Nov 042016

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.


A Scottish farmer’s wife who has won £1.2m on an online bingo and casino site won’t be saddling up for a life of luxury or galloping off on a round-the-world cruise. Mandy Bowman, who scooped the jackpot on Glossy Bingo’s Major Millions slot game, plans to spend her winnings on her beloved horses by building an indoor riding school and launching a livery.

Mandy (45), from Buckie in Moray, also plans to invest some of her prize money in upgrading buildings and machinery on the family farm so that she and husband, John (40), can expand their operations and have a more stable future.

The pair wed two years ago and have yet to have a honeymoon – but Mandy says there is lots of work to be done on the farm before they can even think about taking some time off to enjoy a much-needed holiday together.

“We’ll soon be lambing and then the cows will be out to the field, so it could be May or even June before we can take a holiday. My husband doesn’t have a passport, so when we do finally take a break it won’t be anywhere exotic – it will be in Scotland,” explains Mandy.

“I might treat myself to a 4×4 to make getting in and out of the farm easier. I asked my husband if he would like a new car, but he’s happy with the one he’s got. I’ve become a millionaire, but the day I really hit the jackpot was the day I met my husband.”

Mandy says she is still having to pinch herself after hitting the jackpot on Major Millions, but is determined to keep her feet on the ground despite winning a total of £1,185,253. She has four horses and wants to expand the stables on the farm so that she can operate a livery business and an indoor riding school.

She’s been a member of the Glossy Bingo website for around three years. She was at home playing the game on her phone, and had been able to win £400 before she decided to switch over to the Major Millions game – a five-reel online slot game with a progressive jackpot that is regularly over £400,000.

The object of the game is to match up three to five symbols in a row. Mandy says,

“When I switched onto the progressive jackpot, I started to lose. I was spinning away and I was down to my last £3. I thought there was no way I would win anything then.

“I spun again and all the symbols matched. I thought I was seeing things and then a message flashed up to say that I had won the jackpot. When I saw the number I thought it was a mistake or a joke – I really didn’t believe it.

“I didn’t sleep for about three nights afterwards. It has come as a huge shock, but a very welcome one. I’m not going to go wild and splurge it all on cars or holidays: we love this lifestyle and we love the farm, and we want to make a future for ourselves here.

“I wouldn’t say that I am even that much of a gambler. I’ll have a flutter once a month, and only with what I have in pocket money once all the bills are paid.

“My dad used to bet on horses and he always told me that you should only bet what you can afford to lose, and I’ve always stuck by that. It’s very good advice. I was very close to my dad and sadly he passed away last year – I like to think he was my lucky charm and he brought me this win.

“I might still have a game now and again as I play when I can sit down and have a cup of coffee and relax – it’s like a bit of chill-out time for me.”

Vincent Viaud, VIP executive of Glossy Bingo, travelled to Mandy’s home to hand over the cheque. He adds,

“I think that Mandy has shown a very sensible approach to online gaming in only betting what she can afford and playing only occasionally.

“This is the biggest win we’ve had on Major Millions. I hope that Mandy will enjoy the win and really do hope this hard-working couple can use some of the jackpot by finally taking a break from the farm and enjoying a honeymoon.

“Mandy does so much to help other people and does a lot of work for charity, and by winning I hope she will give something back to herself.”

Glossy Bingo is a premium online bingo and casino site from the award winning team that brought you ‘Butlers Bingo’, home of the record breaking £5.8 Million Jackpot winner. Powered by Microgaming, one of the largest and most trusted providers of online casino and bingo software in the world, Glossy Bingo – – offers a range of different 90-ball and 75-ball bingo games as well as a choice of over 250 state of the art slot and casino games, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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Sep 062016

CALCULATOR AND MONEY Timothy Nichols - Dreamstime.comBy Suzanne Kelly.

On the face of it, Aberdeen Community Energy’s mission to ‘build, own and operate the Donside Hydro Scheme on behalf of the community’ sounds like a good idea for green energy in the local community.

Clean energy and community ownership are desirable of course.

However, before anyone joins the rush to invest in this or any scheme, they should exercise caution.

Sinclair Laing is ACE’s ‘Founder Director and Chair of Aberdeen Community Energy’ and Management Committee Member of Donside Community Association. On his personal facebook page he shared ACE’s post and wrote:

“C’mon people show us the colour of your money! And we will more than double it for you!”
– Sinclair Laing 14 August, Facebook

This is quite a bold promise – as the director is making it, does this constitute a guarantee? Are investors buying into the scheme because of this promise?

One reason people might have great faith in this start up is that Aberdeen City Council included it in its publication ‘Our Green Times’. This is veritably an endorsement by the city of the ACE project. The feature in ‘Our Green Times’ does not mention that Laing is also an Aberdeen City Council employee – this fact may be part of the reason for the article/advert in the city’s green newsletter.

Aberdeen Voice spoke with a representative from Our Green Times who believes the City had vetted the scheme’s legality, but the spokesperson was not aware of Laing’s Facebook claim to ‘more than double’ an investment in ACE. The spokesperson said that Our Green Times features items written by the City’s officers (such as Laing) and also takes news items from the city’s partner organisations.

ACE was asked to answer these questions.

  1. I attach a screen shot from Sinclair Laing’s Facebook page with a link to ACE in which he makes the claim investors will ‘more than double’ their money. Can ACE please comment on this comment? Does ACE also make this claim? How many investments were received on and following the date of Laing’s statement?
  1. Will Sinclair Laing or any others be salaried, remunerated or given shares for free? If so, please give details.
  1. Please supply names of any other directors, board members, and whether or not they are to be salaried, remunerated or given shares gratis.

A spokesperson for ACE from Weber Shandwick responded:

  1. “Yes indeed Sinclair’s statement is correct and it’s a statement that ACE stands by. It’s based on financial models developed for this project by Sharenergy, a specialist cooperative who are very much experts in this field. They were commissioned to work on this project for their expertise in community energy projects and share offers.“The Financial models have also be reviewed by Local Energy Scotland (LES), a Scottish Government appointed consortium who manage the Scottish Gov’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) fund. The LES & the CARES fund have helped to support this project from the outset with expertise and finance.“I’m sure you’ve already seen our share offer guidance document, but if not then please refer to section 8 for all financial details, including a member payment profile which demonstrates how the financial return works and how indeed investors can double their money.”
  1.  “See page 17 of the share offer document for more information. None of the ACE directors will be compensated financially – it’s all on a voluntary basis. In fact in Sinclair’s case it’s quite the opposite, he used his own, personal money to help bankroll the community scheme at an early stage, to fill a funding gap so that the project could move forward.”
  2. “For a full list of ACE’s directors please see this page of our website . And in terms of remuneration/salaries, it’s all completely voluntary – no salaries on share incentives involved. Everyone involved in the project is driven by one vision – to generate clean, renewable electricity and to create a sustainable income for the local area to spend on community priorities.”

Anyone who wants to invest in any schemes should be aware that their money is at risk. It is not possible to guarantee in any scheme that money will be doubled. Asked in general terms whether a start-up could or should make a promise about returns, a spokesman for Citizens Advice Scotland said:

“We do not comment on specific organisations, but In general terms we would urge people to be extremely cautious before entering into any new deals or financial arrangements. Every day CAB advisers across Scotland are seeing people who have lost money in new schemes which promised to make them rich but ended up doing the opposite.

“We are not saying that you should never invest in a new scheme, but we do urge people to read all the small print of any deal before parting with your money, and make sure you also do as much research as possible, getting as much independent advice and information as you possibly can about the organisation and the people involved.

“We have found a general rule of thumb is that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Those who are considering investing in any schemes should consider advice offered by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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Aug 192014

Scottish currency reportsqWith thanks to Aberdeen Group of Positive Money Supporters.

Positive Money’s ‘A Scottish Currency? 5 Lessons from the Design Flaws in Sterling’ highlights the necessity of limiting the creation of a Scottish currency to a Scottish Central Bank.

The report is helpful in pointing out some of the pitfalls of a Sterling-type currency,

1. The amount of money in the economy currently depends on the confidence of bankers.

Bank of England Bulletin recently explained:

‘Broad money is made up of bank deposits — which are essentially IOUs from commercial banks to households and companies — and currency — mostly IOUs from the central bank. Of the two types of broad money, bank deposits make up the vast majority — 97% of the amount currently in circulation. And in the modern economy, those bank deposits are mostly created by commercial banks themselves.

‘Commercial banks are the creators of deposit money…rather than banks lending out deposits that are placed with them – the act of lending creates deposits – the reverse of the sequence typically described in textbooks.’ (p15)

Every new bank loan creates new money. Since some economics/finance textbooks do not portray money creation in reality, some people may have (through no fault of their own) incorrect assumptions on this matter.

2. Any attempt to reduce household debt can lead to recession

Since banks create new money when lending, money is destroyed upon repayment. This can shrink the amount of money available in the wider economy.

3. The economy can only be stimulated through encouraging further indebtedness

Most broad money is created as a debt when people borrow, so the fastest way to create an economic recovery is to encourage people to keep borrowing. The only real alternative is something like Quantitative Easing (and even then – please target the real economy!)

4. Proceeds of money creation is captured by the banking sector rather than taxpayers

The Bank of England sells the notes and coins it creates at face value. Between 2000 and 2009, this profit on newly-created money (‘seigniorage’) added up to £18 billion. These profits are passed on to the Treasury.

Between 2000-2007 banks increased the amount of money in the UK by £1 trillion. However the law does not extend to cover seigniorage on this form of money. Banks gain interest from issuing those funds. The Treasury gains nothing.

5. Banks cannot be allowed to fail – if they did the payments system would collapse.

Under one roof you have one bank performing three functions. Firstly, a payments system to receive and transfer money (through your current account). Secondly, providing investment and savings vehicles for the longer term. Thirdly, access to loans and mortgages.

The bank deposit money or electronic money that we use today is simply the accounting liabilities of banks, meaning that if a large bank fails, our money is frozen and can no longer be used to make payments. Hence the need for a government scheme to guarantee deposits in case the bank fails.

Potential Solutions

Scotland could design a better currency and banking system. For instance, at the height of the Great Depression a number of leading U.S. economists advanced a proposal for monetary reform that became known as ‘The Chicago Plan.’  With this –

1. Deposits would be backed 100% by money at the central bank.

2. Banks could not finance loans by simply creating new money.

3. The payments systems would be separated from the savings and loans functions.

4. Under appropriate controls government would issue money directly at zero interest.

Irving Fisher (1936) claimed four major advantages –

1. It would eliminate bank runs

2. Better control of credit cycles

3. A dramatic reduction in private debt

4. A dramatic reduction in net government debt

In 2012 this was tested by the IMF’s Michael Kumhof and Jaromir Benes who modelled the US economy in ‘The Chicago Plan Revisited’. (It has answers to common questions too.)  They found fully capturing seigniorage (the proceeds from creating money) would consistently bring in 3.5% of GDP every year (p84). In the UK context that amount could half the deficit. (2013-14 borrowing is 6.6% of GDP)

They concluded (p68):

‘Our analytical and simulation results fully validate Fisher’s claims….We find that the advantages of the Chicago Plan go even beyond those claimed by Fisher. One additional advantage is large steady state output gains…. Another advantage is the ability to drive steady state inflation to zero… This ability to generate and live with zero steady state inflation is an important result, because it answers the somewhat confused claim of opponents of an exclusive government monopoly on money issuance, namely that such a monetary system would be highly inflationary. There is nothing in our theoretical framework to support this claim.

Kumhof commenting on it all said:

‘We can think of only one serious disadvantage, namely that the transition could be complicated and risky. But earlier thinkers, including Milton Friedman, did not share this concern, and the risks would have to be enormous to justify not giving the Chicago Plan very serious consideration.’

Implications for Scotland

With its own currency and central bank Scotland could create a system where –

1. Deposits would be backed 100% by public reserves.

The Chicago Plan leaves bank deposits completely unchanged; what changes is what deposits represent : indestructible public money rather than volatile destructible private money. Banks would borrow from the Treasury to obtain full coverage for all deposits. Rather than money being destroyed when repaid as at present, it accrues to the government as seigniorage.

2. Credit could not be financed by creation, ex nihilo (out of nothing), of bank deposits.

For money, it requires 100% backing of deposits by government-issued currency, combined with a strict money growth rule to control inflation. Today’s deposit creation out of nothing would be made illegal, the financing of new bank credit could only take place through banks retaining earnings or borrowing funds in the form of government-issued money.

The government is therefore fully in charge of controlling the broad money supply. The power to create and destroy money is taken away from banks, and returned to a democratic transparent and accountable process. And without banks’ rapidly changing attitudes towards credit risk (largely via asset bubbles) the amount of money in the economy would be more consistent reducing business cycle volatility.

3. The monetary and credit functions of banking would be separated.

The state is therefore fully in charge of controlling the broad money supply, but private financial institutions would remain in charge of determining the credit supply of real investments. Financial institutions concentrate on their strength, the extension of credit to investment projects that require monitoring and risk management expertise. Badly-run banks could be allowed to fail.  Meanwhile the payments system of the economy would be fully secure with a 100% reserve.

4. The government would be allowed to issue money directly at zero interest

This allows more money to enter the economy without there also being more debt. Spent rather than lent.  The central bank would decide on how much funds could be created which would then be passed on to the government. What it would be used for would depend on government policies.

Issuing money debt free rather than having to borrow it from banks at interest should help public finances and private debt levels. This could evidently contribute to reducing economy-wide financial fragility.

To conclude, Scotland (or any country for that matter) could have a brighter future with its money under the full control of its central bank alongside a better banking system.

Martin Wolf of the Financial Times has already suggested earlier this year to ‘Strip private banks of their power to create money’. The English and Welsh Greens have a very similar economic policy. There is currently a very small but growing cross party awareness amongst MPs of the monetary and banking issues discussed above.

Positive Money is a movement to democratise money and banking so that it works for society. This article was brought to you today by the Aberdeen Group of Positive Money Supporters.

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Oct 242013

In the conclusion to his two-part article, Jonathan Russell explores further the growing inequalities in wealth globally, in the UK and in Aberdeen


Both Oxfam and the Jimmy Reid Foundation have fuelled the debate about equality with their ideas around the Common Weal.

Whilst real consumption per head has doubled since 1978, unemployment benefit has remained fixed.

Peter Kenway, in a 2009 Joseph Rowntree Foundation report, posed the question, ‘Should adult benefit for unemployment benefit be raised?’ found that Jobseeker’s Allowance represents

  • a fifth of the actual, average expenditure of single adults
  • half of the actual average expenditure of single adults in the poorest households

Yet, at the same time, according to the Tax Justice Network, tax avoidance amounts to £69.9bn a year. Is this OK?

Minimum wage in the UK, per hour (2013)

21 and over

18 to 20

Under 18







The minimum wage has failed to keep pace with inflation. It is particularly low for younger citizens and needs to be increased significantly. At their recent conferences both Labour and SNP have pledged to improve the minimum wage, but pressure needs to be exerted to give this more impetus.

At the same time, members of richer families can leave up to £325,000 in inheritance without paying tax. So, if your parents are rich you can do absolutely nothing and inherit a substantial sum of money. The internet is full of sites giving advice on avoiding tax and inheritance tax. Imagine the outcry there would be if there were sites giving advice on how to fiddle Jobseeker’s Allowance.

This is a hypocritical double standard. Nor does it make sense economically, as it is those who have least money who are likely to spend and help us move out of recession. We currently suffer from lack of investment in our economy whilst there is much unnecessary wealth.

Total household wealth in the UK increased by 55% in the past decade, to an average of £242,000, largely due to a significant rise in the value of property which has outpaced surging mortgage debt.

According to research by Lloyds TSB Private Banking, that is equivalent to £86,500 per household in the ten-year period, with the value of wealth growing faster than consumer prices or disposable income.

The financial crisis has shaved £6bn off our assets since 2007, yet collective household wealth in the UK was estimated to be £6.6 trillion at the end of 2011, up from £4.3 trillion in 2001.

Wealth has outstripped both inflation and disposable incomes, with the Retail Prices Index (RPI) up by 38% over the past ten years and gross household disposable income up by 44%.

Cash Machine - © Freefoto.comAccording to the Lloyds research, a decade of booming house prices, especially between 2001 and 2007, has added significant wealth to households.

Property as a percentage of wealth has increased from 36% in 2001 to 40% in 2011. Over the decade, housing wealth has risen 73% and financial wealth is up 44%.

In the same period, the value of the nation’s private housing stock increased from £2.1 trillion to £3.9 trillion.

But as house values have grown, mortgage debts have risen significantly.

The total value of mortgage debt more than doubled from £591bn to £1.25 trillion, meaning that many households, though helped by low interest payments, are struggling or are failing to pay. Home ownership continues to be championed by the UK government. This is unrealistic and what we need is a wealth tax to allow us to build new social housing and help us move out of recession.

The £1.8 trillion increase in the value of housing outstrips the £655bn rise in mortgage debt almost threefold.

The data show that rises in both average house prices, and the number of privately-owned homes, from 20.1m in 2001 to 22.4m in 2011, was behind the surge in the value of housing.

Suren Thiru, Lloyds TSB Private Banking economist, said:

The substantial growth in household wealth over the past decade is partly the result of the increase in the value of housing stock between 2001 and 2007.

Whilst financial assets have played their part, the value of housing stock grew at a significantly faster rate. Rising house wealth has benefited those who own their own homes and those who rent out properties in the private sector.”

However, those at the bottom of the housing market have had to pay dearly.

Houses of Parliament - ©

The majority of household wealth continues to be held as financial, rather than housing, assets.

The total value of financial assets, such as savings, pensions and company shares, held by households has increased to £4.1trillion in 2011 from £2.9trillion in 2001.

The research found that there has been a £718bn rise in equity held by households in life assurance and pension fund reserves.

There has also been a boom in savings, with an increase of £549bn held in deposits with financial institutions and National Savings.

There was a relatively modest boost from stock market performance with the FTSE All Share Index increasing by 13% in the decade to 2011.

Despite the downturn in the economy since 2007, household wealth has declined by just £6bn, mainly down to lower house prices. These are now beginning to rise but this is worrying, since if price houses are high, the debt accrued in paying off new mortgages increases. Rather than building more social housing, the UK government is offering money to help get buyers on to the property ladder.

This is merely repeating the problems of the past in encouraging increased debt, leading to even more people defaulting on mortgage payments, particularly if interest rates increase.

The distribution of wealth in the UK between the haves and the have-nots beggars belief. Yet when it comes to paying the reckoning following a period of greed, from which the top 10% benefited in particular, it is the un-rich, low-waged, property-less, younger people who have suffered most.

Aberdeen for many is cushioned by Oil and Gas but, for the low-waged in service industries, paying high rents or for unemployed or disabled people, life is a struggle.

We have seen the opening of Aberdeen’s first food bank.

Services have been cut for the most vulnerable in our city, yet many people’s riches are far in excess of their needs.

It is time to end the something for nothing culture and start redistributing wealth between rich and poor, and for investment for future generations.

Cash machine and paliament photos by Ian Britton via

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Oct 212013

Across the globe, with a few notable exceptions, the disparity in wealth between the poor and the rich is increasing. In the first of two articles, Jonathan Russell looks at the increasing disparities in wealth globally, in the UK, and here in Aberdeen

CALCULATOR AND MONEY Timothy Nichols - Dreamstime.comGlobalisation in particular has meant that wealthy elites can invest in, and set up money-making concerns wherever they like, with little regard for either the countries in which they have investments or the populations of their own countries.

The biggest investments are in oil, gas and mineral abstraction and in the clothing industry.

The power of the state has reduced specifically in relation to its role as an income redistributor, and often, state ideology has been to encourage capital investment at the expense of its citizens.

The super-rich, defined as the top 1% of earners, now pocket 10p in every pound of income paid in Britain, whilst members of the poorest half of the population take home only 18p of every pound between them. This is according to a report published this week by the Resolution Foundation think tank, revealing the widening gap between those at the very top and the rest of society.

We have seen over recent decades, an attack on the working class and poorer ends of our society. Under Thatcher and successive governments most of our society’s industrial base was destroyed. This has led to over-dependence on the financial, service and oil and gas industries, and the one industry flourishing, the arms trade.

This leaves the economy in a particularly volatile state at times of economic downturn. Despite what the coalition government says, UK Government debt presently stands at £1.16 trillion, up from £0.76 trillion in 2010. Personal debt stands at £1.436 billion.

Many areas of the UK, including Scotland (4.4 %), have high levels of unemployment and young people in particular have borne the brunt of the present recession. Aberdeen’s unemployment rate is 2.2%. Young people are more likely to be unemployed, in low paid jobs and on short term contracts. They will have to wait longer for retirement and even middle class youngsters will be poorer in the future.

For those whose parents have few or no savings, the future is increasingly bleak. At the same time many older people have benefited from the property boom and have high-value pensions and savings.

Many people have moved from more highly-paid industrial jobs to low-paid service sector jobs in retail, call centres and care. Workers in these sectors are often on short-term contracts. In 2009, the average wage was £20081. In 2008/09, income in the top and bottom fifth of households was £73800 and £5000 respectively, before taxes and benefits.

mg_6280After tax and benefits, household income disparities are significantly reduced, to £53900 and £13600 respectively

The lives of many in Aberdeen have been cushioned by working in the oil and gas sector. Many in the trades are well paid too, due to local market conditions, but others have suffered the double whammy of low pay and increasing housing costs, in particular in the private sector.

The policy of selling council housing has had a devastating effect on people wanting to get into the housing market. It created divisions between working class people who were poor and those who were better off and who could afford to buy their council property at a reduced cost. This policy has finally been dropped in Scotland, but to turn around the devastation caused will take decades.

The young, unless they have rich parents who can help them on to the property ladder or with rent payments, have been particularly affected, with many more young people living in the parental home.

Housing Associations have, in part, helped to provide accommodation but in a market like Aberdeen’s, where private rents are high, the effect on people’s standard of living is devastating. Those renting out flats have made a killing.  Many people have moved to Aberdeenshire to access cheaper housing, creating ever-increasing chaos on the roads leading into Aberdeen.

Although Aberdeen is relatively affluent, there are a number of localities with significant social and economic challenges. In the 2012 Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 22 areas in the city are among the 15% most deprived areas in Scotland. The figures in relation to health are more striking, 48 areas of the city fall into the 155 most deprived areas in the country.

Jonathan Russell continues exploration of the growing inequalities in wealth globally, in the UK and here in Aberdeen in the next issue of Aberdeen Voice.

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May 032012

How would you like to save £430 every year? That’s the question asked by Zero Waste Scotland’s ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ campaign.  With thanks to Mark Beresford.

£430 is the average value of food wasted per year by people in Scotland.

On 16th May Aberdeen Forward will be hosting an event called  “Love Food” in association with Pampered Chef, which aims to help you save money with tips and advice, fancy recipes for your leftovers, and the chance to get involved with an interactive cooking demo.

Ruth Morris (an independent Pampered Chef Consultant) will be hosting a fun, interactive cooking show that will provide attendees with the opportunity to try innovative multifunctional kitchen tools while learning to prepare impressive recipes quickly.

In addition, our own Gillian Marr will be on hand to provide helpful tips and advice along the ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ theme, including how to shop smart to save money, making clever use of leftovers and how to make your food last longer.

Following the interactive demonstration, you’ll be able to enjoy the tasty results and be given the opportunity to purchase Pampered Chef products which you have tried out on the day. These are all highly popular and high quality kitchen tools which come in a wide variety to meet every price level.

The event is totally free to attend with no obligation to pay for anything, and will be held on:

16th May, 7pm-9pm at Aberdeen Forward’s Sustainable Communities Centre at 2 Poynernook Road, Aberdeen.

Anyone who would like to attend should simply call Aberdeen Forward on 01224 560 360 to book a place.