Nov 042016

With thanks to Christian Allard.

weareaberdeen-poster-smaller-version2#WeAreAberdeen, has today (Friday, November 4th) launched an online campaign, to hear the many local voices of immigrants and people from ethnic minority backgrounds who live here, and everyone else who wants to celebrate our diversity in the North East.

To add photos and stories to those already shared online, the campaign is inviting people to visit the Facebook and Twitter pages. 

The campaign brings people and communities together to respond to the recent rise in intolerance in our society. The North East of Scotland is not immune to what has happened recently in other places across the UK and Europe.

The message from the campaign has already been adopted by Aberdeen Trades Union Council (ATUC) as the theme for this year’s St Andrews March, in Aberdeen on November 26th.

Kate Ramsden, President of ATUC, said:

“We are delighted to be working with #WeAreAberdeen to celebrate the diversity of our communities. Everyone is welcome on the march and I would love to see people bringing their own stories, positive messages, such as colourful banners, placards and posters”. 

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Nov 232011

Aberdeen Trades Union Council, (ATUC) in conjunction with Scotland Against Racism, Aberdeen Anti Cuts alliances and anti-privatisation organisations, are backing a St Andrews Day anti-racism and anti-cuts march and rally in Aberdeen on Saturday 26 November 2011. With thanks to Brian Carroll.

Speakers from anti-racist organisations, trade unions and community groups will raise awareness of the fight against racism in Scotland and highlight the need to support diversity, equality and respect. The event is supported by all trade unions and ATUC-affiliated organisations and will see participation by representatives from community organisations and pensioners as well as members of the public.

The underlying anti-cuts theme will emphasise how cuts breed racism.

John Connon of Unison urged those who feel strongly about these issues to turn out to show their support.

“In a multi-cultural region like NE Scotland, it is vital that cuts being imposed locally and nationally are not used as an excuse to scapegoat minorities working hard alongside indigenous workers. Events like this can help this understanding and focus our efforts on opposing the cuts and those responsible for making them.”

The Aberdeen gathering coincides with and complements the STUC anti-racist event being held in Glasgow on the same day, supported by all affiliated trade unions.

There will be colour, banners, flags and bands to brighten up Union Street for a while on a cold November Saturday morning and the organisers are hoping to attract as many marchers as possible to celebrate diversity and equality in Aberdeen.

Marchers will assemble at St Nicholas Churchyard at 1100 and will march along Union Street at 1130 to Castlegate for a rally at 12 noon.
The rally will end between 1230 and 1300.

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



Dec 252010

By Mike Shepherd.

Here’s a game for your Xmas party – spot the odd one out in this list:
Smersh, Spectre, the Black Hand, the Priory of Sion, Acsef.

The correct answer is of course Acsef. The others are sinister, shadowy organisations bent on world domination, while Acsef is Aberdeen city and shire economic future, the unelected body charged with  promoting  business development in the Aberdeen region.

Acsef‘s greatest moment has been the long-running saga of Sir Ian Wood’s city square project. The show has been on the go for over two years and looks set to run and run and run. Although whisper this quietly: just like the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, it doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere yet.

Acsef helped with the consultation for the scheme and we were all assured “This public consultation aims to find out if you would like to go ahead with the proposal to redevelop Union Terrace Gardens and the Denburn Valley to create a new civic space and gardens.” Ha!

We were also told that we could get a modern city square that looked like the ones in Melbourne, Chicago and Houston. “Acsef believes the city needs a centre that will reflect that aspiration and attract future talent and businesses. This is about jobs for today’s secondary pupils and undergraduates – our children and grandchildren.” You could call this the Nora Batty argument: The Grand old lady of Aberdeen needs a brand new mini-skirt to exert her charms on potential suitors.

The consultation went ahead and it looked as if Acsef could not lose. Even the header for the poll questionnaire gave you a prompt if you didn’t know how to vote “Have Your Say: We believe Aberdeen needs a large, vibrant, cultural and civic space and gardens in the heart of the city for today and for future generations.”

The results of the consultation were reported on the 13th April 2010; a majority of 1,270 said no to the city square project. Oops.

Local businessmen were not happy with the result of the consultation and wrote a letter to the Council urging them to go ahead

An analysis of the vote was published by Acsef. “The consultation results show that the public were nearly evenly divided over the City Square Project as proposed, although overall more were against the project than for it.” Don’t you just crack up at that “nearly evenly-divided” bit when a majority of 1,270 said no.

More of that wacky humour was to follow. Acsef provided a break-down of the comments made by people online during the consultation.

“I value having in the heart of the City this secluded amphitheatre with its mature trees and think it would be an act of vandalism to sweep it away.” Recorded as voting yes to the city square.

“We don’t want Aberdeen to turn into a concrete jungle” Recorded as voting yes to the city square.

“The prospect of a huge square in place of the gardens is a terrible prospect and I have yet to understand the contention that this is necessary for the future well economic welfare of the city…. do not support the project.” Recorded as voting yes to the city square.

There are over 200 responses like this in the report.

Local businessmen were not happy with the result of the consultation and wrote a letter to the Council urging them to go ahead with the city square project and ignore the no vote, ‘due to misunderstanding of the project among the public’ and an ‘inability’ to appreciate its impact. Cheeky, cheeky!

Acsef now had the tricky matter of keeping the city square project going despite the public vote against it.

This was because as Ascef minutes record, “There is a mandate from the business community to proceed to the next stage”.  There was also the unfortunate position of the Labour party who had come out against the plan. They had to be dealt with. The minutes of the Acsef meeting on the 13th April mention that:

“Following discussion amongst private sector members of the ACSEF Board after the Special meeting on 22 March a letter had been drafted to senior members of the Labour Party expressing disappointment at the Party’s stance in relation to the project. Private sector Board members approved this for issue.”

The Labour party were very upset at these comments, given that this was a publically funded organisation taking a political stance on a highly-controversial issue (both Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire councils fund Acsef with £230,000 a year each). Nevertheless, they were puzzled as to why no letter had ever arrived and further curious as to why Acsef had stated that it had received no reply from any of the Labour politicians it had been addressed to. It later transpired that due to a mix-up within Acsef, no letter had actually been posted. Labour MSP Richard Baker wrote in a scathing letter to the Press and Journal:   “When Acsef is confused about how this letter was sent, and when it certainly has not been seen by its intended recipients, how on earth can they comment on a lack of a response? This typifies the shambolic way this organisation has handled this crucial issue for the future of Aberdeen.”

The time had come for creative thinking if the project was not to be lost. The original report on the consultation had stated “11,943 people went on to submit formal responses that have been recorded in the statistics.  This is a huge response rate when compared to similar style consultations. For example, the Edinburgh Tram consultation had just under 3,500 direct responses.” This was not good enough though. The board met on the 22nd of March and hatched a cunning plan “If views are roughly split there is an opportunity to say that although the public has spoken this is only in relatively small numbers.

Shangri-La would be rebuilt in the centre of Aberdeen and people would come for miles to see the giant concrete slab

Those wishing to see the status quo are in the minority compared to those who wish to see change such as updating and modernising the gardens.” Brilliant! As the great polemicists would say, it’s not the logic of your position that matters, it’s how you frame the argument that is all important. Or putting it another way:

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master— that’s all.”

This perspective was the key to moving forward, especially in view of Sir Ian Wood’s position expressed at the same meeting:

“A negative outcome from the consultation would be accepted graciously as the voice of the people having spoken.  If the outcome is split, one of the key conditions would be Aberdeen City Council support and resource to take the project forward to the next stage. “

The Council decided to pre-empt the consultation and vote on the issue. This they duly did on May 19th, 2010 and they agreed to progress the city square project (or the city garden project as they now wanted it to be called).

Acsef clearly like a challenge and they had a whopper. The scheme was not only highly unpopular but given the grandiose scale of the city square (it would be just slightly smaller than Red Square in Moscow), the costs were likely to be vast, reasonably £200 Million or more. Sir Ian Wood had promised £50 Million towards the cost of the project.

Where was all the extra money coming from?

Aberdeen Council had the utterly bonkers idea that they would borrow up to £200 Million from central government funds largely to pay for the square and then wait for the money to be paid back by revenue from extra business rates.  Shangri-La would be rebuilt in the centre of Aberdeen and people would come for miles to see the giant concrete slab (earlier this year Acsef had ran an advert in the Press and Journal describing the city square as “a unique opportunity to put the city on the must visit list”).

City-centre traders would be making so much extra money that the rateable value for their businesses would go through the roof.  An extra twist to the saga came from the September Council Finance Committee. Consultants were to be asked “to make it clear that they are required to produce a business case that ensures zero financial risk to the Council.” So the Council borrows up to £200 Million with no risk at all. Hilarious! Aberdeen Council could potentially put the makers of Xmas cracker jokes out of business. In fact, ‘crackers’ just about sums it all up.

Yet the Council would have everybody think that the city square is a done deal; it is anything but. It is at least 18 months away from planning submission, everything is running at least 4 – 6 months late and very little of the project plan has actually happened yet.  There is much that could go wrong with the scheme before long and it probably will.

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,

In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away—
For the Snark *was* a Boojum, you see.

I wish you a Merry Xmas and I reckon that a happy new year for everyone will see the back of the city square folly. Join Friends of Union Terrace Gardens through our website and help send it out of the way:

Dec 102010

With Thanks To Clare Rochford.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the staffing implications fall hardest on women in employment

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

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

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

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

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

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

We wait and wonder.

(Appendix1) (Page 5)