Apr 082016

Old Susannah aka Suzanne Kelly ponders her betters this week, and tugs her forelock in the general direction of the wealthy who have shaped the society we have today.

DictionaryIt actually has been a dynamic and vibrant week in the Deen. With huge regrets I missed Granite, the National Theatre of Scotland’s multimedia all-star cast production that sold out three nights last week.

The night I had tickets for the driving rain drove me indoors (asthma you know). Everyone who saw it loved it.

Cast members came from the city as well, with Dame Ann Begg doing a turn, and Aberdeen Voice’s Fred Wilkinson was involved too.

Elly Rothnie helped bring us this production; she works at the National Theatre of Scotland, although in a perfect, honest, meritocracy would by now be helping to run things in a brand new Peacock Visual Arts Centre in Union Terrace Gardens.

For the many people out there who’ve forgotten what really happened – well, we don’t really do know what happened.

One day Scottish Enterprise (headed for years by Sir Ian Wood) was helping Peacock’s plans. The next day, Scottish Enterprise decided that Sir Ian Wood’s dream of a subterranean car park in the gardens, run by acquaintances of Sir Ian Wood in a private company was a better idea, with Sir Ian Wood deciding what would be built in the gardens (common good land, lest we forget).

Perhaps it’s just that I never had any formal investigative journalism training, but I’ve always had the oddest feeling that there was some kind of connection between Scottish Enterprise’s change of heart and Sir Ian. Clearly there wasn’t though – or the Press & Journal would have written about it.

Moving swiftly along, the big event coming this week is BrewDog’s colossal Annual General Meeting on Saturday. This will be my fourth (I think), and it’s going to see 6,000 people coming to the AECC for fun, froth and frolics. And of course business.

Is it possible that Aberdeen can attract people even without a granite web and before the beautiful Marischal Square complex is built? Seems so. I’ve been to the new bar, and love its menu, feeling and of course bottle shop, but I’m still more at home in the original, first-ever BrewDog bar opposite Marischal College. The Beermuda Triangle will be teaming with international beer fans this weekend; and I can’t wait.

Outside the geography of the Beermuda Triangle you’ll find Under The Hammer on North Silver Street. I’ve been in a few group shows there with Neal Bothwell over the past few years (thanks Keith Byres); Neale’s got a solo show on at present; catch it if you can.

Aside from this Aberdonian excitement, it’s been hard to find any interesting news stories this week to write about. That nice Mr Donald Trump wants women to be punished for having abortions. Then he said he wants them punished if abortion was illegal. Next he didn’t want the women tarred and feathered, but the doctors instead.

Iain Duncan Smith is REALLY REALLY SORRY

Now, he thinks no one should be punished (this may or may not have happened after a journalist asked if any of his past squeezes ever had one).

It’s exactly this sensitive, well thought through take on today’s issues that we want in a world leader. I’m sure every woman feels like I do that we’re better off having some big, strong, handsome, intelligent man telling us what we should or shouldn’t do with our own bodies. I really can’t tell you how grateful I am to Mr Trump for this.

A Guardian article is for some reason critical of The Donald, but then again, it was written by some no doubt hysterical woman

Elsewhere Iain Duncan Smith is REALLY REALLY SORRY that he’d made all those laws he rolled out. I personally thought he was just trying to get the lazy skivers out of their hospital beds and into some kind of profitable (if not well paying) work.

In an interview with Private Eye’s Ian Hislop, Smith is on the verge of tears as he slices an onion – sorry – as he thinks about a suffering mum. No doubt he’ll be devoting himself to helping people today who he penalised yesterday. It might be too late for some people, but IDS is sorry, and that’s all that matters.

Leaving behind the tedious problems of the disabled and the poor, the news this week also had some story about money laundering in Panama. What’s wrong with laundering money? I put a fiver in the wash the other week in my jeans pocket, and it came out smelling like orchid and lavender.

Panama is an interesting small Central American country known for hats and a canal. It’s motto is “For the Benefit of the World”. That’s awfully nice of them.

The country had some previous tax haven problems, sad to say.

Result! Panama was removed:

“… from the Organization of Economic Development’s gray-list of tax havens by signing various double taxation treaties with other nations.” 

That’s turned out well then.

With a little hard work, and the right relatives, you too can have an offshore bank account or two. If not, and you find yourself queuing at the job centre or being hauled up for a disability benefits review, take heart.

At least other people are doing very well indeed, and Iain Duncan Smith is sorry and feels your pain.

Sure, no one’s paying tax anymore (well, no one important or rich anyway), and the NHS and benefits are at breaking point. Still, it’s good economic news because we’re attracting business to the UK. Mind you, we’re doing that by letting multinationals based here pay no tax. But don’t worry. It’s all going to be just fine.

Did you miss David Cameron’s stirring speech on tax evasion? Never fear, for here it is.

I’m sure this moving oration won’t require any explanation, but just in case you don’t quite follow Mr Cameron when he talks of the vast chasm of difference between the words ‘avoidance’ and ‘evasion’, here are some definitions.

Tax Avoidance: (Modern English Conservative Speak) – not paying all the tax you should pay by avoiding tax.


Tax Evasion: (Modern English Conservative Speak) – not paying all the tax you should pay by evading tax.


Treating people like children is not my intention, but it’s important that we all understand the clear difference between avoidance and evasion. I’d not want you think I was being evasive in avoiding this point, so here are some vastly differing definitions.

To Avoid: (English Verb) –

Merriam-Webster has this to say about the word avoid:

“to get or keep away from (as a responsibility) through cleverness or trickery <trying to avoid writing thank-you notes for the gifts he didn’t like>.

“Synonyms escape, dodge, duck, elude, eschew, evade, finesse, get around, scape, shake, shirk, shuffle (out of), shun, weasel (out of)

“Related Words miss; avert, deflect, divert, obviate, parry, prevent, ward (off); ban, bar, debar, eliminate, except, exclude, preclude, rule out; bypass, circumvent, skirt; foil, fox, frustrate, outfox, outsmart, outwit, overreach, thwart”
– http://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/avoid

So clearly, avoiding tax is fine.

To Evade: (English Verb) –

Merriam-Webster says of the word evade :

“to get or keep away from (as a responsibility) through cleverness or trickery <people who use every loophole in the law to evade paying taxes>.

“Synonyms avoid, dodge, duck, elude, eschew, escape, finesse, get around, scape, shake, shirk, shuffle (out of), shun, weasel (out of)

“Related Words miss; avert, deflect, divert, obviate, parry, prevent, ward (off); ban, bar, debar, eliminate, except, exclude, preclude, rule out; bypass, circumvent, skirt; foil, fox, frustrate, outfox, outsmart, outwit, overreach, thwart”
– http://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/evade

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Sep 102015

With thanks to Steve Kearney.

ABC - Adam Smith - Ken Buchanan - Frank Gilfeather

Adam Smith (rear, second from left) with Ken Buchanan and Frank Gilfeather.

One of Aberdeen’s best-known boxing personalities has been given a long service award from the sport’s national federation in recognition of his seventy years of voluntary work in the city and beyond.

Adam Smith was presented with the award by Boxing Scotland for seven decades of dedication to developing and supporting the sport in the North-east in a variety of roles.

Having started as a junior boxer, Smith was heavily involved with Aberdeen Amateur Boxing Club, and between 1972 and 2009 served as only the second Club Secretary, taking over from local legend Tommy Begg, who had run the club since it was founded in 1920.

Working alongside Begg, Smith was a judge, trainer and delegate, equally happy dealing with the administrative side of the sport as he was working to develop young boxers.

In addition to the role of Secretary, Smith became Head Coach after Begg passed away, overseeing the most successful period in the club’s history and moving the base from Shiprow to Mastrick, then in 1989 to its current home at Cumming Park Community Centre, where the club recently re-opened after a two-year gap due to a lack of facilities.

Other roles Smith occupied include a spell as Scotland Manager between 1979 and 1982, while he was also a referee of considerable acclaim, as well as being the elected President of the North-east District of the Scottish Amateur Boxing Association between 1978 and 2000.

In 2009, the club was passed to Adam’s son Leroy, who as President and Head Coach has steered the club through recent challenges to once again be the centre for boxing in Aberdeen.

The legacy of one of Scotland’s oldest and most highly-regarded boxing clubs looks to be in safe hands as Leroy is currently studying for his BSc in Sports Coaching at Abertay University and has also recently taken on a post at Sport Aberdeen, both of which will benefit the club.

Run entirely by a team of volunteers and with a growing group of committed boxers, Aberdeen Boxing Club, as it is now known, is looking towards a bright future, but with one eye firmly on the past, and the incredible legacy Adam Smith and his input over a seventy year period.

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Aug 152014

Flag_of_the_Commonwealth_of_NationssqBy Dr Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff and Buchan.

It was with a tinge of sadness that I watched the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony earlier this week. The Games have brought Glasgow, and Scotland, into the world’s limelight in a way which no one could have anticipated.

Prince Imran of the Commonwealth Games Federation said it best when he described the games as “amazing”, and “the best games ever.”

The 2014 Commonwealth Games were, to use the Prince’s own words “pure, dead brilliant”. 1.2 million tickets were sold, and Scotland welcomed hundreds of thousands of tourists and visitors from near and far.

The event has been an unqualified success in every sense of the word; and our athletes – and organisers – have done Scotland proud.

Besides the excitement associated with the actual competition, however, there was another, hugely important element which set our games apart as something special. It was the fact that, over the course of the games, the charity drive by UNICEF managed to raise £5 million – a record breaking amount, which will help transform lives in poorer Commonwealth countries through sport and education.

Credit must be given to the notable Scottish actors and sporting heroes who helped publicise the event – and to everyone who contributed.

In the warm, euphoric afterglow of the games, however, it’s important to bear in mind what hasn’t changed. Scotland – and Glasgow in particular – still hosts some of the most deprived areas in Europe, and some of that UNICEF money will be targeted at some of our nation’s poorest communities too.

For me, one of the best aspects of the games was the involvement if such an inclusive and diverse range of athletes.

From 13 year old Erraid Davies from Shetland who won a bronze in the para-swimming to the  ‘more mature’ competitors who did us proud winning a whole raft of medals in the bowling, people of all ages were taking part in the games, showing us all that it’s not just the young and super-fit who can excel in sport.

The other great thing is that there has been a big investment in sport and recreation facilities across Scotland as part of the Commonwealth Games legacy project, including here in the North-east.

Too often in the past major sporting events have diverted resources away from grassroots sporting activities, but instead the Commonwealth Games has seen new investment in facilities to encourage more of us (myself included!) to get a bit more active.  The other great benefits of the Commonwealth Games have been in hundreds of new jobs, apprenticeships, and regeneration in the run up to the games, and the sharp increase in tourism over recent weeks.

Team Scotland excelled themselves to win more medals than ever before in front of a home crowd, surpassing even the most optimistic expectations, and the City of Glasgow delivered an event everyone in Scotland can be proud of.

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Jun 202014

Ross Martin-0614With thanks to Dave Macdermid.

It’s promising to be a busy summer for local teenage tennis star Ross Martin who has been selected to represent a Scottish Schools team this weekend to play in a challenge match against the South African team, which is touring Britain.

The match will be played at St Georges School in Edinburgh on Saturday.

The Robert Gordon’s College pupil has just returned from competing in a Tennis Europe event in Oslo, winning two matches in qualifying, followed by two in the main draw to reach the quarter finals before losing to the Norwegian No 2 Under 14 6-3, 6-4 but in the process, gaining him his first European ranking points.

13 year old Ross, who plays at David Lloyd was part of the North County U14 team, which came 3rd in the British County Championships last month.

Apr 042014
Houses of parliament - Freefoto.com

Westminster to cap welfare.

With thanks to Stuart Donaldson, Constituency Officer to Christian Allard MSP.

In a recent debate on Child Poverty in Scottish Parliament, North East MSP Christian Allard slammed Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories for voting at Westminster to cap welfare but refusing to put a cap on Trident.

Commenting the SNP MSP said:

“Save the Children has warned that the Westminster welfare cap will push 345,000 children into poverty in four years, yet Labour voted with the Tories.

“Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories voted to put a cap on welfare but all are unwilling to cap spending on Trident.

“Only a vote for independence will ensure that we are no longer in the disgraceful situation where weapons of mass destruction are valued over the wellbeing of our children.”

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Apr 042014
Christian Allard at Instant Neighbour foodbank

Christian Allard at Instant Neighbour foodbank.

With thanks to Stuart Donaldson, Constituency Officer to Christian Allard MSP.

North East MSP, Christian Allard has welcomed the decision by French company Atos to end its contract with the UK government early.
The company assesses people for benefits on behalf of the UK government and carries out tests to see if they are ‘fit to work’.

Commenting the French-born MSP said:

“It is telling that Atos are no longer willing to carry out these assessments on behalf of the Westminster government.

“The assessments, part of the welfare cuts agenda, are designed to harass and intimidate vulnerable people.

“This agenda is driving families further into poverty and emptying the shelves of local foodbanks in the North East.

“I would encourage those who feel strongly about these unfair tests to direct their anger at those responsible for implementing them, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition at Westminster.

“There is an opportunity to do so this weekend with the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference taking place at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre.”

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Jul 182013

I am pro-independence and an active supporter of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says Steve Boyle whose article, he states, is not intended to be political, rather a means of initiating discussion.

On 18 September next year Scotland will vote on independence, and although both sides are campaigning hard, some thought needs to be given to what may transpire after the vote.

Should the poll be in favour of an independent Scotland, then on 19 September 2014 we can start with a clean slate. We need to consider what steps we should take to turn Scotland in to a 21st century democracy.

Constitutionally speaking

There is no real UK constitution at the moment. Most people believe that they have freedom of speech and other protected rights, but the limited protections they do have come from European law (Article 10) which became the Human Rights Act 1998.

Independence is a chance to start again from scratch. To this end, a constitutional committee should be set up using resources from the UK and international organisations as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The committee outputs should then be voted on by the people, rather than politicians, before being passed into law.

This will be a chance to make Scotland one of the fairest countries in the world.

Electoral System

Is first-past-the-post the best voting system for a small country? There are many different voting systems and variations of the main three, each of which has its pros and cons:

–          majority rule

–          proportional representation

–          plurality voting

I’m no expert on these and have no specific favourite, but individual explanations of each can be found on the internet. A voting system utilised for 64 million people may not be the best system for a population of 5 million people. In Switzerland for example, where the population numbers just under 8 million, a system of half-direct democracy is used.

Under this system, the population has a more direct say on policy by voting directly on many topics. This does, however, mean that people have to turn out at the polls, or vote electronically, far more often.

The Parliament

I will not comment on the building here; we are stuck with it. However, we should review the set-up of the Parliament. Is the current system the right one for an independent Scotland or can we do better?

What Else?

Is the offer of independence on its own enough, or do we need to decide how to get the country’s future right and have plans in place to deliver this future, before 19 September next year? I don’t hear politicians from both side of the debate asking the questions I’m posing. We cannot afford to walk blindly into such an important decision for Scotland and the rest of the Union.

As this is a once-in-a-lifetime option, it is only right that there is a fair and frank discussion on what the future should hold and what shape this future should be. This discussion needs to be held at grassroots level and not left to self-serving politicians. Now is the correct time to look at the big changes and, if necessary, prepare for them.

We have the opportunity to live in one of the most egalitarian and democratic countries in the world. If we do not take this opportunity, we may have failed, regardless of the result.

It’s time to talk.

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Aug 312012

With thanks to Dave Macdermid

The weather was the only winner at the Scottish Disability Sport Lawn Bowls Championships at Westburn Park.
Supported by Sport Aberdeen and Aberdeen Disability Sport, the event has been coming to Aberdeen for over 20 years, with all of the 70 entrants having qualified for the National Championships via regional championships over the summer and travelling from all over Scotland to take part.

Although not a Paralympic sport, bowls will be part of the Para Sport programme at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and many of the hopefuls for the Scottish team were present to make the most of top class play.

During the first session there were some outstanding matches and the teams from Lothian, Fife and Aberdeen were looking especially strong.  Players were competing in sections for wheelchair users, visually impaired bowlers, ambulant bowlers with a physical disability and bowlers with a learning disability and, as the competition reached the quarter final stages, a long torrential downpour stopped play for the day.

Disappointingly, the rain kept falling and the games could not resume, resulting in the 2011 Championship Winners retaining their titles for another year until the bowlers convene in Aberdeen for the 2013 Scottish Disability Sport National Championships.

Organisers would like to thank the 25 local bowlers who volunteered their time to act as markers and umpires at the Championship.

Image credit:  Wikimedia Commons. Licence info: File:Bowls%26Kitty.JPG


Jul 062012

Scotland’s first ever Disability Sports Hub, launched in the spring at Aberdeen Sports Village, is proving to be a great success with extremely positive feedback from organisers and users. With thanks to Dave Macdermid.

The community initiative, run and organised by Scottish Disability Sport (SDS), Sport Aberdeen and Aberdeen Sports Village, supports sportscotland’s contribution to the Scottish Government’s 2014 legacy plan, in creating exciting and innovative approaches to the development of local sporting clubs across Scotland.

The SDS vision is to lead the development of sport and physical recreation for disabled people in Scotland and contribute to UK and international initiatives.

SDS annually organises national events in bowls, athletics, football, swimming, boccia, wheelchair curling and cross country and association branches organise complementary qualifying events.

Andrinne Craig, Scottish Disability Sport’s Regional Manager in Grampian, commented,

“Although it’s still early days, we have been extremely heartened by the feedback from everyone involved, including participants, parents and coaches. Inclusive athletics sessions have been up and running for several weeks, on Wednesday afternoons, and the numbers attending are encouraging.”

These programmes are geared towards developing new and existing sports and helping athlete members to realise their full potential through sport. SDS has a particular commitment to children and young people and to ensuring that it demonstrates best practice in relation to equality.

The Disability Sports Hub offers people with disabilities, and their families and friends, opportunities to participate in a range of recreational activities, tailored to suit all ages and abilities. It will provide a home for a number of inclusive sports clubs and will be a place where participants can attend, try out and get involved in these activities.

Apr 122012

With thanks to Cara de Pescado.

Earlier in the year the fascist Scottish National Front applied to march through Aberdeen on Hitler’s birthday (20th of April) but did not get permission from the Local authority.

They may still hold a static demonstration somewhere in the city centre to preach their politics of intolerance and hatred.

Their racist views must not go unchallenged. In response Aberdeen Trade Union Council together with Aberdeen Against Austerity and the Black Sheep Collective have organised ‘Hope Not Hate’ – Equality and Diversity Night.

The night will feature live acoustic music, stalls, poetry and a World Music club night afterwards til late.

Please come and join in the celebrations. We’ll make their chants of hatred inaudible above the music.

  • Friday 20th April
  • Aberdeen Trades Council Social Club, 13 Adelphi, Aberdeen
  • Doors 8pm
  • Admission free (donations will be accepted)
  • Music by Mark Ayling, Maze McPunklet and Los Rebeldes Acusticos and poetry by Tommy Campbell and Rapunzel Wizard.