Nov 172016
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

michelle-ferguson-charity-manager-cash-for-kids-launching-mission-christmasA North-east charity has launched its annual festive gift appeal as it aims to ensure thousands of local underprivileged children receive a present this Christmas.
Cash for Kids has launched its Mission Christmas gift appeal which is once again being supported by The Wood Foundation, the philanthropic organisation founded by Sir Ian Wood.

Last year, Mission Christmas guaranteed that over 6,800 children living in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire had a present to open on Christmas morning.

With recent estimates suggesting that 18% of children in Aberdeen and 13% of children in Aberdeenshire live in poverty, Cash for Kids anticipates a similar volume of applications this year.

The children’s charity is calling on north-east residents to purchase one extra child’s gift when shopping this Christmas and donate it to the Mission Christmas appeal or donate money which the charity will use to fill any gift gaps. Buying shopping centre vouchers is also recommended as this can provide teenagers with the freedom to choose items they prefer.

Over 120 donation points have been set up across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire where people can drop off new, unwrapped gifts. The deadline for donating items is Friday, 16 December, however the public are encouraged to donate items prior to this to ensure all gift applications are fulfilled in time.

In order to cope with the anticipated volume of donations and number of applications, the appeal is being coordinated from a new warehouse this year. The modern facility has been donated free of charge by Knight Property Group and M&G Real Estate for the duration of the appeal.

For a sixth consecutive year, Aberdeen-based haulier Colin Lawson Transport is supporting the appeal. The firm is providing a dedicated driver and vehicle to collect the gifts from donation points across the north-east.

An army of volunteers will be giving their time to sort through donations and allocate them against applications to provide each child with three gifts with a combined value of approximately £50. With at least 20,000 items expected to be required to meet demand, the scale of the task ahead for Mission Christmas 2017 is clear.

To help raise funds for the appeal Cash for Kids is holding its Christmas Jumper Day on Friday, 09 December. The day encourages local businesses and schools to persuade their employees and pupils to don their favourite festive knits and donate £1 per person to Mission Christmas.

Michelle Ferguson, Cash for Kids charity manager (pictured), said:

“Mission Christmas generates a huge response each year and we are extremely grateful to everyone who donates a gift, time or resources. We are very pleased to have The Wood Foundation supporting the appeal once more, helping to highlight the issue and causes of child poverty in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

“Gift and voucher donations are fantastic, but monetary donations can also make a huge difference. They allow us to purchase items for age groups where there are gaps.  A monetary donation of £10 is equivalent to foregoing two extra tubs of chocolates this Christmas or a week’s worth of take-away coffee and would help to ensure no child in the north-east goes without this Christmas. Every little help, really does help.”

Sir Ian Wood, chairman of The Wood Foundation, said:

“To know that there are children right now, living in the north-east of Scotland who may not experience the excitement of receiving a special gift on Christmas morning is incredibly sad. In Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire, poverty is often not as apparent as in other parts of Scotland, with the result that it often goes unrecognised and unaddressed.

“By supporting the work Cash for Kids does with the Mission Christmas appeal for the second year, The Wood Foundation hopes that every child across the north-east will feel the magic of Christmas this year.”

More information on the appeal, including a full list of donation points and information on the Christmas jumper day, can be found at www.northsound1.com/missionchristmas.

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Aug 072014
 

Old Susannah gets to grips with Granite City Gripes such as shooting, snooping and serious tax avoidance, allegedly.  By Suzanne Kelly

DictionaryIt’s been a colourful week in the Granite City; referendum and Commonwealth Game Fevers have swept through town. Who can forget those beautiful Commonwealth Scottish uniforms with their pastel tartans paired with floral shirts, the Scottie dogs, and the dancing teacakes? It’s so good to see we’ve broken out from any stereotyping.

I do wonder how the other companies which paid to have their products promoted in the games feel, knowing that Tunnock’s were approached by the organisers who wanted to use their product in a dance number? The sale of Tunnock’s cakes is apparently up by over 60%.

I wonder if the same is true for well-known Scottish sponsors Kellogg’s, Gatorade and Heineken? I think a dance number with a sixpack of beer would have added to the festivities.

The artful dolphins dotted around town are great; it’s wonderful to watch kids climb them and break off little chunks of them for souvenirs. It’s great to know people are interacting with them by vandalising and torching them, as well. For those who want to have a good look at these great sculptures, I’d get in fast.

For those of you who don’t actually want to ride a dolphin sculpture or take a chunk of one home, then be sure to see the adorable mini dolphins in the libraries; there is a trail for kids to follow, and if they visit all the dolphins, they get a goody bag. This initiative may have been modelled on similar events in other cities, but it is a good one.

The Eid celebration took place in Union Terrace Gardens; could it be the city’s organisers are mellowing a little? Despite there being tents and crowds, there weren’t scores of police, private security, crowd barriers, anti-climb paint or any of the usual high security measures the city usually pays for when someone wants to have fun. Let’s hope they tool up for the next event.

With the good things that are going on, any little issues seem to pale into insignificance.  However, here are a few such little issues and some definitions.

Routine Patrol: (Modern English compound noun) – a beat or patch secured by police (formerly without guns).

Mark Williams, chief of Edinburgh’s police has put armed men on routine patrol. What could possibly go wrong? This is also what Police Scotland has done – increasingly armed its routine patrols. If the police are all now toting guns when responding to incidents, such as the recent argument in an Inverness fast food restaurant, it can only be a good thing.

The chief of police says there really aren’t that many more armed officers. He’s kindly taken it on himself to dole out the guns without bothering the nice folk in Holyrood, local government, or the citizens (heaven forbid). To give the guns out now, and deal with Holyrood later seems like a great strategy to me.

All these armed cops will probably save the taxpayer a fortune in trial costs in the long run. Perhaps it might seem to the unduly wary that when the police are dictating terms to the politicians, carrying guns where they didn’t before, searching thousands of children in on-the-spot, warrantless detentions, we are well and truly in a police state.

I’m sure you feel all the safer for it. The local Edinburgh councillors are against it, but what does that matter? They’re not the ones with the guns, so their opinion will remain just that, opinion.

Old Susannah does have one little question though: since the police and a host of authorities are spying on our computers, our phone calls and our video, wouldn’t it be better to prevent crime than to shoot people? Thankfully, the authorities say there won’t be any escalation in the criminal element getting armed as well. No, that would never happen.

Police Scotland is sending armed police to that hotbed of crime, debauchery and sin – the Belladrum festival. I’m sure all this information is comforting, but if you wish to join MP Danny Alexander, and petition the cops to lay down their arms, here is a link http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HighlandPolicing

Actually, I have one other thought. This week (and not for the first time) American police shot the wrong man; this was in Los Angeles. It’s good to know that can’t happen here. This may be the same police force that laid siege to George Copeland’s empty flat, took him into custody days later, and tried to get him to say a pink feather duster could have been mistaken by them for a gun.

No, there will be no problems with this scheme at all.

Sure a few innocent people will be shot; Harry Stanley in London was shot when he carried an antique table leg securely wrapped in a blanket; a member of the public thought it could have been a rifle. Jean Charles da Silva e de Menezes was a Brazlian on his way to work on a tube train when he was shot several times.

Happily the police rallied round after the shooting – to tweak their stories and the records, and to spy on the bereaved family. I know I feel safer for it.

Spying on civilians? Surely that’s not going on. Well, maybe just a little, but only if there are really good reasons.

Springboard: (Modern English proper noun) company which monitors footfall and visitor movements in private and public spaces.

Inspired had an inspired idea – they’d spend £100,000 on the company Springboard to see where you and I are going in the Business Improvement District, how long we’re spending walking around, and how long we linger in shops. They say the data is all anonymous. They are also apparently holding it ‘permanently’ as per their website http://www.spring-board.info/technology

Do have a look at the technology being used – by tracing signals from your mobile / using sensors, they’ll know how long you stay in the tattoo parlour, how long you’re in the STD clinic, how long you linger in the pub, etc. etc. This is to understand your shopping patterns – anonymously of course. But with your phone number, and imagery.

Naturally you want some person knowing where you are and what you’re doing, and also being able to match that up with your credit card use in a shop if they really put their minds to it. It’s reassuring to know that such data is anonymous and will never be used other than for the purpose of monitoring your movements.

Alas, there are one or two issues. You don’t get the chance to opt out, even though various data protection agencies have grave concerns about this technology being anonymous.

Who will look at data, and will they be as saintly as the police? The police, sadly, have been in the news in the past, for the odd occasion when police officers have spied on their partners, ex-partners and so on, using surveillance info illegally. Don’t worry; it couldn’t happen in the private sector.

151011-1217001There was a time when I fell afoul of this technology in Aberdeen, and it wasn’t my shopping that the security guards were monitoring.

Back when we had a vote on the beautiful designs proposed for Union Terrace Gardens, I went to the Academy shopping centre the day before the opening.

A colleague had told me he was harassed for trying to take photos of the exhibition space – even though he was on the very public Belmont Street.

I went to see what was up. On Belmont Street I looked in the window, took photos and took photos of the exhibition poster which was placed on Belmont Street. Well, I also went inside the Academy, and all of a sudden noticed security guards were looking at me, and coming towards me. As I’d done nothing wrong, but wanted to avoid the hassle my colleague had, I abruptly left.

I walked around for a bit, then went into the Bon Accord & St Nicholas Mall. I hadn’t been inside for more than a minute when the guard from the Academy accosted me.

The story of that little encounter is here.  I contacted the Academy to protest my treatment by this guard, and to ask whether they tracked me (signs inside the mall advise that you are being tracked by your mobile; these are easy to spot if you are 8 foot tall). I never did get an answer.

I will let you know what Inspired have to say about this tracking system – and about their current financial issues (pay rises seem to have possibly been made to friends and family; this is being contested). Inspired are funded by the local businesses who incur extra costs for the bunting and spying. I wonder how a business would make up for increased costs?

Surely not by increasing prices to customers, though. Apart from the private funding, you and I gave them at least £50,000. More on that later. A spokesperson has helpfully been in touch to say they have nothing to say. We shall see.

Trust: (Eng. legal compound noun ) mechanism for ensuring a person or group’s money is used towards a specific purpose, governed by trustees.

In 2012 I was worried upon discovering The Wood Family Trust had only £29,163,000 in its treasury; it had spent £2,355,000 on an assortment of charitable acts, pensions for its personnel, and of course salary and overheads. At the time I suggested we should all pitch in.

Imagine my pleasant surprise to see that they’ve found a slightly more secure financial base – perhaps some of you did drop the odd tenner into their kitty. The trust might not be out of the woods yet, but they have a healthier £53,199,000 balance with some £5,388,000 going on charitable activities, salaries, pensions, expenses, etc.

They are still funding their competition; school children compete in groups with local charities (obviously animal charities are excluded) to work on presentations. After votes are cast, the winning charity gets the £53,000,000.  Sorry – the winning charity gets around £3,000 – give or take.

Those that didn’t win the popularity contest can console themselves that they expended time and money towards trying. This teaches children a valuable lesson – winning is all-important in this winner-take-all world. No doubt you’re as much in favour of them learning this lesson as I am.

The idea may still be to get into ‘venture philanthropy’ and kindly lend some of the millions to tea-plantation owners in Rwanda, apparently in partnership of some sort with Lord Sainsbury, who might be able to find some use for the extra tea grown by those they’ve lent money to.

The fact that tens of millions have been sitting around for a year or two should in no way suggest that any form of tax evasion is going on. It’s not as if it’s a scheme whereby people are paid via an offshore tax haven so that some company or other avoids paying UK National Insurance. I’m sure I heard of some company doing this immoral scheme. If I wood have remembered the company, I’d let you know.

‘Why not just give money away to good causes?’ I can practically hear you ask. How very naive.

In venture philanthropy, you lend money out to a good cause, and get a gold star for being charitable. The people you lend the money to are in your debt, until they, er, pay their debt. This of course bears no resemblance to the medieval feudal system. The rich would allow peasants to grow food on a patch of land, and the peasant would give a share to the rich lord.

It would never happen here. Or in Rwanda. Why give money away for free if you can avoid taxes and get some of it back in due course?

Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland: (Scottish government report) – paper claiming that there are financial imbalances within Scotland. As far-fetched as it seems, it’s just possible that some children and pensioners are living below the poverty line, while at the same time, a small minority are living with extreme wealth. No, I’ve not seen any evidence for this, either.

However, the government has this to say:-

“Poverty in Scotland has increased in 2012/13. While the rate of poverty increased for all groups, the largest increase was in the rate of child poverty.

“Relative poverty, before housing costs (BHC) in Scotland has increased to 16 per cent for the whole population, a 2 percentage point increase on the previous year. In 2012/13 there were 820,000 people living in poverty, 110,000 more than the previous year.

“Relative child poverty (BHC), increased to 19 per cent in 2012/13, up from 15 per cent the previous year. In 2012/13, there were 180,000 children living in relative poverty in Scotland, 30,000 more than in 2011/12. This reverses the trend of declining child poverty over recent years.

“Relative poverty (BHC) among working age adults in 2012/13 was 15 per cent, an increase from 13 per cent the previous year. This brings the number of working age adults in relative poverty to 480,000, an increase of 70,000 compared with 2011/12.

“Relative poverty (BHC) among pensioners in 2012/13 was 15 per cent, an increase from 14 per cent the previous year. There were 150,000 pensioners in relative poverty in 2012/13, 10,000 more than the previous year.” http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Social-Welfare/IncomePoverty/CoreAnalysis

I must admit I have seen relative poverty; my uncle Ned is always borrowing fivers.

If only there were some way to crack down on tax avoidance, and get money to those who need it for food and shelter. Oh well, if you think of anything, do let me know.

Next Week: How the city organises its important documents (or doesn’t), and that Nice Mr Trump turns his attention back to Menie

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Dec 212012
 

How Sir Ian Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suz (with apologies)

T’was the night before Christmas in old Aberdeen
Or should I say Whoodville, yes, that’s what I mean
Every Whoodie in Whood-ville
Liked Christmas a lot…
But Sir Ian Grinch
Did not like it one jot!

The town settled down for a long winter’s nap
Except for this one crinkly, creaky old chap
Sir Grinch hated Christmas! It might be because
He didn’t believe in a Sanity Clause

The children were nestled all snug in their beds
But Sir Ian Grinch was pacing instead.
Perhaps Ian’s head wasn’t screwed on quite right.
It could also be he was simply just tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
Was the Whoodies in Whoodville said no to his mall.

Out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
When Grinch said the ancient great trees didn’t matter
“Let’s cut them down and let’s build some parking!”
But the Whoodies thought Grinch was really quite barking.
Now this Grinch wanted granite – a web of it really
With shopping and theatres and parking, ideally.
But the Whoodies said ‘No’ to his project ‘It’s crass!’
We want our trees and our wildlife and grass.

It was his way or no way, he’d not give an inch
So the web was abandoned; this angered the Grinch

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave Whoodville a vibrant and dynamic glow.
“If there’s no web for me then I’ll make very sure
“My money will go and help Africa’s poor”
“That will fill all the Whoodies with remorse
(“And I’ll avoid being taxed at the source”).

Ian was grouchy and grinchy, indeed
The size of his heart was no match for his greed
He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whoodies,
And envied their happiness and all their goodies

On Christmas day all of the Whoodies would gather
Down in their Gardens for coffee and blather

Whoodies, young and old, would sit down to a feast.
And they’d feast! And they’d feast!
And they’d FEAST! FEAST! FEAST! FEAST!
They would start on Whood-pudding, and rare Whood-roast-beast
Which was something Sir Grinch couldn’t stand in the least!
And THEN
They’d do something he liked least of all!

Every Whoodie in Whoodville, the tall and the small,
Would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing.
They’d stand hand-in-hand. And the Whoods would start singing!
They’d sing! And they’d sing!
AND they’d SING! SING! SING! SING!

The more that Sir Grinch thought of the Whood-Christmas-Sing
The more Ian thought, “I must stop this whole thing!
“Why, for seventy years I’ve put up with it now!
I MUST stop Christmas from coming!
…But HOW?”

Then he got an idea!
An awful idea!
THE GRINCH
GOT A WONDERFUL, ACSEF IDEA!

“I know just what to do!” Sir Grinch said with a sneer
“I’ll steal every trace of their Christmas this year.
“I’ll threaten to take my web money once more
“And threaten to give it to Africa’s poor.”

“And while I’m at it I’ll steal all their stuff”
(It seems being a billionaire wasn’t enough)
Sir Grinch owned most Whoodville it’s certainly true
His wealth would have satisfied both me and you
But when the old Grinch couldn’t get his own way
And get his Web built, then he vowed they would pay

He made a quick Santy Claus hat and a coat.
And he chuckled, and clucked, “Why you handsome old goat!”
“With this coat and this hat, I’ll look just like Saint Nick!”
“All I need are some reindeer…”
The Grinch looked around.
But since reindeer were scarce, there was none to be found.

(The reason that no deer were found in the town
Is Grinch’s friend Aileen had had them shot down
Her cruelty and greed caused a Whoodville petition
The people agreed there will be no repetition)

Did that stop the old Grinch…?
No! Not one little bit
“I’ll just need to call on a couple old gits
“If I can’t find some reindeer, I’ll make some instead!”
(I think the poor man must be oot of his head)
So he called lackeys Tommy and Colin to come
Which they quickly did, those poor dears were quite dumb.
And he tied great big horns on top of their heads.
(It seems that these lapdogs were easily led).

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
The old Grinch couldn’t wait ta get oot and aboot.
THEN
He loaded some bags
And some old empty sacks
On a ramshackle sleigh
And he hitched up dogs Tommy and Colin, whey hey!

Then the Grinch said, “Giddyap!”
And the sleigh started down
Toward the homes where the Whoodies
Lay asleep in their town.

All their windows were dark. Quiet snow filled the air.
All the Whoodies were dreaming sweet dreams without care
When he came to the first house near to Union Square.
“This is stop number one,” The old Grinchy was there.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, probably had too much sherry.
And he climbed to the roof, empty bags in his fist.
Then he slid down the chimney. A rather tight pinch.
But if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch.
He got stuck only once, for a moment or two.
Then he stuck his head out of the fireplace flue
Where wee Whoodie stockings all hung in a row.

He stole left, right and centre; he got on his knees
He swiped BrewDogs, Glenfiddich and Zeppelin CDs
And just to increase the Whoodies distress
He left unsold copies of Evening Express.
And he stuffed all their gifts in his sacks and then nimbly,
Stuffed all the bags, one by one, up the chimney!

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
Then he slunk to the icebox. He took the Whoods’ feast!
He took the Whood-pudding! He took the roast beast!
He cleaned out that icebox as quick as a flash.
Why, that Grinch even took their last can of Whood-hash!

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And stole all the stockings, he was such a jerk!
Then he stuffed all the food up the chimney with glee.
“And NOW!” grinned Sir Ian, “I will stuff up the tree!”
“I’ll have theatre seats carved from it, just wait and see
“Down with the trees, turn their wood into chip
“For my web and its theatre” (he was quite a dip)
Then he heard a small sound “This can’t be good!”
He turned around fast, and he saw a small Whood!

Twas Marie-Lou Whood, who was not more than two.
The Grinch had been caught by this little Whood daughter
Who’d got out of bed for a cup of cold water.
She stared at Sir Ian and said, “Santy, why,
“Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?”

But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick
He thought up a Whood lie, and he thought it up quick!
In that he had practice, his cunning renown
A cunning which had torn Whood businesses down

“Why, my sweet little tot,” the fake Santy Claus lied,
“There’s a light on this tree that won’t light on one side.
“So I’m taking it home to my workshop, my dear.
“I’ll fix it up there. Then I’ll bring it back here.”

So he fobbed off the child with yet more of his lies
The master of false promises, spin, alibis
And he got her a drink and he sent her to bed.
And when Marie-Lou Whood went to bed with her cup,
He went to the chimney and stuffed the tree up!
Then the last thing he took was the fireplace wood.
His hatred of trees and his greed were no good.

He did the same thing
To the other Whoods’ houses
Leaving crumbs
Much too small
For the other Whoods’ mouses!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the hair of his head was as white as the snow.
When he packed up his sled he was most ecstatic,
(By this time the Grinch was extremely erratic)
He had all of their presents! The ribbons! The wrappings!
The tags! And the tinsel! The trimmings! The trappings!

“I’ll just head to the Gramps and on old Tullos Hill
“I’ll fly-tip these presents” (so much for good will)

“Pooh-pooh to the Whoodies!” the old Grinch was singing
“This year they’ll be no Christmas bells ringing.
“They’re finding out now that Christmas was snatched
“Oh what a brilliant idea I have hatched.
“They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!
“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
“The all the Whoods down in Whood-ville will all cry BOO-HOO!”
“They’ll say ‘Give us a web for we now need it more
“Then food, clothes and shelter would help Africa’s poor’.
“Give us more malls, and give us more shopping!
“They’ll beg for my web – oh those Whoods will be hopping!”

“That’s a noise,” grinned the Grinch,
“That I simply must hear!”
So Sir Ian Grinch put his hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow…
But the sound wasn’t sad!
Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so!
But it WAS merry! VERY!

He stared down at Whood-ville!
Ian could not believe
Despite all of his efforts to plunder and thieve
What met his eyes was a shocking surprise
Each Whoodie in Whood-ville, the rich and the poor
Was singing! He shook to the core.
He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming!
IT CAME!

Somehow or other, Christmas survived!
In fact you could even say Christmas had thrived.
He stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?”

“It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
It was as if shopping was not the reason
For people to celebrate during this season.
Even without lots of designer gear
Somehow Christmas had still made it here.

And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
And what happened then…?
Well…in Whood-ville some of them say
That the Grinch’s small heart
Grew three sizes that day!

And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light
He said “Look what I just found when passing through Torry
“Nicked presents, which fell off the back of a lorry”
And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!
And he…
…HE HIMSELF…!
Ian Grinch carved the roast beast!
Merry Christmas to All, and to All a good night!

Well if you are reading this dear Mr Wood
You still have a chance to make everything good
Why not help the poor both here and abroad?
Doing so would be the greatest reward.

We need our green space, clean water and air
Even the finest web could not compare.
We’ve things in this town nowhere else to be found
So lay off our gardens, our common good ground.

If you want gratitude you’d get it indeed
By helping the helpless, the people in need.
So many things you could do with your money
The difference you’d make – it’s not even funny.

Next time please ask us, don’t dictate your plan
People are asking what kind of a man
Would cause such division, pitting friend against friend
Ian your web plans have come to an end.

Give up the ghost, take up some other cause
That’s all I’m saying – goodnight –

– Santa Claus

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Dec 062012
 

Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly today received documents from the First Minister’s office shedding light on ‘Webgate’ – the genesis of the failed bid to build a granite web over Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens. Kelly investigates.

Aberdeen’s Granite Web is history; it will not go ahead, and the city will not be borrowing £90 million towards its construction.

Alex Salmond’s personal interest in the project was well publicised when it emerged his office had intervened in the TiF (Tax incremental Funding) bid appraisal for pilot projects in Scotland.

The appraisals were undertaken by the Scottish Futures Trust, which had placed the Aberdeen proposal 10th in the list of projects to be recommended based on a variety of financial and technical criteria.

Salmond’s intervention, at the expense of projects from Renfrewshire, West Lothian, Ayrshire and Dumbartonshire, propelled the web into position to be one of the potential pilots.

Correspondence between First Minister Alex Salmond, Sir Ian Wood and ACSEF has been released to Aberdeen Voice today under a Freedom of Information request. These letters shed further light on Salmond’s relationship with Sir Ian, who had promised £50 million of his own money towards the controversial £140m+ project.

Far from allowing local governments sovereignty over their own affairs, Salmond has shown, by intervening in the appraisal process, that central government can and will over-ride expert advice. He and Nicola Sturgeon have since said any TiF application for Aberdeen must involve Union Terrace Gardens – another intervention without precedent.

Although TiF is a pilot here, as a fundraising method it is already losing fans in its country of origin, the USA, where it is proving unsuccessful in several states. How central government can insist that a brand new, untested means of borrowing money cannot be used by Aberdeen unless it sacrifices its common good land park for a project runs contrary to cries of ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’ used by the SNP to encourage a vote for independence.

But what of Salmond’s correspondence on the subject of the web?

From the letters received, it is clear ACSEF and Sir Ian had been lobbying Salmond and his government to support the web – clearly with success. A letter of August 2011 indicates that Nicola Surgeon had been in contact with Sir Ian about the project. Here are some extracts:

August 2011: Alex Salmond to Ian Wood

“Thank you for your letter of 28 July updating me on progress with the Aberdeen City Garden Project. Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the opportunity to discuss these issues with you when she visited Aberdeen at the beginning of August…

“In relation to the TIF funding application, we are in the process of identifying further projects which can be included in the TIF pilot scheme. I understand that Aberdeen City Council will submit an outline proposal to the Scottish Futures Trust this month in accordance with the process that has been agreed. We look forward to considering this further.”
See – https://aberdeenvoice.com/2012/11/salmond-to-wood-aug-2011/

It is clear Salmond has admiration for Wood; could this have coloured his judgement when he saw fit to intervene in the recommended TiF projects?

19 July 2012: Salmond to Wood

“I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Scottish Government to thank you for the considerable contribution you have made to both the oil and gas industry in Scotland and to Scottish public life…”

[note: this contribution had not included paying NI on Wood Group staff for a number of years; the payroll was moved offshore]

“Your involvement in Scottish Enterprise Grampian and your successful previous chairmanship of the Scottish Enterprise Board have set the bar for others to follow… I have enjoyed meeting with you over recent years and very much appreciated the enthusiasm and dedication which you have brought to the Wood Group, the industry and more widely to Scotland…”
See – https://aberdeenvoice.com/2012/11/salmond-to-wood-19-07-12/

[note – initially Scottish Enterprise were supporting Peacock Visual Arts’ own plans for premises in Union Terrace Gardens. It is not precisely clear at the time of writing how the Peacock bid lost SE’s support, which quite quickly turned to Sir Ian’s favoured City Garden Project instead].

Sir Ian returned the 19 July letter in part as follows:

01 August 2012: Wood to Salmond

“I have been particularly grateful for the support your Government have provided to the Aberdeen City Centre Regeneration Project which, as you know, I believe is vitally important for Aberdeen’s long-term economic future and wellbeing.

“The vote of Aberdeen City Council on 22nd August will be crucial, and if this is positive I will obviously allocate some of my time to support the development phase of this project in any way I can, and I know there will be an important role for Scottish Government to play in facilitating this. If the vote is negative, Wood Family Trust will have no choice but to withdraw their offer of funding.”
See  – https://aberdeenvoice.com/2012/11/wood-to-salmond-01-08-12/

The first part of the paragraph above begs the question: why did the government support the City Gardens Project at the expense of others on the table, several of which were given higher ratings by the Scottish Futures Trust? Concerning the potential withdrawal of the £50 million offer, there is some ambiguity.

A statement from Sir Ian indicated this money would be deployed to charitable work in Africa, a most laudable act, indeed. The nature of this charitable work may or may not be the same as a project described on the Wood Family Trust website, in which they seek to improve the business acumen of tea plantation operatives in Rwanda, a country only just recovering from civil war, an aids epidemic, widespread hunger and poverty.

A further letter shows evidence of yet more lobbying; this time by a private trust, signed jointly by Tom Smith (ACSEF and the Trust) and Ian Wood:

28 July 2012:  Aberdeen City Gardens Trust, ACSEF and Wood to Salmond

“The concept designs will be available to exhibit to the public late September with the public asked to indicate their views… with the winning concept design presented to  Aberdeen City Council to endorse.

“The current plan is that by mid-December the city council will be in a position to approve the TiF business case prior to it being submitted to the Scottish Futures Trust. It goes without saying that the Project will not proceed without TiF funding.

“We’d be very happy to discuss this with you further… We will also be seeking some further discussion with John Swinney…”
See – https://aberdeenvoice.com/2012/11/wood-smith-acgt-acsef-to-salmond-28-07-11/

The striking feature of this letter is that it indicates the city council is not in the driving seat. The council is expected not to debate or vote; it is expected to ‘endorse’ and ‘approve.’

The Aberdeen City Gardens Trust (ACGT) is a private entity set up to run the City Gardens Project that listed Tom Smith (also of ACSEF, and formerly Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of  Commerce) and Colin Crosby (A&GCoC) as its two directors. It is therefore of further interest to note that in this letter of 28 July 2011, ACGT lobbies Salmond with praise for the scheme and seeks further meetings with both Salmond and Sturgeon.

ACSEF is paid for by the city and by extension the public, and the public were very much split on whether or not this project and its associated, high-level financing were acceptable. Precisely how ethical it was for a publicly funded body like ACSEF to forward a scheme favoured by its private sector members and also to expect the city to endorse its recommendations is unclear.

Sir Ian Wood, signatory on the ACGT letter, apparently had no official connection to ACGT (Companies House lists three directors of this trust). There seems to have been no tendering process for the ACGT to be handed a management role over the garden project uncontested and unelected.

If Ian Wood had influence over the ACGT as the letter indicates, as well as influence over the project via the Wood Family Trust, his influence over the project arguably would have outweighed that of the council. 

Remembering that the land in question is common good land, not to be changed in usage per its ancient grant, the thin edge of the web towards privatisation is a worrying precedent.

The contents of these letters raise serious questions about the continued future of ACSEF, and the genesis and advancement of the Aberdeen City Gardens Trust as the proposed management body/special purpose vehicle for the scheme. Aberdeen City Council should reappraise ACSEF’s future, and at least ensure that ACSEF is not dictating policy going forward.

The most concerning issue emerging from these letters, however, is how the First Minister and his cabinet members were lobbied successfully and elevated a scheme from an Aberdeen billionaire above more fiscally credible schemes from other parts of Scotland.

Aberdeen Voice is pleased to offer readers the opportunity to read these letters, giving an important insight into this recent chapter of local history. While the Granite Web is truly consigned to the dustbin, the actions of those in positions of power who tried to foist the scheme on the public are still very much with us.

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Oct 182012
 

By Mike Shepherd.

The City Garden Project is effectively dead and although Sir Ian Wood has left his offer of £50 million investment on the table for another year, his project is now unlikely to go ahead.

The final blow came with the publication of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request that showed that politicians in the Scottish government had tampered with the rankings of TIF (Tax Increment Funding) applications made by Scottish councils.

The Aberdeen TIF was ranked a lowly tenth out of sixteen, but was then moved into the top six – a placing that would qualify the project for government sanction.

This furtive move has finally destroyed whatever credibility was left for the City Garden as a TIF project and the FOI documents also reveal the Aberdeen business case as dubious.

So, while it is unlikely that there will be any future attempt to bulldoze through a City Garden Project TIF, if there is, it will be shouted down as foul play.

Additionally, councils elsewhere in Scotland are hacked off with the Scottish government as the TIF ranking process was supposed to be objective – as befits a process allocating multi-million pound infrastructure spending in Scotland – but wasn’t.

The message is clear – Union Terrace Gardens have been saved!

There is an unreal air about this as I’m not sure many people really believe that the park has survived, yet it has.  There are several factors that have led to a lack of belief, let alone euphoria, on the issue.

The relentless juggernaut of the City Garden Project has been rolling for almost four years, supported by the rich and powerful, together with local and national governments and the Aberdeen press.  So the fact that it appears to have just ‘evaporated’ overnight seems incredible, but that’s exactly what has happened.

The August 22nd council vote rejected the City Garden Project and the current council administration are determined to stick to the decision.

This is the power of participative democracy in action.  An interest group tried to boss through the project by all means possible and met up with the checks and balances of a democracy that we should all be extremely thankful for.

We now move forward with a future for Union Terrace Gardens. The status quo is not an option.

The Gardens need tender loving care to restore them to their former glory and to get them back to a fully functioning park.  It won’t take much to kick this off, but it does need to be done.

This was the theme at the AGM of the Friends of Union Terrace Gardens held in the Belmont Cinema last Saturday.

The AGM marked a pivotal moment for the Friends group as it signifies the transition from a campaign phase to one where we can adopt a protective and proactive role for Union Terrace Gardens.  This role will be similar to that adopted by the Friends of Duthie Park in which the council manage the day to day running of Duthie Park while the Friends act to raise funds – they have raised several million pounds – and make improvements to the park.

In my last speech as chairman I announced that we have been asked by the council administration to make a proposal outlining what we would like to see happen in the park.  This would be much more than a wish list.  We would intend the programme to advise on the improvements and features that the park needs, together with indicative costs and a strategy for fund raising.

We held a general discussion amongst our membership as to what they thought was needed to improve the park and, unsurprisingly, better toilets and easier access came top of the list with everything else being open to further discussion.

I did not stand for re-election as Chair as I felt that someone with a less divisive reputation needs to take the group forward in its new role.  I also need a break, as the past few years have been somewhat hectic, although I will stay on the committee.

We have a new chairwoman, Robin McIntosh, who is the perfect choice as she is an expert on facilitation skills.  Skills that she will get the chance to use to best advantage before long.

In her closing message at the AGM Robin said:

“We want to make it clear that the future of the Gardens is in the community’s hands, that the decisions we are going to make will be to please the people.  These are exciting times for Friends of UTG and I am looking forward to a year of progress; big and small.  The city centre’s green heart deserves to be loved and used, and we are going to help to do this.”

The people of Aberdeen have saved Union Terrace Gardens.  This is only the beginning.  We can now go forward and restore our park to its full glory.  A park that is the pride of Aberdeen!

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Sep 262012
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s event’s in the ‘Deen and beyond in her quest to expose the uncovered even at risk of getting under the skin. By Suzanne Kelly. 

Footdee was transformed into an Ibiza foam party this week. Trees and bits of tree were trashed by the wind. Old Susannah wonders how those 89,000 trees planted on Tullos hill are doing.

They may be too small to be toppled by the wind just yet, but that was exactly the kind of weather that will be strong enough to knock them over in a few years’ time. The soil matrix is poor, according to the Forestry Commission’s soil report.

Thankfully it doesn’t rain or get windy in Aberdeen very often, so I’m sure the trees won’t have any problem at all.

The gusts this week knocked over trees and battered cars, but fear not, they weren’t severe enough to spoil Aileen Malone’s hairstyle, which was fetchingly lacquered in place.

Last Saturday she was adding glamour to the 45-minute demo, in a fetching off-white suit. I’d have thought she’d be in a hunting outfit.

They say that ‘size isn’t everything’ and that ‘length doesn’t matter’. Clearly the few at Saturday’s protest against Aberdeen City Council concurred. There were around 70 (I’m being generous) people protesting against Aberdeen City Council for 45 minutes.

You might have thought it was an outdoor rave: ex-councillor Kate Dean was trendily dressed in fetching leggings and a Cove Bay Rangers supporters’ top. I guess this further illustrates that she has no ties to the club which might have remotely prejudiced her handling of the Loirston Loch planning hearing.

Financially or otherwise, someone who might be biased towards one side or another of a hearing isn’t supposed to be the convener, as previously detailed. Anyway, Old Susannah showed up to watch the demo, with a friend and a doggie, and had a chat to some media acquaintances. They were most amused that they’d shown up in the middle of a weekend to cover a demo supposedly by four or five hundred, to find instead between sixty to eighty people, including infants and toddlers.

I learnt a few new vocabulary words from some of these hacked off hacks, but best we don’t define those.

Aileen Malone, councillor, protesting against the council.  Hmm.  Presumably she was protesting against the amiable Martin Greig, Lib Dem, who voted against borrowing £90 million or so for granite walkways. It will be interesting to find out how this move by HoMalone will be viewed by her current party members and by other sitting councillors.  And we shall.

Tom Smith wrote a heart-wrenching, or perhaps ‘stomach-wrenching’, letter to the P&J in response to a letter by one Dr. Howard Gemmell.  Dr Gemmell was disappointed that the city has been split over the UTG situation, and the lack of Wood’s/ACSEF’s willingness to compromise.

There are some absolutely charming comments on the petition which Wood might enjoy

Smith doesn’t seem to agree that there was unwillingness to compromise. I guess he missed all of Sir Ian’s statements to the effect that it was his way or no way, it was the Web or nothing, and if he couldn’t have his Web he’d send the £50 million to help Africans.

Old Susannah started a petition, now with about 175 signatories, asking Wood to honour his February pledge and send the money to do good in Africa instead of getting rid of the city’s lungs.  There are some absolutely charming comments on the petition which Wood might enjoy; it can be found at http://www.gopetition.com/sir-ian-send-your-50m-to-africa

Smith goes on to say ‘there is no strident political campaign by business or Aberdeen City Garden Trust.’  So before getting on to this week’s themes, here is one non-related definition first:

Strident: (Eng. adjective) Characterised by harsh, loud, aggressive noise or commotion.

ACSEF?  Aberdeen City Gardens Trust?  Big Partnership and 300-plus radio adverts?  The letter signed by a hundred businessmen complaining that without a Web we’re doomed?  Strident, these guys?  Never!  I’ve never seen a more refined, elegant polite request to hand control of public, Common Good land over to a private company before.

A member of the royal family playing games in the nude.  A member of the royal family sunbathing in private.  Another royal, Lady Gaga, accused of being ‘fat’.  The naked rambler’s naked ambition.  Kylie’s bottom, again.  A host of issues have made the nude, sorry, news this week.  Here are some relevant definitions to get to the bottom of things.

Right to Privacy: (mod. Eng.; law) The right of an individual not to endure surveillance, be harassed, photographed, recorded, etcetera, as guaranteed by EU Human Rights law, unless there is a legal reason or a journalistic need to expose truth in the public interest.

Apparently, Individuals’ right to privacy is guaranteed in the European Convention on Human Rights.  Journalists however are able to collect and reveal information if it is in the public interest to do so. Smash criminal gangs? Expose illegal activities? These are the kind of things the old-fashioned investigative reporter used to get up to.

But why risk danger, spend ages researching topics, and wind up with a story buried deep in a newspaper if it’s printed at all? After all, not all papers are interested in exposing truths. I wish I could think of an example or two of this.. All you need is a long, long telephoto lens, a decent camera, some recording equipment, and you’ll be in the tabloids earning lots of dosh with little effort. Result.

A newspaper can print a story if it has not been illegally obtained, and if it is definitely in the public interest to print it. This obviously means we need nude photos of the royal family. What could be more in the public interest than that? Perhaps a certain young man was foolish in the extreme to have had a wild US holiday captured in snapshots.

It’s a pity there weren’t any older, wiser professional people around him to stop photos being taken without spoiling the fun, or at least to ensure that the young man was fully aware of the consequences.  If there had been any such experienced, sober professionals around, this particular upset could easily have been avoided. Good on the Sun for printing the photos.

It’s not as if the Sun is in any way an opportunistic paper that will do anything for money.  Beloved of those caught up in Hillsborough, and celebrities and politicians who may have been hacked, thank goodness we’ve got the Sun.

However, a female member of the Royal family was sunbathing at a private French chateau when she was photographed topless. Who could I be referring to? She was photographed by someone with a long lens who was apparently standing nearly half a mile away. She had a reasonable expectation of privacy, and it was taken away from her. Result!  More public interest photos!

Whether or not you are a fan of the royal family, celebrities, sports people, politicians, all these groups of people are contributing by helping our kindly, intrepid newshounds to make a dignified living.  But the stories wouldn’t be as much fun without photos…

Paparazzi(Italian, plural noun) Packs of journalists and photographers who follow famous people around, looking for photo opportunities and stories to sell to tabloids and cheap magazines.

The paparazzi have done a great job so far, and they couldn’t keep it up without people buying magazines.

Whether it’s a drunk singer getting out of a car showing underwear or skin, whether it’s an ageing Peter Falk aka Colombo in California being literally chased by a pack of news hounds (the poor man was old; he was upset and confused when cornered and photographed), or a celebrity’s child going to school, all are fair game for the paparazzi.

After all, everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame, or so I am told, and ‘all publicity is good publicity’. The famous should be grateful that the ever-attentive photographers trail their every move, spying on them, their family and friends.

If you’re famous enough, your accidental death may likewise get a good set of photographers recording it. You’ll be most grateful I’m sure. Old Susannah thought that there was a law and a code or two stopping the exploitation and hounding of celebrities, but apparently there aren’t.

So, keep on buying those mags. Find out who’s been seen cheating on whom, who got drunk, what colour underwear they had on. Most importantly, keep buying these worthy news periodicals to find out crucial things like who looks too fat or too skinny.

Body Image(Mod. Eng. psychological term) The mental picture we have of what we look like to ourselves and the rest of the world.

Anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders were once a comparative rarity confined to teenage girls. However, people of all sexes and ages are suffering these days in increasing numbers.  The problem? Who knows. It’s certainly nothing to do with paparazzi and the celebrity mag. It is mere coincidence that any star in a bikini or ‘revealing outfit’ is immediately deemed to be too thin or more likely too fat by the press.

For one thing, the camera adds ten pounds to us all, or at least that’s my excuse. For another, we’re saturated in images of people who are close to physical perfection, because they’ve been airbrushed. Somehow, when someone doesn’t look quite as tall and thin in real life as in their movie poster, the press is free to speculate whether they have ‘cellulite’.  And ageing is definitely a no-no. Botox to that.

There is obviously no link between the media obsessing over every inch of a celeb’s body and other people wondering if they are beautiful or not. Any link between people binge eating or starving themselves has nothing to do with this tiny societal pressure to be perfect.

Lady Gaga, it is being claimed, has no right to any privacy. So her ex pa claims in a New York law suit. I think Gaga might beg to differ. She has recently posed in a bikini as a response to people saying she’d got fat. As a teenager she suffered eating disorders.

It is almost as if she thinks her music is somehow more important than what she looks like. But here’s the thing: just because someone poses for a photo when there is a photo call or an event on, does it mean they should be photographed in their private time? Of course it does!

Thankfully girls have many positive role models. There is Jordan for instance. Buying quantities of silicone, taking your clothes off, and having a ghost writer are what we want our young girls aspire to.

Exposure: (Eng; crime) exposing oneself wilfully, for instance to young children or in public.

In Aberdeen, a man was spared jail this week. He continues to go out in public and expose himself to young children. What a freedom fighter! Just like our friend, the Naked Rambler.

You might think Old Susannah would rush to defend the Naked Rambler’s right to be naked wherever and whenever he wants. Absolutely!

The thing is, other people’s rights not to be disturbed by the Rambler exposing himself aren’t as important as his right to be naked. He was recently asked to stay clear of a children’s play area when he was naked. He refused. What a hero!

There is a silly old saying ‘your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins’. Surely this doesn’t apply to our naked freedom fighter. So what if something like one in five women can expect to have some kind of sexual assault in their lifetime? Why shouldn’t this nude guy be free to make people wary of a potential attack? Why should anyone have the right to keep their child from seeing him?

An American criminal legal professional I know brought up the subject of crime and nudity once, it was one of those conversations. She said that in her years of court experience there were usually only two reasons a man shows up naked somewhere: one is because they intend a sexual assault; the other is because they are going to kill someone and don’t want to get blood on their clothes. But let’s just let everyone go around naked, shall we? How can that lead to any intimidation or discomfort?

Sadly, we don’t live in an innocent, nice world any more. Some say we never did. By the way, the Naked Rambler has two children by one of his ex-partners. She asked him to keep his clothes on to visit his young children and he refused point blank. Now that’s truly heroic, sacrificing your children’s right to a father so that you can get naked.

Confidential to ‘Forgetful of Bucksburn’:  Sorry you forgot about all the charming posts you put on Facebook extolling the various good points of the EDL. If you need any reminders of what you wrote, just let Old Susannah know. I’ve got screenshots saved and backed up, and I’ll be  happy to refresh your memory.

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Sep 212012
 

By Dave Black. 

In November 2010 the Aberdeen-based oil and energy company Wood Group signed a contract with Dorad Energy to build a natural gas power station in Ashkelon, Israel.
This contract is worth approximately £563 million and the 800-megawatt power station will produce 8% of Israel’s electricity in the near future.

New gas fields have been discovered within Israel’s off-shore area and Wood Group is intending to expand its operations. Shlomo Cohen, the Group’s Israel manager last year stated that:

“The company considers this project as a cornerstone for extensive operations in Israel”.

On numerous occasions Wood Group has been given the opportunity to clarify whether or not the new Ashkelon power plant will supply electricity to illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It has refused to do so, even when asked by a local MP. However it has stated that it is

“…safe to say that Wood Group does business in a number of parts of the world where there are distressing conflicts which cause hardship and inequity”. 

Israel’s occupation of the West Bank has been ongoing since 1967, noted as the longest occupation in modern history.  This occupation has seen mass government-backed Jewish settlement building in the area, in clear contravention of the Geneva Conventions. Settlement building was also deemed unlawful by the International Court of Justice in 2004.

Despite the flagrant breach of international law, and the consistent Palestinian position that settlement building in the West Bank is a critical barrier to any peace agreement, Israel continues its policy unabashed and unpunished.  The United States continues to fund Israel to the sum of $3 billion a year and the European Union fails to tear up its trade agreement with Israel, whilst paying lip service to the language of human rights, democracy and justice.

However, although still very small, there have been increasing signs of discontent with Israel’s ongoing occupation and settlement building.  For example, this month the Co-operative, the UK’s fifth largest supermarket, built on its previous policy of refusing to stock goods produced in Israeli settlements, and has ended all trade with companies such as Agrexco who carry out part of their agricultural production in these colonies.

Early Day Motion 2717, raised at Westminster earlier this year, may be also relevant to the Wood Group’s activities.  The EDM is entitled “Proposed EU Legislation on Financing of Illegal Activity in the West Bank” and welcomes the findings of a recent EU report following visits to Jerusalem and Ramallah last year.  The motion ends by calling for:

“economic operators aiding and abetting the building, maintenance or servicing of illegal Israeli settlements [to] be excluded from public contracts in the EU”

 To date the motion has 77 signatories.

Take action

Write to your MP, ask them to sign up to EDM 2717 if they haven’t already, and request that they write to Wood Group to clarify its position on potential fuelling of illegal Israeli settlements.

Write to Wood Group and ask that it takes heed of Palestinian civil society’s call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel.  Read more about the BDS campaign here

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Sep 072012
 

Voice’s Old Susannah looks at events over yet another vibrant and dynamic week in the ‘Deen. By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho!  I hope everyone’s had another exciting week in  Aberdeen.

The Science Festival has kicked off, attracting visitors, scientists and lecturers from around the world.
It is most kind of them to visit Aberdeen– we have a garden that’s not at street level and we don’t have a web – we should be most grateful to them.

We should be grateful to BP as well, which is investing £100 million in the area.

Old Susannah discovered beer cocktails at BrewDog this past week.  They are gorgeous, and very enjoyable in these trying times.

I am amazed BrewDog chose to open its brilliant bar and factory in our area when we didn’t go for the granite web.  It’s almost as if the gardens were not a factor in their plans.

The more cynical among us wonder:  Would businesses really prefer operating here if we were £92 million in debt and had a giant city centre construction zone for at least a year?  If you listen to the SNP, some LibDems (funny, HoMalone doesn’t seem to be the charismatic leader we all thought she was) and ACSEF, then the answer is yes.

The petition to ask Sir Ian to spend his wealth to Africa instead of the web is now one week old.  Please do visit, read, and hopefully sign at www.gopetition.com/sir-ian-send-your-£50M-to-africa-as-promised   No doubt the mainstream press will take the story of this petition up any day now.  After all, our local papers wrote about the MASS demonstration planned by pro CGP activists when the figure was around 200.  Guess the Wood petition is about to be massive, too.

And massive and genuine thanks to Lush shops throughout Scotland; last weekend they raised hundreds of pounds to benefit Willows Animal Sanctuary.

Finally, Morris the Monkey has a new pal in Si the Seagull, new mascot for AFC.  Word has it that the fans are not necessarily impressed by this development, but I’ll wait and hear what Si himself has to say when he starts working for BiG and promoting the web.

On with a few definitions.

Union Terrace Effect: (modern English phrase, attributed to F. Wilkinson) – scheme in which powers that be allow a building, park or structure to decay deliberately, until such time as there is an outcry for a new replacement to be built- which is what the desired outcome was to begin with. 

Old Susannah heard this term recently, but can’t think of a single historic building, museum, school, terrace gardens or Tullos Hill that would fit this definition of something left to rot so it could be sold off / developed.  If I think of anything, I will let you know.

The Itemiser: (mod Eng noun) a portable particle scanner which can detect microscopic traces of a variety of substances.

We will all be safer soon!  Result!

traces of the drug (cocaine) can be found on any bank note

First, we are considering building a giant ‘state of the art’  prison soon – yet another construction job coming our way!  Secondly, the police now have a portable scanner which can find particles on a microscopic level of things like cannabis (!) and hard drugs.

They plan to go from bar to bar and search people here and there, for traces of drugs.  Anyone who’s been in contact with these substances (except for politicians, the wealthy, successful creative types, celebrities, etc) will be thrown in jail – where tons more drugs and interesting career training opportunities will freely available.

There is just one flaw in this cunning plan of searching citizens for microscopic evidence of crime, and that is this little fact:  90%+ of all paper money in circulation in the United Kingdom has traces of cocaine and/or heroin on it.

Old Susannah can’t begin to imagine how or why that should be – but next time you buy something in a bar, use coins rather than folding money – or it might just be off to jail with you.

The Daily Mail was one of the many news media that reported the presence of drugs on currency; it wrote:-

“A senior analyst at the FSS, the largest provider of forensic services in the UK on behalf of police forces, says traces of the drug (cocaine) can be found on any bank note regardless of its geographical location.

It takes just two weeks for a new note to pick up the drug… “

Read more: http://www.dailymail/Every-British-bank-note-contaminated

So to sum up, anyone with traces of drugs on them is either:  a)  a drug fiend who should be locked up, and/or b)  someone who has £5, £10, £20 or £50 pound notes on them.  We will all be safer if these types are all locked up.

If anyone’s worried about any bothersome civil rights issues over this type of presumed guilt / mandatory search, infringement of freedom, they could always organise a protest.

Witty Kevin Stewart is making a stir once again.

Except that Gordon McIntosh is proposing to the Council that we get rid of such things as protests, or at best only allow them in the Castlegate, where any crowds can easily be kettled.  Thanks, Gordon.

Anyone suggesting his latest report (which also recommends charging groups for holding events in parks as well as banning protests) is over-stepping his remit will be locked up.

King Midas: (ancient Greek mythological figure).  Midas was magically transformed so that everything he touched turned to gold.

Witty Kevin Stewart is making a stir once again.  Back in the day, he told the people in care homes, schools, Choices, etc. that we all had to be ‘reasonable’.  Then he cut their services off and closed their schools.

ACSEF was of course allowed to flourish, city real estate was sold at bargain basement prices, and we wrote off millions of pounds in bad debts.  Reasonable indeed.

Kevin had a wonderfully clever sound bite this week, aimed at Aberdeen City Council’s web-rejecters.  For the benefit of those who have stopped reading it, the P&J wrote:

“MSP Kevin Stewart claimed the administration had an “inverse Midas touch” hindering future private investment in the city.”

As mentioned before, I guess someone forgot to tell BrewDog, BP and a host of other businesses about the hindering future private investment in the city.  But as painful as it is to correct him, I feel I must remind Kev the moral of the Midas story.

King Midas was not a bad man per se; but he loved wealth and lived for gold.  So far, so good – if you’re an ACSEF member.

Kevin Stewart forgot part of the legend when making his brilliant comment

As a reward for his kindness to a Satyr, he was granted a wish – he wished that everything he touched would turn to gold.  At first very happy to be surrounded by his new wealth, Midas soon learnt that he could not eat, as his food turned to gold.  Then he touched his daughter, and she turned to gold as well.

Kevin Stewart forgot part of the legend when making his brilliant comment.  Midas realised his folly in thinking gold and wealth was more important than the environment, living creatures and of course his own daughter.

Midas was cured of his lust for gold, and once cured of the Midas Touch too, he retired to the countryside to enjoy nature. It was almost as if something in life was more important than wealth creation.  Ultimately, the moral of the Midas tale is that the environment and people are more important than gold.  How backward-looking is that?

I’m sure that this ending of the story would horrify our average Chamber of Commerce member, who would gladly have brought their golden daughter to a pawn shop to flog as scrap metal.

In an uncharacteristic slip, neither Kevin nor our local press found time to mention that Kev was on the City Gardens Project Management Board when writing about Labour having the Midas touch in reverse.

Some people might think his connection to the project is relevant to his attack on Labour, but that would just be jumping to the conclusion that a person on a board of a project would want the project to go ahead.   (And that would be as silly as assuming someone in a football supporter’s club might be biased towards the football team).

You might expect this service-axing champion of the people to advise fiscal restraint now until we truly got on our feet again.  You might even think he’d advise restoring some services ahead of web weaving.

No, Kev would prefer us to borrow £92 million on this real estate speculation which he supported as a board member.  (Note – I suppose I should just call it ‘TIF Funding’ like the professional reporters do; if you call it ‘funding’ rather than a ‘loan’, it sounds better and safer, doesn’t it?)

Amnesia: (noun; medical term) forgetfulness; loss of memory.

Isolated pockets of amnesia have hit our business community, press and government.

these ‘industry chiefs’ and our press forgot how rosy things looked earlier this year in a moment of mass forgetfulness.

Kevin forgot to flag up his direct involvement in the CGP project when he criticised Labour for cutting the web.  We’re told by ACSEF, pro CGP politicians, the Evening Express and the Press & Journal that the future is all gloom and doom, and no businesses will come here without the web.

They say we’re ‘closed for business’, we’re ‘frightened’, we’re ‘embarrassing’.  (It’s not that we’re being environmentally-friendly, economically prudent or aesthetically intelligent – no, we’re in the wrong if we don’t want the golden web).

And yet as recently as February of this year things looked so much better.  This is what the Press & Journal had to say back then:-

“Aberdeen is in prime position to help drag the UK economy out of recession, experts revealed today.

“The city has more start-up businesses than anywhere else in Scotland and will suffer fewer public sector job losses than anywhere else in Britain, says a new report.

“Aberdeen was named as one of five cities which Cities Outlook 2012 said was well-placed to aid recovery from the current economic gloom.

“Last night industry chiefs said the Granite City was an ideal location for new firms to flourish.”

I guess that is only true if we have a web though.  Either that or these ‘industry chiefs’ and our press forgot how rosy things looked earlier this year in a moment of mass forgetfulness.

We’re also being told by the guardians of accuracy, PriceWaterhouse Cooper that we need to attract 122,000 people to work in Aberdeen’s energy sector in the next ten years.  Funny, the £71,000+  they earned from web-related consultancy doesn’t get much of a press mention either – yet more amnesia, I think.

So amnesia-wise – Kevin and the press forgot to mention his involvement with the CGP when he attacked Labour; PwC forgot to mention in the press the money it made over the web so far when supporting it, and the media forgot its reports earlier this year as to what a great future Aberdeen has.

Do I think these people and institutions are possibly dishonest, scheming, colluding, corrupt or greedy?  Certainly not – I just think they have selective amnesia.

Additionally, BrewDog and BP forgot that the city cannot survive without the Granite Web when they committed to the area.  Yes, amnesia is at epidemic proportions.

And there we shall leave it until next week.

PS  very best wishes to Declan Michael Laird for his film premier; have a great time tomorrow night and a good trip back to LA. 

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Aug 312012
 

Voice’s Old Susannah looks at events over the the last week … and once again, what a week it’s been in the ‘Deen. By Suzanne Kelly.

Vibrant and dynamic adjectives are being used to describe the Labour, Lib Dems and Independents who voted against the beloved web.

Conspiracy theorists say that these ungrateful refusenicks have brought civilisation to an end, even that they secretly scheme to bring the monolith design for the gardens back.

Such villainy!  It is hard to believe that some LibDems were not swayed by the powerful, intellectual charismatic persuasion powers of Aileen Malone.  But they weren’t.

Old Susannah failed to make it to the 28 August Housing & Environment Committee; alas I missed the debate on the deer.

Pete Leonard’s reports on the tree for every citizen and deer cull say the whole thing is ( a) finished, and ( b) a success.  Result!  Funny how something can look like a ‘cost-neutral’, complete success to someone, and yet seem like a shambolic, environmentally unsound, unwanted, exorbitant, barbaric disaster to the rest of us.

As I wasn’t there, I missed the chance to see former Convener Aileen Malone show up to defend her scheme and those who implemented it for her; I’m sure her speech to the new H&E Committee was as moving as her speech during the Union Terrace Gardens debate.

On that occasion she said how important it was for councillors to listen to the people.

During the deer cull she embodied this tenet by ‘accidentally’ deleting emails protesting the cull, ignoring 3 community councils which implored her to stop the cull, and taking delivery of a 2,500 signature petition against the cull.

Oh, HoMalone listened all right. She just chose not to pay any attention to what she heard.  I say that I missed her defence of the scheme at the H&E Committee – but even though I was not there, she – being a person of honour and principle must have put in an appearance rather than leaving Leonard hung out to dry.

Any shirking would have been cowardly and an admission of ineptitude.

We will be toasting Neil Cooney with several brewdogs; he has said there will be no further culls simply to plant trees.  Perhaps he will be able to resurrect the scheme of keeping Tullos Hill meadow as, er, a meadow, even if Pete Leonard says that is more expensive than trees, tree guards, deer fencing, mechanical diggers, gorse stripping, and pesticide spraying for a few years.

I guess Pete and I went to different accounting lessons.

we have to deal with an awful lot of garbage here in Aberdeen

The dust is not settling very well on the granite web, which has been toppled.  What a shame.  Rather than us having shiny walkways in the sky to enjoy rain, snow or shine, to walk up and down on, to fall off, it looked for a moment as if all that lovely £50 million was going to be wasted helping people in Africa.

To put things in perspective, we have to deal with an awful lot of garbage here in Aberdeen:  vacant and decaying properties acting as beacons for arsonists; closed shops, litter that never gets cleared, social problems and services slashed by the previous administration.

The relatively simpler problems which pose minor irritations in Africa include famine, infant mortality from disease and hunger; kidnapped children beaten into soldiers, civil wars, a plague of AIDS, illiteracy and so on.

When I learnt the web was not going to be built, I remembered Sir Ian’s words as told to the Press & Journal:

“Sir Ian Wood said last night that projects in Africa would benefit from the £50million he has offered toAberdeen– should the City Garden Project be rejected” – Press & Journal, 11/02/2012

How wonderful!  I wondered if there was going to be an African granite web, perhaps with some fir tree bosque and underground parking – that would cheer the starving multitude a little.  But like the web, this promise seemed almost too good to be true.

But then something unforeseen happened – something which has never happened before:  Sir Ian changed his mind.

No – Sir Ian is going to leave the money on the table for a year in Aberdeen.  Fine.  It’s his money (if he actually has all this in liquid assets he is a lucky man indeed).  Perhaps it’s time to turn to the dictionary for some assistance with the relevant issues.

Life Expectancy: (compound noun; English) – Statistical figure showing the mean for a group of people or living things to determine the typical time span from birth until death.

Old Susannah wondered which group of people needed £50,000,000 more – Aberdonians to turn their only city centre (common good land) garden into a giant web with an outdoor theatre next to a theatre?  Or Africans for food, shelter, education and healthcare.

Just for the record, the UK’s average life expectancy is about 80.5 years.  If, however,  you are in parts of Africa, this can be slightly lower – say about  56.5 years if you’re born in Niger,  50.6 years in Chad, 46.2 in Rwanda and give or take a few days you get 43.5 years to live if you’re born in Zimbabwe. Figures are not available yet on the life-extending benefits of granite webs.

We live longer in the West; that’s why we need more places to shop and more theatres to entertain us.

A town of Aberdeen’s size and stature can hardly be expected to get by with a Music Hall, an AECC, a HMT, a Lemon Tree and a dozen private music venues (plus concerts now and then at Pittodrie) – no, we need to build an outdoor theatre in front of HMT while we subsidise the operation of the other publicly-owned theatres.  Simples.

On the other hand, if you are likely to be killed in some form of tribal gun battle, die in childbirth, or die as either a starving infant or a child soldier, you don’t really need as many different diversions for your leisure time.

So, in a year Sir Ian may send his £50 million to Africa, if Aberdeen hasn’t begged him to put up the web, repenting of last week’s decision to just fix what we have for less than the £140 million web. Africa will just have to wait and see.  And if a few million people have an extra year of hardships, then so be it.

Petition: (Eng.verb) to entreat, often formally with writing and backing of others, for a desired outcome.

I can’t help but notice how many different petitions have been started since the City cruelly turned down the chance to borrow £92,000,000 to build a bosque and a sensory hippy trail thingy (no, I don’t get it either – ask Paul at Gray’s  School of Art).

There are petitions demanding Labour resign, petitions denouncing Barney Crockett and others, petitions saying the granite web was the marvel of the age.  Even Kevin Stewart, last seen explaining why our vulnerable and disabled had to suffer services cuts, has come out of the woodwork and made a very clever motion in the Scottish Parliament.

I was involved in petitions to save the Tullos deer and save Union Terrace Gardens.  This confused some people who called me a tree-hugger, and were baffled that  I didn’t want 89,000 trees on Tullos Hill if it meant destroying what was already there.

But now I have a new petition.  Do have a look, and if you agree, please feel free to sign and to share.
petitions/sir-ian-wood-send-your-£50-million-to-africa

Dummies:

Dummies are being used to guard parking spaces in Old Meldrum; evidence suggests this scheme probably originated in the higher levels of ACC management.

The dummies are thought to be on secondment at the highest levels of the Housing Directorate.  I am asked to point out that any resemblance between the dummies in Oldmeldrum and any former city councillors is purely coincidental.  And obvious.

Next week:  more definitions.

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Aug 312012
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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