Sep 042015
 

With thanks to Tom Collins, Press Officer, Rt. Hon. Alex Salmond MP MSP

Alex Salmond head and shouldersAlex Salmond MSP (Aberdeenshire East) has welcomed an update from the Scottish Government on plans for new integrated health and social care hub for Inverurie.

On 6 August, Mr Salmond lodged a Parliamentary Question at Holyrood asking the Scottish Government for an update on the £14 million project and also asked what action it and NHS Grampian are taking to keep the community informed of progress.

The Scottish Government’s Minister for Public Health and Sport Shona Robison MSP, responded to Mr Salmond informing him that NHS Grampian have published a paper with an update on the Inverurie Health and Care Hub and the Relocation of Foresterhill Health Centre.

The board of NHS Grampian has approved the outline business case for the project and the next stage is for it to be submitted to Scottish Government for review. NHS Grampian aim to have the centre completed by January 2017.

Commenting, Mr Salmond said:

“I am very pleased that NHS Grampian are moving forward with the plans for the much needed new Inverurie Health Centre. The £14 million project, which includes funding from the Scottish Government, represents the dedication the SNP has to improving health services throughout the length and breadth of the country. 

“It is good to see that the public are being kept up to date with developments with information readily available on their website, including timescales, costs and future meetings.

“I am very much looking forward to seeing the completed centre, which will be a more than welcome upgrade for Inverurie and the surrounding areas.”

In her reply, Ms Robison said:

“The board’s planned project programme will see construction begin in summer 2016, completion of the build and commissioning in December 2017, and service commencement in January 2018.

“A newsletter, published by NHS Grampian in June this year, provided the public with a report on progress with the project and outlined the programme.

“In addition, a public drop in session, the second such event, was held at the Acorn Centre in Inverurie on 30 June, giving the public the opportunity to view the latest concept design plans.

“Further public engagement is planned to be advertised in the local press towards the end of the year and public representatives continue to attend the monthly project meetings.”

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Jul 162015
 

Bryan_Angus_Goose_Park_GardensBy Duncan Harley

Duff House, Banff is to host an exhibition of new work by North East artist Bryan Angus this summer.
An art book, successfully funded by a Kickstarter project which attracted backers from as far afield as the USA, Germany and Denmark, accompanies the exhibition.

Entitled Bright Coast – Long Shadows, the exhibition will feature Bryan’s images of Banff, Macduff, Gardenstown, Pennan and Portsoy.

The book will explore the methods and creative processes used in the making of the work.

Says Bryan:

“This book will help promote my artwork and I hope encourage other people to make art. It will also promote this beautiful and hidden area of the world.”

Bryan is a visual artist living and working on the Banffshire Coast. Along with wife Carla he teaches art at the Creative Retreat in Gardenstown. His work is firmly based in the tradition of representational landscape art, created in soft pastel, oils and increasingly, lino print.

Influenced by American artist Edward Hopper’s paintings of houses in the blazing Massachusetts sunshine and referencing the low angled lighting typical of film noir, Bryan’s images portray the villages and sea edge of the Banffshire coastline and feature the dramatic lighting and long shadows of the northern winter months.

When asked about his inspiration, Bryan, a graduate from Gray’s School of Art, comments:

“The bulk of my work is inspired by the beauty of the land hereabouts, enriched by the history of the people and their towns. My own family history has a branch along this coast, so my sense of place, and subsequently the rediscovering the images of previous lives, has also informed my work.”

Bright Coast – Long Shadows opens at Duff House on 18th July and runs until 30th August.

Words © Duncan Harley, Images © Bryan Angus.
First published in Leopard Magazine.

Mar 202015
 

Christian Allard MSP for the North East of ScotlandfeatWith thanks to Gavin Mowat. 

SNP MSP Christian Allard has welcomed the decision by Aberdeenshire Council to back proposals for four traveller sites across the North East. Mr Allard, who is a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee, called it a positive step in the right direction.

Aberdeenshire Councillors, last Thursday 12 March, agreed to creating the four official sites – although no specific locations have been allocated at this stage.

Christian Allard MSP recently visited Clinterty Travelling Persons Site to better understand the challenges faced in the North East and he said the Scottish Parliament is aware of these challenges.

Through his work with the Equal Opportunities Committee, Christian Allard pressed the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights, Alex Neil MSP on a need for traveller sites for the North East. The SNP MSP also invited Mr Neil to come to Grampian and visit existing Gypsy Travellers sites.

Commenting, North East MSP Christian Allard said:

“I am delighted that Aberdeenshire Council has come together to agree this proposal for traveller sites – as SNP Group Leader, Councillor Hamish Vernal said it is a necessary step in the right direction.

“Developing a proper strategy will ensure travellers have suitable facilities and make it easier to intervene with unauthorised sites.

“Having adequate amenities for travellers is very important for the people of the North East and I am glad progress is now being made.”

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Mar 202015
 
John Reid - Toulmin Prize Credit Leopard Magazine

John Reid – Toulmin Prize. Credit: Leopard Magazine

Courtesy of Leopard Magazine.

The University of Aberdeen’s Elphinstone Institute has launched the 2015 Toulmin Prize, with £500 up for grabs for the winning entry.

The competition, now in its seventh year, commemorates the work of one of the North-east’s finest exponents of the short story.

John Reid (1913-1998) was an Aberdeenshire farm labourer from Rathen, near Fraserburgh, who spent most of his life working long hours for very small rewards.

In odd moments, he jotted down short stories, character studies and bothy tales. Eventually, as David Toulmin, he had a few articles printed in local newspapers.

The first of his 10 books was published when he was 59. The books consist mostly of short stories and reminiscences, with his one novel, Blown Seed, painting a harsh picture of farm life. In the later years of his life, Reid moved to Pittodrie Place, Aberdeen (later to Westhill) and was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Aberdeen in 1986.

The Toulmin Prize is open to all amateur writers over the age of 16. The short story – up to 4000 words in length – should be concerned with some aspect of life in North-east Scotland and may be written in Scots, including Doric, or English, or a mixture of the two. Previous prize-winners cannot submit an entry.

In addition to the cash prize, the winning entry will be published in Leopard Magazine and subsequently featured on the website of the Scots Language Centre.

The award for the best entry will be made at the University of Aberdeen’s May Festival, when the winning story will be read aloud by well-known North-east writer, Sheena Blackhall.

The closing date for entries is 31 March 2015. For entry details and a form, please visit: www.abdn.ac.uk/elphinstone/events/toulmin/

Text and photo courtesy of Leopard Magazine

Oct 172014
 

In the third of a controversial 52 part series Duncan Harley and Janice Catto take cognisance of the political comments on a wall near you.

gun batterypenisOverall, Pantsy got our vote for originality at Innes Links. The laid back graphic style and the hands in pocket relaxed stance suggested a ‘devil may care’ attitude to life, universe and authority. We like that.

We consider his work to be precise and accurate. Many of his contemporaries place quaint pro or anti homophobic rudeness and fuzzy sexual innuendo foremost. That in our view can often be a misleading mistake.

After all, those who want to make it big in the art world might do best to embrace a more gentle and polite art style in order to attract establishment patronage.

Scot’s artists such as James Pittendrigh Macgillivray embraced sculpture in such a way and, as far as we know, declined to leave even a skid-mark on Victorian loo walls.

Born in 1856, Pittendrigh trained in Glasgow under, amongst others, William Brodie from Banff and early on in his career produced exquisite busts of the ‘Glasgow Boy’ painter Joseph Crawhall and philosopher Thomas Carlyle.

His later work achieved national fame and includes Edinburgh’s Gladstone Monument, the David Livingstone statue in Glasgow and the statue of the scandalous reprobate Lord Byron in Aberdeen. Seemingly he inscribed his signature on the back of each work using the pseudonym ‘Pittendrigh‘.

Pantsy has no such hidden agenda which is more than can be said for his nemeses, pre-pubescent wall artist Giant Master Wullie.

Body parts-wise, Giant Master Wullie’s work is almost equal to that of several reviled toilet penis artists. Three Balls McGinty springs to mind immediately.

The triple testicular’d toilet artist’s work can be viewed in most male loo’s near you and is replete with comments such as “WANK IF YOU LIKE ME” and “ROGER NEEDS A SCREW CALL 0122464*97600, ASK FOR JOE or FRANCIE the DOG.”

Wullie’s work however is on a different level. With a blue hospital plastic gloved grip, his Innes Links graphic is slightly short penis wise.

According to a recent survey, the average erect penis in the UK is over 5.2” long as measured from tip to scrotum. Mind you, that may not include folk under 17 or recent immigrants.

However, Wullie’s graphic is worthy of note due to the surrounding text.

“MOYSER MISTER”, “MICKEY MIGER” and “BAZOG” have all left comments.

Moyser says “I LIKE COCK”, Bazog comments “SPLAT” while Mickey Miger’s comment “DICKHEAD” suggests that he is into detective novels and portrait painting.

We all like cock.

As for splat, the jury is still out.

Yours creatively, Duncan and Janice

Next week in the Voice we will be looking at the work of some west coast wall artists who by default have made friends with a horde of bats.

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Oct 102014
 

pantsy graffitti3 by duncan HarleyDuncan Harley and Janice Catto take cognisance of the political comments on a wall near you.

As part of our ongoing research we went off to Moray recently in the hope of meeting the artist known as Pantsy, a post-pubescent master of public wall art. A bag full of aerosols plus some cardboard stencils do not a painter make but in truth Pantsy is the biscuit.

Innes Links hosts a healthy population of red squirrels, a good few Comma butterflies and boasts a quite stunningly intact 1940’s vintage coastal gun battery facing out to sea in the direction of far off Norway.

We Scots love Norway, honest injuns, but in the dark distant days of 1940 there were paranoid fears that the Scottish coastline offered an easy landing place for Hitler’s troops.

If there had been comments on a loo wall near you in 1940, they would no doubt have read “NORWAY SUCKS –NO MORE BOMBERS PLEASE” and “FUCK HITLER UP HIS ARSE.”

Norway of course had been invaded by the German army and was now a base for the Luftwaffe bomber crews.

Bad hair days indeed.

The Innes Links Battery near Lossie nowadays features a couple of gun emplacements, two searchlight casements plus a small coastal rangefinder housing.

There are the obligatory latrines, an ammunition bunker or two, some slit trenches plus a few thousand anti invasion blocks. All were manufactured by Polish refugee troops employed as forced labour by a local building company awarded the contract for General Ironside’s 1940 anti invasion plan defences.

No invasion came by sea and the Innes Links Battery never fired a shot in anger. Hitler’s bombers however, crewed by the nice young men of the Luftwaffe, roamed the skies over the Aberdeenshire and Moray coastline killing at will for several years until it became clear that the dice were rolling against them.

In the true spirit of humanity, the coastal battery has latterly been put to new use as a place for folk to party, BBQ and have a few beers. The bland exterior of concrete painted camouflaged brown, cream and green has long faded but Pantsy and his mates have added a few pieces of colourful art to brighten up the somewhat outdated 1940’s interior décor.

Broken glass litters the embankment and the raised shingle beach hides urine filled overlapping pillboxes every 600 yards or so.  A blue abandoned sleeping bag sits facing seawards among the thistles alongside a toppled line of anti-tank defences painted with the words “The Unknown.”

Facing out to sea there are a few additional words in Polish which I am reliably informed criticise Winston Churchill for exploiting his Polish allies:

“Dlaczego kurwa tutaj przyjechaliśmy by bronić Polskę i pomóc Churchillowi, skoro jedyne co teraz robimy to mieszamy beton dla tych Brytyjskich drani.”

No tanks ever came ashore here although Pantsy invaded from somewhere inland in 2009.

His major work here is a devil horned black suited figure on the back wall of Battery “B”.
The gun, a first war 18 pounder salvaged from a scrapped Ironclad, is long gone of course, having been itself scrapped in 1946, however the implication of the artists mural is obviously “don’t mess wi’ us pal!”

Somewhat oddly, the neighbouring concrete gun batteries are more or less artless.

Battery “A” sports a banal white painted “SPLAT” alongside the faded instruction to  “CHECK WITH HQ S12B BEFORE FIRING” while the rangefinder housing has the words “SHIT HAPPENS HERE” sprayed on the back wall alongside a three testicled penis.

The searchlight positions, and there are two of these, are similarly bereft. No one has so far gone to the length of even a “Mo Mo was here” statement. Perhaps true graffiti needs hidden makars.

Overall, Pantsy gets our vote for originality here since his work is precise and without equal amongst the Innes Links collection. Efforts to track him down have so far failed although, as always, our spies are out.

Next week we will take a look at Pantsy’s nemeses, pre-pubescent Giant Master Wullie.

Yours creatively, Duncan and Janice

© All Rights Reserved.

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Oct 032014
 

River Don Inverurie by Duncan HarleyIn the first of a controversial 52 part series Duncan Harley and Janice Catto take cognisance of the political comments on a wall near you.

Wiki says that graffiti is:

“writing or drawings that have been scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface, often in a public place. Graffiti ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings.”

“The underlying social and political messages are often ignored and controversies regarding the art form create disagreement amongst city cleansing officials and writers who wish to display and appreciate work in public locations.”

“There are many different types and styles of graffiti and it is a rapidly developing art form whose value is highly contested and reviled by many authorities while also subject to protection, sometimes within the same jurisdiction.”

Be that as it may.

Today we took a walk along the Don to Inverurie’s abandoned Ardtannes Mill.

Mo Mo was seemingly here a few months ago, as was Super Ned. We last saw Mo Mo’s work two years ago in Kellands Park. At that time he advised that ‘Mo Mo is fat’ and to the best of our knowledge that was indeed true.

His spray technique leaves little to the imagination and his statements are orange/brown with a stark signature reading ‘Mo Mo likes to be fat, how about you’.

Our spies are out but to date little is currently known about Mo Mo apart from the above although he has a deft hand with a spray gun.

With statements such as ‘Better to have a short life doing things you want than to live a long life in a miserable way’ and ‘Plop’, who could disagree.

However, In a moment of inebriated philosophical humour, Mo Mo’s rival Super Neds writes ‘Fuck Israel’ and advises that ‘good girls go to heaven.’

We, of course, are sure that they do in both cases.

Next week in the Voice we will be looking at the work of Pantsy and his comments on the life and times of north east history with particular relevance to the life and times of creative walls near you.

Yours creatively, Duncan and Janice

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Jul 312014
 
Eilidh Whiteford MP Peterhead Harbour (1)

Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP.

One of the most frequent concerns voters raise with me on the doorstep relates to the future of the NHS in Scotland.

The fact that England’s NHS is being slowly but surely privatised and broken up is public knowledge, and it’s something citizens are justifiably concerned about.

The situation is, of course, different north of the border. The Scottish Government has resisted the stealth privatisation of our NHS.

Most of us depend on the NHS to meet our health care needs, and while it’s not always perfect, the evidence shows that the NHS in Scotland is doing a better job of meeting treatment time targets and cutting infections than other parts of the UK.

In Scotland, the end of prescription charging has especially helped those with chronic illnesses, and access to free eye and dental checks often prevents more serious and costly problems developing.  And of course, free personal care is enabling many frail or elderly people to live independently, thereby maintaining their quality of life and preventing more costly interventions.

Overall, the health resource budget has increased by 22% over seven years of SNP Government. That represents a major investment, with real results.

Nonetheless, there is still reason to be concerned about the impact that Westminster’s privatisation agenda will have in Scotland. The reason is the funding mechanism for the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Parliament’s block grant is decided at Westminster, and is allocated on the basis of UK expenditure. When this goes up, the Scottish Parliament’s grant goes up. When it goes down, the Scottish Parliament’s grant goes down.

Our ability to spend is tied tightly to the UK Government’s own spending plans, and every cut the UK Government makes to spending on the English NHS has a consequential impact on our budget, Placing our NHS spending at the mercy of the UK Government’s priorities.

The Westminster Government’s Health and Social Care Act is estimated to result in £1.07 billion ‘savings’  between 2014-2020 – if this is taken from England’s NHS budget, this could result in a cut to Scotland’s budget of around £105 million each year.

Of course, tied in with this is the fact that politicians from all the main Westminster parties have already pledged to cut the Barnett Formula in the event of a No vote. This won’t happen before the referendum, but MPs from all parties have already said publicly that Barnett needs to be ‘reformed’.

Yet Scotland is consistently short-changed through Westminster spending priorities. In every one of the past 33 years, tax receipts in Scotland have been higher than in the rest of the UK; in the last 5 years alone we have contributed £8.3 billion more to the UK coffers than we’ve had back in public spending

The only way to protect Scotland’s NHS definitively is for the Scottish Government to take responsibility for its own budget. Scotland more than pays its way in the UK, and the current system of sending almost our entire revenue to London in return for pocket money is unsustainable.

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Jun 202014
 

Unemploymenthas fallen in Banff and Buchan, but MP warns that more needs to be done on youth unemployment. With thanks to Paul Robertson.

Eilidh Whiteford

Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford

In a recent debate on the Queen’s Speech in the House of Commons, Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford welcomed news of falling unemployment in Banff and Buchan, but called on the UK Government to do more to tackle youth unemployment.
She highlighted the way in which energy and technology companies are working with local schools and the North East College to make youngsters aware of the job opportunities available to those with qualifications in science and technology subjects, and paid tribute to those who took part in the recent Technology Challenge competition, won by pupils from Mintlaw Academy.

​Figures published by the Office for National Statistics show 710 unemployed claimants in Banff and Buchan in May 2014 – 1.5% of the economically active population, and a fall of 365 claimants on the previous year.

The statistics also showed the highest rate of the employment of women in Scotland since records began.

Dr Whiteford commented:

“Few issues are more important than the availability of work, and I am therefore pleased to see another fall in unemployment in Banff and Buchan.”

“Unemployment among young people, however, remains unacceptably high . In Scotland, the Scottish Government’s Modern Apprenticeship scheme has seen 77,000 young people gain an apprenticeship in the last three years, and thanks to the Opportunities for All scheme, every 16-19 year old in Scotland is guaranteed a work placement, training course or education place.”

“However, the publication of the Wood Commission interim report on Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce highlighted the need for schools, colleges and employers to work much more closely together to equip young people for the workplace.

“There are already great examples of this happening locally – just a couple of weeks ago I was pleased to present prizes to pupils from Mintlaw Academy who won the Technology Challenge competition run in partnership by North East Scotland College and energy sector employers, and I was pleased to see pupils from all the secondary schools in North Aberdeenshire take part.

“It’s those kinds of partnerships that point the way forward for young people to gain the expertise and build the team-work skills that will help them secure well-paid jobs when they enter the labour market.”

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Jun 102014
 

With thanks to Kenneth J Hutchison, Parliamentary Assistant to Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP

MP in Strichen 2

MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford in Strichen

In the last Queen’s Speech before the referendum, Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has criticised the absence of new powers for Scotland that the pro-union political parties have been offering.

Last week, the Conservatives published the Strathclyde Report, promising that Air Passenger Duty could be quickly devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

However in the ConDem coalition Government’s program announced yesterday, no bills were announced which would see new powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Dr Whiteford commented:

“The absence of any mention of Scotland by any of the Westminster parties is extraordinary. There has been much talk of what powers they might consider devolving to Scotland but once again they have bottled it – making promises but completely failing to follow through.

“The Conservatives have admitted that Air Passenger Duty could be easily and quickly devolved – but there was no mention of that in the legislative agenda. How can we believe any of their promises on more powers for Scotland?

“In September we have the opportunity to take Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands by voting yes. This Queen’s Speech – where Scotland is completely absent and does not even feature as an after-thought – should be a wake-up call that our interests will only be served by having the decisions that affect Scotland being made in Scotland.”

For more information, contact Paul Robertson, Tel: 077020 18 444 or 01779 822 023

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