May 242013

With thanks to Chris Anderson, Marketing and Events Organiser, Grampian Transport Museum.

The John Clark Motor Group is to sponsor this year’s SpeedFest event at the Grampian Transport Museum on Sunday 30th June.

The event features 120 post-1955 classic, sports and performance cars taking part in an exciting range of demonstrations and pursuits on the museum’s track circuit.

Popular precision driver Russ Swift will also entertain the crowds with a series of stunning manoeuvres.

The John Clark Motor Group will have a sizeable presence on the day too, displaying some of their latest models from their Mini, BMW, Audi and Volkswagen franchises amongst others.

Group chairman John Clark, who is delighted to be sponsoring one of the North East’s top motoring events, said:

“We are really pleased to be sponsoring this years SpeedFest at the Grampian Transport Museum.  The event promises to be a fantastic day out for all the family.”

Commenting on GrampianTransportMuseum’s success in securing such a high profile sponsor for this event, museum curator Mike Ward said:

“SpeedFest is our biggest event of the year and it’s great to have the support of one of Scotland’s biggest motor groups as sponsor.  

“We look forward to working with them to deliver a great event.”

Further details regarding the programme of events for SpeedFest 2013 will be revealed soon.

For further information contact Chris Anderson, Marketing and Events Organiser, Grampian Transport Museum, by telephone at 019755 64517, or by email at

Alford, Aberdeenshire  AB33 8AE
General Enquiries: Tel: 019755 62292 ~ Fax: 019755 62180
E-mail:  /
Events Office: Tel: 019755 64517 ~ Fax: 019755 62180

May 142013

Whilst the more senior levels in Scottish football argue interminably about structure and finance, life goes on in the Highland League, with a last-day title decider between the top two teams set to rouse passions and tribal rivalries, just as it should. That’s this week. Last week, the Highland League Cup final was played. David Innes was in Banff supporting his hometown club Keith and doubled up by reporting for Voice.

The venue, Princess Royal Park was controversial. Although it’s a pleasant ground, there is no shelter for fans other than the impressive stand and the weather forecast was inconclusive.

It didn’t rain, it was pleasantly warm in the Banffshire coast sun and the pitch was in lovely condition for the time of year, so the organisers got it right.

Locos dominated early on and after missing a couple of chances, former Maroon Jason Begg put them ahead in 18 minutes.

Harlaw midfielder Clark Bain was dominant and although Keith posed a threat via Andy McAskill playing wide right, they were fortunate to turn around only a goal down.

Darren Still’s half time advice must have helped as the Maroons started the second half, playing uphill, in much more aggressive manner, yet it was Inverurie who looked more likely to add to their score. Then a crucial momentary lack of concentration by Stuart McKay allowed Sean Keith to cross for Andy McAskill to level at 1-1 after his first shot was blocked.

Locos came back and pressed hard. They almost went ahead again straight away, then a long free kick by Locos’ ‘keeper Andy Reid bounced off the Keith post with the defence assuming that the shot was going wide.

That bit of luck seemed to galvanise Keith and when defender Kieran Adams handled a shot on the ground, talisman and skipper Cammy Keith showed no mercy and buried the penalty behind Andy Reid. Suddenly the noise was coming from the Maroons fans.

Even Reid’s foray forward for a late corner couldn’t see Locos break down Keith’s defence with Stuart Walker and Gary McNamee dominant, and when McAskill broke away in stoppage time, Steven Park’s clumsy tackle earned the defender a red card and Keith a penalty. This time Cammy Keith’s shot hit the post but there was no way back for Locos, heads down and with a player short.

The final whistle saw gleeful celebrations on and off the pitch as Keith salvaged something from a poor season and delivered long-serving Darren Still his first trophy as the Maroons’ manager. It was a delight to see so many ex-players joining the young team as it soaked in the glory. Players are well taken care of at Kynoch Park, although the club does not pay the inflated wages offered by others. They repay that loyalty by continuing to offer their support.

The club chairman Sandy Stables, his board and committee put in incredible efforts to keep the club they love going, and even if they are never rewarded by big attendances, they put smiles on the faces of those who do attend on afternoons such as this.

Keith have an energetic squad of young players, with a few experienced hands around to guide them through the tough times. This victory will help instil belief in the squad where the traditional Keith team spirit is hugely in evidence. Rumours abound of a few experienced signing over the summer, which, allied to the abundant energy of the loons, might just see them cause a few upsets next season.

Locos manager Kenny Coull has admitted that his squad needs major restructuring and a few of the older players, who have served the club brilliantly since their days as a fledgling Highland League club, may have to move on.

Whatever the summer holds, it has been an exciting 2012-13 in the Highland League, with the Aberdeenshire Shield Final going ahead this week, before the title showdown at Pitmedden on the scheduled final day of the season. It’s the best fitba going.

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Apr 152013

“Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year”
–          Rolling Stones, Sympathy for The Devil

Please allow me to introduce myself. That would make a good opening line for a song.
In the pub we were discussing an absent punter whose specialist subject on Mastermind would be ‘Everything’.

On reflection I’m a bit like him – get me on to a subject and a flood of views, news and trivia can be unleashed.

Ask me to contribute an article about my website and I’m in my element, despite realising it’s partly an exercise in vanity publishing, and that I am that punter.

As a political activist, I campaigned in Aberdeen throughout the 1970s, a formative time of great international solidarity – anti-apartheid, Vietnam, Chile after the overthrow of President Allende. It was a decade of national, student and industrial struggles, an era of cultural upheaval. In Seventies Scotland, Gordon Brown became a radical student Rector of Edinburgh University.

On the industrial front, inspiration came from the building workers’ and miners’ strikes, from Jimmy Reid and the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders workers’ battles.

Bob Cooney would have a pint with us in the Adelphi Aberdeen Trades Council Social Club – his stories of the International Brigade and battles against fascists on the streets of Aberdeen brought working-class history to life. The decade culminated in the 1979 Devolution referendum, when I worked tirelessly for ‘Yes for Scotland’.

After school I got a job as a technical author with a helicopter manufacturer, and also contributed to the local newspaper as a ‘stringer’. Since then, I have written for the New Musical Express (NME), Morning Star and other radical journals.

I worked for an Aberdeen specialist black-and-white photo printing company before spending the Eighties cocooned offshore with diving firms. I spent four years in Mumbai in the Bombay High oilfields. I then managed small photographic businesses/labs in Aberdeen.

In 2003 Yvonne and I moved from East Cults (Garthdee) to Collieston, which I flew over when I worked in the North Sea. Now semi-retired and as busy as ever, I own and run a website  .

There, a career condensed into a few short paragraphs. ‘Perhaps my best years are gone. But I wouldn’t want them back. Not with the fire in me now.’ – Samuel Beckett 1906-1989. ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ (extract).

Online since 2004, forviemedia began as a stock photo library with 120 images

Online since 2004, forviemedia began as a stock photo library with 120 images – four decades of strong views, my back pages in focus. I launched the current format in May 2012, when analytic tools indicated that ‘News’ was by far the most popular and searchable section of the site. So now it’s part-news, part-images, almost a blog.

Anything’s preferable to Faceboak – I’m sick of social media!

I combine articles and images – clicks of a mouse and shutter buttons. Our News section and site content are refreshed daily, constantly changing. The Menie estate rolling story is by far the most popular item, closely followed by lard. Don’t ask!

Over 280 images are currently displayed in nine Galleries. Site content includes Scotland and politics, campaigns, Green and Nature tourism, walks, dogs, architecture, Grampian produce, hostelries, industries, energy – North Sea Oil and renewables, exhibitions, events, contacts, extra news, science, history, heritage, humour, sport, film and theatre, and music.

My small Employment Support grant ends in May. I’m both saddened and heartened by the news that fifty percent of Scots farmers would not survive were it not for Working Tax Credit. Despite its worth, plus my restraint and compromise, forviemedia is too political for most business funding organisations, so I’m investigating community and educational grants at present.

Conversely, ‘The Canadian’ online magazine implied I was benefitting commercially by writing for them. Politicus wrote recently to say my website didn’t seem to have much politics in it, so I can’t win. I guess it depends on your stance; mine is possibly too close to Bob Cooney’s in the Castlegate.

It’s certainly difficult selling images online nowadays, although it’s never been technically easier. The North Sea Oil shots over twenty years have always brought in a trickle of income, with no marketing. The internet is a fantastic research tool, and better search engine optimisation helps folk find you, but it’s all about working one-to-one and finding a few discerning customers.

I worry about language use being compromised due to deliberate keyword use – catchy titles for images for example. Connectivity and broadband speed are particular issues in rural areas.

In the future I’d like to become a major ‘portal of call’ for news and debate in the Buchan area, and provide a (free) service for Aberdeenshire artists and photographers. When I told Yvonne that I intended to utilise my bus pass to take the dog and do pub reviews, it raised a smile and then an eyebrow. I am that punter.

Chris Ramsey.  5th April 2013.

Dec 092011

After experiencing one of the mildest Novembers on record, winter has taken a hold of the region with a vengeance, with forecasters predicting worse still to come. Voice’s Stephen Davy Osborne reports.

Rewind 12 months and you would find the region hidden under several feet of snow, with salt stockpiles dwindling.

So far this year however, December has yet to see a heavy snow fall within the city. Instead, Aberdeen and the Shire have been battered by severe gales, with wind speeds reaching up to 160mph in the highlands.
A number of homes have also been left without power as a result.

But in true local spirit, residents of the North-East haven’t let this storm get them down, and have taken it deep into their hearts; affectionately endorsing the renaming of “Hurricane Bawbag”, which now even has its very own entry on Wikipedia.

Grampian Police have put out weather warnings to motorists on a number of highland roads, and have even closed the snow gates between Cockbridge and Tomintoul leading to the Lecht Ski Centre. A similar situation can be found on the A93 Braemar to Cairnwell Road, which is also closed due to drifting snow.

The A939 between Ballater and Corgarff, and the A96 from Inverurie to Elgin have been left open, but given an advisory “pass with care” status.

Interestingly though, Aberdeen’s main thoroughfare, Union Street was not included on this list, despite a very dangerous large obstruction. A section of the much-hyped brand new Christmas lights was blown from its moorings on either side of the street and came crashing down onto the busy main street between Natwest and the Filling Station towards the west end of the granite mile.

Miraculously nobody was injured in the freak incident, although traffic was disrupted while police cleared the debris of the mangled metal lights structure.

One on-looker was very pleased to note however that local bus services continued to run, even manoeuvring around the obstruction to get to the bus stops, so as not to cause further disruption to passengers.

Whoever said that the Christmas spirit was not alive amongst Aberdeen’s public transport system?

The bad weather is expected to continue into the weekend and the start of next week, with blizzards forecasted as the cold weather sets in once again.

Nov 082011

Issued on behalf of Nestrans by The BIG Partnership. With thanks to Dave Macdermid. 

Nestrans, the statutory regional transport partnership for the North-east of Scotland, has written to the Department of Transport (DfT) as part of the UK Government’s aviation consultation and in response to questions posed by the DfT in its scoping document looking to develop a sustainable framework for UK aviation.

Chair of Nestrans Ian Yuill believes any future air travel policy implemented by the European Union, which is currently considering changes to the landing slot rules, has the potential to make a hugely significant impact, both positive and negative.

“In what was a fairly detailed response, we have highlighted the impact aviation has on our economy and the impact of our economy in the north east on the UK economy as well as the different impacts of aviation for the peripheral regions of the UK compared to the more central areas where surface transport is a viable option.

“While we welcome the proposed introduction of High Speed Rail to central Scotland, it is not, and never will be, viable to extend it to the North east and therefore it is absolutely crucial that existing air links between ourselves and Heathrow are protected. As a region, our economy is dependent on international travel and the logical hub to achieve this is Heathrow.

“Within our submission, we have included many key statistics including the fact the percentage of Scotland’s air traffic through Aberdeen is 13.3% for a population catchment of 8.9% while the proportion of business travellers is 56% compared to 30% for Edinburgh and Glasgow.

“The link between Aberdeen Airport and Heathrow is particularly important in several ways, including access to other parts of organisations, particularly headquarters functions, for inward investors; access to markets for indigenous companies and for inward investors seeking to use a region as a base of operations within a world area; access to suppliers of goods and services from around the world and access to knowledge partners and complementary businesses.

“The recent news that BA is set to purchase BMI, and the likely resultant consolidation of services only highlights the need to be able to protect the current BA service of six rotations each weekday between Aberdeen and Heathrow and we are sincerely hoping this is given due and proper consideration by the Government as part of this consultation which will impact future air policy.”

The EU is currently considering the European regulations separately from the UK policy consultation and any UK policy developed will have to suit any amended EU rule. 

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.

Aug 162011

Carlo Pandian highlights the fact we Aberdonians are fortunate with regard to latest employment figures

While the rest of Scotland suffers, Aberdeen is bucking the unemployment trend.
The Office for National Statistics released a new unemployment report this week that will no doubt trigger many a debate down the local pub.

The report highlights the national employment black-holes where job vacancies are scarce, numbers of benefit claimants are high, and opportunity is generally low.

Northern English cities and smaller Scottish and Welsh cities dominate the black hole list. Which poses the question: should job seekers in places like Hull & Motherwell be willing to up sticks and find employment in other more prosperous UK cities – or should they be grafting away in their local economies?

The good news for Aberdeen is – the city’s employment market is currently flying.

The data from the Office for National Statistics has been cross-referenced with job search engine Adzuna to show that for every 1.6 employment benefit claimants in Aberdeen, there is 1 open vacancy. “Almost” enough jobs to go around for everyone in the city!

This is in no way representative of the rest of Scotland (or the British Isles for that matter), but in these dark economic times, the oil and gas industry appears to be keeping Aberdeen alive. Demand for engineers in the city is higher than ever, and Aberdeen’s economy seems blissfully insulated from the economic turmoil other cities are experiencing.

The full set of job opportunity below can be seen in the infographic here.



Jul 012011

George Anderson continues his masterclass series in Doric,  offering an appreciation not only of the spoken language, but also the wealth of meaning between the economically delivered lines – and a breath of fresh air.


When Aberdeen Voice’s editorial team asked me to conduct a series of Doric Master Classes I jumped at the chance. The language lab above my garage in Auchnaclatt can be stifling in summer. Besides, I was fed up teaching American tourists how to order breakfast (Kin I hae a bug o rowies and a slack handfae o yer floory baps please?) But first things first I told them. Students of Doric must learn to breathe correctly. So that’s where we’ll begin.


… is vital for survival. Stop doing it long enough and your tatties will soon be ower the side.

The ancient Tai Chi masters knew this (about the breathing that is; not the tatties). They were taught from the temple crèche to breathe in through their ears and out through the soles of their feet. Though this practice was discontinued in the seventeenth century after complaints from monks about condensation in their gym shoes.

Good breathing is no less essential when learning to speak Doric properly.

Breathing Exercise

This exercise has been designed to allow students to experience for themselves the correct way to breathe during conversation. Throughout the exercise do bear in mind the two fundamentals of Doric breathing: when listening, only breathe in; when speaking, only breathe out.

Students should work in pairs and have a paramedic on standby.


One person plays the speaker. The other takes the role of listener.


Start reciting the words to the ‘The Mucking of Geordie’s Byre.’ These must be spoken in Doric, at about twice the speed of an hysterical auctioneer on his third line of coke.


Just as the speaker begins, draw a gaspette of air in through the mouth while saying the word,  ‘Aye’. Repeat this for as long as the speaker is speaking. Take care not to breathe out.

If you feel light-headed or confused, if you experience vertigo or the feeling that your lungs might at any moment explode, call your GP immediately – and tell him you have just mastered the art of Doric inhalation.

It has been clinically proven (67% of 285 breathers agreed) that your lungs will now contain levels of carbon dioxide similar to those recorded at the bottom of a colliery lift shaft.

Aim to reach this point at the precise moment when the speaker stops talking. Some feel nauseous at this point. If you are one of them, it helps to ground yourself by holding on to something  — a telegraph pole, tree or a Ford Mondeo usually hit the spot.

Whatever you do, don’t faint; it will shortly be your turn to speak.

But you can think only of filling your burning lungs with oxygen in vast, life sustaining quantities. To do this you will first have to expel all of the noxious gases your lungs contain.  And here we have a dilemma. Your conversational partner may believe that you are having a hairy fit. Worse; they may believe that you are feigning a hairy fit because you can’t bring yourself to share their concern for the cleansing of George’s cowshed. What to do?

Well, the answer is to use the blast of carbon dioxide your body will at any moment force from your chest (with or without your permission) as the carrier for your reply.


Stop speaking. It is your turn to say ‘Aye’ while only breathing in. Get to it.


(now adopting the speaking role): Recite the chorus to the Barnyards o Delgatie (reproduced below), out loud and real
fast (if you can distinguish one word from the next you are not speaking fast enough). Aim for 0.8 seconds from start to finish.

Luntin addie, turin addie,
Luntin addie turin ae
Luntin lowrin’ lowrin’ lowrin’,
The barnyards o’Delgaty!

Next lesson:

Now that we have covered the mechanics of breathing the subject of our next masterclass will be ‘Doric and the beatnik culture’.

Image credit:  © Max Blain |

Jun 242011

George Anderson presents a masterclass in Doric offering an appreciation not only of the spoken language, but also the wealth of meaning between the economically delivered lines.


There is something about the North-east’s doom laden outlook on life that makes Victor Meldrew look like he’s been at the laughing gas.

Victorian artists painted skulls in the corner of their canvases to remind anyone who had drifted off the page, that the bloke with the scythe was never more than a step behind them.

Up my way we need no such reminding; we see the end of our days in the faces of anyone we know over fifty.

It is customary in the north-east of Scotland to point out to any third parties who will listen, that so-and-so is ‘looking aul’’. The phrase is equivalent to saying ‘His tatties are gey near through the bree’. In other words that the fellow should get measured for the widden bilersuit on a sooner rather than later basis.

The Performance:

Students should study the masterclass notes below before practicing the following piece of dialogue from ‘Duet for Arthur Duguid’ by Udny playwright Harold Painter, known in the north-east of course as Harold Pinter. Emphasise emboldened words.

Line 1: I seen Arthur Duguid at the Gala bingo last widdnesdae
Line 2: Did ye?
Line 3: Aye. He’s nae half lookin aul’
Line 4: Is he?
Line 5: Oh, he’s lookin aul’ a right.

Students Notes on pronunciation:

Line 1: This line should be delivered as you might read out loud the names of all those who died building the Burma railroad.

Line 2: Try to get as much astonishment into these two words as you can muster. Imagining that you have just been told that despite flailing at the beast with his pension book, Arthur Duguid had been skewered through the tripe like a kebab during this year’s Pamplona bull run.

Line 3: Advanced students may want to try the accompanying actions to this phrase. Hold a trembling hand an inch or two from your face and draw it down the visage as the phrase is uttered, to emphasise the fact that Arthur’s signs of ageing are now beyond the reach even of industrial strength Norwegian Formula Neutragena.

Line 4: As for line 2

Line 5: Place double emphasis on the second instance of the word ‘aul’’

Both should end the piece with hands in pockets, performing the ‘shakkin o the heid’.

Picture  © Paul Moore |

Jun 242011

“Which of our conflicting transport demands are most important?” asks Jonathan Hamilton Russell in this edit of his longer article, written to encourage debate on the future of personal and freight travel in NE Scotland.

Scotland has extremely ambitious climate change targets, yet we prioritise airport expansion and roadbuilding.

The NE economy needs transport infrastructure to allow movement of goods; people have to get to work with few holdups.

Meeting climate change targets means embracing sustainable transport usage by reducing car, road freight and air travel yet Aberdeen Airport has the fastest-growing passenger numbers in Scotland; public transport is the only option for many, but the majority are wedded to car use. Among Scottish cities Aberdeen car count is highest; Aberdeenshire has the highest rural area car usage; increasingly, Aberdeenshire residents drive to work in Aberdeen, exaggerating traffic bottlenecks.

Public spending cuts mean local and national governments face stark financial choices affecting resources for maintaining and enhancing transport infrastructures.

The days of cheap petrol have passed. Prices will continue to rise.

Bus fares are higher here than throughout Scotland.  Southbound buses are often of poor quality although local buses are of a high standard, and Aberdeen citizens, on average, are nearer bus stops than other Scottish cities’ residents.

Bus use in Aberdeenshire can be problematic, but could be increased by driving to stops and transferring to buses – less stressful than car travel. Council cuts to services for the disabled and elderly have made travelling significantly more challenging for such socially-excluded groups.

What can we do?

There’s general agreement that people should be encouraged to travel more sustainably. Cycling activity is increasing, although levels are lower than elsewhere in Scotland, and it needs to be encouraged as a healthy, environmentally-friendly activity.

Cycle pools, common in many European cities, could be created. Cycle routes to school, given priority, would provide more fun and health benefits for children than car travel. Cycle safety measures would need to be put in place, particularly at roundabouts, to make them less dangerous.

Park and ride schemes, particularly at Kingswells, are less successful than envisaged but remain a commuting option. Car-sharing, whilst becoming more common, is far from the norm. NESTRANS, responsible for planning and transport implementation, has suggested piloting car-share lanes.

Laurencekirk railway station has re-opened, but more stops are needed, possibly at Kittybrewster and Altens. The Haudagain roundabout obviously needs improving, with priority for cyclists, buses and car-sharing.

A new Bridge of Dee is needed – contribution to its cost from that area’s large retailers might have been written into the conditions when planning consent was agreed. Any new development should prioritise cycles, buses and car-sharing.

Aberdeen is a fairly small city and walking should always be marketed as a healthy, cheap and quick transport option.

Traffic lights in pedestrian high-use areas should give priority to pedestrians. 20 mph restrictions have improved safety, although limits are regularly broken by a minority of drivers.

Offering flexible working hours is effective in reducing peak-time traffic levels. Salary benefits for those cycling or car-sharing could be introduced, with car pools for staff who have to drive during  work time. Working at home, for at least part of the week, is an option as is business conferencing rather than travelling to meetings. Both would reduce business costs.

it is well-documented that increased road space leads to increased traffic

Will the increased price of petrol reduce car use enough, or do we need to introduce road pricing, viewed as the single measure most likely to effect change to how we travel? The increased motoring costs would make drivers consider alternatives.

Aberdeen would almost certainly benefit, reducing the numbers moving to Aberdeenshire as extra travel costs outweigh housing cost savings.  It is a hot potato, however, and would be unpopular due to the high levels of car use locally. Few politicians would have the courage to suggest its introduction, despite being effective in reducing car  dependency.

We also need to identify new means of financing transport developments and to maintain the current deteriorating infrastructure. Road pricing could raise those funds.

Some planning decisions have encouraged car use. Union Square adjoins both bus and rail terminals but it has also provided increased parking opportunities.

 It has had a detrimental commercial effect on Union Street, George Street and Bon Accord Centre shops, all more accessible by bus.

The proposed Union Terrace development would increase city centre car parking availability, flying in the face of the need to reduce car travel and move towards more sustainable transport methods.

All measures have advocates and opponents. The Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) for example, highlights conflicting views and interests.  Newton Dee Village fought an effective campaign to stop the road encroaching on that community; Road Sense has successfully raised legal objections, forcing public inquiries, even if of limited scope.

The AWPR has both advantages and disadvantages. It would help take freight off Aberdeen’s roads although significant volumes still have to come in and out of Aberdeen.

It would reduce travel times although there are other bottlenecks further south. It would reduce congestion at the Haudagain roundabout and Bridge of Dee, but it is well-documented that increased road space leads to increased traffic. Roads in general will become more congested.

The AWPR would help businesses. It will allow more people to live outside Aberdeen as it will be quicker, at least initially, to travel into Aberdeen but will lead to an increasingly-ageing city population.

Such demographic change will leave Aberdeen City Council with less money and greater demands on resources. An excellent deal has been negotiated in terms of local authorities’ contributions, with the Scottish Government meeting 82% of costs. These, however, have already escalated and impending substantial expenditure cuts will leave less money in the overall pot.

The low level of rail freight uptake is a national scandal. Road freight transport’s perceived flexibility sees it preferred.  Historically, there were conflicts with rail unions, who, however, are now keen for freight to move to rail. This will need increased public and private investment, less likely in a period of reduced public spending, although in terms of providing work and kick-starting the economy this option should not be ruled out. This also applies to the AWPR.

There would need to be contracts developed between the Freight Transport Association, the Road Haulage Association, rail companies, unions and government at all levels.

The replacement of the freight terminal by Union Square was a setback for future local rail freight capacity.

New freight facilities have been introduced at Craiginches and at Rathes Farm but this has not increased capacity. There are sea/rail links at Waterloo Quay and freight yards at Inverurie and Huntly. NESTRANS strategy states that development of new open-access freight terminals could be explored and if transferring freight to rail becomes reality, new depots would be needed.

Aberdeen harbour is an excellent freight facility and passenger transport gateway to Orkney and Shetland, with potential to expand both services. Currently five million tonnes of freight are exported through the harbour, but the loss of rail freight infrastructure in the station interchange area was a lost opportunity to link sea freight with rail.

We have to decide on our priorities.

Are we really concerned about climate change?

Can we move towards more community-based forms of travel from those currently privatised?

Do we want a more healthy society that walks and cycles more?

Can our business needs dovetail with our environmental needs?

Is it possible to think more holistically when making planning decisions?

Aberdeen Voice would welcome contributions to this debate.

Image credits:

RAILWAY JUNCTION © Davidmartyn |
UTG DENBURN © Mike Shepherd