May 122011

By Dave Watt.

Having looked at the election results from all over Scotland, May the 5th was an SNP landslide only moderated by list system which prevented them from getting even more seats.
New Labour were beaten out of sight, the treacherous Nick Clegg’s Lib-Dems were flung into a deserved oblivion and their Tory bedmates got their usual seeing to from the Scottish electorate and only the list system got them into double figures.

Huge constituency swings ranging from a national average of 12.5 % to peaks of around 20% paved the way for a long awaited referendum on Scottish independence and brought a ubiquitous bright new glow to the Scottish political scene.

Well, almost everywhere. In one particular constituency the swing was much, much smaller. Which constituency? Why, Aberdeen Central.

Aberdeen Central was a key marginal in the election – particularly as the constituency borders had been changed leaving Lewis McDonald (Labour) with a notional 300 or so majority over the SNP’s Kevin Stewart  – his main challenger in the constituency. The final vote was pretty close with Kevin Stewart running out the winner with 10,058 votes to Lewis MacDonald’s 9441. This majority of 617 represented a miniscule swing of 0.5% from Labour to the SNP. Easily the smallest SNP constituency swing of the night over the whole of Scotland and one in which the Labour vote actually went UP by 8.6% which didn’t happen in many constituencies.

So why did Aberdeen Central buck such a huge national trend?

The short answer to this is the ongoing UTG controversy and Kevin Stewart’s role in the controversy which is seen by many people as little more than a cheerleader for Sir Ian Wood’s vanity project.

Last week I  spoke to several people I knew who were undergoing a crisis of conscience whereby they although were very much in favour of an independent Scotland but were struggling to bring themselves to vote for what one of them obligingly referred to as ‘Woody’s f**king sock puppet’.

Obviously, bearing in mind the result, some of them did vote for the ‘f**king sock puppet’ whereas others didn’t vote or voted for Lewis MacDonald. Either way, the vote for Aberdeen Central was extremely close and, if it had been repeated nationally I think the SNP would have definitely struggled for an outright majority in the Parliament. Realistically, it was only the huge SNP national vote which got the rather unpopular* Mr Stewart down to Edinburgh.

So what does this say about the UTG controversy?

Basically, any councillor still hawking the Garden Square Project round Aberdeen over the next twelve months can expect to get his/her well-worn backside seriously kicked when the Council Elections roll round next May when the national question won’t come into play and it will all just be down to local politics.

* Mr Stewart showed his strange notion of winning hearts and minds a couple of Saturdays before the election when he was outside Marks and Spencer jabbing his finger forcefully and snarling into the face of an elderly lady who had declared her support for UTG. A long term friend of mine (of Italian origin) who intimated, on seeing this, that he had rather more than half a mind to ‘deck the b*stard’ was fortunately persuaded to desist.

Run Down Aberdeen – A New Documentary

 Aberdeen City, Articles, Community, Events, Featured, Information, Opinion  Comments Off on Run Down Aberdeen – A New Documentary
Mar 182011

By Fraser Denholm.

A new documentary, launched next week, takes a look beneath the layer of grime, which, in recent years, has coated the grand granite facades of Aberdeen’s unique city centre. Run Down Aberdeen seeks to highlight and investigate a number of issues which have, and continue to contribute to the current condition of the city, a number of issues which regular readers of Aberdeen Voice may be all too familiar.

In the short yet prolific life of  Aberdeen Voice, the city’s premier online outlet for citizen journalism and campaign writing, there have been a number of contentious issues which have attracted most of the site’s column inches. Controversial developments, urban decline, council mismanagement and the seemingly perpetual struggle between the public and private sectors have been the order of the day at Aberdeen Voice since its inception.

Framed around the widespread and growing state of perceived neglect, Run Down Aberdeen looks a little further than the chipped cornices, tarnished street plaques, empty shop units and grubby pavements which face the residents and visitors of Aberdeen. With the help of local politicians, writers and citizens, the film discusses both the historical and contemporary developments, which continue to shape the future of the city.

The documentary was commissioned as an expansion of a Facebook group which has already been  the  subject of an AV article by Mike Shepherd, the group’s founder and the film’s executive producer. While the group’s ethos is to encourage members of the general public to highlight areas of concern by posting photos, it seemed counterproductive to either echo this or make the film about what the group was achieving (A few weeks after the group’s establishment a number of the areas highlighted in the early photographs were tackled by Councillor Martin Greig).

Therefore the film, while establishing the apparent neglect, looks into initiatives proposed or already under way and how these developments will effect or remedy the situation.

Big ticket projects have been proposed which aim to be a universal panacea to Aberdeen’s decline: The City Square Project claims to safeguard jobs and economic stability while delivering “transformational” change to a “third rate” city centre; “One Aberdeen” the Aberdeen city development company is aimed at:

“maximising the use of the city’s unused assets and to drive and promote the regeneration and economic development of the city as a whole.”

While the Green Townscape Heritage Initiative seems successful in its attempts to regenerate the Green area of the city and working with a range of heritage organisations to restore the historic buildings and streetscapes.

On the other hand there is widespread dissatisfaction amongst the people of Aberdeen – the establishment of Aberdeen Voice is a prime example of this. Every day there are more and more protest and pressure groups within the city struggling with the City Council’s decisions and projects, which will affect their everyday lives.

But how do we consolidate this? How can a city regain its population’s faith once it has been lost? And what can the everyday person do to influence the city around them? And most importantly where does the future of a city like Aberdeen lie?

For forty years the city has apparently prospered on the back of a finite resource, and with that resource now dwindling and the corporations based in Aberdeen, who have been drawn to the city to exploit it getting itchy feet, how should the city move forward, and who exactly should define where to go?

Run Down Aberdeen Trailer from Fraser Denholm on Vimeo.

Run Down Aberdeen will premiere at Peacock Visual Arts on Tuesday 22nd March at 7pm.

The Screening will be followed by an open discussion chaired by Joan Ingram featuring the filmmaker, Lewis MacDonald MSP, Councillor Kevin Stewart and Councillor Martin Greig.

The Peacock Grant And The City Square Project

 Aberdeen City, Articles, Community, Featured, Information, Opinion  Comments Off on The Peacock Grant And The City Square Project
Mar 082011

The City Square Project is a highly controversial proposal to replace Union Terrace Gardens with a  three-storey building topped by a modern city square. This week, unlikely as it seems the scheme became more controversial as Mike Shepherd tells Aberdeen Voice.

The latest revelations concern the luckless Peacock Visual Arts (PVA) proposal for Union Terrace Gardens.

The local art group, Peacock Visual Arts, had planned to build a “centre for contemporary arts” in part of the Gardens. The £13.5 million building was to contain a gallery, a TV studio, a print studio, a restaurant and offices for Peacock Staff.

The intention was also to provide a base for Aberdeen City Council’s Arts Development and Arts Education teams as well as extra space for the City Moves dance agency. The project had been awarded funding from Aberdeen Council (£3 million), the Scottish Arts Council (£4.3M) and the Scottish Government body, Scottish Enterprise (£2 million).


After planning permission was granted to Peacock in August 2008 by the Council, Sir Ian Wood then stepped in and in November 2008 announced his own plans for Union Terrace Gardens, a civic square described by him as “a cross between the Grand Italian Piazza and a mini Central Park”.  Scottish Enterprise paid for a technical feasibility study for the City Square Project and then promoted the consultation to gauge public opinion on the issue.  Aberdeen Council now found themselves faced with two projects competing for the same lease of ground.  Councillors later decided at a full Council meeting in May 2010 to support the City Square scheme rather than the Peacock Visual Arts centre.

The Peacock contemporary arts centre was effectively killed off by the May Council vote

In reply to a recent question as to what was spent out of the Peacock grant,  Scottish Enterprise listed £190,000 spent on the technical feasibility study for the City Square Project and  £226,000 spent by Peacock on architect, design and project management costs. No indication is given as to when the agreements to do this were signed off.


Thus money intended for the Peacock scheme looks to have been allocated to a feasibility study for a rival project which ended up replacing the Peacock scheme itself as the Council’s preference (Scottish Enterprise, it should be said, have acknowledged that if the PVA plan had been approved they would have honoured the £2 million grant).

It was later reported in a Press and Journal article that Aberdeen Council had secured permission to use a further £375,000 of the grant funding for the City Square Project. What this money is to be used for is not allowed to be, as yet, in the public domain.


The Press and Journal  report states that the Peacock grant now stands today at  £1.2 million out of the original £2 million allocated. The grant was left open after the vote in May. According to information provided by Scottish Enterprise the money is nominally available to fund similar projects to the Peacock scheme until the end of March this year, at which point it has to be returned back to central funds.

The Council monitoring officer has been asked to launch an investigation into the matter

The Peacock contemporary arts centre was effectively killed off by the May Council vote. Although Peacock had been asked to locate their arts centre within the proposed city square building, this proved unacceptable to them and there was no chance of an alternative proposal surfacing in time for the March 2011 deadline.

The Council executive confirmed to Scottish Enterprise in November 2010 that the Peacock funding was no longer required; they nevertheless made a request to reallocate the funds to alternative projects under revised terms. Kevin Stewart, the Council’s finance convenor, told the Press and Journal that seven proposals had been drawn up, costed and presented to Scottish Enterprise.


In response to a question I had asked him as to whether the money could be given to Peacock for new facilities, Cllr. Stewart replied that:

“Council officers put forward a number of worthy projects that could use the funding, including Peacock, but these were all rejected by Scottish Enterprise.”

The £1.2 million grant to Aberdeen Council from Scottish Enterprise now looks as if it will have to be returned to central government funds at the end of March. The Council monitoring officer has been asked to launch an investigation into the matter under the Local Government in Scotland Act.


Item Grant Allocated from
the grant
Amount remaining
in grant
Original Peacock Grant 


£2 million
Technical Feasibility Studyxx
for the City Square Project 


Spent by Peacock 


£226,000 £1, 584,000  (“£1.6 million)
Additional funding for the
City Square Project (P&J) 



£1,209,000 (“£1.2 million”)


Old Susannah’s Dictionary – No.25

 Articles, Creative Writing, Opinion, Satire and Humour  Comments Off on Old Susannah’s Dictionary – No.25
Feb 252011

Voice’s Old Susannah comments on current events ducking under the radar as well as making the headlines,  and enlightens us with definitions of some tricky terms with a locally topical taste.

Sometimes a joke goes a step too far; Old Susannah is perhaps a bit too old-fashioned, but I think the incident the other week involving Stewart Milne and a photo from a porn magazine went beyond the realms of good taste and good humour.  If you didn’t hear about this or see the photo in the Sun newspaper, Stewart Milne ran into some AFC fans on the way to a match at a road stop.  The fans asked Mr Milne to pose with them for a photo or two, and unbeknownst to Stewart, one of the fans held a pornographic magazine over his head, showing a woman in a state of undress!

Now I have as good a sense of humour as the next person (if that person isn’t Kate Dean or Kevin Stewart), but think how that must have felt!  That poor woman agreed to pose for the soft porn magazine, but no one ever asked her permission before her image was used over Milne’s head.  Now she is forever associated with Stewart Milne, and I’m afraid the stain may never leave her.  How would you feel?  Could you face your family and friends?  Someone should send her an apology forthwith.

Minority (noun): Quantity of persons or objects representing less than half of a total given population.  To mention Mr Milne again, he’s been in the news just now making an ACSEF of himself.   Milne seems to be Stewing because ‘a minority’ of people are holding up the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route.

Road Sense, it would seem, have concerns over building the AWPR – something to do with no one knowing for sure exactly where it will go (remember the public ‘consultation’ routes which were all discarded after the ‘roadshows’?), what this road will cost, who is going to pay for it, how much environment (going through greenbelt and SAC areas) will be lost or fragmented, how much extra pollution it will mean, and how long it will take to build.  Really now, these arguments are just nitpicking.  Milne says it’s the minority who are opposed to this road – and as he’s shown with his ACSEF role, if the majority want something, that should be respected.  Minorities should not, it seems, have any legal right if these rights might challenge what either the alleged majority – or more importantly ACSEF – wants.  We know that the majority of people want the ring road because ACSEF and NESTRANS say so, which eliminates the need for any tedious voting or asking taxpayers what they want.  Or, heaven forbid, another consultation.

Majority (noun): Quantity of persons or objects representing more than half of a total given population.  Majorities should not, it seems, have any legal right to challenge what the minority wants.  For instance, a massive ‘no’ vote was delivered by three elected community councils to the plans to concrete over the land at Loirston to put up a 21,000 seat stadium; the public were asked about it, and an open meeting held at a local hotel was packed with hundreds of people who resoundingly voted against the plan.  It should be remembered, however, that our own Kate Dean was at that meeting, and she thinks one person in the room of hundreds wanted to put his hand up.  The 150 plus people who wrote in to object formally to the stadium plans shouldn’t really be counted either.

Another dangerous majority whose wishes should be ignored are the so-called ‘Friends of Union Terrace Gardens’.  We know that despite a public ‘consultation’ which might have slightly been skewed in favour of building a carpark on the gardens, the majority of respondents want the gardens left undeveloped.  These two examples point out why we need ACSEF – majority rule is a bad idea.  If only people were smart enough to realise how much money Loirston and UTG mean for Stewart Milne, then they would favour them.  Because we’d all get rich.  And have iconic structures.  And tourists would flood Aberdeen.  It is unknown how or when it was decided that Aberdeen should sprawl outwards and upwards until it resembled any other badly designed modern city, but clearly that is what our Planners have in mind.  I hope this spells out that sometimes the majority is right and sometimes the minority is right – it all depends which group a certain developer falls into at the time.

Hospitality (noun): The act of taking or offering gifts such as concert tickets, alcohol, flights and accommodation.  People in public office should be careful not to accept too much hospitality, but in times of austerity or budget cuts, accepting hospitality with any frequency will let the people know you are still there, and that there is still fun to be had in the city – even if all the pools, libraries, parks and greenbelt land is going.  I am personally cheered up each time I know Kate Dean for instance is at a concert, having a dinner or trip, or being gifted a bottle of booze – it’s a feel-good factor we can all appreciate.

Does Ms Dean take much hospitality?  Below is a partial list which shows what she’s reported for 2009 and 2010.  I have to say that this list was apparently last updated in June 2010 – but it is rather strange that Ms Dean has had such a drastic cut in hospitality between the two years (only two events/gifts in 2010).  I know she no longer holds the full reigns [sic] of power, but either she is extremely busy doing such good work that she has no free time, or her former contacts have for some reason dropped her like a hot potato.

Next week:  Grampian National Health Service special:  a shot in the arm.



Received From

Date Registered

Short Description of gift/hospitality

Approximate Value

First Aberdeen


Dinner Dance at Ardoe House. Accompanied by Mr B Dean on 19/2/09.

Invitation accepted/ Cost unknown

UK Trade & Investment in partnership with Aberdeen City Council and National Subsea Research Institute


Welcoming the Oil and Gas Subsea Technology to the UK – Drinks reception and formal dinner at Elphinestone Hall 12/2/09

Invitation accepted/ Cost unknown

Aberdeen Asset Management


Invitation to attend the City of Aberdeen Universities Boat Race including buffet reception 28/2/09

Invitation accepted/ Cost unknown

The Parachute Regimental Association, Aberdeen Branch


Invitation to a Remembrance Service at Aberdeen Kirk of St Nicholas for the occasion of the Airborne Forces Day (Scotland) Service of Worship & Remembrance on 28/6/09

Invitation accepted/ cost unknown

Aberdeen University


Invitation to Dinner at Zeste at Crombie Halls for the Aberdeen University Summer Graduations 2009 on 8/6/09

Invitation accepted/ cost unknown

Watkins Development




Presented with an engraved trowel at the occasion of the Union Square Top-Out Ceremony on 10/6/09

Gift accepted / approx cost £12



AP Management Consultants


Invitation to a Business Breakfast at the Thistle Aberdeen Airport Hotel on 17/6/09

Invitation accepted/ cost unknown

Councillor John Stewart


Scottish Enterprise’s Official Opening and Tour of the Energy Development Centre on Tuesday 18 August 2009

Attending on behalf of Cllr John Stewart / cost unknown

Innovation Norway


Taste of Norway Reception at the Marcliffe Hotel on 09/09/09

Invitation accepted/ cost unknown

Professional Contractors Group, 280 Bath Road, West Drayton


Offshore Europe Oil and Gas Exhibition Reception at Aberdeen Copthorne Hotel on 08/09/09

Invitation accepted/ cost unknown

Belinda Miller, Enterprise, Planning & Infrastructure, Aberdeen City Council


Invitation to join the Aberdeen City Council table at the Northern Star Business Awards on Thursday 24/09/09 in the Press & Journal Arena at the AECC, including reception

Invitation accepted/ cost unknown

North Lanarkshire Council


Invitation from the Lord Provost and Councillors of North Lanarkshire Council to a Civic Reception and Dinner being held on Thursday 22/10/09 in the Hilton Strathclyde Hotel.

Invitation accepted/ cost unknown

Mr S Clarkson, Proprietor, The College


Drinks whilst watching Scotland-v-Macedonia football match on 05/09/09

Accepted (estimated £20)



Invitation to the Launch of the Sound Festival 2009 concert with pre-concert drinks

Decline/ cost unknown



Invitation to the pre-breakfast launch and official opening of Union Square on 29 October 2009

Accepted the invitation to the official opening but declined the pre-breakfast launch / cost unknown

David McLetchie MSP and The Place2Be


Invitation to an evening drinks reception in the Garden Lobby, Scottish Parliament on 11/11/09 to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of ThePlace2Be

Declined/ cost unknown

Brewin Dolphin


Annual Cocktail Party on 26th November 2009; Drinks and canapés at Aberdeen Art Gallery

Invitation Declined/ cost unknown

Leo Chong and Alistair Leitch


Discussion of future trade links on 4th November 2009; lunch at Saigon restaurant

Invitation Accepted/ cost unknown

Evening Express


General discussion with Damian Bates, Editor, on 27th October 2009; coffee

Invitation Accepted/ cost unknown



4 tickets to Britain’s Got Talent on 23rd June 2009.




4 tickets to Neil Young concert on 24th June 2009.

Accepted – passed to ACC staff



4 tickets to Snooker Tournament on 15th October 2009.




4 tickets to Gladys Knight concert on 20th October 2009.




4 tickets to Michael McIntyre Tour on 26th October 2009.




4 tickets to Eddie Izzard Tour on 4th November 2009.

Accepted – passed to friends.



4 tickets to The Proclaimers concert on 7th November 2009.




4 tickets to Kasabian concert on 11th November 2009.

Accepted – passed to friends.



4 tickets to Clubland on 27th November 2009.

Accepted – passed to family

Aberdeen Chinese Community Centre


Aberdeen Chinese New Year Celebration dinner and entertainment on 16 Feb 2010

Accepted – cost unknown

National Prayer Breakfast for Scotland


22nd National Prayer Breakfast for Scotland on 2 June 2010 with Rt Hon Alex Salmond MSP, First Minister of Scotland



Aberdeen A Go-Go – It All Happens In April

 Aberdeen City, Articles, Community, Featured, Information, Opinion  Comments Off on Aberdeen A Go-Go – It All Happens In April
Feb 182011

Last year, Aberdeen was posted for sale on eBay. Come April, this may not seem much of a joke any more. Mike Shepherd explains why.

Two major events take place in Aberdeen this April which could change the political and actual landscape of the city for ever, when details of the assets to be transferred to the City Development Company are to be announced. Then on 27 April, the Council meets to approve transfer of a lease for Union Terrace Gardens to the limited company intended to develop the park.

The Aberdeen City Development Company has recently been registered as a limited company. This is a joint venture between Aberdeen City Council and local businessmen. The intention is for the Council to transfer assets into the Company and for both the Council and the private businesses involved to profit share from the development of the assets.

Controversially, although the Council nominally controls the Company, six of the twelve man board will be from business. The chair will be a private sector appointee and will have a casting vote, meaning that there is private sector control of the Company at board level.

The Coun­cil has iden­ti­fied 59 assets which could potentially be transferred to the Devel­op­ment Com­pany. Of these, 14 have been short-listed as suit­able for devel­op­ment. The Coun­cil has not revealed which assets these are, although details should be made available at the April Finance Committee meeting.

The aims of the Company are stated as being charitable, with the idea of using the profits to regenerate the poorer parts of the city. A subsidiary property company will also be formed which will be used to sell off assets considered unsuitable for development by the main company.

On April 27, the full Council meets and it is likely that Union Terrace Gardens will dominate the agenda.  A timetable for the City Square project was issued for the Council meeting on 6 October last year.

In it, 27 April was earmarked for a vote that seeks approval to lease Council land to the company designated to take the project forward through and beyond planning submission. This company,  the Aberdeen City Gardens Trust,  was  registered as a limited company last month.

I’ve been told by the Council Executive that the Council intends to retain ownership of the land and would probably assign a 125 year lease for the property to the Trust. There is a major drawback to this though. Under recent Scottish Government legislation,  it is now possible for someone sitting on a long term lease to convert the lease into outright ownership.

It is likely that the Gardens have been partly built on common good land; however, even this may make no difference. The Edinburgh Evening News recently quoted a Scottish Government Minister as saying that a proposed exemption in this legislation for common good land would open the door to frequent and expensive litigation.

It also looks as if the Project Management Board for the City Square is hoping to launch the architectural competition in April. Councillors have been told that there are ‘procurement issues’ in awarding a contract to a suitable company to manage the competition. The company may not be in place before the end of March.

Kevin may have a hard job persuading local voters to support his views

If the launch happens in April, expect a lot of public relations activity to go with this. They will be hoping to drown out the furore that will result from the proposal to transfer the lease.

The Scottish Parliamentary elections will be held on Thursday May 5,  only a few days after the April Council meeting. It is almost certain that the fate of Union Terrace Gardens will be a subject of major debate at the hustings. The SNP group leader in the Council, Kevin Stewart, will be standing against the current MSP, Labour’s Lewis Macdonald for the Central Aberdeen seat. Lewis only has a 382 vote majority from the last election and the SNP sees the constituency as one of their top targets. Kevin is a member of the board for the City Garden Project and the SNP councillors have mostly voted for progressing the project in Council votes. Cllr. Muriel Jaffray is a notable exception.

Kevin may have a hard job persuading local voters to support his views on the City Square. A recent poll run by Craig Adams indicated that out of a sample of 1,140 participants, only 87 (7.6%) supported Sir Ian Wood’s scheme.

Another event happens in April. The Royal wedding takes place on the 29th and the day has been declared a national holiday. Unless perhaps, you live in Aberdeen. The STV website has reported that Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce is carrying out a survey of its members to find out if they would give staff the day off and found that many firms were undecided.

“The Chamber said that many contracts of employment state an employee is entitled to a fixed number of public holidays so this means they are not entitled to the additional day off. Employees whose contracts state that they are entitled to all public holidays would be entitled to take the day off.”

Apart from a few local businessmen, Aberdeen may not be a happy place this April.

Jan 072011

By Mike Shepherd.

The ACSEF newsletter for December has announced the new project management board for the City Square Project. The board will be chaired by Council leader John Stewart and there are no surprises in its make-up. A further two members, representing young people and heritage and horticultural issues are being sought.

The board to date comprises:

John Stewart – Leader of the Aberdeen Council

Robert Collier – Chief Executive of Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce

John Michie – Michie the Chemist, Chairman of Aberdeen City Centre Association

Cllr. Kevin Stewart – Deputy Leader Aberdeen Council, SNP candidate for Aberdeen Central Scottish parliamentary elections

Margaret McGinlay – Scottish Enterprise Regional Director for Aberdeen City & Shire. Director of Food and Drink for Scottish Enterprise.

Tom Smith – Chairman of ACSEF, NESSCO Group chief executive (telecommunication company)

Colin Crosby – President of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, consultant with Brewin Dolphin PLC, an investment management company.

Lavina Massie – Chair of the Aberdeen City Alliance (TACA), Culter Community Council vice-chairwoman.

Sue Bruce – Aberdeen Council Chief Executive (leaving for Edinburgh and likely to be replaced).

The presence on the board of SNP leader in the council, Kevin Stewart, is of interest. Kevin will be standing as the SNP candidate for the Central Aberdeen seat in the May Scottish parliamentary elections. The seat is currently held by Labour MSP Lewis MacDonald with a majority of only 382 and is described on the SNP website as one of the party’s top target seats. Kevin will no doubt hope to avoid the City Square becoming an issue in the May election although it is difficult to see how he can avoid this as the full council meets on April 27th – just eight days before the election on May 5th.

it is distinctly possible that any new administration could kill of the project as a priority

The City Square dominates the Council meeting and the agenda is highly controversial including a vote on approving the transfer of the lease of Union Terrace Gardens to the limited company or trust that will take over running the project next year.

The newsletter also gives details of the milestones for the project. These are: Launch of international design competition Spring 2011; Short-listed designs out to public consultation Autumn 2011; Final design selected Spring 2012.

The project is running very late. According to the original timetable issued at the end of June 2010, the design competition was due to be launched on the 1st November last year with the final design to have been selected by the 17th June 2011. One of the big problems with the timetable is that the project will now extend beyond the Council elections in May next year and it is distinctly possible that any new administration could kill of the project as a priority.

Elsewhere in the newsletter, you can read about the so-called benefits of building the new City Square. Some of them are much less than convincing:

“There will be something for everyone.

Green Space : a calm, garden oasis in the heart of the city where you can enjoy the changing seasons

History & Heritage : outdoor and indoor areas for displaying and showcasing our history and heritage. An opportunity to see, touch and feel what is currently hidden away.”

ACSEF are also seeking “some high profile/celebrity endorsers to ‘champion’ the content development for key themes of the project: green space and gardens; leisure and recreation; science and energy; arts and culture; and history and heritage.”

The ACSEF newsletter makes for curious reading. It would be have been thought that the new project board would have been worthy of a press release, but this has not happened to date. It gives the impression of being bullish about the city square but only to the limited circulation of the newsletter amongst business people, politicians and opinion formers.

ACSEF are only too well aware of how controversial the city square is in Aberdeen.

There is a sense here of an organisation running scared from public opinion, at least until the new public relations company for the project starts work in the early part of the year.

The Council would have you believe that the City Square is a done deal; it is anything but. The whole set-up is starting to look shaky; everything is running late; the massive amount of money needed for the square is an obvious problem; many Aberdonians are still very angry about the ignored consultation and the ramifications of this will be put to a true democratic test in two elections this May and next.

Nov 192010

Voice’s Old Susannah tackles more tricky terms with a locally topical taste.

Aesthetics : The Northern Hotel in Aberdeen has a cheerful, charming, lively painting for sale by an artist named Robin Green.  It is of something called Union Terrace Gardens.  Old Susannah knows a thing or two about painting, and knows this artist must have taken a good deal of time and effort over this bright, leafy scene.  The nice folks at ASCEF will be doing Robin a favour by turning Union Terrace Gardens into a slab of concrete – Robin won’t need nearly as many colours for any future paintings of the area, and painting a grey square will certainly be a much quicker, easier task.

Next time you’re in the Northern, have a look for this painting.  It might be of use to historians some time in the not-too-distant future if they want to know what a landscape looked like.

Redundancy : One definition of redundancy is to lose your job; redundancy also means unnecessary repetition.  In terms of jobs, 900 Aberdeen City Council employees apparently face unemployment.  Old Susannah hopes that everyone will be OK, and that none of the core services (like change management) will be affected; she is just surprised that the Council didn’t wait until Christmas Eve to make the announcement  for dramatic effect.  It should also be noted that in the past, Council employees were told in so many words not to join protests, write letters in support of schools and services to the press, and not to sign petitions:  if they did, then their jobs might be at risk.

There will now be 900 people free from the Council’s helpful, caring guidance as to what to think, write and say.  Let’s just hope none of these 900 will do or say anything to criticise the City, or talk about what goes on in those hallowed halls.   Thankfully, there is little left to save anyway, so there won’t be much in the way of protest or petition left to do.  Guess it’s all working out for the best.  As mentioned in an earlier column, it’s extremely useful we have an expensive Change Management team – it looks as if there will be changes.  Some years ago, Old Susannah learnt that the Council had over 725 people in jobs earning more than £35,000 per year.  If you are interested, 725 times £35,000 minimum salary is a minimum of £25,375,000.  That was the result of a Freedom of Information request – no wonder Councillor Kev Stewart thinks such requests can be ‘absurd’ Yes, ‘value for money’ remains key.

In terms of unnecessary repetition, I am absolutely certain that there are no job overlaps, no unnecessary job positions or tasks within our streamlined, business-like Council.

the City was forward-thinking enough to set up and fund ASCEF, and look at all the good that’s come of that

It’s not as if there are endless numbers of committees, pointless meetings, unnecessary reports, or  expensive brochures published which no one wants or reads.  However, if anyone knows of anything redundant within our Council, please do get in touch.

Corporatarchy : New words spring into life all the time; and a new word according to Miriam Webster is corporatarchy.  This is a noun meaning “government according to corporate interests”.  It’s about time governments started taking notice of business interests; once that happens, we will have economic prosperity for all.  Clearly Aberdeen City Council could go a lot further to help its local businessmen.  Thankfully, it has found at least one helpful way to do  so:  it wants to set up a company to look after its assets.

The hundreds of highly-paid professionals within the Council (see above) are struggling as it is to travel and hold meetings; it is unfair to expect them to look after the City’s assets.  I am sure that corporate control by an outside agency will only benefit the remaining parks, museums, etc. that we the taxpayers of the City own.  After all, the City was forward-thinking enough to set up and fund ASCEF, and look at all the good that’s come of that.

Hairpiece : Toupee or not toupee – that is the question when you look at a powerful man with a full, virile head of hair.  Is it his own?  Is it a weave, a wig, a rug (literally), roadkill or a genetic mutation?  Old Susannah’s spies tell of a powerful local who is vain to the point of owning two hairpieces – one short, and one slightly shaggy.  He would wear the former for a week or two, switch to the longer one, and tell friends and staff he needed a haircut.  Then, out came the shorter wig again.  Old Susannah can’t believe anyone would be that vain, and would ask people not to tell such tall, incredible tales any longer.

Nov 052010

Bonfire Night is upon us and as we watch the traditional burning of effigies and the sometimes surprising, sometimes disapointing firework displays, the thoughts of some spectators begin to wander ……

** ‘If Moir Lockhead wis a firework, he’d be the only firework allowed in the display, wid cost far mair than similar fireworks in Edinburgh, wid bide for ages in the Coapy milk bottle while you wait for movement and when he eventually took off, it wid be grudgingly, wi a splutter and a hotter but still leaving six sparklers chasing efter him in vain.’ – David Innes

** ‘If Aberdeen F.C was a firework, it would be one of those you light, get all excited about, tell all yer mates “watch this, it’s gonna be beautiful” You wait and wait, it doesn’t go off, not sure if you should let it be of go over to it and light it again……you’re warned “nah leave it – it’ll go aff” ……you wait, then “f*ck it I’ll go over” and it blows up in yer face’. – Slimfella, Aberdeen-Mad.

** ‘If  Aberdeen City Cooncil was a firework it would be a dodgy katherine wheel which when lit,  would twirl around and around in ever decreasing circles creating lots of heat, sparks and noise, expending fuel and energy at an alarming rate but never actually going anywhere’. – Fred Wilkinson

** ‘If Kevin Stewart wis a neep lantern you’d struggle to see the facial outline due to there being nae licht inside the f*ckin heid.’ – David Innes

** ‘If The CitySquare/Gardens was a firework it would come in a plain pale grey box ( artwork purchased separately ) around a hundred times the size of the firework itself, cost about 100 times more than the ‘money back on next purchase’ voucher redeemable only when your home and car have been legally bound as security until your cheque clears.
When taken out of the box, you would find that the quaint little oil platform shaped device comes with a badly written manual in which you would somehow suss that the firework does not work unless it is connected to a mains gas supply. However, on the back page there is a telephone number for an engineer who can come round anytime, dig up your garden and install the pipe and connection required.

This will cost you, but on the upside, they will accept your ‘money back on next purchase’ voucher towards the cost of the work ( which would of course include arranging planning permission for the installation).
When lit, sometime ( around 2016 by the time all the paperwork is complete ) it would throw out a brief burst of sparks and swirling flares, and then produce a large limp flickering flame.
As you wait to see what else it does next, you find the small print in the manual which informs you that there is no way of turning it off and that your transaction validated an agreement to purchase your uninterruptable gas supply from an un-named supplier at an undisclosed price for an unnegotiable 25 year term.

It might seem like you got a bad deal, but the solicitor, the gas company, the planning dept and the engineer all agree it was a pleasure to do business with you’. – Fred Wilkinson

** ‘If ACSEF wis a squaad o guisers, they’d ask you if you wanted to hear a song and when you refused they’d sing it onywye saying that they didna recognise the insignificant numbers o respondents who said ‘no”. – David Innes

**  ‘If Aberdeen F.C.  was a firework, it would be one of those indoor fireworks that turn into a giant, endless sh*te.  ( see below)’ – Kelt, Aberdeen-Mad

Oct 292010

Voice’s Old Susannah presents a Halloween Special Dictionary supplement and gets to grips with a few tricky, spine chilling terms.

There is no denying the creepy, sinister atmosphere at this time of year in Northeast Scotland– there are mindless zombies roaming free, creating new budgets designed to kill off any remaining spirit in Town and Shire.  They are slashing budgets and services, and seem unstoppable.  Be afraid – be very afraid.

Frankenstein Monster

Imagine a horrible creature artificially created from parts of City and Shire Councils as well as a few businessmen, artificially stitched together with failed civil servants and the like.  Such a monster is ASCEF.

ASCEF was so created and brought to life with injections of  taxpayer cash .  Now it runs wild throughout the land, unchecked by government or citizen, threatening to destroy the city, or at least cover all living things in concrete.

It is answerable to no one, even the egotistical madmen who created it.  The monster will inevitably be destroyed by the angry peasants who see it for the horror it is.


“Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” the good witch of the north asked Dorothy.  No need to ask what kind of witches we are dealing with in Aberdeen City.  A bad witch can be identified by her crone-like appearance and the smell of brew (or special brew) surrounding her.

Bad witches go out of their way to harm their neighbours any way they can, such as allowing lands and burns to be foully polluted, zapping services, magically turning budget surpluses into massive deficits, and closing schools.

They fly about on chauffeur-driven, taxpayer-funded broomsticks all over the world for unholy meetings called Sabbaths or conferences.  When confronted, the witch will deny wrongdoing, and insist they will keep doing the job they were elected to do.  Witches are often found giving orders to their Familiars.


A witch’s Familiar is an animal – such as a lapdog, lizard, reptile, toad, snake or rat — which the witch speaks to as it if were actually able to think itself.

These Familiars are often given names like Lucifer, Beelzebub or Kevin, and are the lackeys which carry out the witch’s evil deeds unquestioningly.  These servants of evil are often grotesque in appearance as well as deed, as are the witches they serve.

The Devil

In legends across the world, the Devil or a mysterious stranger appears out of nowhere, making extravagant promises.  The Devil might, for instance, promise economic prosperity and millions of pounds – an offer that sounds too good to be true.

The unsuspecting might for instance take the fortune on offer, and in exchange think they are getting a wonderful future – unaware of the strings attached to such a deal.  What they are likely to get is a bill for millions more than they received in the first place, and usually a terrible price is extracted – like the permanent loss of beautiful lands.  Only a fool would sell their soul (or garden) to the devil.

Trick or Treat

In the old days, children would visit their neighbours at Halloween and cry ‘trick or treat!’ hoping for a sweetie or an apple.  They would be lucky to get anything as generous as that from their neighbours in St Nicholas House, who seem to have a wide range of tricks in store.

Magical Disappearances

Fox batterer Derek Forbes had been the subject of media attention recently when he was quoted as admitting hitting a tame fox with his golf club.   However, when Forbes appeared in Court this week – Presto!  He said he never hit the fox.

Was it an invisible club that injured the fox?  Was it the work of a ghostly apparition? Who knows – but Forbes now says it wasn’t him.  I guess he was too traumatised when the press first said he did club the fox to ask for the story to be corrected at the time.

The admission of guilt may have disappeared – but the story will not do so.  Let’s wish Mr Forbes all the luck he deserves in his next court appearance.

Next week – Budget special.

Oct 152010

Old Susannah gets to grips with more tricky terms.

Firstly, two men here in Aberdeen held down a pet cat so their pitbull could savage it.  Let’s find them quickly.  Well done to the Council official who wrote to me a while back to say we didn’t have any problems with banned breeds, dog fighting, or dog owners who are encouraging problems.  That’s all I say on the matter without becoming less polite except keep an eye on your pets and keep them in at night.

Cheerier note – Old Susannah saw a man with a young child stop in the streets today, pick up someone else’s litter, and put it into a bin.  Can we have more like him please?

Dream Job

There are certain industries where there are so many perks and benefits, people are willing to take low paid jobs just to get their foot in the door and be part of the excitement.  In the film and television world, people willingly take lower salaries than in other business sectors – in exchange for this they get to go to film premiers, mingle with stars on occasion, and get access to movies.  People go into the music business to get free CDs, go to concerts, etc. and therefore happily accept less pay than they might get elsewhere.  And so it is with Council staff – they get the honour of walking the corridors of power and even sometimes getting a glimpse of Kate or Stewart – if they’re lucky.  Sometimes meetings (of which there is no shortage) have biscuits as well as tea and coffee.  You would think in those situations people wouldn’t ask for more money.  However, the local Unions have wild ideas.

First, there is some silly notion that men and women doing the same work should be paid the same amount of money.  Then some people actually want to be paid overtime for evenings and weekends.  Finally, the unions are asking for a pay rise higher than 1.5%!  Do these people really think that’s fair?  After all, for most of them, that would probably mean an extra candy bar a month.

If the experts nationally are correct, then inflation is running somewhere around 3%, so a 1.5% raise is perfectly fair for these privileged personnel.  Of course there is the odd suggestion now and then that the atmosphere in some of the Council departments is less than friendly, but that no doubt is sour grapes. I hope the Unions will realise just how lucky they are to be connected with our fantastic Council – perhaps they should all take a voluntary pay cut?  After all, the City does have serious expenses – such as finding some £235,000 to pay for 8 ’European and Diversity’ people.

Sustainable Growth

Sustainability is the watchword in public and private sectors these days; it’s almost as if there was some kind of limit on our resources.  Luckily past generations had the foresight to put land aside for ‘wildlife’ and ‘recreation’.   Examples of these can be found in Union Terrace Gardens, Loirston Loch and Sunnybank Park.  Thanks to those who preserved these lands, we are in a good place for some ‘sustainable growth’.  In order for Builders to keep growing their businesses, they have to keep building more things, and that means they need places to build on.  In order for the Council to keep growing, it needs more taxes from residents and businesses, so it needs to keep making new housing and new shopping malls and the like.  It would hardly do to use the existing buildings that are boarded up – that won’t help the builders.  Of course, a system based on continuous building can go on forever – well at least as long as there are green spaces to build on.

“On The Map”

Thank goodness:  Scotland is going to be “On The Map”!! Old Susannah’s invitation to RGU to see Sir Ian Wood give Donald Trump an honorary degree got lost in the post.  However, my spies told me Sir Ian’s immortal words which were along the line of thanking Mr Trump for his golfing development, which is going to put Scotland on the map for golf!  Is it possible Scotland will become a destination for golfers?  Watch this space!