Prezza and the Prezza and Journal?
Prescott, when not confessing his infidelities with his secretary, doing television programmes about ‘class’ and beating egg-throwing protestors, seems to have a new string to his bow – criticising his own party members. As to the affair, his wife Pauline decided to stand by him after he admitted two years of cheating with one of his secretaries (which was OK, because it wasn’t love, so that’s all right).
Pauline Prescott stayed with her husband for the sake of the book, which earned a few pennies here and there.
It recounts John’s romantic marriage proposal (to the wife, not the secretary), which was delivered in a train toilet (hopefully one of those larger train toilets rather than the small ones). So if anyone is qualified to tell Crockett and the web-resisters they should be ashamed, then it is Prezza.
Quite what the City of Culture judges saw in Dundee is a mystery
Also without sin and eager to cast stones is our own Press & Journal. By now Old Susannah readers know about the cosy relationship between its editor Damian Bates and Sarah Malone Bates, face of Trump golf in Scotland.
Bates’ faultless love life conduct and professional bearing dictate the editorial policy that allows him to use the P&J to tell us to be ashamed. And that, as they say is a Result.
Quite what the City of Culture judges saw in Dundee is a mystery – they have an arts centre with programmes for all ages to create, discuss and view art, socialise and engage with each other. They have embraced their old buildings and, in Brownfield sites created new spaces for the arts.
They have turned their waterfront not into an extended industrial harbour as is proposed for Torry’s remaining unspoilt coast, but instead created a pleasant, social meandering walk from restaurants and bars to historic sailing ships. (If you haven’t visited the Unicorn or the Discovery, I recommend you do so).
Their shops are in part filled with small designers and local merchants who can afford the rates. They must have bribed the judges. And not a web in sight.
I can think of one other cultural crack in our granite culture bid. That is our disappointing crime culture. The guilty know who they are – because the police shamed them in the P&J issue of 18 June.
Guilt:(Eng. Noun) responsibility, culpability for an event, problem or issue.
This car crime that plagues Aberdeen – the police know who’s behind it, and they’re doing something about it. No, they’re not re-establishing the Facebook page ‘Aberdeen Stig Boy Racers’. You may recall this website which operated under the watchful eye of our police – over 400 people bragged about / supported/ joked about car theft, including posting ‘how to’ schematics.
Of course this was in no way a problem; the police never criticised it at all. Perhaps they were using it as a handy way to detect crime.
It’s not the thieves who are at fault
Some might think preventing crime by having police doing the rounds, or by not allowing people to glamourise crime might have been a better idea, but there you go.
These Stig theft fans were only engaging in harmless banter. The real culprits should hang their heads in shame. According to the P&J 18 June:-
“Police blame careless owners for car thefts.’
Yes that’s right. Those selfish, greedy, careless people who don’t lock their cars 100% of the time and/or who keep keys in their kitchens or near their front doors are guilty as sin. They’re asking for it.
It’s not the thieves who are at fault; it’s the people who want to think their belongings shouldn’t be stolen from their garages or their homes. Of course in terms of violence against women, the idea that women are ‘asking for it’ has been deemed offensive and inaccurate.
When it comes to car owners though – fair enough for the police to say they bring it on themselves. That is what we call progress.
I’d like to ask everyone who’s ever not locked their car, everyone who keeps keys in their properties which could be seen by a thief innocently casing the joint and pressing their nose to the glass to do the right thing. Turn yourselves in.
You can’t expect the police to be out on patrol everywhere (or indeed anywhere); they have some really dangerous people to deal with. I don’t mean ‘one man crime wave’ Mad Max Milligan who at 17 has stolen over £15k’s worth of goods He had a troubled background, and we need to cut him some slack. I mean the really dangerous people.
Guilty as charged is one hardened criminal, a Mr. X. I won’t name him for fear of reprisals.
He was given a lenient £300 fine for his first offence – although a custodial sentence would have been more appropriate.
I only wish they had cordoned off streets at the time and tasered him.
This man, seemingly a mild-mannered engineering graduate with no criminal record was spotted by eagle-eyed police camera operations at Christmas time walking our city streets with – a small corkscrew.
The offensive weapon, still in its plastic wrappings, was deemed to be an a massive security threat, and worthy of the fine imposed. I only wish they had cordoned off streets at the time and tasered him.
I suppose the guilty party would have got off with a lesser fine, but he invented a ridiculous story, and claimed he won the corkscrew in something called a ‘Christmas cracker’. Ridiculous. If any of you out there are carrying nail files, corkscrews, pointy keys, knitting needles or hair pins turn yourselves in now, you too may get off lightly.
However, if you feel like walking into the £1 shop next to Moulton Brown and buying an air pistol and some pellets, the police are happy for you to do so, as long as you’re over 18 years old and are then obviously completely mature.
I’m just glad to know that somewhere, someone high up in our esteemed police force is deciding who to target, and the judicial branch is responding with appropriate sentences. We can all sleep easier tonight – as long as there is nothing valuable in our kitchens, downstairs rooms or cars.
Next week: more law enforcement news, BrewDog AGM, and more.