Aug 242011

Aberdeen’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament group has held a memorial service marking 66 years since the nuclear attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War Two. Philip Sim attended the annual event and brings us the following account.

There was a healthy turnout at the event on the banks of the River Dee, where speakers and spectators alike braved the pouring rain and swirling winds.

The service included speeches from a range of political and community groups, including SNP MSP Maureen Watt, Nathan Morrison of the Labour Student’s Association, Gordon Maloney of the Aberdeen University Student’s Association, and Clive Kempe of the Green Party.

Hiroshima Memorial on the River Dee from Philip Sim on Vimeo.

Messages of support were read out from Tomihisa Taue, the mayor of Nagasaki, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, and Aberdeen North MP Frank Doran. Poems and songs were recited, all conveying the same broad anti-nuclear message.

After a minute’s silence, the group lit two hundred peace lanterns, one for each thousand people killed in the nuclear attacks on Japan in 1945, and floated them down the River Dee as the sun went down.

CND rallies were also hosted in Dundee, Ayr and Paisley, while people gathered to hear speeches in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens and Glasgow’s west end.

Students ‘Evict’ University Principal

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Mar 042011

By Gordon Maloney.

On Monday of this week students at Aberdeen University served an ‘eviction notice’ on Principal Ian Diamond who has been living rent-free in Chanonry Lodge for the last eight months. One of the organisers said  that the mock eviction was an attempt to bring home the harsh reality of economics for ordinary students.

The protest was organised by Aberdeen University Students’ Association in response to an e-mail leaked to the Glasgow Herald from Universities Scotland in which plans for tuition fees of more than £3000 a year were discussed.

Megan Dunn, one of demonstrators told Aberdeen Voice:

“What we are saying is that Higher Education should be accessible to anyone regardless of their ability to pay. A market in Education will only put people off applying to University, making it an exclusive commodity for the richest people in society.”

After the main rally, a group of students from the Aberdeen Defend Education Campaign marched to the Principal’s house on Chanonry Lodge, where, it was revealed earlier this month, he has lived rent-free for the last eight months. The students, calling themselves “the Big Society Bailiffs,” delivered a mock eviction letter calling on the Principal to give the money he would have paid in rent and council tax to the University’s Student Hardship.

At a meeting of the Students’ Association council later that day, motions were passed formally supporting the demands made by the demonstrators.

Speaking afterwards, one of the organisers spoke of the sense of outrage that students felt:

“The principal is completely out of touch with reality. At a time when students are being forced to drop out because they can’t afford to pay their rent, it is sickening to see people like Ian Diamond awarding such inflated salaries and benefits.”

Jan 142011

By Gordon Maloney.

Cutting foster carer allowances is a “false economy”.
In October 2010 the Fostering Network recommended an increase of 5.1% in 2011/2012 to the allowances given to foster carers. These allowances are meant to cover food and clothing, as well as, for example; the costs involved in having and maintaining a larger car and house.

This increase was calculated in line with the revised Retail Prices Index (RPI) from 2010/2011 and the Treasury’s predicted RPI for 2011/2012.

This recommendation has, however, been met with concern from local authorities and independent fostering providers, such as the children’s charity Barnardos. With some local councils facing cuts of up to 8.9% being forced upon them, despite the illusion of choice in letting them choose where the axe should fall.

Cuts will exacerbate the already very serious problems in recruitment and retention of foster carers. This will in turn lead to poorer outcomes, with more children being put into unsuitable homes and, ultimately, it will cost the Government more. Leading charity the Fostering Network has warned that the shortage of foster carers may mean that more children end up placed in residential care, despite being the poorer option for meeting many of their needs and costing local authorities three or four times as much in the long run.

The damage that will be caused to people’s lives by this failure to support vital state services – of which this is only one example – will be devastating. With youth unemployment nearing a million, it is not melodramatic to speak of a ‘lost generation’. The human misery caused by these cuts and belt-tightening could, perhaps in some warped neo-liberal mind, be justified if it would, as we are constantly told, improve the economy. It will, however, do no such thing.

It will cost us more.

David Cameron argued in his New Year’s message that the Coalition’s cuts will put the “country on the right path.” He claims optimistically that 2011 will be “the year that Britain gets back on its feet.” A failure to properly cover the costs of foster care, however, will prove to be one of many examples of short-sighted cuts that will only do damage. Far from putting Britain back on its feet, these reckless cuts will do untold damage to the most vulnerable in society, and will even prove to be economically illiterate as well.

Jan 072011

By Gordon Maloney.

A Tripping Up Trump supporter waves a flag at a protest against Donald Trump’s proposed golf course on the Menie Estate.

Two journalists who had been detained following accusations from the Trump Organisation regarding an incident in July of last year have had all charges dropped against them.

Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney, who have both won awards for their work, had been investigating claims that the Trump Organisation had deliberately left local residents at the site of a planned golf course on the Menie Estate, Aberdeenshire,  without water for several days when police were called. They were accused of having entered the organisation’s offices and filming without permission, a claim both journalists denied. The pair welcomed the Crown Office’s decision this week to not proceed with the charges.

Paul Holleran, of the National Union of Journalists, told Aberdeen Voice:

“The NUJ are always concerned when journalists are prevented from doing their work by police interference, particularly if it appears that  intervention is on behalf of someone like Trump. Journalism is part of the democratic structures of every country and should be encouraged not censored or prevented by bogus complaints and interference.”

Martin Glegg, spokesperson for Tripping Up Trump, a group campaigning against the attempts to use compulsory purchase orders to force residents out of their homes, said:

“I hope this sheds some light on the tactics of the Trump Organisation and the way they are wasting public money on police services to help them intimidate anyone who wants to expose the truth behind this housing and golf development.”

Grampian Police were unavailable for comment.

For more information about Tripping Up Trump, visit their website at

Dec 312010

By Gordon Maloney.

Talk of an anti-English “educational apartheid” in Scotland is as misguided and naive as it is deceitful

The Scottish National Party have repeatedly ruled out tuition fees in Scotland, for Scottish students at least. This commitment to free education is welcome, but the Liberal Democrats’ widely reported U-turn on their pre-election pledge to vote against any increase in tuition fees has left the Scottish Government and, indeed, the entire HE sector in Scotland in a difficult position.

This is why students in Scotland have – and need to continue to – fight attacks on education in England and Wales as fervently as in Scotland.
One of the dangers, which was spelled out in the SNP’s green paper on higher education funding, is that of fee refugees. If tuition fees go up to  £9000 in England and Wales and they remain at £1820 for the same students in Scotland, there is every possibility that an unsustainable number of “fee refugees” could cross the border into Scotland. Because of this, the Scottish Government has considered increasing fees for English and Welsh students to as high as £6500 a year.

This has prompted stereotypically hysterical cries from the right-wing, Unionist media. The Daily Mail has accused the SNP of “planning a new anti-English ‘tax’ to make it harder for students south of the border to escape soaring tuition fees.” This is ironic for two reasons. Firstly because of the Daily Mail’s objection to people coming to the UK to escape dictators, war and disease, and secondly because these papers largely backed the Conservatives – the ones who put the Scottish Government in this position in the first place – at the general election in May.

These arguments, however, distort the reality of the situation. In common with other devolved bodies and local authorities across the country, difficult decisions (and the blame for them) are being passed on from the Coalition Government to the Scottish Government. With very limited revenue raising powers, this essentially becomes a matter of letting others chose who and what to cut, while forcing them to make cuts at all. These bodies may be passionately opposed to the Government’s austerity agenda, yet without the ability to increase taxes they have no choice but to follow the scorched-earth road to recovery (or ruin, as is seeming increasingly likely.)

Let’s be clear about one thing. If the SNP do increase tuition fees for English and Welsh students, the blame for this will lie squarely with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in Westminster. The only “educational apartheid” is one between rich and poor, something that New Labour didn’t do enough to bridge and the Coalition seems intent on turning into an impassable abyss.

Dec 232010

The mainstream media have been vocal in their condemnation of the so-called student riots. An alternative view is offered by Aberdeen student Gordon Maloney, an activist in the protests.

The last couple of months have been incredibly exciting for student activists. Four of the biggest student demonstrations in recent memory have taken place within a month of each other, and between these there has been continuing news of University occupations, demonstrations and stunts across the country.

In the beginning, these actions were more or less focused on the Coalition’s proposed increase of the cap on tuition fees and abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) in England and Wales The focus has since broadened significantly and action is bound to accelerate since the government’s success in raising the cap.

“What are you protecting? Your job’s next”, protesters chanted at lines of masked, baton-wielding police between horse charges and demonstrator scatterings on the day of the vote. These protesters – many of them school children – have come to understand more quickly than some other sectors of UK society, the extent to which the same reckless cuts to further and higher education will decimate jobs, services and communities across the country.

After the damage done at Millbank in the first demonstration, many in the student movement seemed concerned not with the damage done per se, but rather that it provided the government and the right wing media with the opportunity to de-legitimise the protest altogether and to dismiss what happened as the work of “socialists and anarchists” – not students – as if these terms were somehow exclusive. We were repeatedly told that images of masked students smashing windows, graffiti on police vans or students throwing bits of placards at police would be used against us. They were, but it hasn’t worked.

When our marches were kettled and we were denied our right to protest, anger boiled over

This tactic, employed so successfully by the right after G20 in 2009, seems to have failed this time. At the time of writing, a Daily Mail poll asking, “Do you still support the students after these riots?”, showed that 76% of respondents do. Since September, I have spent countless hours campaigning and speaking to people on university and college campuses and around areas without large student populations. The only difference I have noticed in people’s attitudes after the protests is a much greater awareness of the issues. People have heard about the fee increase, the broken pledges and the scrapping of the EMA. They have, of course, also heard of smashed windows and burning placards, but they understand that this just showed the scale of anger of demonstrators.

The people I speak to understand that we have already gone through the democratic process. We have had the debates, and in terms of public opinion we have quite convincingly won. We even won the election. A party which pledged to abolish tuition fees altogether is in government. People demonstrating already felt betrayed not just by the Liberal Democrats, but by democracy. When our marches were kettled and we were denied our right to protest, anger boiled over. Criticism of this has been less widespread than might be imagined.

It seemed that the only outcome of the damage to property – I refuse to call it violence – was to ensure widespread coverage of the events.

It is easy to argue that it is understandable that people broke windows at Millbank. It is also reasonable to argue that, faced with cuts as potentially devastating as we are, it was proportionate. The question then becomes one of necessity. Would the 10 November demonstration have acted as such a catalyst for future demonstrations if it had remained, as NUS  President Aaron Porter wished, a peaceful A to B march? Would it have changed anything at all? Realistically, probably not.

Despite the repeated mantra that protestors have gone on demonstrations intent on chaos, nobody at these protests wanted to be violent. This was made crystal clear to me when I saw a lone policeman trip up in the middle of a crowd of protesters who, just a minute before, had been pushing police lines and throwing sticks. Nobody touched him. Not because they were scared of repercussions, but because that wasn’t why they were there. People backed away from him, allowed him to get up and return to the line of police.

Damage to property shouldn’t be necessary for people to be heard, but in a society that seems to care more about paint being thrown on a car than the well-being of an innocent man who suffered a brain haemorrhage as a result of a police attack, it seemed to many demonstrators that there were few alternatives. Michael Gove told reporters, on 24 November, that the Government would, “respond to arguments….not to violence”. We have had, and won, the arguments. They didn’t listen, and they can expect more of the same if they continue not to listen.

Dec 172010

By Simon Gall.

‘The Funeral for Higher Education’ was organised by students at Aberdeen University last Friday. The action followed the vote in the House of Commons to raise tuition fees in England. The students marched through the University campus in silence, dressed in black. The Pallbearers carried a coffin draped in a black sheet. The procession continued on to the student association building where the protestors laid white flowers on the casket and listened to a short speech by student activist, Gordon Maloney, about the potential effects of the vote.

Mr. Maloney said “What happened on Thursday was far more than an increase in tuition fees. The cuts to the Further and Higher Education budgets don’t just mean a savage attack on social mobility, they represent a fundamental assault on the role Education plays in society. The fact that these changes do not mean any immediate increase in revenue also blow the argument that we need cuts now out of the water. This attack on Education – and, indeed, the entire welfare state – is ideological and it is unnecessary.”

Dec 032010

By Gordon Maloney.

It wasn’t quite Paris 1968, but accusations of current-day student apathy seem to be wide of the mark as Aberdeen students occupied a local Conservative Party office to teach party staff basic macroeconomics

Students from Aberdeen’s colleges and universities held a teach-in at the Conservative Party’s Aberdeen South office on Tuesday morning to protest against the Coalition’s deep cuts to public services and the increase in tuition fees for students in England and Wales.

The occupation began with a protester giving office staff a brief lecture on basic Keynesian economics.

He later told reporters, “Based on what Osborne is doing to the economy, the Tories must have missed some basic economics classes, so we’re here to fill them in on some theory.”

Demonstrators offered staff wine and mince pies and sang songs.

Before occupying the Tory HQ, a spokesperson rejected claims that their demands were selfish. “We’re here to demand much more than merely giving Universities more money. We’re here to challenge the idea that the entire public sector can be hung, drawn and quartered while it’s business as usual for those at the top, whether it’s vice chancellors’ pay increases, MPs’ expenses or bankers’ bonuses. We see time and time again the argument that there’s no money and there just has to be cuts. This simply doesn’t hold up.”

The action was called by the Aberdeen Defend Education Campaign and backed by both Aberdeen College Students’ Association and Aberdeen University Students’ Association, and comes just days after Aaron

Porter, the President of the National Union of Students gave his support to non-violent direct action. Porter told an assembly of students at the University College of London, “Wherever there is non-violent student action, NUS should and will support that. What we are facing is utterly disgraceful.”

Nov 262010

With Thanks to Gordon Maloney.

Students at Aberdeen University today took part in a national day of action against cuts to the Further and Higher Education budget.

Demonstrations and actions were carried out by groups across the country and in Aberdeen a banner reading “Nae Tory cuts” was dropped from the roof of the Students’ Association building on University Road.

A spokesperson made the following statement before dropping the banner:

“There are some people who would say that our demands are selfish, but we are here today to challenge much more than just cuts to Universities. We are here today to challenge the idea that the entire public sector can be hung, drawn and quartered while the Coalition Government continue to give money to a failed banking system.

“We, and tens of thousands of other students and workers across the country, will not tolerate the savage cuts on the most vulnerable in society while it is business as usual for those at the top.”