May 222015

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


Tally ho! It’s been quite a week in the Granite City and wider world. Well done all you who voted Conservative!

The SNP is now on the move; not since the Covenanters has Scotland been so unanimous. A new Independence Referendum can’t be far off, so I hope you’ve all saved your ‘YES’ banners and Saltires.

Perhaps the best news is that nice Mr Farage tried to resign but they wouldn’t let him. Who else indeed could lead UKIP? Mr Fromage is indeed the man for the job, although I think they were considering a gay Romanian immigrant at one point.

That nice Mr Trump’s coyness and modesty were on display at the end of April. Well, on display in two obscure small legal notices in the back of the Evening Express.

I can’t imagine why, but the pre-application public consultations for a second golf course, 850 houses and 1900 leisure units, whatever they are, came and went with no publicity from the Press & Journal or the Evening Express. I suppose with stories vying for space, some minor issues like Trump building on the Menie Estate have to be overlooked.

‘Cow found in Field’, ‘Man wins Inverurie Rowie baking award’ and ‘three clothing stores may or may not open in Aberdeen’ trumped the Trump news. When alerted to these ads, I wrote to the contact address given for information. Sadly, the nice man hadn’t the time to get back to me. In fact he was too busy to get back to at least six other people who also wanted information in advance of the deadline in order to praise the scheme.

A cynic might think that the Trump organisation, spearheaded at Menie by the planning supremo, golf expert and beauty queen Mrs Sarah Malone Bates, were trying to sneak one over on us. But I’m sure it was just a case of not wanting to brag about these exciting plans that kept any news of them off the pages of AJL papers, except for those ads on the back of the EE.

I guess it’s now too late to get in your notes of praise for the scheme; it would be a pity if the Shire’s planning people thought that this lack of information were sufficient grounds to throw the exercise on the scrap heap. That would be just awful.

Despite having to re-write my original column ‘Hooray for the Liberal Democrat Landslide’, it’s been a great week. I’ve been part of the Aberdonian contingent at the Westworld Weekend in Crewe; the bands were Spear of Destiny, Theatre of Hate, Kirk Brandon acoustic, Folk Grinder and the Death Valley Surfers. The beer was just as impressive: bottles of Punk IPA AND BrewDog Abstracts Nos. 15, 16, 17 and 18. For some strange reason the bar ran out of Punk, I can’t imagine why.

Old Susannah extended her weekend with a night of Julian Cope at the Lemon Tree, where BrewDog also flowed. Cope’s a bit madcap and a bit behind the times. He joked that it would be good if those in power tried LSD. I’m pretty convinced most of them are tripping as it is.

When you’re having a great weekend, you want to prolong it. Therefore my sincere thanks to the guy who decided to have a cigarette in his plane’s toilet when my and other planes should have been landing at Aberdeen.

clearly he was a genius of some sort

What good sport it was to circle for an extra 30 or so minutes, to be told that a plane on the runway had smoke coming out of it, and that we might have to divert.

I had the great pleasure of seeing the suspect explaining himself to the six or so police who surrounded him as my flight finally filed through the airport. A woman PC was saying:

“You have been identified as the man who was smoking in your plane’s toilet.”

I wondered whether he were a famous movie star, international scholar, or perhaps even an ACSEF member. He must have been someone very important indeed who simply needed a smoke. His slightly dirty clothes, his stubbly chin, his knuckles dragging on the floor and his simian posture were just too good a cover; clearly he was a genius of some sort, disguised as a posturing, swaggering self-centred ignorant chav.

Then he spoke and in an instant I knew I was listening to an Einstein. He answered the woman PC thus:

“You’re kidding right?”

Old Susannah is only an amateur student of psychology and human behaviour, but I am reasonably certain the police weren’t kidding. They almost seemed angry for some reason, and they didn’t at all seem the Laughing Policeman kind.

She continued:

“I am not going to search you”

I suppose he must have previously baulked at that prospect,

“but one of my colleagues may want to. Empty your pockets.”

Again confirming my assessment of the man’s undeniable wit, and reaffirming my belief in his complete innocence he said:

“You’re kidding right?”

My own acting skills are little better than novice; but surely no one could have looked as perfectly innocent as this poor man. I’m sure he was set up. The faint whiff of cigarette smoke that was in the area surely had come from one of those policemen.

Then again, if someone as important as this man obviously is, needed a cigarette, then who are the Civil Aviation Authority, the police, Aberdeen Airport, several hundred people wanting to land, and a hundred people on his plane needing to travel to get in his way? I’d feel guilty if I’d inconvenienced our man.

Besides, imagine what a good adventure it must have been for those on his flight: to be airborne and smell smoke, and see it coming out of the plane’s toilet, just like it must have been for the doomed Canadian flight several years ago that started this unfair no-smoking on planes backlash.

It’s not as if anyone circling around was getting nervous with every new announcement that we might have to be diverted elsewhere, that a plane on the runway had to be evacuated and fire was involved.

No worries. It’s not as if anything terrible ever happens to planes or at airports. There weren’t any older people getting worried or upset; there were no stressed out ground crew. Just you and your smoke. Some people just can’t take a joke though, and as a second thought, maybe next time, if they let you fly again, you might want to look into this nicotine patch business.

And so, my sincere thanks to the as-yet unnamed 31-year-old man for giving me the thrill of a lifetime. Really, if I ever get the chance to repay your kindness, I’ll do so. A mention in my humble column will have to do for now. However, if I can find out who your employers are, I’ll be delighted to drop them a suitable commendation for all the fun you provided.

Also in the news there was an election. England wants five more years of David Cameron, and somehow failed to appreciate all that Nick Clegg’s done for them. Scotland wants the SNP.

The voting public has spoken. Some people are puzzled by some of the election outcomes and how votes metamorphose into fair, democratic representation in Parliament. As I’m one of those people, herewith some timely terms for those baffled by ballot box bamboozlement.

First Past The Post: (Modern Conservative compound Noun) A system of counting election results to allocate seats in the English Parliament.

I’m sure you’re as happy as I am at how the elections throughout the UK turned out. This is down to the exciting, but fair ‘first past the post’ voting system. It’s no more complicated than understanding how the Hadron Supercollider’s quest for the God Particle demonstrates that anti-matter underpins the known universe, why you never get all your socks back after doing a load of laundry, or the arbitrary nature of the offside rule, depending on who the ref is.

For those of you slower of wit, here is a bit of number crunching:a_fair_election_result_indeed

The sad thing is that there are some sore losers out there, who would change this system. Take for instance Electoral Reform UK. This band of brigands should be rounded up, and probably will be once that nice Mr Gove gets rid of this Human Rights nonsense, see below. Here is a quote from their radical website:

“[Most] people’s votes were essentially wasted. Of the almost 31 million people who voted on the 7th, 15.4 million voted for losing candidates. That’s 50% of voters who backed a candidate that didn’t win, making the vast majority of voters feel unrepresented. That doesn’t sound like democracy to most people.”

Talk about sour grapes. I’m sure we all feel well represented. If you want to contact Electoral Reform and tell them to leave well enough alone, you can do so here, which is also where you can sign their petition asking for electoral reform. But just ignore that bit.

Still, a system that would leave the beloved Liberal Democrats out in the cold can’t be fair. Old  Susannah is every bit as upset at the defenestration of the LibDems as you might think. Once the equal partners of Dave Cameron’s Conservatives, the chargers of tuition fees, and the slayers of the vermin roe deer, it’s sad to think these noble animals have been metaphorically shot between the eyes, just as they rightfully insisted was done to some 46 Tullos Hill Deer.

If I can stop sobbing into my LibDem logo-embroidered handkerchief long enough, I’ll send a consolatory email to Aileen HoMalone and ask her for a few words on this sad defeat. But back to the fairness of the system.

Special thanks should go to the 33% of UK residents eligible to vote who didn’t do so. It’s not as if getting the opinion of a third of the country’s voters could have made any real difference, not under First Past The Post anyway.

Thank you for staying home to watch the Heartbeat Omnibus, reruns of Neighbours, playing Grand Theft Auto 27 or whatever it was that kept you from spending ten minutes to pick the UK’s future direction. I’m sure those who didn’t bother to join in had very important reasons. Just like the reasons the important man had on that aircraft to smoke in the bathroom.

Human Rights Act: (Modern European Union compound noun) A declaration of inalienable freedoms each person should be entitled to, but never is.

As far as I can work out, this is some kind of wishy-washy left-wing Liberal law from 1998 that brought in the EU’s Human Rights declaration and enshrined it in UK law. It’s even supposed to make the NHS and the Police treat people as if they had rights, even people suspected of crime, just like that guy who smelled of smoke who came out of the plane’s toilet seen by many, who could only comment ‘You’re kidding right?’.

This has been problematic and a nuisance. It’s been implemented fully, as we can see in practice all around us.

We’ve got a war on drugs, a war on terror

The parents of Ashya King were arrested for taking their son for the successful medical treatment he had abroad, because the NHS swore out an arrest warrant.

The police officers who cleverly infiltrated various legal protest groups, sleeping with and impregnating women they pretended to love were only doing their job of course, but under Human Rights law, these women, who were probably criminals anyway, seem to be able to claim damages and child support.

There’s only so much a Conservative government can stand. They’re sending top gun Michael Gove in to correct this over-application of human rights. Any day now, all these freedoms we’re enjoying, like the right to protest the elections in London free from police harassment, may be a distant memory. Too right, too. We’ve got a war on drugs, a war on terror… there’s no room for sentimentality when it comes to breaking a few bones – sorry – breaking a few criminal gangs.

These rights include:

“These rights are: Right to life, right not to be tortured or subjected to inhumane treatment, right not to be held as a slave, right to liberty and security of the person, right to a fair trial, right not be retrospectively convicted for a crime, right to a private and family life, right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, right to freedom of expression, right to freedom of assembly and association, right to marriage, right to an effective remedy, right not to be discriminated against, the right to the peaceful enjoyment of one’s property, and the right to an education. The Act also imposes a duty upon governments to provide free and fair elections.”

If you want to see how hard it is to be a police officer, and the kinds of things they have to put up with from protesters, here’s a little story. It may look like the police are harming citizens who are on the ground at a protest against the Tories, but I’m sure it’s just some form of massage therapy I’m not familiar with.

As if anyone would want to protest against the Tories: we’ve just elected them by a landslide. Apparently.

I get why our rulers want to get rid of this education nonsense and privacy stuff, but since we’ve already got a completely free and fair election system, surely they’ve no complaint on that score. So for those renegades and anarchists who enjoy these so-called rights, enjoy them while you can.

Next week: That’ll depend on whether or not the Conservatives continue to allow political satire.

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Apr 062012

With thanks to  Kevin Hutchens.

Aberdeen TUC successfully mounted a co-ordinated campaign against the plans of the National Front (the NF) to march in Aberdeen on Hitler’s birthday, Friday 20th April.
The NF of course claimed it had nothing to do with the birthday of the Fascist Dictator and everything to do with the founding date of the SNP.

Surprisingly then, some would say, both the reports from Grampian Police and the Human Rights Impact Assessment carried out by the City Council argued that there might possibly be a link between the date and Hitler’s birthday: though both, in the interests of democracy, recognised the need to consider other options .

The Trade Union movement played a vital and crucial role in co-ordinating opposition via written representations, and also expressed its opposition via two media and press events. Not surprisingly, the NF did not help themselves when they accused the media of being “Zionist” because of the way they reported the proposed event .

On the day of the Aberdeen City Council Licensing Committee, 27th March 2012, a small but determined and committed group of activists from ATUC waited outside the Council Chambers. Much was made of this by the NF, but what they failed to realise and mention is that the activists which were present, though small in number, represented the interests of thousands of Trade Unionists from across the North East.

At the end of the day, Aberdeen City Council Licensing Committee refused (“Prohibited” in Council parlance) the application to march, on public order and public safety grounds. What had however been noticeable in the debate was the unwillingness of the NF to move on crucial issues including the planned time of the march, the starting point of the march and the route. Clearly the committee made the right decision on behalf of the City of Aberdeen.

Whatever the decision, it still remains an important role to expose the National Front for the way many of their supporters promote racism, Islamophobia and Holocaust denial.

“No Pasaran” is the call that comes to mind !

Kevin Hutchens
ATUC Delegate for Unite Local Government,  Aberdeenshire Branch.

Dec 102010

With Thanks To Clare Rochford.

Aberdeen City Council are due to meet on 15th December to discuss ceasing or reducing the Fairer Scotland Fund. The purpose of the fund is to tackle individual poverty and multiple deprivation, and should either of these options be exercised, this will have a significant impact on minority groups and communities in the city.

‘All new functions, policies and procedures should go through the EHRIA process’ (see Appendix 1)

In advance of these scheduled discussions, ACC Equalities Team have, in accordance with their duty to ‘carry out our Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments (EHRIAs) early on in our budget setting process so that elected members are aware of any potential negative impacts of budget decisions on the equality groups’, have prepared the necessary documents.

According to Impact Assessment in relation the cessation of the fund: (see Appendix 3)

  • ‘Support to get people into employment would cease. This would affect those furthest from the job market, including specialist support for race, disability, older, younger and gender groups.
  • ‘Financial Inclusion support, including Credit Union support, money advice and income maximisation, would cease affecting those in poverty.
  • ‘Health initiatives would cease, affecting access to mental health and wellbeing services for those in poverty.
  • ‘A range of educational and cultural activities would cease affecting older, younger, gender and associated poverty groups.
  • ‘Youth work in disadvantaged communities would cease affecting younger and youth poverty groups.
  • ‘Neighbourhood improvements and community safety initiatives aimed at improving quality of life in disadvantaged communities would cease thereby affecting people living in poverty.’

These proposals, and their potential fallout also appear to be at odds with the Council’s Single Equality Scheme 2009 – 2012.

‘This Single Equality Scheme and its accompanying action plan builds on a wide range of work carried out by Council services to promote diversity and equality. The Scheme sets out how we will fulfill our legal duties in terms of the Race, Disability and Gender Equality strands and identifies arrangements, which go beyond current challenges of legislative requirements, embracing the strands of age, faith/ religion/ belief and sexual orientation.’(see Appendix 2)

the staffing implications fall hardest on women in employment

Having observed that there appear to be only negative outcomes for groups such as older persons, younger persons, and those financially disadvantaged, there is surely a strong case for councillors to reject the proposals on 15th December.

In a separate impact assessment – this time regarding staffing implications of reducing the council’s workforce, a disproportionate negative effect on female employees is identified (see Appendix 4):

‘Due to the impact of one proposal (given the gender profile of the workforce) which proposes a 50% reduction in Pupil Support Arrangements, the staffing implications fall hardest on women in employment.’

‘The proposal to reduce the number of Pupil Support Assistant’s (PSAs) by 50% will seriously affect this one job title, which is almost exclusively undertaken by women. The option, if accepted, would result in those employed either being redeployed or made redundant.’ In the High Court in London on Monday the Fawcett Society brought a case against the Government’s Budget cuts which will hit women far harder than men, as women account for 65% of all public sector employment and were more likely to be affected by pay freezes and job losses.

Campaigners say ministers are legally obliged to carry out an equality impact assessment before taking policy decisions and, where this reveals a risk of discrimination, to take urgent action.

Taking all of this into account, it would seem that there is a strong case for councillors to take the findings of these Impact Assessments very seriously and reject the proposal to reduce the number of PSAs, as this will not only have a disproportionately negative impact on women, but also the pupils most in need of this kind of support.

We wait and wonder.

(Appendix1) (Page 5)