Sep 082011

With Thanks to Dave Macdermid.

In conjunction with this year’s Enchanted Castle event at Crathes Castle, which will run from Wednesday 23rd to Sunday 27th November, there are a number of fantastic prizes up for grabs in a new digital photography competition which is launched today. The competition is open to two age groups, namely 15 and under, and 16 and over.
You can enter both competitions online, via a link on Carlton Resource Solutions Ltd’s website at  and all entries for both categories will be visible so entrants can weigh up their competition!

The theme of the competition is ‘The North East’s Natural Beauty’ and, as Gerry Muldoon from EC organisers GM Events outlines, this can encompass a wide range of subject matter.

“Entries can be anything from landscape shots to wildlife or even the sky at night, the only prerequisite being that the image can be sent digitally.

“The winners will be  selected by Logan Sangster of Deeside Photographics in early November. 

The photographs will be on display throughout the five days of the Enchanted Castle at the Milton Gallery in Crathes and at Crathes Restaurant.  Huge thanks are due to recruitment specialist, Carlton Resource Solutions Ltd, the lead sponsor of the Enchanted Castle, for co-ordinating the photo competition and also to the organisations that have donated fantastic prizes for the winners.” 

Prizes for the senior competition include a family meal at The Milton Restaurant, an overnight stay at the Raemoir House Hotel and a £250 voucher for Deeside Photographics for a full family portrait.

The  organisers hope to see local schools getting involved and for everyone to delight in the region’s top photography talent and share their entries with their friends and family. Among the prizes for the junior competition is a new digital camera, courtesy of GM Events and family membership to the National Trust for Scotland.

The Enchanted Castle event itself will see the grounds of Crathes Castle transformed thanks to cutting edge light and sound technology and stunning choreographed effects, moods and backdrops that will be a ‘must’ for family members of all ages. 

An evening walk will take place in a truly magical ambience, and a host of complementary, themed attractions including storytelling sessions, fire breathers and jugglers, magicians and children’s enchanted craft activities, will all add much to the magical experience.

Tickets for the November event are now on sale at:
Aberdeen Box Office,
Music Hall,
Union Street,
Tel 01224 641122
– and at:

Inclusive tickets for all the attractions cost £10 for adults, £8 concessions, £5 for Under 16’s and free for Under 5’s. Ample free car parking is available at Crathes Castle.
Full details can be found on

In addition to Carlton Resource Solutions as headline sponsor, Scottish Enterprise, Aberdeenshire Council, Rural Aberdeenshire LEADER Programme, EventScotland, Royal Deeside and the Cairngorms DMO have all assisted in ensuring the Enchanted Castle will be one of the winter’s major events in the area.

Sep 012011

A look at more contradictory information from different arms of the council – with deadly consequences for the Tullos Hill Roe Deer by Suzanne Kelly.

In the first instalment of ‘Truth’, I revealed part of Valerie Watts’ response to my formal complaint.
This contained the shocking story of how we have already paid £43,800 for a previous failed plantation on Tullos Hill – and that Ms Watts failed to clarify the existence of this debt when asked.
In fact, Aberdeen Council (ie the taxpayer) “could be liable for a reclaim of up to £120,333.91” if trees to be planted fail, says a Forestry Commission Scotland letter.

The second part of the story will examine Watt’s response in more depth, revealing yet more contradiction; council use of general statements to justify the specific Tullos Hill situation; and the deliberate snubbing of experts who offered objections to as well as solutions to this completely arbitrary tree-planting.

As detailed in Part One, I launched a formal protest following my researches into the details of the tree scheme and the cull; these can be found in Aberdeen Voice. I found no fewer than 10 main points, which I felt the Council should be called to account on.

The Council and I have traded emails back and forth. My specific, targeted questions are largely going unanswered. Either that, or I get sweeping, non-specific statements (such as ‘deer culling is perfectly normal’ – which has nothing to do with killing deer to protect trees that could be elsewhere – or not planted at all). This all wound up in my formally complaining, and the initial response from Ms Watts was much in the same vein as what I had heard before. I sent a reply, which I had to chase twice.

The first time I chased my reply was 8 July. The Council now say that they sent a reply to me on 11 July, and this date appears on a letter sent via email (although there is no trace of it in my inbox).

Interestingly, their first letter, also sent by email, was addressed to me at my home, and was posted. The second letter the city says it sent on 11 July did not include my street address, and certainly did not ever reach me in the post. I do wonder why they would change their method of communication.

But there are larger points at stake.

Time is running out, and this article cannot touch on all the new information or recap all of the previous points raised. There are previous stories still available on Aberdeen Voice, and a good deal of information can be found on the internet.

If at the end of reading this and other articles you decide you want the deer spared, then please contact your councillors as soon as you can, as well as the City Council. Your voice can make a difference yet. Details of councillors can be found at:

Here is a selection of some (certainly not all) of the issues arising from my last letter from Valerie Watts – the one that never arrived either in the –post or by email at the time it was meant to have been sent. Sadly, I am not getting any closer to getting any definitive, meaningful answers, which the following examples will show. It is time for everyone concerned for the deer to consider other forms of action.

Income from trees? Depends who’s talking

Various council officers and rangers have written to me saying that there will be ‘income streams’ from the trees.

In fact, some of the reports say that some income can be relied upon from this giant forest in time. I asked Ms Watts for the financials. She replied:

“There is no business plan to justify the potential future timber crop and subsequent potential income stream.”

Either Ms Watts is right and the rangers and others who mentioned an income from the trees are wrong – or the City is confused. In fact, here is what the public consultation for phase 2 said:-

“… the trees should be well established and require minimal maintenance before they start generating income”

Which leads us to Watts’ comments on the public consultation.

Public Consultation: ‘was robust’

We have already established what a flawed, misleading document this phase 2 consultation exercise was, but Ms Watts insists the consultation was ‘robust’.

Those supporting the tree scheme are adamant that the consultation was never about the method of tree planting, and it was not relevant. This is the excuse they give when asked why shooting the Tullos deer was not in the document.

If it had been mentioned, the scheme would never have passed the public consultation in a million years. But people like me and those I have spoken to cite this passage from the public consultation as the reason we thought the deer were safe:-

“Where necessary some sites will require rabbit fencing to minimize damage from rabbits…”

If you read this document, you would come to the conclusion that animal damage had been considered: why mention fencing to control rabbits and not mention damage from other animals? I concluded –as did dozens of others (and more) that if deer were a problem, they would likewise have been mentioned.

We now know that in November 2010 the Council and Scottish Natural Heritage were already planning to shoot the deer to plant these trees: they just decided not to tell us this.

The Scottish Natural Heritage letter suggests handling the public over the deer. Well, the public has most definitely been misled by this poor excuse for a consultation. It was biased. It withheld information. To date, no one has come forward despite my requests to say they were the author of this document; the author certainly has some questions to answer.

See: shhh-dont-mention-the-pre-planned-deer-cull

The Media can’t see the Trees for the Forest

Perhaps the most pompous claim Ms Watts makes is that the media got the facts wrong, and that the community councils got misinformation from the media, so didn’t understand the scheme.

I find it a bit late in the day to blame the media – does Ms Watts include the P&J, EE, BBC, STV, Northsound, and the Scotsman as well as Aberdeen Voice? Where and when did the City’s Public Relations staff counter any inaccuracies in the media? In fact Ms Aileen Malone, convener of the housing committee and large proponent of this plan spoke to the media on many occasions. Here is what Watts wrote on the matter:-

“Aberdeen City Council has no control over how the media report Council meetings. In this case the media did not accurately report on the decisions of this Committee and have continued to publish inaccurate information about this project. They have published their interpretation of the committee decisions.”

It should be noted that when the media have published inaccuracies in the past the Council swiftly jumps in to make corrections when it suits them. We saw the recent debacle of the City countering its own press office’s release about the frequency and costs of using outside consultants. I also recall a Press & Journal editorial stating that the P&J would apologise when it made errors, but would not apologise for publishing information the City released and subsequently retracted.

Scottish SPCA don’t understand the project – says Watts

The work and the position of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is world-renowned and respected. Except here.

The Scottish SPCA issued a statement specifically about the Tullos cull: they called it ‘abhorrent and absurd to kill deer to protect non-existent trees.’ Ms Watts doesn’t believe the Scottish SPCA are clever enough to have formulated its stance, and writes the following:-

“You quote the Scottish SPCA in your response. We* have been unable to find any evidence from the charities [sic – she must mean charity’s] policies that it has one that is against culling.

“We are in the process of checking this with the organization. We believe that the quote from Mr Mike Flynn is based on inaccurate reporting of the committee decision in the media. If the SSPCA were financially able to and prepared to relocate the deer legally within the project timescales, then the City would be amenable to them doing so.”

However, this amazing about-face needs examining, regarding allowing the deer to be relocated. The Council and the Scottish Natural Heritage made their positions clear previously that moving deer was not a solution.

I wrote to the Scottish SPCA to get their feedback on Watt’s paragraph above, and spoke to Mike Flynn on 26th August. He explained the difficulties in catching and moving deer, and says this idea just does not work. Mike confirmed the Scottish SPCA’s position on culling: it is to be carried out only where there are clear animal welfare issues or public safety issues.

Flynn confirmed that a person from the City did contact the Scottish SPCA to ask for its policy on culling. He was not happy that Watts believes he didn’t understand the issues and had been misinformed by the media. He understands, and is happy to stand by the previously-stated position: it is abhorrent and absurd to cull the Tullos Hill Roe Deer to plant trees. And whatever anyone at ACC may say, Mr Flynn is right.

* (somehow Ms Watts is now a group or is using the royal ‘we’ –she does not spell out who she means when she says ‘we’)

My Opinion and Conclusions Summarised

• The main conclusion I reach from months of research and asking questions is that I will be given different information from every council official, officer and elected member I speak to.

• They are united in one thing: they want the deer shot and the trees planted at all costs.

• The expert they hired after a tender process (note – the cost of this expert should be queried) is not interested in other experts’ opinions: this is no longer detached scientific expertise, but dogma.

• They are not actually as united as they think they are. There is increasing SNP resistance to this plan, which must be encouraged. Ms Malone insists the ‘tree for every citizen’ scheme was a Lib Dem election pledge. Ms Watts writes the Lib Dems and SNP jointly pursue this scheme, which “… has the mandate of the people of Aberdeen.” This Mandate is most definitely in the past tense – now that we know what the planting means for our deer and other existing wildlife.

• Most importantly: it is not too late to stop this insane scheme!

Watts next? – my opinion

A radio presenter had invited me and Aileen Malone to speak about the deer situation some months back.

Aileen was far too busy to spare the 20 minutes of a Sunday morning for this phone-in debate. A shame – as she could have rectified all the ‘misunderstandings’ which Watts claims the media are putting about. The show’s researchers were told I was not part of any group. And, I am not.

Still, the presenter seemed keen to draw me into an argument about direct action and getting people to stand in front of guns. I do not want to tell anyone to do anything, particularly anything to do with gun-toting shoot-to-kill mercenaries. However, it is plain that reason, logic, expense and the will of the people are being thrown out the window.

Before I had seen Emily James’ film about average people taking direct action, ‘Just Do It’ (at the Belmont a few weeks ago), I would not have considered taking steps to directly intervene in this tree plan. I am now re-thinking my position. When campaigning and logic have no effect, other (peaceful) means may be needed.

In the meantime, please get in touch with your elected representatives. Details of councillors can be found at:

Tell them what you do and do not want to happen regarding Tullos Hill. Stopping this cull is not down to me or any one group – it is down to everyone.

If anyone wants a postcard to send the City, or a poster to put in their window, or to be kept informed of any developments, please write to – sooner rather than later.

Aug 102011

With thanks to Friends Of Duthie Park and University of Aberdeen Natural History Centre.

Ahead of the forthcoming major restoration work that will see the return of much of the original Victorian elements to the north east’s most popular visitor attractions, the ‘Friends of Duthie Park’ group is hosting an open day later this summer.
Sunday 14th August will see festivities running between 12 noon and 4 pm and there will be something for all of the family.

Friends Chairman Tony Dawson explains,

“This will be an opportunity to celebrate the park as it is now prior to the refurbishment. I think it’s fair to say that many people know there is major work to be undertaken without necessarily being aware of all that is involved.

“Consequently, we will have a powerpoint display of the planned work, running on a loop, while at 1 pm and 3 pm, there will be guided tours around the park explaining the details of the restoration which is substantial and includes the return of the ‘Duthie fountain’ and the re-establishment of the original promenade.

“In addition, we’ll have plenty of entertainment including horse and cart rides, music from the Bon Accord Silver Band, zumba and fitness demonstrations, gardening workshops and many other stalls and attractions.

“We are hoping to welcome back ‘Spike’ the talking cactus after an absence of more than a decade. However his electrics are in need of some attention and if there is anyone out there who feels they could repair him, then we’d be delighted to hear from them as he would bring back lots of memories for those of a certain generation.”

A full timetable for the day will be available on from the beginning of August.

  • Duthie Park Open Day
    Sunday 14th August
    12 til 4pm
    Come along and join in the fun

The “Friends of Duthie Park” was set up in 2006 as a charitable organisation established to promote Aberdeen’s world famous park, one of the most popular tourist attractions within the Granite City.

The Friends work closely with the Park’s owners, Aberdeen City Council to provide a positive mouth piece for the Park’s users.

Currently the Friends organisation is closely involved with the bid by Aberdeen City Council for Heritage Lottery Funding to restore areas of the Park to their former glory.

They actively encourage membership of the organisation, which currently is free, as they are always interested in facts, knowledge or ideas for the Park.

Jul 222011

Last week in the first of this two part investigation, Suzanne Kelly described how The City Council and its officials were dealing with the Tullos Hill roe deer cull and tree-planting issues. Part 1 also covered the decades of arson on ‘The Gramps’, the excellent quality of Tullos Hill as it is, local community councils’ opposition to the cull, and the considerable public anger at the City’s refusal to even consider modifying its plans.

The hill itself is a wildlife haven; the very important gorse providing homes to bees and birds.  There are fields of wildflowers (the spectacular Dame’s Violets for instance), and it is a recreation area.

This is why our City Council – as a LibDem election pledge – want to turn it into some gargantuan 40,000-tree profit-making (ie lumber-producing) forest.

We now look at other important aspects of this issue, challenge the government to comment, and propose some actions.

The Gorse is always Greener

‘Kissing is out of fashion when the gorse is not in bloom’ goes an old saying – based on the fact gorse virtually always has blossoms.  This is an extremely useful plant for bees.  If you’ve not been made aware, bee populations around the world are in serious trouble.

As long as we still want our plants to be pollinated so we keep eating, we are well advised to do all we can to encourage bees.  My research leads me to conclude that gorse is far better for bees and several other species than trees are (particularly trees which will be cut down for profit when the Council chooses).

Don’t take my word for the importance of gorse.  Do take Dr. Ian Rotherham’s word:-

“Gorse is an incredibly valuable habitat for wildlife – supporting a diversity of invertebrates and many birds and mammals. It provides dense cover plus abundant nesting sites, invertebrate food associated with the gorse, and of course the blaze of flowers during much of the year. Butterflies, bees, hoverflies, spiders, badgers, whinchats, stonechats, yellowhammers, chaffinches, linnets, greenfinches, meadow pipits and skylarks for example, all thrive in gorse-rich areas.

“As the biomass of gorse builds up it loses vigour and beings to die back. If there is a fire then the gorse is reduced to ground level and will quickly regenerate for the next 30-40 years or so. Clearly fire risk can be a problem but not for the gorse or the associated wildlife (except at the immediate time of a conflagration).

“Cyclical cutting of gorse, grazing, and cutting of fire-breaks are positive ways to reduce risk and damage but to maintain what is a rich but often unappreciated wildlife habitat. The establishment of a friends group to watch over the area would also help reduce risk. The gorse in bloom is also a wonderful landscape feature. A plantation wood does not provide a biodiversity resource or a landscape feature to match this. Trees are often planted at the expense of the wildlife habitats and landscape features because of the misconception that they are inherently better for wildlife – which they are not – and because money is available as grants to do this.”

(  Dr  Rotherham is a Professor of Environmental Geography, Reader in Tourism & Environmental Change, International Research Coordinator, associated with universities around the world. He is editor of several important academic publications including International Journal of Urban Forestry, Journal of Practical Ecology & Conservation, and International Urban Ecology Review )

I would be interested to hear from any City Council officer, ranger or pro -Tullos Hill tree plantation consultant wishing to comment on Dr Rotherham’s statement. 

In the meantime, Ian Talboys, Countryside Ranger for Aberdeen wrote to me on 6 June:-

“The amount of gorse on the site will be substantially reduced to make way for the tree planting
which again reduces the risk of wilful fires”.

Why should a countryside ranger particularly be keen to change an ecosystem such as  Tullos to a profit-making, lumber-producing forest?  Where is the evidence that replacing gorse with saplings and trees will reduce wilful fire risk?

City  Council ‘austerity’ and ‘budget’ cuts

I spoke to a person connected to the countryside services for the Council.  They advised me that like virtually every branch of our local government, they are now expected to find income streams and do all they can to make money.

It is not enough that our environment is under threat from over-development, pollution and loss of biodiversity – our environmental conservation activities are supposed to make money for the City.  Would our rangers’ time be better served in patrolling the fire-prone areas, educating people and engaging in active conservation, or are we asking them to look for grants such as the tree-planting ones and to make money at all costs?

If I get an answer to this question, I will share it with you.  Again, I invite comment from the City.

I still await a reply as to how this timber business is going to be set up, and for a copy of the business plan.  Should any of this information ever be forthcoming from our elected officials, I will share it with you.  Again, should any City proponents of the scheme like to come forward and (finally) explain how the timber business will work, I invite them to do so.

It has just been announced that despite negotiations with Unions being incomplete, the City has signed an agreement with external consultants to make £120 million worth of budget savings over a five-year period (cost of these consultants has been estimated at between £500k to £600k).  Perhaps they will have their own opinion as to the viability of a timber business venture on an arson hotspot which has already resulted in the City returning £43,800 to the Forestry Commission…

Failed Tree Planting, Failed Open Government, Failed Freedom of Information Requests

In a ten-point complaint I clearly asked for clarification of a £44,000 debt for a failed tree plantation which I had heard of.  The City’s Chief Executive Valerie Watts wrote in early June to deny any money was owed.

Proof that this payment was made was given to me almost immediately  after Watts’ denial – but as of 21 July,Wattshas not explained the failure to disclose the repayment.

The proof is a letter the Forestry Commission sent to the City earlier this year which was copied to Ian Talboys.  The question is whether Watts knew of the letter when she wrote to me or not.  Until she explains her answer, the whole planting programme should be put on hold.  It is not just returning money for the past failure (we had to pay interest) but the implications for this new planting that need to be considered, which could be significant for the cash-strapped council’s taxpayers.

Watts was made aware of this repayment by me, and possibly earlier by others.  What is beyond the pale is that Freedom of information Officers continued for some weeks afterward to advise that no debt was owed.  All of the requests I have seen referenced the £44k figure; mine specifically asked for clarification of the matter.

If the City tries to use the excuse that since the debt was paid in March and the questions arrived in June, then that would be the most disingenuous logic coming from Town Hall in memory.  I am sure it is beyond the Council’s lowest standard to try and make pretence of using such a childish defence.  When we will get the truth is crucial – they must not be allowed to stall this matter until cull season opens.  If anyone trying to prevent the cull could ask their elected officials to have these issues addressed and investigated fully as an urgent matter, it will help.  I have asked the FOI office to explain whether or not it discovered this letter in its search to answer my question.  I have asked it to advise whether or not it made a deliberate decision to not disclose this letter.  I await the outcome of the investigation.

Yet another Freedom of Information anomaly exists regarding Grampian Fire.

Fire power

The previous article covered the problems of arson.  Confusion emerges as to the number of fires.  There was a FOI request response from Grampian Fire which shows a nominal number of deliberate fires.  At the time of writing I await permission to share or reproduce these figures, as they are apparently ‘copyright’.  I have officially applied to print them, but cannot do so until Grampian Fire’s officials approve my written request.

However I came across an internet document which shows a rather different, substantially higher number of fires than the FOI request revealed, entitled  ‘Grampian Fire and Rescue Service Category 2 – Advancing Community and Citizen Well-being’ .  This document states there were over 70 fires for 2006, and claims the figures were going down; it had partial 2008 figures and said only 11 fires started that year.  It is worth mentioning that there have been at least half a dozen fires in the Gramps since May of this year.  In any event, the paper’s numbers are not the same as the recently supplied figures, which are lower.

I will try to discover an explanation for the discrepancy, and will cover whatever explanation Grampian Fire sends in another article. Both email addresses for the FOI officer and the above paper’s writer are at the address ‘’, which leads me to conclude the same organisation might be responsible for distributing contradictory figures.

I add this to the ever growing list of things I am trying to discover, and yet all the while a cull remains the City’s goal, and the clock is ticking.

SNH – Natural Heritage as long as it’s not inconvenient

Scottish Natural History have been taking great pains to gain media coverage recently (BBC and local press), saying in effect that deer are great, but to stop them being killed in road accidents and over-populating, they have to be ‘managed.’  They launched a consultation, which many animal groups felt had a strong bias towards hunting and culling red deer and roe deer equally.  First, what kind of animal are we talking about exactly?

What are roe deer?

Recognition: Small deer, reddish brown in summer, grey in winter. Males have short antlers, erect with no more than three points.

Height: Average height at shoulder 60-75cm (that is less than 3 foot tall). Males slightly larger than females.

Weight: Adults 10-25kg

Lifespan: The maximum age recorded for wild roe is 16 years, but most die before 7 years.

Diet: Their diet is varied and includes buds and leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs, bramble, rose, ivy, herbs, conifers, ferns, heather and grasses.

By permission, the Mammal Society,

So in short these tiny creatures, of which we seemingly have 30 on Tullos Hill alone jeopardise a 40,00 tree plantation.  (The Council has made absolutely no mention of how they will tackle the weed problem cited by the Forestry Commission as a partial reason for the previous expensive failure – again, I have asked for this information with no reply).

Glasgow has made a strong statement against these types of culls which can be found at:  and the relevant section starts on page 5.”

Here are some relevant extracts:-

“….collaborative deer management is not necessary for Roe deer in urban environments as there is no scientific justification for this.

2.4 There is no mention of the positive role of wild deer on natural habitats. Large herbivores help to create and retain glades and rides within woodlands, which provide habitat for a range of other species.

2.5 This section of the Bill has the potential to perpetuate and reinforce the perception of deer as pest species. Whilst this will promote the interests of a minority who have a vested interest in deer management principally through culling, it goes against the reason for the inclusion of native wild deer on the Scottish Biodiversity List, Le. the appreciation of these animals by the general public who wish to see them left unharmed.

2.6 Glasgow City Council believes that this section in its present form promotes an unbalanced view of the rationale behind deer management, whilst acknowledging that there is scientific justification for the management of red deer in parts of the Highlands.

Deer in Scotland – General Comments.

2.7 GCC object to the blanket statement that ‘Deer therefore need to be managed … ‘ for the following reasons:

• The terms manage/managed/management are not defined but appear to relate to culling deer, which is not the usual definition of management. This needs to be clarified.

• If the above is the case, then deer do not always require to be culled because in some areas an increase in population size could be beneficial.

•Red Deer and Roe Deer are quite different animals not only in size but also in habits etc. Why are they covered by one piece of legislation and why do they both have to be managed?”

The various animal charities I’ve communicated with all remain against this cull and have their own experts who explain the flaws in the entire premise.

Can we have some urban trees please?

A personal observation.  The section of Aberdeen I live in, Torry, has fewer trees on its main streets than any other part of the world I’ve lived in, city or suburb.  The streets are however covered with cars and trucks 24/7, and the exhaust fumes have air quality implications.

A few trees would do a good deal to clean the air.  It would be costly and difficult to plant and protect them.  But it would not be impossible.  We know from the Council’s websites that parts of Aberdeen (Wellington Road in particular) have serious air pollution issues.  We also know trees help reduce vehicular pollution.  In the course of my research I learned that the indigenous fir trees for the Grampian area have been greatly depleted over time – yet there is no plan to replace these native species.

Conclusion:  Stop this destructive, unwanted plan now and cancel any deer cull.  Plant fewer trees.  Plant in other locations

Unanswered questions
  • Regarding the business plan for the proposed forest.  How much will it make?  How disruptive would this plantation be to the area residents and businesses? 
  • Why does the City insist only a ‘minority’ of people are against this cull when elected bodies have objected on behalf of their communities?   If the Community Councils are lining up against this scheme – which started life as a Liberal Democrat election pledge – is it not just time to dump it?
  • Why didn’t the City disclose the £43,800 failure when asked to clarify whether a £44,000 debt existed?  
  • As the failure was due to deer and weeds – what are we doing about the weeds?  What kinds of pesticides will be used?  What are the risks and implications?
  • If the scheme is ‘cost neutral’ – who exactly pays the (low-seeming) estimate of some £2,500 per year for ten years to shoot the deer?
  • Have council employees been discouraged from expressing opinions against the cull? (My sources tell me this is the case).
  • Why take the scheme up at all if it must be done at the lowest cost – which is shooting the deer?  Who is hold a gun to the City’s head and forcing it to change Tullos Hill into something it is not?  What is the reluctance to just stop this scheme now?  Has the City made any effort at all to get sponsors to pay for the non-lethal options?  (Note: BAA and Wood Group have contributed for the phase 1 scheme – neither seem keen to be associated with this deer-culling phase 2.  Concerned people may wish to contact these and other companies to state opposition to phase 2).
  • What are the real arson risks once a forest is established on this windy hill (if indeed it is not too windy for trees to be established in great number)?   Is it possible the situation could be as severe a problem as the forest fires that plague the US and Europe?  What are the correct figures for the arson attacks?
A final summary

Last week a media contact asked me to supply the statement below, which sums up my conclusions and reflects the opinions of the vast majority of the people I have spoken with:-

The public have in no way given up on stopping the deer cull on Tullos Hill. Tullos is an important and beautiful ecosystem as it is, and the deer population has been stable for many years.   

Putting up signs to warn motorists that deer are in the area is sensible; putting 40,000 trees on this arson hotspot is not sensible.  Four Community Councils have told the Council they do not want the trees if it means a cull – these elected councils represent thousands of people. 

The City had to repay £43,800 for a planting on Tullos that failed due to deer browsing AND weeds.  The City initially omitted this when I asked for clarification- and I patiently await sensible answers to this and other questions. The tree planting was a Liberal Democrat election promise – it is amusing that it is this unpopular promise they are so stubborn about keeping. 

Finally, Peter Leonard has written to say that the Community Councils don’t understand the issues and they only know what they got from the media.  I find his remarks unbelievably patronising and insulting, particularly when it was down to the Council to communicate the details of its scheme in the first place. 

The Council kept the deer cull out of the phase 2 public consultation and is now claiming people don’t have the facts.  This is wholly unacceptable, and I am pleased that my sources tell me there is a great deal of unrest, with an official calling the situation ‘a hot potato’. 

Unfortunately the lack of timely, sensible answers looks to many people as if the City is stalling and hopes to get away with a cull.  There will be no cull without repercussions at the ballot box in May.

I am creating a presentation to give to any community council that wants it, particularly aimed at those councils which will have the City’s experts present their side.  Direct action is being considered by some animal rights/concern groups.

If you have any feelings one way or the other, then I urge you to contact your elected representatives (you may also wish to contact Scottish Representatives Roseanna Cunningham and Stewart Stevenson who are backing the proposal). 

Good luck to the roe deer and the wishes of the people of Aberdeen in the face of our government.

 Image Credit: Roe Deer Standing Still © Catalin Pobega |

Jul 152011

In the first of two parts, Suzanne Kelly offers an update into what is and is not happening on the hill.

There may have not been much about the controversial Tullos Hill Roe Deer Cull in the media of late; therefore it’s time for an update.

The relative quiet in the media is not for lack of investigation, protest and anger on the community’s part.

As for the City and its LibDem councillors and officials, they are either spreading incorrect information (denying the past failure and £44k debt which resulted), or not answering questions at all (I eagerly await overdue answers on a number of fronts).

The question is:  are they trying to stall a proper investigation until they start shooting in September?  It looks as if stalling might indeed be their strategy.

There are so many outstanding issues, questions and problems with the Tullos Hill deer cull that this article needs to be split into two parts.  This part will look at the location chosen for the trees, Community Council’s stances and the small matter of arson.

Next week will cover issues including the SNH, the unanswered Freedom of Information requests and formal complaints, the importance of the gorse-covered hill as it exists (an expert writes), and the curious case of the £43,800 Forestry Commission ‘repayment.’  This repayment  Ms Watts either forgot about or didn’t know about when last she wrote to me.

Interestingly, Freedom of Information requests on this point are still being answered that no such debt exists. 

Either the council is being very very accurate (the debt was repaid late this March, but it most definitely existed), or someone was keen to keep the repayment quiet.  If so, they failed just as they failed in their bid to keep the cull quiet).

Before we get into the details, a small ray of hope: unnamed sources confirm that there is unease within the corridors of power over this ridiculous plan, with officials calling the situation ‘a hot potato’ and a ‘can of worms’.  Take heart from that, but please continue reading this article.

If at the end of it you decide you don’t want the cull, then write to your elected officials and Aberdeen City Chief Executive Valerie Watts, making it clear you will vote against anyone in May who has voted for this cull.


Deer have lived in relative security (bar the arsonists and Aileen Malone) on Tullos Hill for many decades; they delight the residents of Torry and Kincorth as well as people visiting from further afield. 

The hill is a wildlife haven as it is with the very important gorse providing homes to bees and birds, fields of wildflowers (the spectacular Dame’s Violets for instance).

It has bronze age cairns set dramatically on its summit (currently un-obscured by trees), and it is a recreation area.  This is why our City Council – as a LibDem election pledge – want to turn it into some gargantuan 40,000-tree profit-making (i.e. lumber-producing) forest.

Of all the Liberal Democrat promises, killing the deer and planting the trees is about the only one in the UK they are adamant about sticking to.

They told the community councils and the public at large what a great thing this forest would be – but as previously demonstrated, they and SNH deliberately sought to keep a cull of the Tullos Hill roe deer secret.  Without a cull, there is no money for planting all these trees (although we could have had experts advising us – for free – how to plant trees without culling deer:  it just would have cost money).  Why then we are insisting on a forest of this size or a forest at all, and why on Tullos Hill?

Location, Location, Location

If we accept without question that trees must be planted because we can get grants for doing so as long as they reach growth targets, then where to put them? 

The easily-accessible Loirston Loch greenbelt area has several young trees on it – all in tree protector sleeves (the same sleeves which the SNH November letter tells us are rejected because they have ‘visual impact’ among other reasons – someone at ACC took this decision to reject tree protectors for us all with no recourse to the public or local councils).  There was a splendidly suitable area for these trees – but we are putting a football / community stadium on this piece of ground now.

This virtually flat land is easily reached by car (Tullos at present has no parking and is mainly reached by several footpaths), is not on a windswept hill, and is not as remote as Tullos – therefore less desirable to arsonists.  It is a largely open field with grasses and some vegetation in very moist, nearly marshy ground.

Loirston was not the only option either.  But this is Aberdeen:   Tullos Hill is apparently the only choice we have, according to our Council.  They are happy to sacrifice greenbelt at Loirston and elsewhere for stadiums, offices and housing – but are adamant that an existing, stable ecosystem must become a forest:  and they will not answer us why.

Fire on the Mountain

For all the City rangers’ and Grampian Fire’s attempts to be ‘down with the kids’, the arson issue remains the burning question:  why put 40,000  young trees on a windswept hill with access issues which is next to settlements and industry when we can’t keep the arsonists out?

Ranger Ian Talboys is at pains to play down the arson issue.   In an email to myself, 6 June 2011 he states:

“As the trees to be planted are mainly broadleaved species which do not readily burn in the way gorse does the risk of fire is reduced.   The conifers in the scheme will be mixed in with the broadleaved species again reducing the risk of large scale fire damage….. The recent statistics have shown a substantial reduction in wilful fire raising on the site, despite the recent incidents.

“It is however encouraging that the Police have charged a number of youths in connection with these fires as a result of intelligence gained from the local community and following the work we have been doing with the local schools over the last 5 years.  In the last couple of years there have been very few fires on Tullos Hill, a total of some 11 fires were reported for 2010 on Kincorth Hill and Tullos Hill combined….”

Mr Talboys also talks about getting rid of the gorse, which:

“reduces the risk of wilful fires”

Gorse is a vital part of the ecosystem, particularly on Tullos Hill which we will look at later.  However it is disappointing that the attitude is to get rid of a natural feature which supports wildlife because it is more flammable (allegedly) than trees – rather than to simply stop the arsonists.

Who are the arsonists, and is Talboys right that the fires are decreasing?  So far this year there have been at least a dozen fires.  Two men aged 27 and 23 are being charged with starting fires on 3 July:  so much for the idea of stopping the schoolchildren starting fires, which is the strategy Talboys promotes.

American studies identify half a dozen types of arsonists; these two would fit into the ‘excitement-motivated’ arson category, often men between 18-30.  Blaming children was the favourite option; it is now discredited.  The Council may wish to do more research on this one.

You may be interested to know that Talboy’s figures are slightly at odds with figures supplied by Grampian Fire.  Then again, media reports would seem to say there have been more fires than either of these sources.  I would love to tell you what Grampian Fire had to say:  but they have qualified that their statistics are subject to copyright and are for personal use and not publication!  I await clarification and will report once they explain themselves.

At least someone in power loves Tullos.  When the fires were blazing in May of this year, Fraser Burr of Grampian Fire (Risk Reduction) told the BBC:

“It would be a shame to see such a beautiful area of the city, enjoyed by hundreds throughout the year, ruined by wilful fire raising”. – (BBC News 22 May 2011)

I spoke to a New York-based former fire department captain; he seriously disputes Talboy’s contention that young or mature trees are relatively safe from fire. California for one example habitually fights forest fires that are vast in area; the size of the trees makes the fire considerably more dangerous than a few burning gorse bushes.  Wind makes the problem far worse.

Fact:  Tullos Hill is extremely windy at times.  People often need to be evacuated from their homes when the fires rage (also seen in Europe) – who will promise this will not happen here with 40,000 trees virtually on top of residential and industrial areas as Tullos is?  My fire-fighter source said ‘there is no magic plant that doesn’t burn’.

He also posed a hypothetical question and asked me why these people are so fixed on planting these trees in this location.  I have asked, but I have no answer.  He then jokingly said ‘who’s getting kickback?’  We both laughed.

Your Community Councils at work

When the truth came out about the secret cull plans, community councils and citizens (in their thousands) condemned the plan and the way the City handled the public ‘phase 2’ consultation.  How did your local community council react?

I am writing this piece on the 13th of July.  The Minute of the Housing & Environment Committee meeting of May 10 is still not available on the Council’s website a mere 2 months after the fact.  It was at this meeting that Andy Finlayson and I had both put in delegations to speak about the deer cull and Tullos Hill, for all the reasons that had emerged since the cull was first brought up.

It was because there was no written report on the deer – only a verbal one which had been requested by Malone – that we were not automatically allowed to speak.  Abuse of process springs to mind.  In the event, the matter of our delegations was put to a vote and only a handful of councillors supported letting the truth be heard.

I have been waiting to check the accuracy of these Minutes; for one thing I admit I got confused as to whether Andy Finlayson was from Nigg or rather from Cove (which I now understand to be the truth).  Finlayson was the other would-be speaker.  Maybe after another two months have passed, the Minutes will be published and I can double-check this point.

But take note:  in another two months it will be the season for the cull:  could our City be deliberately stalling us until it is too late for the deer?

Community Councils are your elected local representatives.  The City has a duty to consult with them on local issues – something sadly lacking on this issue, let alone the massive Loirston AFC football ground which will fragment the greenbelt.  Nigg CC is very busy with this important issue.

The City is not consulting, and it is certainly not listening.  Here are what the Councils are saying – how did yours react?

Kincorth (population 8,300) –  ‘Abhorrence’

Kincorth Community Council resolved at its May 2011 meeting:

“Item 10.1 The City Council has agreed to the killing of the deer on Tullos Hill but have stated it will be done as humanely as possible. The Chair asked the Secretary to write indication our abhorrence at this decision”.

Kincorth spokesperson Graham Bennett, quoted in the Press & Journal, 13 May:

“We are all united.  We deplore the willingness of the City Council to cull the deer.  We all agreed we didn’t want a tree planted for every citizen.  These are defenceless animals.  We would rather do without the trees and have the deer.”

I spoke to a member of Kincorth CC; they are all outraged and want the hill to remain as it is, with the deer continuing to live there.  My contact cites the fact that the ‘phase 2 consultation’ said nothing about the deer cull, yet mentioned rabbit fencing.

This is one of the strongest points of contention – the public and community councils were deliberately kept in the dark about the deer cull.  This is proved clearly in the 25 November letter the SNH sent to the City Council, stating the need to ‘manage’ the public over the cull.

It seems SNH are fully aware that culling these animals in general is an issue – but to kill animals in order to protect non-existent trees is ‘abhorrent’.  (More about the SNH and its recent deer consultation next week).  The word ‘abhorrent’ is also how the Scottish Society for the Protection of Animals and Kincorth Community Council describe this LibDem plan.

Torry  (population c 9,400) –  Unanimous condemnation of the cull

Torry Community Council allowed me to speak at its meeting in May on the cull; they had been informed about the trees in some detail – minus the crucial detail of the deer cull.  

The 14 members present voted unanimously to condemn the cull and to write to the City to protest the cull and the lack of consultation.  Talboys specifically communicated with Torry about the trees, without ever mentioning a deer cull.

To put it mildly, the Council and the residents of Torry are Not Happy.

Cove & Altens (population 7,100) –  Chairman gagged by Malone

On 10th May Cove’s Chairman Andy Finlayson attempted to address the Housing & Environment Committee over the cull and all the issues which had arisen (lack of consultation with CCs, no reference made in the public consultation documents, etc.).

Aileen Malone initially referred to him as the ‘gentleman from Cove Community Centre’ as opposed to his status as duly-elected Council member.  On the technicality of there being no written report on the deer – only a verbal one – Cove’s representative was unable to raise the many points which the Council had kept out of the public domain which were relevant to the tree scheme.

“We are totally against it, basically… the community council is unanimous and everyone in the area we speak to is against it…the message is, stuff the trees – we would rather have the deer.” – Andy Finlayson, Chair, Cove & Altens CC, Press & Journal 13 May 2011

Nigg  (population 8,200)  – a history of concern for animal welfare

I think the majority of the Community Council are against it (the cull)” – James Brownhill, Nigg CC – Press & Journal, 13 May 2011

Nigg is committed to preserving its greenbelt land as its actions and its website attest.  It is doing all it can to stop the ridiculous AFC stadium plans which will see a 21,000 seat stadium plunked in the middle of the greenbelt to its permanent injury.  A year ago, the Nigg Community Council April Minutes had this entry:

“Lochinch Visitors Centre Deer-  thanks to activity of Cllr Cooney, Nigg CC, Jenny Gall and Vivienne McCulloch, deer had been saved from culling and will live out their lives in their current (but reduced) enclosure.”

Before the furore broke out over Tullos Hill, Councillor Neil Cooney and others from Nigg were already going to bat against needless slaughter of our indigenous animals when tame deer were earmarked for needless slaughter.

One year later at its 14 April 2011 meeting, Nigg CC resolved:

“Proposed Deer Cull Tullos Hill – Majority against proposal. Lack of deer management policy holding up planting of trees under ‘tree for every citizen’ scheme.”

Nigg’s Council met again on 12 May 2011 after the Housing Committee’s undemocratic debacle over the deer and would-be speakers.  Nigg’s minutes read:

“Proposed Deer Cull Tullos Hill. Decision to cull deer city-wide approved by ACC Councillors. SNH recommended cull to save deer from starvation. Nigg CC still not happy with this decision”.

I disagree with the comment about starvation, and wonder if SNH have actually said the deer at Tullos will starve – they are in no present danger of that as things stand.  But this is a very minor point concerning the minutes.  When it comes to accuracy in Minute taking, Cults has managed to create an interesting document indeed.

Cults:  (population 10,824)  – An important debate with Cllr Aileen Malone

I spoke to Cults Bieldside Milltimber Community Council on 26 May where Aileen Malone and I finally had the debate she had so far resisted (again, she would not let me speak to the Housing committee which she convenes; and she was too busy one Sunday morning in May to spare 20 minutes to debate the issue with me on Northsound).

In my initial request to speak to Cults, I sent them newspaper cuttings that Torry, Kincorth, Nigg and Cove & Altens Community Councils were opposed to the scheme, as well as the Scottish SPCA.  I sent them articles on the SNH letter which shows the City wanted to keep the cull quiet.  In these circumstances I was asking Cults CC to let me address its May meeting and specifically to follow suit.

The community council meeting that ensued was interesting (and heated) on several points.  Mike Shepherd of Friends of Union Terrace Gardens was there to discuss the future of the gardens, and Aileen Malone stated that there would definitely be a public vote on whether to go ahead with any scheme for Union Terrace Gardens.

At my request she repeated this was the truth, and that the only question unresolved was whether residents in the shire as well as the city would get a vote.

I wrote an article on this Cults BM CC meeting.  I wrote it that night and the next day with my own shorthand notes taken on the night (amongst other things, I have been a secretary minuting meetings for some 25 years, and like to think I have some skill and experience in this area).

My notes reflect that Cults BM CC was going to write to Aberdeen City Council to express a position opposed to the Tullos Cull; I asked the secretary on the night if I could have a copy of any letter they sent; the secretary agreed.
See: you’re-shooting-yourself-in-the-foot-cults-cc-tells-malone

This is what came out in the Cults BM CC Minutes for that meeting:

“Tullos Hill Deer Cull (Peter Reiss)

The Community Council had been made aware of resentment in parts of the city towards the plans to cull some of the local roe deer, seemingly triggered by the need to limit damage to new trees to be planted on Tullos Hill. Suzanne Kelly a Torry resident had written to CBMCC to ask if the CC would take a position on this matter.

In discussion the following points were made:

– The tree planting drive is an election commitment of the current LibDem administration

– Funding from EU and other sources requires best practice and best value for money.

– Due to problems with earlier plantings, City will not get any more funding for tree planting unless a robust roe deer management programme is in place,

– Deer have no natural predators in Scotland. Aberdeenshire, Moray and private estates have a deer cull policy in place. Aberdeen City has management programmes for several other wild animals – e.g., rabbits – but not one for deer.

– A management programme that includes an annual deer cull of about 30 animals has been agreed recently by the City’s Environment Committee. This is a city wide programme but will help to reduce damage to new plantings in Tullos  where some 10 to 15 deer will be culled.

– Objectors say that there has been insufficient consultation on this programme. They would prefer fencing or other positive tree protection rather than killing deer. They are extremely unhappy about the Committee’s request to them to raise £225 000 for 10 years deer fencing as there is no council money to pay for that alternative.

The CC resolved that the deer culling policy appears to be a separate issue not just related to the planting of trees.

Post –meeting note: City tree specialists have been invited to speak in the next community council meeting.”

(Cults Bieldside Milltimber Community Council Minute 26 May 2011)

I have added italics to the excerpt above where the minutes have gone back to repeating verbatim the City Council’s double-speak, sweeping statements about deer culls in general.  Readers of previous stories or Council documents will find a familiar ring to the Cults minutes.

General tree planting issues aside, the Tullos Hill deer have survived in the existing ecosystem – an ecosystem enjoyed by the public as well which the neighbouring Community Councils have clearly said they want kept as is.

I have  also italicised the ‘post meeting note’ wherein someone has invited tree specialists to speak at the June meeting (I would have gone to that had I been informed or had I seen these May minutes in time).  So, without any counterpoint some ‘tree experts’ were called in to explain the City’s perspective on killing deer and planting trees.  Again, who was there to explain all of the issues specific to Tullos?

I will look at those minutes when they are issued.   

It now transpires that Peter Leonard, council officer, is deploying council tree experts to speak to the community councils.  This is what Leonard has to say (I have put the particularly objectionable phrases in bold) in a Freedom of Information Request answer:

The Community Councils who have objected have not been in possession of the full picture of the project, some who have no planting areas within their areas will have had no information about the project from the team delivering the project as there was no requirement to consult on a project that was not within their area.

“Officers from Housing and Environment have offered to attend the community councils who have written in opposing the cull (Kincorth & Leggart and Cults Bieldside and Milltimber, Cove and Altens Community Councils) to present the full picture about The Tree for Every Citizen Project including the deer management proposals so they can make an informed decision.

To date any decision they will have made will have been based on the information published in the media which has not given the full and balanced picture. Officers will be prepared to undertake similar presentations to other community councils covering areas where there are sites proposed for tree planting if invited.”

Personally, I find his comments about the community councils’ decision-making process extremely patronising: how does he know where these elected groups got information from and why does he assume it is only from the media? If people are not in full possession of all the facts this is the Council’s fault – they launched the ‘phase 2 consultation’ over six months ago, and it was a very flawed document. I certainly have been asking for information since then, largely without any real answer.

There is currently no plantation of young trees on Tullos requiring a cull.  The whole point is that there do not need to be this number of trees there, and the local community councils representing some 25,000 people said they do not want the trees.

Attention city officials and councillors:

These two reasons alone should be enough to stop your plans.  But if this is not enough for you, then we will examine your past planting failure and your cavalier attitude towards facts as well as other issues next week. 

Do feel free to weigh in – remember, Aberdeen Voice wants articles from all points of view.  Nothing is stopping you from making your point.


May 272011

Voice’s Suzanne Kelly reports from a dramatic meeting ( 26.05.11 ) of  Cults, Bieldside & Milltimber Community Council she was kindly invited to attend as a guest, and took the opportunity to discuss the roe deer cull  in person with Cllr. Aileen Malone, Convener of the Housing and Environment Committee responsible for the decision.

Lib Dem Councillor Aileen Malone avoided debating with me the Tullos Hill Roe Deer cull she supports  on Northsound 2 a fortnight ago.

She ‘had a prior engagement’ and could not spare 20 minutes over the phone on a Sunday morning to give Aberdeen her reasons for wanting the deer shot.

Cllr. Malone successfully silenced me and the Nigg Community Council representative when we wanted to debate the cull issue at the 10 May Housing & Environment Committee meeting.  We weren’t allowed to speak to the Committee because there was no written report on the cull  – just a verbal report.  It didn’t matter to the Committee (except for four members) that new information had come to light, and the Community Councils wanted to be heard.

After the Housing Committee voted to get on with killing the deer to plant ‘a tree for every citizen,’ Malone told the media she hoped that would be an end to the controversy.  With thousands of petitioners, four protesting community councils, and various animal charities against the cull, this was wishful thinking taken to a new level.
See: Tullos Hill Picnic

I was not alone in making complaints about the handling of the deer cull and tree planting issues to Aberdeen City Council.  It is hoped that any cull will be halted until a proper investigation and a democratic, fully informed debate can be held.  The 10 point report I prepared as a basis for my complaint is attached at the end of this article.  ( click here )

It had been circulated to the members of the Housing Committee and to  Cults, Bieldside & Milltimber Community Council, where Ms Malone is an elected City Councillor.   I told them I would like to attend their next meeting as a guest on this issue, and they kindly invited me along.

Having served as a Community Council member myself, I was not surprised to hear they have some of the same issues I remembered from my days on Torry’s Council – litter, tree pruning, and so on.

I was surprised to find Mike Shepherd, Chair of the Friends of  Union Terrace Gardens at this meeting.  He gave a presentation on the state of play of the design competition, and what funding might be used for any scheme.  To his surprise and mine, Councillor Aileen Malone made a promise that was both dramatic and new to Mike and me.

Cllr. Malone categorically stated  and repeated this promise:  after a final design for the gardens is chosen, the people will have a vote on whether to go with the design – or to leave Union Terrace Gardens undeveloped (which could include some improvements and amenities)

She was not sure whether or not this would be only for the people of Aberdeen – perhaps the Shire would be voting as well:  but she was adamant this was the case.  So Friends of Union Terrace Gardens – do not despair just yet.  She also confirmed twice that “not a penny” of City Council money would be used to develop the gardens.  No doubt Mike Shepherd will have more to say on these matters.

Back to the deer...

The Cults, Bieldside & Milltimber Community Council Chairman, Peter Reiss opened the deer debate by saying he attended a recent Civic Forum meeting – and was struck that on the subject of the deer cull, there was virtual agreement across the ages and across the boards against the cull.  “For outsiders looking in, this looks like a no-brainer:  let’s put the trees elsewhere” he said.

Ms Malone tried to use arguments which had already been dismissed in the press – not least in the Aberdeen Voice.  She said that expert advice had been given.  I countered, and explained to the Councillors that someone had briefed the SNH against the non-lethal measures (as shown in a letter of 25 November from SNH to the council), and offers from experts – who had knowledge and experience of ways to plant trees without killing deer – was refused.

I told the Council that the SNH letter proves someone had said tree guards were out because ‘they had visual impact.’  This did not sit well with the Cults Council at all.  I explained that the phase 2 consultation documents made no mention of any deer cull – again, the councillors sided with me.

By now an increasingly desperate Ms Malone explained that the tree  planting was ‘A Liberal Democrat manifesto promise’ – as if that were justification of some sort.

Other council attendees had comments for her position such as:

“Aren’t you shooting yourself in the foot,”

“other forms of deer control should be paramount”,

“think about the reaction you have had here tonight – it looks like a stupid thing to do:  you have not won the argument.”

Amazingly Ms Malone tried two further tactics.  One was to make general sweeping comments that deer culls are necessary, and her earlier, discredited ploy that only a handful of people initially objected to her in writing, and most were animal activists.

I reminded her that the full story had not come out immediately – the phase 2 consultation made no mention of the cull for Tullos Hill, and it had been subsequently proved that I was one of those who had written to her with my address opposing the cull.  She had gone to the Press and Journal at first, saying ‘only about one’ person from Aberdeen had objected to the cull. She later made private apologies – but none through the Press & Journal, leaving readers of it with the wrong impression.

Animal lovers and activists might be interested in two further statements Councillor Malone made at the meeting.

  • Firstly, there has been permission in place to kill the Tullos Hill Roe Deer since March.  The Council still are not answering questions about when the shooters will be sent in – I have asked – and if anyone else cares to ask the Council, it may help.
  • Secondly, Malone alludes to plans to kill the deer at Bridge of Don.

Some Councillors were all in favour of culls of animals – where the animals are in danger of starvation or over population.  They were reminded that 30 deer live on Tullos Hill.  Malone seemed to say that 9 to 12 of these would be shot now, and the shooting would go on.

She had no real answer why the £225,000 for ten years of fencing / protection was demanded up front.  One person present said:

“no one in their right mind would put their hands in their pockets” for protection in the circumstances – i.e. not knowing exactly what they were paying for or for how long.

I reminded those present that there were  plenty of ways to have deer and trees together.  One councillor suggested having less trees planted. I reminded everyone of the Scottish SPCA position on the matter – the Tullos Hill deer would be killed not because it was for their safety/health – but to plant trees . Abhorrent and absurd” were how the Scottish SPCA put it.

At the end of the day the Council decided to draft a letter to the City.  The debate was closed with Peter Reiss saying to Ms Malone “you have not taken the public with you, and people are saying “this is ridiculous”.  It was suggested this might even damage Ms Malone’s political career.

And that is where we leave it for now.

But one thing is certain, the opposition to the cull has not gone away by a very long shot.   If nothing else, the Cults, Bieldside & Milltimber Community Council gave me the democratic forum for debate that I could find nowhere else:  I am extremely grateful to them.

Suzanne Kelly’s 10 point report – Click here. Please consider writing to Aberdeen City Council’s Housing and Environment Committee in support of this formal complaint.

May 112011

By Suzanne Kelly.

·    Housing & Environment Committee refuse to hear Kelly and representative from Nigg Community Council

·    Deer Cull to go ahead

Two Thousand And Four Hundred area residents signed a petition asking for the Tullos Hill Roe Deer cull to be scrapped.  Two Thousand people from around the world likewise signed petitions.
Torry Community Council were kept in the dark about a cull; Nigg Community Council wished to speak on the subject today.  The initial consultation for the public to comment on said nothing about a cull.

In the 21st century in an allegedly democratic society, the above facts should have ensured that the proposed deer cull – designed to allow 40,000 trees to be planted – would have been debated and properly examined.  You might even think that local people would have had a say in the destruction of a generations-old population of perfectly harmless deer.

You might even have thought that those pushing for a cull would stop for a moment and wonder if they were possibly making a mistake.  And if you were really really an optimist, you might think that these same people bent on the destruction of the deer would have allowed people to talk about it – maybe even let Councillors have a vote on the matter.

You would be wrong.

I first got involved after Jeanette Wiseman wrote an article for the Aberdeen Voice.  In writing my follow-up, I was struck by how secretive the deer cull had been kept by those in power, seemingly favouring trees over deer (see ‘Shhh! – Don’t Mention the Pre-planned Deer Cull, Aberdeen Voice).  I was happy to help the animal organisations such as Animal Concern and Aberdeen Animal Action with further publicity and research.  I did my best as a spokesperson.

This Monday a small delegation presented Aileen Malone with a paper petition signed by 2,400 people – mostly people who live within Aberdeen.  Lush – who have been outstanding in their support and energy towards stopping the cull – came along, as did Jeanette, and Fred Wilkinson of the Voice.  We met the Press, presented the signatures, and hoped this would have some impact on Malone.

Yesterday, Tuesday 10th May I might have had a chance to address the Housing & Environment Committee.  Not only had Malone sent me an email saying they would vote on the cull, but the extraordinary lack of consultation with Torry Community Council had – or rather should have – been grounds for speaking.

Anne Begg is on record as saying ‘I see this (demand for money) as an appalling attempt to fudge their responsibility.’

If as has been shown, the Community and the people had been kept in the dark about the cull  – then how could the Committee continue as if nothing wrong had been done?   Surely all of the elected members would want to know how extremely badly the pro-cull Councillors and City officials had acted.

If the Nigg Community Council (which probably should have been consulted, too) had seen fit to send a delegate to this Committee meeting, surely the Councillors would want to know what the people of Nigg wanted to say?  Certainly  not.

First, Malone addressed the Nigg Delegate as being from ‘Nigg Community Centre’.  “Nigg  Community Council” several people shouted.  She corrected herself.  Tut, tut:  Nigg had MISSED THE DEADLINE TO ASK TO SPEAK.  Malone made a move to have his deputation request rejected.  Someone else suggested that my request and the Nigg request should be jointly put to a vote.

( See Suzanne Kelly’s intended  Speech – )

It was on an incredible technicality that Aileen Malone suggested we should not be allowed to speak.  No physical, paper report had been attached to todays Housing & Environment Committee Meeting’s papers.  The previous meeting’s minutes reported that ‘a report would be made’ concerning the deer cull.

Some of the Councillors – Neil Cooney and Yvonne Allan – said that a report should have been attached, and that the deputations should be allowed.  Malone decreed that the report was always going to have been a verbal one, and our requests for deputations were not valid.

A vote was held which went against us speaking.  I wrote down the names of those who were trying to save the deer by allowing the speeches, and can report that they included; Neil Cooney,  Jim Hunter,  Norman Collie, Yvonne Allan, Muriel Jaffrey, and Jackie Dunbar.  The Convener Aileen Malone, Vice Convener, and Councillors  Yuill, Noble, Cormie and Robertson were among those who voted to kill our deer.

They had seemingly deliberately made a mockery of the public’s not stumping up the ransom money – they had one Mr Reilly, ( derisively I thought) announce that a total of 2 donors pledged a total of £51.00 for fencing.  As every Councillor knew – the animal groups were not going to submit to the demand for £225,000 for deer protection.

I hope every anti-cull person out there will contact all of their elected representatives and the Housing & Environment Committee

The word blackmail was used by many individuals and groups to sum up how they felt about the Council’s demand for the money.  Anne Begg is on record as saying ‘I see this (demand for money) as an appalling attempt to fudge their responsibility.’

I waited a few minutes before I left.

Even though I was not surprised by the decision, the concept that the absence of a written report was sufficient to derail any debate was a  bit of a shock.

When I did leave, I was quickly followed by virtually all of the Media present – BBC, STV, P&J, Northsound, Evening Express.

I gave a fairly lengthy, comprehensive account of past and present developments and issues.  And then I raced home to brief the legal team ( yes, legal avenues to save our deer are being actively pursued ) – and to thrash out this swift article.  I will also publish my rough draft speech notes.  Who knows?  Someone on the Committee might actually want to read these.

I have to say that some of the Councillors – Cooney and Allan in particular – did all they could today.  The rest seem to have either been sleepwalking – or voting the LibDem line.  I hope they realise this is a beginning and not an end to the story.

What now?

If the feelings of the thousands of people and dozens of animal organisations can be swept away, our willingness to take action cannot be so easily stopped.  Many groups are planning to ‘take to the hills’ to stop the slaughter.   I hope every anti-cull person out there will contact all of their elected representatives and the Housing & Environment Committee (feel free to copy to me) to demand a full enquiry into the tree initiative be held before the £2,500 (yes that’s a correct figure) is spent on the first round of deer slaughter.

You can certainly send in some Freedom of Information Requests to Aberdeen City Council; the email address is:

why not ask the Council:

– who wrote the phase 2 consultation?

– who decided to leave the deer cull out of the consultation?

– does the city already owe £44K or so for previous failed tree planting?

– who decided not to tell Torry Community Council about the cull?

– who decided to tell SNH that the non-lethal options would not work – and that ‘tree guards have visual impact?’

And tell them we demand warning in advance of any cull.


Aberdeen Voice will do its best to publish updates relevant to this story.  Personally, nothing would make me happier than  having the opportunity  to write that this whole sorry cull has been stopped.

May 112011

Suzanne Kelly presents her speech which she was prevented from delivering at the crucial Housing and Environment Committee meeting yesterday due to an ‘incredible technicality’.

The committee voted down the opportunity to consider input from Ms. Kelly and a representative of Nigg Community Council, thereby ruling out further debate ahead of pressing ahead with the cull, in spite of the receipt of a 2400 strong petition, and 82 letters in opposition to the cull on Monday.

Councillors, thank you for allowing me to address your Committee today.

I am here to echo the sentiments of thousands of Aberdonians as well as national and international people, and ask you to stop any plan for a cull of deer on Tullos Hill.

I would like to propose you adopt one of two positions:

  • Halt the cull, and then plant trees once non-lethal measures can be put in place or …
  • re-launch the extremely flawed phase 2 consultation to the public – this time telling them that the tree planting will involve a deer cull.

There are some of you who insist that:

‘deer must be culled’,
‘we have taken advice from Scottish Natural Heritage’,
‘animal lovers should pay £225,000 for deer protectors’.

Let us examine those positions in a moment.

Firstly, let us consider how extraordinarily un-democratically – how against established good governmental practice the entire issue has been handled.

Irrespective of a Councillor’s personal views on animal culling, I hope we are all in agreement that there are established procedures for consulting with the public and consulting with Community Councils which have been wholly ignored.  If you are upholding the law and the rights of your electorate, you must now stop this cull – at least until a proper consultation is launched.

The phase 2 public consultation for ‘a tree for every citizen’ closed at the end of January.

I read this document on the Council’s website; so did countless other people.  The document tells me that there are rabbits in the area, and have been considered.

Who drafted this consultation and why did they omit the cull which was already being planned?  We know the cull was being planned by the date of the letter from Scottish Natural Heritage, which I will come to presently.  Who exactly decided to keep this cull from the public?  Was it just an accidental oversight?  Why were rabbits mentioned but not deer – the effect this had on me personally was to make me reach the conclusion that animals had been taken into consideration when the scheme was planned.

someone at the council or in the ranger service has decided to bypass normal democratic procedure

I can assure you that had a cull been mentioned, I would have most definitely objected to the plan while the consultation was open.  And so would many other citizens of Aberdeen.  I feel as if we have been robbed of our right to be properly consulted.  In view of this point alone, the cull should not go ahead.

Another gross breach of protocol and established practice was the complete disregard shown to Torry Community Council.  The City should by now have received a letter from Torry Community Council; as reported in the Evening Express, the Council voted unanimously at its April meeting to condemn this cull, and to complain that it was not consulted.

The Torry Community Council also confirmed that at no point was it alerted that a cull was part of the tree-planting scheme.  Who, I would like to know, will take responsibility for this breach of established procedure?  The City Council is already widely criticised for its failure to consult the Nigg Community Council concerning development plans for Loirston Loch.  It is incumbent on this Housing Committee to stop any cull plans until it has addressed this procedural failure.

But now we come to the letter from Scottish Natural Heritage to ranger  _________________.  I contacted the ranger to whom the letter is addressed, and he referred me to Ian Tallboys, head ranger, for clarification.

Reading this letter – someone at the council or in the ranger service has decided to bypass normal democratic procedure.

Someone has told the SNH that fencing is a bad idea.  Someone has even more incredibly told the SNH that tree protectors should not be used on Tullos Hill as they have ‘visual impact.’  ‘Visual Impact.’  On a coastal hill.  Tree protectors are in use far and wide throughout this city in areas that have a great deal more traffic than Tullos Hill.

How can anyone for that matter decide for this Committee, for Torry Community Council, and for the citizens who should have properly been consulted that a subjective observation as to ‘visual impact’ condemn a small herd of deer to death?
Obviously this Committee will now realise that the SNH were led, by a person or persons yet to come forward, to decide that the lethal option was the only solution.
There are many, many non-lethal solutions to this issue of deer eating trees – this Committee acknowledges that the deer do not have to die.

Otherwise it would not have issued its highly controversial demand for money.  The demand for money for fencing and tree protectors itself is a declaration that these are suitable options for deer control.  It is of course a demand that is seen as nothing short of blackmail by myself, by animal charities, and the electorate.

This is one reason the avenue was not pursued:  the City should be responsible for finding money, not citizens.  The City has resources at its disposal – I note your new Robert the Bruce statue in front of the £60 million pound Marischal building, soon to be fitted with brand new furniture.

Are we really to understand that this city, with its vast real estate portfolio – which sells land at less than market value to property developers has no means of finding £225,000?

This city which hopes to borrow nearly £100 million pounds to fill in Union Terrace Gardens?

The suggestion the city has no money and cannot raise money is unacceptable.  This Committee were offered the free services of a deer management expert:  this was turned down.  Some of the non-lethal methods which would work include:  tree guards, fencing, using one of some 3 dozen types of trees which deer do not eat, planting crops nearby which deer will eat, planting the trees elsewhere, planting once the money can be found for these measures, using chemical deterrents on the young trees.

The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals calls your proposed cull ‘abhorrent and absurd’ – a sentiment echoed by thousands of people.  The cull is not a suitable response:  other deer will move into the area, as per the various animal charities I have consulted – many of which have made this plain to the Committee already.

We seem to be talking about a herd size of 30 animals.  This is not over population.

As an aside, it would be nice to see the Council put up roadside ‘deer crossing’ signs in the area to warn motorists deer do live in Aberdeen.

I just mentioned the herd size.  This was one of a half dozen relevant questions I asked as long ago as 28 February,  Most of my questions were not answered at all.  Some were answered only recently, and some were answered with the phrase that has become a mantra for pro cull councillors:  we have taken advice –  a cull is the only answer.

Well, you have not taken advice.  You briefed SNH as to why you did not want the non-lethal options, and then presented their response to this briefing as being their unbiased professional opinion.  The animal charities all give you non-lethal options, and some of you inexplicably reject them.

Back to these questions of mine.

some person or persons initially said that the tree planting scheme would be completely cost neutral

I asked a number of questions which would have provided material for me to start hunting for an appropriate grant for saving the Tullos Hill Roe Deer.  The timescale was very tight indeed – but the lack of forthcoming answers made it completely impossible for me to try and find any kind of grant or fund.

Again, everything is being slanted towards a wholly unnecessary cull.  The silence of the persons responsible for the ‘tree for every citizen’ scheme has blocked this avenue.

As an aside, in some of the documentation I read phrases such as ‘in a few years the trees will begin to pay for themselves.’  Is this tree scheme meant to be a source of income for the City?  Am I wrong and no such plan to make money from the Tullos Hill plan exists?  Where is there any consultation on this matter?

I will be pleased to hear that no plans for commercial wood exploitation exist, and will report back to the media and Torry Community Council.  It is serious enough that the consultation was slanted, that the SNH were briefed to favour a cull, and that Torry Community was excluded from what should have been a simple scheme.  But to have some form of commercial enterprise in mind that would forever change Torry certainly cannot be going on behind the scenes, and thank you for confirming this is not the case in advance.

To sum up the history of this whole irregular affair, some person or persons initially said that the tree planting scheme would be completely cost neutral.  Anyone with a rudimentary grasp of finance would have realised that planting over 200 thousand trees would indeed be expensive.

It would also seem that the responsible person or persons will not be putting up their hand and admitting their mistake – and instead are pulling out all the stops so that £2,500 is spent on the cull rather than the more expensive, humane, ethical non-lethal options which most definitely exist.

Someone or other briefed SNH that the non-lethal options would mysteriously not work on Tullos Hill.

Someone or other created a public consultation that was by omission of the cull misleading.

Someone or other decided to ignore protocol and kept Torry Community Council’s elected members in the dark.

This same person or persons came up with a scheme to ask the public to come up with a quarter of a million pounds before today.

Someone or other sadly forgot to tell the corporate sponsors that a cull was involved.

Someone or other has a good deal to answer for.

What a pity that person or persons did not think to seek funding for fencing themselves as soon as it became apparent there were cost implications they had not previously recognised.

Ladies and gentlemen, whatever your personal feelings are on deer – although Mr Fletcher has made it plain that they are no different to rats or pigeons – you must acknowledge that in these circumstances you must vote against any cull.

If a vote goes ahead in favour of a cull, please rest assured that every aspect of the tree scheme and any cull will be put under a microscope not just by me, but by established animal welfare organisations and legal minds.

The mechanisms for such actions are, I can promise this Committee, most definitely being readied.  The deer are not overpopulated; other deer will move in, and you will have someone killing these animals for some 5 years.

Perhaps you think the animal instantly drops down dead when shot?  This is hardly the usual case.  In many instances, the terrified, shocked animal will try to wander around in agony as it begins to internally drown in its own blood.

Trackers will be needed to follow the blood stains from the wound or from its breathing out of blood droplets  (sometimes very hard to find) and finish the creature off.  There are various types of hits an animal will sustain, this is not by any means the worst case scenario – some animals if not quickly found die an agonising, slow death that takes days.

On behalf of myself, the thousands of Aberdonians who signed the petitions, do not plant a tree for us if you are having a cull to do so.

Apr 082011

Chris Gough, of Kennoway in Fife was moved to comment on the recent Aberdeen Voice article about the proposed deer cull on Tullos Hill and the revelation that the cull had been planned in advance of the public consultation regarding Phase 2 of the ‘Tree for every citizen scheme’.

What an excellently presented article by Suzanne Kelly. She has hit the nail on the head so many times and it has sad echoes of our fight to save the deer at the Diageo plant in Fife a year ago.

These deer had been part of the local wildlife scene for more than twenty years and were loved equally by the general public and the staff at the Diageo plant.

Indeed they were fed by members of the staff of DCL (an earlier occupier of the site) for many years and the company had a vet carry out visual checks on the condition of the deer. Photographs of the deer were even displayed on the boardroom wall.

All this came to nothing when the present company, Diageo, decided to extend their plant. The Deer Commission for Scotland ( DCS) was consulted and came up with the “only humane solution” of a cull to remove the deer that had now become an embarrassment.

Untruths about the health and condition of the deer were published through the local media to justify the decision for a cull on “animal welfare” grounds. Advice and assertions that there were alternatives to a cull were rejected, so sadly our beloved Diageo deer were not saved in spite of valiant efforts by so many agencies.

At least the Tullos deer are still with us and so they should remain. The SNH hide their true colours behind their name- Scottish Natural Heritage – which implies to the general public that they CARE for all things natural when in truth they are in league (indeed they are now merged under one flag) with the Deer Commission for Scotland.

They in turn are in league with the land owners who want their land “managed” to suit their own purposes e.g. grouse moors, deer forests etc.

The SNH seem obsessed with the idea that there are far too many deer in Scotland and that for their own good they must be culled. As someone who has holidayed in rural Highland Scotland for the past 35 years I ask one question – Where are all the deer?

the deer should be left to come and go and the trees protected with biodegradable tubing as happens in many places around us in Fife

I regard myself as lucky and privileged if I see more than half a dozen wild deer – Red or Roe in a summer.

The SNH would have us believe that every rural community is over run by deer and heaven forbid they are now invading city centre parks as well.

The very fact that they use behind closed door meetings to discuss their strategies is an indication of how aware they must be that their actions are at odds with the public’s perception of what should be happening. Aberdeen City Council clearly must also be aware of this in their complicity. ACC are now going to take the line that they have taken advice from the ‘experts’ and have made their decisions on the basis of this information.

The easiest, although not an ecologically sound solution, is without doubt a deer cull but this will not be a “one off”, but a repeated exercise over the next three to five years to allow the trees to become established. I also concede that deer are determined creatures of habit and will not be easily kept out of what has become a customary feeding ground. Roe deer are particularly good at lifting fences to gain access, so fencing the area is probably not a viable option. Unless the cull could then be justified on the grounds that the deer are causing damage to the fencing as well as eating the trees!

The truth of the matter is that the deer should be left to come and go and the trees protected with biodegradable tubing as happens in many places around us in Fife.

Biodegradable means no litter problem. The tubes just disintegrate and disappear. As for the damage by vandalism I think this is a very large red herring.

In my experience  vandals have much more entertaining targets than some trees planted on a hillside in Aberdeenshire.

As long as the Tullos Deer are alive there is hope. The one point which ACC would take well to note is the irreparable damage the destruction of these deer will cause to their (apparently) already tarnished reputation.

The public will not easily forget – just ask Diageo!
The world is watching.


Apr 052011

Planting trees, creating habitats, using trees to clean the air: no one could be against such a plan, particularly if it would be ‘cost neutral’ and the citizens of Aberdeen would wind up with forests to enjoy down the road. However, in light of new information, Voice’s Suzanne Kelly takes a different view.

What probably started out as a good idea is now a contentious web of extremely poor advance planning, politics, blackmail, vandalism and international outcry at a secret, but long-planned deer cull.

It is time to examine what should have happened, what went wrong, and what should and could be done.

The initial scheme

An Aberdeen City news release of 29 October 2010 explains that 210,000 trees will be planted in several stages, that this programme had funding for the first phase, and was winning awards.  The news release goes on to explain how important trees are – they will such up pollutants and CO2; they will provide habitat for animals (presumably there should be a tree planting near Loirston Loch, but a stadium is to be planted there instead).  This news release, stored on the Council’s website, also explains that funding is being sought for Phase 2.

It is a bit more difficult to find any record on the Council’s website of the deliberate vandalism which destroyed trees planned in Torry and elsewhere.  There is no report on how vandals will be prevented from destroying further plantings.  But within a month or so of this news release appearing, certain people in the Council involved with the tree scheme were already scheming some destruction of their own – and they certainly didn’t want either you or me to find out about it until it was too late for us to do anything about it.  I refer to the plan to keep us in the dark about how Phase 2 of the scheme was being deliberately led:  people behind the scheme were actively steering deliberately towards the cull of the Tullos Hill Roe Deer.

Scottish Natural Heritage:  A view to a cull

On 25 November 2010 (while citizens were being ‘consulted’ on Phase 2’), Scottish Natural Heritage wrote a letter to a member of the arboreal staff at the Council.  (See letter in full below this article).  This letter raises a number of serious questions as to how the scheme was handled.  The letter certainly seems to be replying to a briefing of some sort.  The writer – James Scott of Scottish Natural Heritage’s Wildlife Operations Unit –  is addressing issues which should have been made known in the consultation.

At the time of writing, Mr Scott has been informed that someone in Aberdeen Council has already taken several decisions.

an advantage of using contracted deer shooters is that it might distance the Council from the act

Fencing – It has somehow been decided by someone that fencing would be impossible, as there is a public footpath.  The UK is covered with such paths and suitable gates are used.   Fencing might not have been perfect – but oddly that is part of the blackmail offer the council now proposes.

Deer population –  If the fencing controversy is not confusing enough, the letter admits that the number of deer is unknown.   How many would be culled is apparently to be decided after SNH personnel visit the site under cover of darkness and make counts.  It is not known if such a count has taken place yet, or what the results are.  SNH say that tranquilising deer to move them doesn’t work (50% success) and then inexplicably says this would probably be illegal to do.  If the law says that killing creatures is better than moving them, then it is time to change the law.

Humane options – the SNH suggest ‘frustrating’ deer – remove gorse, implement other measures, yet our officials rejected these proposals.  Again, no recourse to the citizens here.

‘Visual Impact’ of tree protectors they are ruled out – The City told SNH that it would not be using tree protectors on the grounds that they might blow over, creating litter – and because they ‘have visual impact’.  The visual impact of something is a personal, not a scientific, issue.  It is not sufficient grounds to condemn a population of deer to death.

“there is the issue of reducing available habitat for deer and the fact that we would consequently expect a reduction cull. You have also decided not to use tree guards due to the visual impact and the likelyhood of these being blown away, possibly damaging trees they are meant to protect and creating a littering issue.” – James Scott , SNH

The word ‘deer’ does not get so much as a single use – yet it is now clear that a cull was in the cards

Without any regard to consultation, someone at the City has given this and other reasons leading SNH to conclude the deer should be culled.  No one wanted to ask the citizens if we’d rather look at tree protectors (which cost money), or have the trees elsewhere in order to save deer.  But the City and SNH were interested in keeping us in the dark….

Keep them in the dark – SNH actually says that an advantage of using contracted deer shooters is that it might distance the Council from the act:

“it may be preferrable to be seen to be doing it in house and have greater control rather than using contractors, or it may be preferable to utilise the distance between instruction and deed that comes from using contractors” – James Scott , SNH

The Aberdeen citizens should also be managed with care – with a ‘robust communication plan:-

“Having visited the site I am content that appropriate deer management can occur in a safe manner. Communicating this to access takers and the wider public may be more of a task which will require a robust communication plan. I would suggest that a suitable deer management plan will help in this regard and I am more than happy to offer assistance in this” – James Scott , SNH

It seems as if the ‘robust communication plan’ is an indication that some people might not like deer shot to save money.  If a cull were needed for welfare reasons, a reasonable person might not like the idea, but they would understand.  It seems that as no logical reason except cost savings exist for this cull – otherwise there would be no need to keep it out of the consultation or to have a ‘robust communication plan’.

Phase 2 Consultation:  No options given

The Consultation which resides on the Aberdeen City Home page gives the reader no idea whatsoever that any of the above plans and processes were in place.

There is no mention of the vandalism – only of the success of Phase 1.   The word ‘deer’ does not get so much as a single use – yet it is now clear that a cull was in the cards.  The trees are meant to start ‘making money’ in three years’ time – if there is a plan to turn Tullos into a timber yard, we haven’t been told.

A mix of private and public money is paying for this.  Public money is your money and mine – this makes it doubly scandalous that the City chose to deliberately hide mention of the deer cull.  We missed our chance to object to the consultation because of this omission – and as the petitions circulating attest – there are thousands of people who would have liked to have had the choice.

Questions for the Council

It is up to the Council – In particular, Aileen Malone, The Housing and Environment Committee, and whoever else was  involved in the details of the Tree Planting scheme – to supply answers to a few questions arising:-

  • Who made the decision to leave any deer cull out of the public consultation?
  • Who took the decision that non-lethal measures would be discounted and then communicated to SNH?
  • Who precisely decided to plant the trees on Tullos Hill, and why wasn’t the deer population immediately identified as a reason to find another location?
  • Who decided tree guards’ visual impact was preferable to a deer cull?
  • Whose aesthetic judgment decided the tree guards were unattractive?
  • How many trees were vandalised in Phase 1?
  • How much public money was spent in Phase 1, and how much is planned to be spent in Phase 2?
  • Was a consultation with Torry Community Council taken, and if so, were the deer discussed?
  • How  many deer were counted by SNH, and how many are to be culled?

Rays of hope

Thankfully animal activists, citizens of Aberdeen and people around the globe have become involved in campaigns and petition creating to stop this senseless slaughter.  Concerned people should contact their local Community Council members, the Housing and Environment Committee, Committee convener Aileen Malone, and other elected representatives to ask for answers to these questions, and to demand an inquiry into the consultation’s management, and to request a new, honest one.

A civilised government would want to put any cull on indefinite hold until this affair is cleared up.  Deer should not be slaughtered because people in government don’t want to spend money – and given the involved Councillors’  amazing ultimatum: raise funds for fencing, or we shoot animals – is it time for some changes in their number?

– Letter from James Scott ( SNH ) to Richard Nicholson ( ACC ).

– Further reading: Critical Society quarterly e-journal.