Nov 122015

Bay of Nigg Mark MairWith thanks to Renee Slater.

The Battle for the Bay of Nigg Committee have welcomed the publication of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and associated planning application documentation by Aberdeen Harbour Board (AHB).

It will be a difficult task for us to assimilate and analyse the content of these documents in the statutory 42 days.

At the August Torry Community Council meeting, the representatives of Aberdeen Harbour Board stated that they hoped to have the EIA report ready for the October Community Council meeting (on 15 October) which would have given us invaluable extra time to read this vital document.

The EIA comprises four volumes with Volume 2 consisting of a total of 26 chapters. We appreciate that a non-technical summary has been provided, however we feel that we owe it to our community to read this report in full.

We have previously found that the most illuminating details are often not included in the summary versions. For a major infrastructure project of such national importance, a 42-day period to examine all the associated, lengthy documents seems woefully inadequate.

The Battle for the Bay of Nigg Committee is a group of Torry residents who are trying to save our Bay from this disproportionate development.

We have no specialised knowledge or qualifications. We are ordinary citizens trying to make our voices heard by the corporate machinery of Aberdeen Harbour Board, Marine Scotland, Transport Scotland, Aberdeen City Council and the Scottish Government. Our Facebook pages have already attracted a following of almost 700 people, predominantly residents of Torry.

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Jun 192015

With thanks to Stuart Donaldson MP.

MencapReception - Learning DIsability Week2

Stuart Donaldson MP at Mencap Reception – Learning Disability Week

Stuart Donaldson MP attended a Royal Mencap Society reception in the House of Commons on Wednesday to celebrate Learning Disability Week.
He spoke to people with a learning disability, carers and family members about their personal experiences, the challenges they face and the changes they want to see in society. There were speeches from people with a learning disability and their families as well as Mencap President Brian Rix.

He listened to a speech from 27 year old Vijay, who has a learning disability and played an active role in Mencap’s Hear My Voice campaign. 

The campaign saw over 800 local candidates in the lead up to the general election pledge their support. 151 of them were elected as MPs – meaning over a fifth of the new Parliament pledged to listen more attentively to people with a learning disability and their families.

There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK but many feel they are not listened to by those in power and the issues they that are important to them – like hate crime, welfare, better healthcare and education – are often not talked about.

Commenting, Stuart Donaldson MP said:

“I was honoured to attend the Mencap reception in Parliament to hear from people with learning disabilities, and to help celebrate Learning Disability Week. People with a learning disability and their families are as much a part of our society as anyone else and deserve to have their voices heard on the issues that matter to them. I am listening and I hope that many more MPs will do the same by getting on board and supporting Mencap and Learning Disability Week”

Jan Tregelles, Mencap’s chief executive, said:

“It is encouraging to see so many MPs listening to people with a learning disability and their families about the problems they face and the change they want to see in the new Parliament. They are the experts in what matters to them, so newly elected MPs should be listening to what they have to say throughout the new Parliament”

Lord Brian Rix, Mencap President, said:

“There are 1.4 million people in the UK with a learning disability and 6 million more family members and carers connected to them. However they often tell us they feel they are not listened to by politicians and subsequently many of the challenges they face go unheard and unresolved. We are asking new Members of Parliament to listen to what people with a learning disability and their families have to say.”

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Feb 272015
Signing the TTIP pledge at Holyrood

Christian Allard MSP signing the pledge at the Scottish Parliament.

With thanks to Gavin Mowat.

Christian Allard, MSP for the North East of Scotland, has added his support to the campaign to fight against privatisation of the NHS.

The campaign calls for David Cameron to use his veto to protect the health service from the effects of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Mr Allard along with SNP colleagues at the Scottish Parliament signed the People’s NHS pledge to demand that David Cameron vetoes TTIP unless the NHS is “fully and clearly exempted” from the agreement.

Commenting, Christian Allard MSP said:

“Protecting the NHS is an important priority for people in Scotland and for the SNP. This is why SNP MSPs are pledging that we will call on the Prime Minster to veto TTIP if it does not explicitly exempt the NHS from the agreement.

“Our NHS staff do a fantastic job in our most treasured public institution and this work is too important to be put at risk from TTIP.

“The SNP will do everything in our power to protect our NHS and support the good work of our NHS staff – that is why we are signing this pledge.”

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Feb 122015

MartinFordatUTGWith thanks to Martin Ford.

Two Aberdeenshire councillors are calling for an end to the Council Tax freeze as their council faces up to £50 million in budget cuts over the next four years.

The call comes in the week Aberdeenshire and other councils across Scotland set their revenue budgets for the next financial year.

“This cannot go on,” said Green councillor Martin Ford.

“It’s the elephant in the room on budget day. Most councillors know the Council Tax freeze is unsustainable, but aren’t prepared to say so.”

Allowing for inflation, a freeze in cash terms is actually a real-terms cut in income to the Council. Meanwhile, Aberdeenshire is having to plan for demand-led spending pressures due to rising school rolls and increasing numbers of very elderly people.

“The inevitable consequence of a continuation of the Council Tax freeze is more cuts in public services,” said Democratic Independent councillor Paul Johnston.

“Expecting the Council to do more with less, year after year, is not realistic.”

The Scottish Government has ensured that councils do not increase the Council Tax by threatening a lower grant settlement if the Council Tax is increased – ensuring any reasonable increase in Council Tax would leave the council in an even worse position financially than maintaining the Tax freeze.

“Local Government has effectively been reduced to local administration,” said Cllr Martin Ford.

“The Council’s total budget is essentially decided for it by the Scottish Government. The councillors are just left with deciding which are the least damaging cuts to make – the alternative option of avoiding cuts by raising some additional tax revenue having been blocked.

“The decision on the balance to strike between cutting council services or raising some additional tax income should be taken locally, not by the SNP government in Edinburgh.”

The current Band D Council Tax in Aberdeenshire is £1,141. A one per cent increase would result in a Band D rate of £1,152, or eleven pounds a year more, only 21 pence extra per week. An increase equal to the current Retail Price Index (RPI) of 1.6 per cent would see the Aberdeenshire Band D Council Tax set at £1,159.

“Scottish Government politicians must trust the people of Aberdeenshire with tax raising powers, in the same way as they want tax powers from Westminster,” said Cllr Paul Johnston.

“This is all about trust on tax. Trust Aberdeenshire to take decisions on tax for Aberdeenshire.”

Cllr Ford added:

“Even a one per cent rise in the Council Tax would prevent some cuts in public services,”

Aberdeenshire Council is budgeting for a Council Tax income in the next financial year of £124.658 million. A one per cent increase in the Council Tax would increase revenue to £125.905 million. An RPI-linked 1.6 per cent increase in the Council Tax would bring the Council almost £2 million extra income.

“An extra £2 million annual income would certainly not enable the Council to avoid cutting some services over the next several years,” said Cllr Paul Johnston.

“But it would prevent the most undesirable cuts.”

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Sep 122014

By Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford.

Eilidh Whiteford MP Peterhead Harbour (1)

It was back to London for me this week as the long Westminster recess came to an end. I was pleased to find it’s still warm and sunny there, even if Summer seems to have abandoned us here in the North-east. As well as parliament catching up on events that have developed over the break, we also passed the second reading of a pensions bill that will give those with occupational pensions more flexibility when they retire.

I’ve been talking a lot about pensions in recent weeks. As I’ve been out chapping doors ahead of the Referendum, I’ve been reassuring pensioners that their State Pensions will be paid on time and in full in the event of a Yes vote, administered from offices in Dundee and Motherwell, just as they are at the moment.

I’ve been reminding them that their entitlement is based on their contributions record – not where they choose to live. Many thousands of pensioners go off to live in Spain and France nowadays, but all receive their pensions, because they worked for it, and I welcome the confirmation from the UK Pensions Minister that state pensions are secure regardless of the outcome of the Referendum.

But in Scotland we can do better. We spend a lower proportion of our GDP on pensions than the rest of the UK, and life expectancy lags stubbornly behind the UK average. A Scottish pensioner retiring in 2016 will, on average, receive £10,000 less in pension over their lifetime than pensioners elsewhere in the UK.

That’s one reason why we need to tailor pensions to Scotland’s circumstances and look again at whether we really need to raise the pension age beyond 67, as the UK plans to do. Control of our economy would also give us the levers to address the longer term demographic challenges faced by all Western countries with low birthrates and aging populations.

Scotland’s relative economic strength means that we are better placed to ensure that our citizens enjoy a dignified retirement with a secure income in old age.

We can afford to do things differently, and a Yes vote in September will allow us to do just that.

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Sep 122014

SaltireJack2By Fin Hall – Writer Photographer, Realist.

I am rapidly approaching my 62nd birthday; in fact by the time that I cast my vote on the 18th of September, that milestone will have passed.
My views on independence has never changed since I first was eligible to put a cross on my first voting paper. It has always been an easy choice to be a yes voter.

When I was 18 I voluntarily joined the army, not any of the Scottish regiments, that would involve too much, hard, physical work, but The Royal Signals, as a radio operator.

When I was filling out my application form, two things rankled me. One was the fact that it was not permissible to put the word ‘atheist’ in the box for my religion. The other being, that I wasn’t allowed to enter ‘Scottish’ in the section reserved for nationality.

I have never been anti-English, nor, on the other hand, have I ever been a Braveheart style nationalist. Both of these options are narrow minded, and potentially dangerous characteristics.

Not long after enlisting, there was an election of some sorts in Aberdeen. I remember getting my dad to vote by proxy for me, something I don’t believe one can do now. This is where I am not sure of my facts, but spurred on by the application form, I seem to recall getting him to vote for the SNP candidate. I am not sure who that would have been, but it was the start of the road to where I am now.

In the seventies when Jim Callaghan’s Labour Government ( remember them? Real labour) cheated us out of our right to devolution, by stating that we needed to get at least 46% of the population to cast their vote for the victory to be assured, I was devastated that our proud people, couldn’t drag themselves along to the polling stations in the appropriate numbers.

Fast forward to Tony Blair and his New Labour posse riding into town and delivering the promised, no strings attached, devolution referendum, the result of which is the position we find ourselves in just now. Getting the chance to decide our own future, hopefully the chance to stand on our own two, or should I say five million feet in a few weeks.

There are many reasons why I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone, I mean anyone, could even consider not voting to be 100% in complete control of their own lives, whilst still being in a close relationship with their partner.

Scotland is not, and never will be a third world country. We have no need to have to go cap in hand to Westminster, no need for charitable aid donations.

Technology has advanced in leaps and bounds since then, and will develop even further in the future

We have vast oil resources, and despite the fact that Alistair Darling and David Cameron call it ‘volatile’ and that it will run out eventually, I always argue the fact that they have had oil in the a Gulf of Mexico area since 19th century and in the Middle East since somewhere in the middle of the 29th century.

I realise it is different geological circumstances, but it shows no sign of running out there.

I have been hearing this in Aberdeen since it first started coming ashore in the seventies.

Technology has advanced in leaps and bounds since then, and will develop even further in the future, meaning it will be possible to get even more out. Never mind the Clair Ridge recent discovery. So why is it volatile here and not in other parts of the world? How come our oil-sharing neighbours, Norway, aren’t tearing their hair out worrying about the successful country they are?

I have friends that continuously spout out about supporting local businesses as opposed to putting money into the pockets of the multi-nationals, and then support the Better Together side of things, not getting the irony in what they are doing and saying.

By forever being beholden to a power other than our own is like living at home as an adult, in a great, well paying job, handing over all your salary to your mum, getting some pocket money back, and still having to do your own laundry and make your own tea.

In my day job, or should I say my afternoon and evening job, I am a self employed taxi driver. I have been for 37 years, and all but one of non Scottish people I have had in my cab, and discussed the referendum, have stated that they would have voted yes, or will vote yes, for those eligible.

None of them can understand why any one would vote no. They just don’t get it. In fact one Indian guy stated that independence is in their blood from birth.

The one who said she was voting no was a young English born girl of Romanian descent. Her reason was that when Romania became a free country, it didn’t fare well to start with.

this isn’t set up to be a slight on our southern neighbours, but more showing our standing in the world

I asked her if she had the chance back then, would she have voted to remain under the control, effectively of USSR? She thought I was asking a stupid, irrelevant question. Totally failing to get the point, that, because of the fall of the aforesaid communist empire, she wouldn’t necessarily be free and here in Scotland just now.

I have travelled to well over 30 different countries, and generally what happens is, that locals ask if you are English; when you point out to them that you are Scottish, a smile as wide as the Firth of Forth come across their countenance.

This happened to us in August in Northern a France, when in a pizza restaurant ( don’t ask, it was all that was open) when the owner came over and introduced himself to us, and asked that very question. When we told him we were Scottish, he apologised, and got even more friendlier.

Now this isn’t set up to be a slight on our southern neighbours, but more showing our standing in the world, despite the Better Together campaigners saying we are only good because we are conjoined to England via the Westminster umbilical cord. And despite the Better Together rampagers spreading fear and loathing about currency, our pound, pensions, (safe) health service. ( safe unless Westminster cuts funding, which they could do) and other spurious tittle tattle,every day more people are turning our way.

We are a rich and diverse country fill of artists, inventors, discoverers etc. By saying that, I am not implying that we are unique in such a thing, there are many countries the same. The only difference is that they are independent and stand and fall on their own choice, unlike us, who have the burden of paying the price of Westminster’s failings and bullying.

I am voting yes because I come from a proud country, and would like to leave the future totally in the hands of our own decisions, so my grand children and my soon to be born great grand daughter, and for generations to come, can be proud that we, Scotland the Brave, made the right decision, for the right reasons, and not immediately thinking of the penny in our pocket at thus precise moment, and not because we were fearful of being ejected from the EU the rest of the UK may vote to stay in anyway, and not because we hate anyone, but because we are a nation ready for independence and have no wish to still live with our parents, paying our board and living off handouts .

We are not a third world country, but a globally successful one.

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Apr 182014

Old Susannah gets to grips with letting go of a great local talent, and the latest government wheezes, locally and nationally.

DictionaryAnother eventful week passes in the Granite City, bringing good news and some sad. Children have done arts and crafts in Union Terrace Gardens, organised by Aberdeen Inspired. This is despite the city’s officer Gordon McIntosh insisting the balustrades will fall down any day, and the gardens aren’t safe to use.

Inspired even managed to hold their events without scores of crowd barriers or 7’ tall security guards. Rumours are that Gordon may be about to make some dynamic changes of one sort or another.

The campaign to save Bon Accord Baths is gaining more momentum; some £5 million pounds is needed. However, in a city with our level of wealth we should be able to do this. In fact, Aberdonians apparently have more disposable income than almost anyone else in the UK. 

We still need food banks, mind. In the UK, over one million people rely on food banks, but they’re probably just benefit scroungers and immigrants (remind me to look up the amount of this year’s UK defence budget again).

Surprisingly some good news comes from the city council, where funds from outdated, surplus accounts were given to local causes such as the Cyreneans. It’s not a huge amount of money, but after the Kate Dean/Kevin Stewart council’s assault on our charities and good causes, this is quite a turnaround.

I learned how to make pasta at an amazingly fun course at Nick Nairn’s school. You may remember the then city council almost didn’t give Nick Nairn an alcohol license. The licensing board were probably afraid that people would sign up for courses (costing upwards of £40), learn what wines go with what foods, have a glass of red or white, and then go wilding into the night, committing crimes.

Thankfully, it seems no one from the cooking school to date has gone on a crime spree, and clearly the city has the city’s serious drink culture under complete control.

Spring has arrived! Result! The signs are everywhere: the theft of cars and licence plates continues, the gramps are being set alight once more and travellers are moving from public space to public space, leaving debris behind them, presumably as a token of the esteem they hold us in. The council say the police should act; the police seem to be implementing a reverse discrimination favouring the travellers.

And I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but you and I will be paying for the necessary clean-ups. A dead dog and £22,000 worth of waste was left near the beach by the travellers, and history looks set to repeat itself just a little further north.

If you want to live as you please, it would be nice to do so respecting the rights of the rest of us to live as we please – well in some idealised fantasy version of reality anyway. While some of us are trying to preserve and enjoy what’s left of our open spaces, other people seem to think we don’t care about mounds of trash or the very real prospect of stepping in human waste or over dead dogs. Thanks.

The UK’s police were trying to deny there is a quota system

To the people who’ll tell me not all travellers are alike, I agree. However, these past 10 years I’ve not seen a single travellers’ site in Aberdeen left in good condition when travellers travel.

And down the road in Ross-shire, it’s now 20 birds of prey that have been poisoned. So that’s good news for the shooting estates catering to people who like to blast birds from the sky with guns. Fledgling game birds are bred in captivity like ill-used hens, and thrown out without a clue, to be blasted. The sporting life indeed; no wonder billionaires and famous TV stars like Trump are into this kind of pursuit.

So how do our police perform when it comes to saving our wildlife, stopping car thefts and stopping people trashing our green spaces (when they know exactly who’s doing it)?

Aberdeen got a mention in the Sunday papers; its police seem to like arresting children, and are very fond of random spot searches. A child of two was apparently charged with property damage. I’m sure they understood their rights and I’m sure the parents were the police’s first port of call. Police Scotland are also fond of telling people who own cars and houses to hide their goods or it’s their fault if they’re robbed.

The UK’s police were trying to deny there is a quota system in place for arrest and searches. Unfortunately, the truth leaked out, and there are indeed quota systems.

Justice may be blind, but she’s counting. It’s nearly one year since the police blew the budget (or so it looked) raiding the empty flat of George Copeland. Things may have been quiet on this story in the news, but I can promise you, the fight for a rational explanation and disclosure of information are ongoing. Who knows – there may eventually be some justice for George. Watch this space.

Other than that, I’ve had some fun (Malmaison, Temple Aesthetics, BrewDog of course and the Tunnels – Palma Violets were spectacular). But this week David Innes, drummer with the Gerry Jablonski band, passed away. A service is being held the morning of Friday 18 April, and later that night a concert takes place at The Forum.

We were privileged. I’ll remember the last times I saw him, including the Moorings in early March, the Jubilee party in Union Terrace Gardens where they entertained thousands, and the Lemon Tree when the latest Gerry Jablonski & the Electric Band album was launched.

There are performers 20 years younger who don’t have his enthusiasm, energy and stamina. There are performers 20 years older than he was who would have loved to have his talent and range. If Aberdeen is a city of culture (outside of bureaucrat speak), it is because of artists like David Innes. Condolences to his friends and family.

Life Expectancy Letters: (Mod. Eng. ConDem phrase) – letters to be sent to OAPs, telling them when they will likely pass away.

Well there is a new government initiative we can all be happy with; they are going to send everyone a letter, telling them when to expect to die. I can’t see any flaws in this cunning plan.

Then again, with Alzheimer’s setting in early in some cases, and looking set to be an epidemic in the near future, I’m sure all the guardians and children of those afflicted with forms of senile dementia will be very happy to get letters to advise when mother and father are expected to die.

I’m certain too that this is not some ploy to scare the elderly into saving well into later life. After all, you want to live in comfort with as few trips to the food bank as you can manage until you die at precisely 9 September in 2027, don’t you? Letting you know when you’re likely to die will just make you take better care of your health, and your money.

And of course should you fall sick or need residential care, then the government will take your savings off of you to pay for such care.

Of course most of us who work have been paying tax throughout our working life in the belief this would go to giving us good care when we’re older. Just don’t bank on it. I’m glad there’s no chance of another pension mis-selling scheme like we saw a few decades ago. No-one would take advantage of the elderly and sell them financial products they didn’t need, would they?

Pensions minister Steve Webb said that under new government guidance, experts could assess approximate life expectancy by looking at factors such as smoking, eating habits and socio-economic background.”

 As far as socio-economic background is concerned, I wonder if those living on the food banks will have the same life expectancy as those at the merchant banks

I’m sure this scheme to write to everyone with an expected death date is not geared to frighten us into getting into private pension schemes. That would only benefit bankers and financial institutions, and our government wouldn’t show the financial sector any special treatment, would it?

I talked to an older citizens who was still of working age recently; they had decided to skive off work for a few months, and used a slipped disc as their flimsy excuse to get on the dole. I’m happy to say we made it as hard for this scrounger as we could; it was 6 weeks before they got any financial help, despite having worked all their life. Dipping into their savings to pay bills, they eventually bled the taxpayer for £78 per week.

Now if they knew what their death date was, they might have been convinced to save a bit harder, work more hours, and have more savings to burn through at the first sign of illness. This guy was not good at financial planning, either. All of his money was earned and taxed in the UK, and he didn’t shelter any of it offshore. Well, if you don’t save as much as you can, it’s simple. Just don’t fall ill or die.

Old Susannah is interested to see what factors are taken into consideration. I’m sure the ConDems won’t want to upset anyone by letting on that the air is now killing more people than ever before.

Perhaps this is such a good idea we should take it further, and make dying by the projected death date mandatory? I’d be surprised if some ConDem somewhere isn’t contemplating it.

Dune Management: (Modern Eng. compound noun) To preserve a natural area by changing it beyond recognition.

It would seem the Donald Trump school of sand dune management’s principles are taking off a treat.

the-end-of-the-road-for-trump-suzanne-kelly-by-collapsed-section-of-course-photo-by-rob-avA Cornwall-based council decided that they would ‘stabilise’ their own sandy beach by planting conifers on the beach. Somehow, this has displeased residents and visitors, who wanted to see beach at the beach, and not dying, dried out half dead trees that were never going to grow in the first place.

Of course the marram grass, gorse and trees Trump has planted has totally stabilised ‘The Great Dunes of Scotland’ as Trump Golf seems to call Balmedie Beach.

The dunes are so great I think travelling spice and silk merchants will be crossing them by camel to stay at the opulent MacLeod House.

Anyway, Trump saved our dunes for us, and that’s why there is no sand blowing around the greens or any other problems there.

My photo above shows just how stable the course is.

 Next week:  A Trump update and more definitions

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Apr 042014
Houses of parliament -

Westminster to cap welfare.

With thanks to Stuart Donaldson, Constituency Officer to Christian Allard MSP.

In a recent debate on Child Poverty in Scottish Parliament, North East MSP Christian Allard slammed Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories for voting at Westminster to cap welfare but refusing to put a cap on Trident.

Commenting the SNP MSP said:

“Save the Children has warned that the Westminster welfare cap will push 345,000 children into poverty in four years, yet Labour voted with the Tories.

“Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories voted to put a cap on welfare but all are unwilling to cap spending on Trident.

“Only a vote for independence will ensure that we are no longer in the disgraceful situation where weapons of mass destruction are valued over the wellbeing of our children.”

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Jan 102014

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

DictionaryTally Ho! Happy New Year!

I trust everyone is happily settling down to the 9-5 routine after having time off for the holidays. The sales continue, despite dire warnings that the city council has to build something to save the retail market. Amazing.

Over the holidays I took a little walk around the Menie Estate; the friendly security guards patrolled in unmarked white vans.  Someone seems to have planted gorse on a footpath or two, and the beautiful entrance gates have been decorated with a rusted-shut padlock and a few boulders.

Having  sealed this gate to the parking lot, the area is further made inviting by more sand and dirt piled up on the sides of the gate, topped with dying squares of loose turf.

Mountain goats will have no problem going around the sides of this gate.

But don’t worry: Aberdeenshire’s Access Officers have been working on improving the situation. Since last March. I’d hate for them to feel embarrassed into enforcing the laws they are paid to enforce. For that matter, the bunds still remain in place; no doubt the council will want to save itself further embarrassment and get this situation rectified sooner rather than later.

As much as I admire the boundary/pushing spirit that BrewDog embodies, I’ll be happy if they can stay away from a new beer fad emerging from whaling –happy Iceland. I’m sure no one will have anything to do with Brugghús Steðja who have decided to make whales into beer. This is apparently been marked as ‘beer for real Vikings’. I personally think it is beer for real  %!£$(@  #!!^&$£ “£$&*£”!# s, but there you go. While most of the rest of the world is trying to eliminate unnecessary cruelty, there are still some nations happy to make a go of making money out of it.

I’ll stick to my BrewDog, many thanks. BrewDog have in the past used a small number of road kill animals for taxidermy; I wasn’t mad about it – but no animals were killed deliberately.  Companies like Stedja are probably why I’ve gone vegetarian again. By the way, congratulations to the makers behind excellent documentary ‘Blackfish’ about the cruelties of Sealand towards orcas and other creatures – they’ve been nominated for a BAFTA.

One of the more charming stories over the holidays was the discovery of mice, wasps and bedbugs in Aberdeen’s schools. I guess this puts the schools on a par with the local hospitals. With recent stories in the news about the state of our schools, dodgy teachers, educational league tables, vocational education and so on dominating local and national news lately, it’s time for some timely definitions.

Left Wing Academics: (modern Eng. phrase; plural noun) Educators with political views less conservative than the views of the ruling Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition government.

Perhaps home schooling is the only way forward for caring parents who would shield their children from what Michael Gove , Secretary for Education calls ‘Left Wing Academics.’ These sinister figures may tell your children to question authority, and to question the accuracy of what they are given to read. Remember, if something is in print, then it is true – just pick up a copy of the latest Press & Journal, and you’ll be ahead of the class for the latest factual information.

No, the class structure and the elite had no part in the War to end All War

We need to be careful what sort of revisionist ideas are being circulated, and Gove has bravely stood up to left-wing entertainer, Sir Tony Robinson. This left-winger has been involved in archaeology which can lead to an interest in history. If that weren’t left enough, Robinson is an actor who appeared in an anti-war satire.

You won’t have heard of the little-known Blackadder comedy television franchise, but one of its series suggested that World War I might have been in some ways flawed. Gove says: left-wing academics:

 “were using Blackadder “to feed myths” about World War One.” 

Our education supremo went on to display his grasp of history and command of the language as he explained:-

 “The conflict has, for many, been seen through the fictional prism of dramas such as Oh, What a Lovely War!, The Monocled Mutineer and Blackadder, as a misbegotten shambles – a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite.

“Even to this day there are left-wing academics all too happy to feed those myths.”

No, the class structure and the elite had no part in the War to end All Wars, which was the crowning achievement of military strategy. The shooting of shell-shocked, mentally distressed deserters ordered by officers had no class struggle in it at all. Perhaps there were one or two little military awkward moments like Gallipoli, the Allied defeat at the Dardanelles  and all those front line attacks , but a google search on ‘World War 1 blunders’ only got me 949,000 results.  One of the websites had a very left wing slant indeed:

“In Britain alone one third of the male population were casualties. We should learn from these costly mistakes of history so that we will not make similar errors.”

That kind of talk is no way to get the next generation ready to sign up for the next war, is it?

Robinson told left wing media news agency the BBC:

“I think Mr Gove has just made a very silly mistake; it’s not that Blackadder teaches children the First World War. When imaginative teachers bring it in, it’s simply another teaching tool; they probably take them over to Flanders to have a look at the sights out there, have them marching around the playground, read the poems of Wilfred Owen to them. And one of the things that they’ll do is show them Blackadder.

“And I think to make this mistake, to categorise teachers who would introduce something like Blackadder as left-wing and introducing left-wing propaganda is very, very unhelpful. And I think it’s particularly unhelpful and irresponsible for a minister in charge of education.”

Gove’s people countered:

“Michael thinks it is important not to denigrate the patriotism, honour and courage demonstrated by ordinary British soldiers in the First World War.”

These men both unselfishly do all they can to help their spouse’s careers

So there you have it. On one side, an uneducated, demented man known for his silly clowning around and being the jester to his superior. And on the other side you have Sir Tony Robinson.

So, keep your children away from those left-wing academics. And to help you do so, thankfully we  have the wise words of Sir Ian Wood.

Footnote on Family Values: 

There is a similarity between P&J editor Damian Bates and Michael Gove that I’ll briefly mention in passing. These men both unselfishly do all they can to help their spouse’s careers, and if that isn’t love, then what is? We have seen the factual pieces in the P&J extolling the virtues of Mrs Sarah Malone-Bates’ employer Donald Trump – world’s greatest golf course, world’s biggest sand dunes (well, it’s written on a plaque Trump designed, so it must be true), and a restaurant rated 6/6.

Then we come to Mr Gove’s devotion to Mrs Gove. In testament to her rapier-like wit, she’s been given a newspaper column to write (nothing to do with her husband’s position of course). She’s such an independent, honest woman that she writes under her maiden name, Sarah Vine. This is like the modesty Sarah Malone shows, working for Trump not as Mrs Bates, but as Sarah Malone. Sarah started a wee company to help the  rest of us look as beautiful as she does; and conveniently on Facebook, it has a link to a government Department of Work & Pensions.

According to the Mirror:

“The Department for Work and Pensions’ Facebook page includes a link to Get the Gloss under a post advising how to “dress for success”.

Get the Gloss was co-founded by the Tory Education Secretary’s beauty journalist wife Sarah Vine. It offers products such as Creme de la Mer serum at £230 and Gypsy Water perfume at £130. The website’s beauty expert Judy Johnson also shares her words of wisdom on the Facebook page.

They include:

“The first impression you make with a potential employer is the most important one.”

She adds:

“Make sure your eyes look perky so you don’t look all sleepy – people will hire you more if you look awake! (A good night’s sleep usually helps or a good under eye concealer).”

Labour’s Teresa Pearce expressed surprise that the DWP was suggesting people on jobseeker’s allowance of £71.70 a week could afford such items and accused ministers of being “patronising” and demeaning”.

She added:

“It is a cheap marketing ploy designed to exploit female body insecurities and the anxieties of those seeking work to make a quick profit.

“The reason so many people are unemployed is the lack of available work and not because they need pricey beauty products. Having ‘perky’ eyes won’t change that.”

I wonder if these two power couples, the Mr Bates and the Goves shouldn’t get together?

Want to know what kind of educated citizen is valued and rewarded by Sir Ian? Old Susannah is happy to oblige.

Honorary Doctorate: (Eng. compound noun)  A person whose achievements are so considerable that an institution of higher education confers a diploma on them without their having attended courses.

Think of successful businessmen, model citizens, virile hunters of African game and if you don’t first swoon with admiration you think first of Donald Trump. More accurately, Donald Trump, Doctor of Business Administration (Hon DBA).

Sir Ian, who will be chairing a committee to shape your children’s future, is of course Chancellor of RGU. He conferred this title on the deserving Donald.

Mr Trump’s behaviour in north-east Scotland has been deplorable

Alas! Not all were happy. One disgruntled academic returned his degree to RGU. Dr Kennedy had probably been jealous; Trump had earned lots of money and didn’t therefore have to go through the usual hard work of getting a degree. Kennedy, who is probably some kind of left wing academic like Sir Tony Robinson said at the time:

“Mr Trump is simply not a suitable person to be given an honorary degree and he should not be held up as an example of how to conduct business.

“Mr Trump’s behaviour in north-east Scotland has been deplorable from the first, particularly in how he has treated his neighbours.”

Sounds like envy to me.

Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce: (Scottish Government Quango)  – Body created one year ago by central government, chaired by Sir Ian Wood “tasked with bringing forward a range of recommendations designed to improve young people’s transition into employment”.

Let’s face it, the real purposes of education are to learn how to pass tests and to learn how to do some task that will make you money. It’s wonderful that Sir Ian Wood will be passing on all of his ethics, philosophical, architectural and cultural skills to upcoming generations. If we stick to vocational education and business studies, we’ll have a better society. I’m sure Sir Ian means to also call for more young minds to study philosophy, ethics, environmental protection, fine and performing arts – but it seems he’s not got round to that yet.

There is coincidentally a skills shortage in the oil industry: this means that you have to pay people more than if you train lots of people up to do specific energy industry jobs. We need to train people how to do manual labour. We also need to train people how to look for tax loopholes. For those of you interested in the vocational training they want to roll out from an early age to your children (presumably there is more time for this now that music, sports and arts have been cut back), here are some details.

Some final thoughts on education:

There are still some people out there who think that the purpose of a good education should be to let children explore all of the arts and sciences and then let them decide where their talents and interests take them.

there are many different views and no religion can claim superiority

There are some who think there is value in learning a musical instrument, in learning how to play, and enjoy physical activity. Still others believe that if you teach a child how to use logic so they know how to frame an argument, weigh up facts for themselves and reach conclusions, you make them better, more informed citizens.

Others believe that the environment and nature should be experienced first hand and studied (perhaps this would have helped the police in the borders who mistook skinned roe deer they found for badgers. NB – I hope the poachers will be caught, but alas, they never seem to be).

Some people believe that studying art and nature will lead to creativity and a sense of aesthetics (I’d like to know where the granite web’s architects studied form and aesthetics).

There are proponents of comparative religious studies, so people can realise that there are many different views and no religion can claim superiority. Some believe that if you teach children about history, they may learn from the mistakes and triumphs of those who came before and learn about their own culture and therefore identity (I wonder where the property developers and obliging Central Government Reporter who will allow  building on the fields by Culloden studied history?).

There are those who feel if girls learnt about the struggles women made in the recent past to be able to vote, to own property and to study, they would be empowered (and then there is the Taliban, who had teenager Malala shot in the head for going to school). And there are even those who believe children studying all of these arts and sciences with the tools of logic and philosophy engrained would build a better, gentler, happier, cleaner world.

Thankfully, all that nonsense will soon be gone when upcoming generations are taught  how to make money and hang the rest.

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Jan 102014

wallace monument duncan harleyDuncan Harley looks at the debate about the looming war with Wales.

The film Braveheart is held dear by some despite having been described by others as one of the most historically inaccurate modern films ever made.

Seemingly based on Blind Harry’s epic poem The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace, the epic story was adapted for the big screen by one Randall Wallace who, for reasons best known to Hollywood, chose to pair William Wallace up with the Princess Isabella despite the fact that she did not actually travel to Britain until 1307 a full two years after Wallace’s execution.

In the poem Blind Harry somewhat famously wrote:

“Till honour ennymyis is our haile entent 
It has beyne seyne in thir tymys bywent
Our ald ennemys cummyn of Saxonys blud
 that nevyr yeit to Scotland wald do gud.”

In the Hollywood film Mel Gibson somewhat famously shouted:


Directed by and starring Mel Gibson, the film Braveheart met with some positive reviews and won several academy awards. Indeed Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 81% with an average score of 7.1/10. The film’s depiction of the Battle of Stirling Bridge was listed by CNN as one of the best battles in cinema history, rivalling Stalingrad and even The Fall.

In the screenplay New Yorker Gibson portrays William Wallace, a 13th-century Paisley man from just outside Elderslie who led the Scots into the First War of Scottish Independence against King Edward I of England.

In truth, The English authorities saw Wallace as nothing more than a dangerous outlaw who had killed the son of an English constable in Dundee. In the film, however, Gibson invents everything that is Scotland in what to many of us chiels seems like re-run of Brigadoon.

In the May of 1297 Wallace was in Lanark. It is said that he was visiting his wife, the very beautiful Marion Braidfute, whom he had married in secret. Lanark Castle was then held by an English sheriff, Sir William Heselrig. When Heselrig’s soldiers learned that Wallace was with Marion they surrounded him.

Wallace escaped but Marion was captured by Heselrig. The English sheriff then had Wallace’s wife put to death.

That night Wallace and his men made their way back to Lanark Castle where under cover of darkness Wallace broke into Sheriff Heselrig’s bedchamber and hacked the Englishman to death with his broadsword. Justice was served.

over 5000 sheep have been rustled by agents of the Welsh office

In 1999, a full 694 years after the Scottish heroes brutal execution by the tried and tested means of being hung until almost dead then being ritually disembowelled before a baying crowd at London’s Smithfield market, Scottish hackers declared war on Wales following  a sorry tale of sheep rustling.

After first warning the then First Minister Donald Dewar, an urban terrorist Scottish protest group calling itself the Hardcore Highland Haxxors (HHH) took control of the Scottish Executive Web site and renamed it as the “Scottish H4xecutive” after the web consultancy responsible for the security failings on the Scottish Parliament site with content including:

“The new civil servants charged with advising Scottish politicians and enforcing their policy have also accused the Welsh Office of rustling sheep. In retaliation, the HHH has declared that Scotland is now at war with Wales.”

“The Scottish Executive has estimated that over 5000 sheep have been rustled by agents of the Welsh office in the last six months. It is of our opinion that these sheep that were destined for the butchers of Carlisle will soon end up on the streets of Cardiff.”

“In force IMMEDIATELY is a state of WAR between us to put right the theft of our precious sheep.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said that although the incident was embarrassing there was “no threat to internal security” and “Our internal system is quite separate from the information on our Web site”, he said adding that all was being done to resolve the problem.

Newspapers around the world carried the story.

Spanish media’s reported that:

“Un grupo hacker denominado “Hardcore Highland Haxxors” consiguió acceso al servidor web del gobierno regional de Escocia, reemplazando la imagen del Primer Ministro Donald Dewar con la del líder nacionalista Alex Salmond. Los administradores del sistema tuvieron que desconectarlo de la red para arreglar el daño hecho por los hackers.

“La nota del gobierno, sin embargo, no ha especificado si los hackers tenían algún motivo político. Salmond es el líder de la independentista Scottish National Party (SNP), la mayor oposición escocesa en el nuevo parlamento. Entre otras cosas, los hackers cambiaron el nombre del Scottish Executive por el de Scottish H4xecutive y declararon em broma la guerra a Gales, alegando el robo de 5.000 ovejas escocesas.”

ZDNet’ s Will Knight  commented that the “Hardcore Highland Haxxors had made a serious political statement by replacing a picture of the First Minister of Scotland, Donald Dewar, with one of Alex Salmond leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party”.

A spokesperson from the Scottish parliament, perhaps unsurprisingly, did not consider the Welsh war declaration an earth-shaking matter.

“I don’t think the messages were really serious. I don’t really know what they were all about. I think it was some sort of abstract humour. It just shows that security needs to be a bit tighter.”

Lambs wallace by Duncan HarleyIn the January of 2014 just after the bells had rung and a full 708 years or so after Wallace’s death, many of us Scots received a message from the current incumbent of the post of First Minister, Mr Alex Salmond. In a quasi HRM Queen Elizabeth II delivery Mr Salmond said that 2014 would be a “truly amazing year”.

You can view Mr Salmond’s New Year message at of course but in essence it says

“Happy Hogmanay from the National Library of Scotland.  I am at an exhibition called The A to Z of Scotland. It highlights the contribution our country has made to the world from Dolly the sheep to the Dandy, penicillin, Harry Potter, television and tarmac roads.”

Penicillin is of course a life saving invention but the Dandy and Harry Potter? Dolly is of course thankfully deceased God rest her soul.

The discovery of Penicillin is often attributed to Sir Alexander Fleming, though according to Welsh history, Fleming’s friend and colleague Merlin Pryce may have been the actual discoverer.

No wonder the Hardcore Highland Haxxors were so keen to declare war on Wales back in 1999.

As for the Dandy and Harry Potter, many of us Scots hesitate to boast about either.

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