Apr 222011

By John Sangster.

I recently paid a visit to my local council to hand in a form for a Blue Badge. A Blue Badge is the notice you put on your windscreen if you are disabled and can therefore park for free, close to the shops and other amenities.
I am very active in my community, and I chair the Inverurie Community Council, recently chaired The Garioch Area Partnership and played an active role in setting up the Aberdeenshire Rural Partnerships Federation.

At some places I have arrived for a meeting only to find there is nowhere to park, and once I ended up about half a mile away, so a Blue Badge would be ideal.

I should describe my disability. I suffered from polio when I was a baby.  Polio is a muscle-wasting disease which has left me with a left leg with no muscle which is also over an inch shorter that the right one. Let’s just say I stick out in a crowd and you can see me coming.

I had filled in my form for the badge and went to the council headquarters to hand it in; this is an account of what happened, I handed in the form and the man said:-

“Thank you very much; we’ll get that off to your doctor.”

“Why do you need to send it to my doctor?” I asked

“Because we have to ascertain if what you said on the form is what you are actually suffering from.”

“But I’m standing in front of you, you just watched me come up the stairs to get here”, I replied.

“Yes, but you have to go through the system, we can’t just hand out badges to anybody, thank very much we’ll be in touch.”

So off I went home, only to be phoned later in the day, and a man asked:

“You put on your form that you use the Inverurie Medical Practice, but you haven’t put the name of your doctor.”

“I didn’t know I had a doctor, it’s a practice I just use one that I can get” I answered.

“No” he said, “you need a doctor’s name or we cannot process your claim.”

So I jumped in my car, went down to the Health Centre and was told that the doctor I had registered with had died 9 years ago, and I was now registered with a Dr Allan. I returned home and phoned the council and told the man my doctor at Inverurie was Dr Allan.

The man at the council asked me:

“What’s his first name?”

After I picked myself off the floor, I just told him:


.…and the man responded with:

“Thank you, we’ll be in touch.”

On Tuesday morning I was phoned by Dr Allan who had some questions; he had received the form although he pointed out the Council had sent it to Vic Allan, when his name was in fact Robert, but I digress. He had some questions:-

Q 1:   ‘Am I in pain when I walk?’  I answered “No, if I was I’d go to the doctor.”

Q 2:  ‘How far can you walk without feeling tired?’  I answered “It depends how tired I am when I start.”

Q 3:   ‘Can you walk further than 100 metres?’  I answered “Yes, but what’s that got to do with anything?”

I realised that these were in fact “loaded questions” and were designed to get me to withdraw my claim there and then. If I was in pain and could only walk a few metres, I may get a badge – but then if I was, I’d probably be in hospital and a badge would be no use to me, another one off the list – target achieved.

The truth is that a blind person would have ascertained that I am disabled, they would have said to me:

“you have one leg shorter than the other, I can tell by the vibrations.”

the sick and disabled don’t really matter as long as we give them a few hand-outs now and then

The Tory Government is beginning its purge on the sick and disabled, urged on by the land owners and other assorted Tory toffs in rural England.  The Government is proposing alterations and cuts to two of the most important benefits available to the sick and disabled, The Employment Support Allowance, (ESA) and the Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

The Department of Work and Pensions has given each Job Centre in the country a target, the object being to get as many people off the lists as possible.

For example, a friend of mine knows of a case in England where a  person with a  thalidomide related disabilty, having no arms or legs and who relies on a wheelchair to go anywhere, has had their disabled parking right removed.

The government have scrapped the DLA and replaced it with The Personal Independence Payment, (PIP), made up of two components, The Daily Living and The Mobility Component:  it is the former that we must resist. Under the new mobility component, the meaning of disability has been changed; for example, under the current DLA rules someone in a wheelchair is considered disabled, under the new rules this may be amended if you use a wheelchair but can leave the house, then under the planned changes you do not qualify as being disabled.

We could sit for a long time and not make up anything like this. It is draconian, it is brutal and it smacks of Thatcherism. We as a nation seem to be still worshipping at the altar of Margaret Thatcher with her notion that the free market economy is all that matters and that the sick and disabled don’t really matter as long as we give them a few hand-outs now and then.

Private consultation firms are now processing claims; these firms are only paid on a target-based system whereby they earn more if they reject people’s claims for benefit. You won’t find any of this in the news programmes, nor will you find it any of the Scottish election drivel that comes in your letter box daily. It is a “sweep under the carpet” subject that the politicians don’t want to talk about. It is being put forward by the Tories and their willing lackeys, The Liberal Democrats.

Coalition? What coalition?  They’re all Tories as far as I can see – shame on the lot of them.


Photography credit – disabled parking, © Graksi | Dreamstime.com

Oct 012010

By John Sangster.

Well, here we are into the autumn of 2010. The general election is becoming a distant memory and the Scottish elections are homing into view. No doubt we will soon be getting bombarded with the usual plethora of promises as the political parties vie for our vote. It will be “we’ll give you this” and “we’ll give you that” and if “they give you this and that, we’ll give you this, that and something else that we’ll think of nearer the election”.

I am waiting for the ultimate political promise where one party will guarantee reincarnation after death, this being a particularly good one as there’s no way of proving otherwise.

The party manifesto that they spout out during the campaign is the thing that nobody reads – mainly because the parties have the nerve to charge us for it.  During the last election I asked the Labour and Tory candidates in Gordon for a manifesto and was told “I don’t carry them with me when I’m campaigning but, if you go into any party office in Aberdeen, they’ll sell you one”.  The problem is that all these promises can never be kept as there are so many of them in one document that it would take decades to fulfil them all.

I seem to remember in the nineteen eighties that all Aberdeen’s political parties were promising to make Aberdeen the greatest city in the world, the pavements were paved with gold, the oil was overflowing and The Dons were winning everything. If you fast forward to the last Scottish election, the political parties were promising to clean up Aberdeen, to wash the pavements, to make contingency plans after the oil runs out and the Dons were winning absolutely nothing. What went wrong? Answers on a postcard please.

a bus station where, in the winter, passengers have to stand in the blizzard to see if the bus is coming

My own guess is that the standard of politician in this country has plummeted and our towns and cities are no longer run by people with principles who genuinely want to make a difference. As Tony Benn so eloquently put it “We are no longer being governed, we are being managed”.

Today’s politician doesn’t speak to the people anymore, they consult with spivs and speculators and money people whose only interest in the city is where their next buck is coming from.

Aberdeen has many examples from the eighties onwards : the shopping malls , (put there by apparently blind planners) the fact that Union Street was never pedestrianised, and the assorted plans to cover areas all over the city. One plan after another brought to us by useless politicians who now use taxpayers’ time to exchange juvenile insults with each other.

The major building crime of the century as far as city planning goes is Union Square and the new bus station. Whoever gave the go ahead for that should be taken to the city boundary, pointed south and told to never ever come back.

It is the monstrosity of all monstrosities – a bus station where, in the winter, passengers have to stand in the blizzard to see if the bus is coming. Did the politicians do anything about that? No. Will they do anything about saving UTG?, No. Will they clean up the city and restore places like Johnson Gardens? No. However, will they promise you everything at the next election? Yes, yes and yes again, they will be falling over each other (and you) to give you leaflets. Lots of shiny new leaflets run off at your expense.

This is the time to say “NO, we will not put up with this anymore”. I urge the independently minded citizens of Aberdeen to stand at the forthcoming elections and vote out the useless bunch of chancers that occupy the Town House just now.

Aug 202010

By John Sangster

“POWER TO THE PEOPLE”, what does that mean? It was John Lennon who first brought it to my attention, although I am informed that in a 70’s sitcom the character Wolfie Smith was first to utter it. The reason I say this is that when Jimmy Reid died recently almost every article about Mr. Reid began with Lennon’s song.

So! What does it mean? Do the people not already have power, the power to withdraw their labour or the power to remove politicians from their posts? Continue reading »