Jun 102014

With thanks to Gavin Mowat, Constituency Assistant to Christian Allard MSP

Christian Allard MSP at Holyrood2

Christian Allard MSP at Holyrood

North East MSP Christian Allard has welcomed £4,832,828 million energy efficiency fund for Aberdeen City and Shire to help make homes warmer, more environmentally friendly and cheaper to heat.

The investment into the Home Energy Efficiency Programme for Scotland (HEEPS) was announced by Housing Minister Margaret Burgess on Wednesday 4 June.

The funding will enable local authorities to install energy efficiency measures such as solid wall, cavity and loft insulation in their communities.

As part of the £60 million being delivered across Scotland, Aberdeen City will receive £1,682,828 for 2014/15 while Aberdeenshire will get £3,150,000.

Mr Allard welcomed the funding adding that it will be of particular benefit households in rural communities.

SNP MSP Christian Allard said:

“It is scandalous that there are households in the energy-rich North East that suffer from fuel poverty.

“I welcome this additional funding from the Scottish Government that will see families across Aberdeen City and Shire living in homes better equipped to keep them warm and reduce energy bills.

“More than £3 million for households in Aberdeenshire will be particularly beneficial for people living in rural communities that are at risk of fuel poverty.”

Householders who would like to know more about this and other Scottish Government funded offers can contact the Scottish Government’s Home Energy Scotland hotline on 0808 808 2282 or visit www.homeenergyscotland.org.

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Jun 062014

With thanks to Gavin Mowat, Constituency Assistant to Christian Allard MSP.

Christian Allard MSP at Holyrood2

Christian Allard MSP at Holyrood

North East MSP Christian Allard has welcomed Scottish Government proposals which will see rural communities given a greater say in the pharmacy application process.
Health Secretary Alex Neil has announced that existing legislation will be amended to create a range of new provisions including improved community engagement in the pharmacy application process and clearer guidance for local NHS boards.

The new regulations will create powers to refuse a pharmacy application in cases where provision of existing NHS services would be adversely affected.

Christian Allard MSP has welcomed the contribution of groups within his constituency to the Consultation on the Control of Entry Arrangements and Dispensing GP Practices, published today (30 May 2014).

The only two community councils to respond to the consultation were from the North East – Newtonhill, Muchalls and Cammachmore Community Council and Tarves Community Council. Further responses were submitted by a Pitmedden-based social enterprise the “B999 Health Trust” and NHS Grampian.

In 2012, NHS Grampian removed dispensing services from the Pitmedden medical practice following the opening on a pharmacy in Tarves. This consequently led to the closure of Tarves GP branch which had a significant impact upon the delivery of local health services.

Following an effective community-led campaign, NHS Grampian convened a special Review Panel tasked with reviewing the decision to cease dispensing in Pitmedden. Local MSPs Alex Salmond and Mark McDonald were the only politicians to make representations to the Panel, which recommended in favour of restoring dispensing in Pitmedden thus allowing for the GP branch surgery in Tarves to reopen.

Commenting, Mr Allard said:

“I’m delighted that my constituents have been able to contribute to this important consultation on pharmacy applications.

“The communities of Pitmedden and Tarves have worked tremendously hard in recent years to deliver a positive outcome for healthcare provision in the local area.

“However, these new arrangements will create a clearer framework and a stronger voice for communities with strong concerns about pharmacy applications in their area. This can only be good news for local health services.”

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Mar 062014
Christian Allard at Instant Neighbour foodbank

Christian Allard at Instant Neighbour foodbank

North East MSP, Christian Allard made a speech on 4th March 2014 in the Scottish Parliament where he blamed the rising use of foodbanks in Aberdeen on the implementation of Westminster welfare cuts.

Speaking in the chamber about a recent visit he made to a foodbank in Aberdeen run by Instant Neighbour, Mr Allard said:

“In 2012 the organisation [Instant Neighbour] gave 1,343 food parcels to people in Aberdeen. The following year, this had increased by 127% to 3,051 food parcels.”

“What explanation is there for such an increase, if not for the implementation of the welfare cuts from Westminster?”

The SNP MSP explained that when he visited the foodbank it had run out of food due to high demand. Mr Allard also pointed out Aberdeen is the oil capital of Europe and asked members to imagine how it would feel to be destitute in one of Europe’s richest cities.

He went on to say:

“This year we have the opportunity to vote Yes for a better society, a fairer society, one that doesn’t waste taxpayers’ money on a programme of welfare cuts, but a society that recognises that we contribute and that we require support at different points in our lives.”

Christian Allard’s speech begins at 45.30: http://www.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/scotland-26432864

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Sep 132013

By Suzanne Kelly. 

trump106featMenie Estate resident David Milne started a petition to ask for a public inquiry into the past, present and future events and issues arising from Donald Trump’s takeover of the Estate to build ‘the world’s greatest golf course.’

As per previous coverage of the problems faced by residents and visitors to the estate, there are many questions that have remained unanswered as events have unfolded. The Scottish Government called in and approved Trump’s plans – a move which was without precedent.

The actions of the police, local and central government, and Scottish Enterprise as well as the SNH since golf course construction began have included the arrests of two journalists on the charge of ‘breaching the peace’, as shown in Anthony Baxter’s award-winning documentary, You’ve Been Trumped.

Environmental monitoring which was to be robust, was patchy at best, and now seems non-existent. Residents have been stopped by Trump private security. Surely the SNP government, keen to show the benefits of an independent Scotland, would want to honour the request of 19,000 petition signatories, and shed light on its actions if they were above board?

The petitions committee members have decided otherwise.

The brief statement now on their website reads:-

“3 September 2013: The Committee agreed to close the petition, under Rule 15.7, on the basis that all of the organisations that responded state that they have made, and continue to make, details of their involvement with the Menie Development public, and that there is little to demonstrate that another inquiry is necessary or justified.”

Astonishingly, the method used by the committee when asked to consider investigating these five institutions was to ask them if they thought an investigation was needed. The outcome was inevitable, once the decision was made to rely on the word of the organisations to be investigated.

The committee’s statement refers to ‘another inquiry’. Whilst there was a report on the planning process in 2008, a great deal has happened since then.  The statement refers to ‘another inquiry’ – there has not been any inquiry remotely like what was requested by the thousands who signed Milne’s petition.

David Milne’s letter to the Petitions Committee has been heavily redacted. Future articles will look at why Milne’s final statement was cut in this way.

What did he plan to say that the committee did not want the public to see?

Were any of the people on the committee likely to want to prevent an investigation into how Alex Salmond wined and dined Trump, and then intervened in the live planning application? Why did the police arrest two journalists on the say-so of Trump’s site manager, yet decline to even look at potential evidence caught on video of property damage and theft from the Milne property?

Reactions are still coming in from residents, campaigners and politicians; these will be aired in due course as well. But for the time being it is clear that the wish of the people to have a proper, public examination of what is now a cause celebre does not matter to central government.

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Jul 262013

Shocked and angered by the deaths of two people on bikes in the space of a week, a group of Edinburgh cyclists has taken action on behalf of all cyclists in Scotland in drawing attention to the latest tragedies. With thanks to Sara Dorman.

Two white-painted ghost bikes were left outside the Scottish Parliament on Monday 22 July to commemorate all eight cyclists including two children already killed in Scotland in 2013.

The number of cyclists killed on Scotland’s roads in 2012 rose to nine from 2011’s seven.
This looks set to rise again in 2013.

Almost as if to illustrate, grotesquely, the protest, just forty minutes after the sombre ceremony at the Parliament building, Mary Brook (59) of Drumnadrochit was killed as she cycled on Loch Ness side, the ninth cyclist to die on Scotland’s road this year.

The Scottish Government has rejected calls made by Pedal on Parliament, public health experts and MSPs to increase spending on cycling infrastructure, including safe, separated cycle tracks, to £20 per head. The recent Cycling Action Plan for Scotland also rejected calls for the implementation of strict liability laws in civil cases, claiming that as road casualty figures were falling overall, there was no case to be made for this change.

Ghost bikes have been used around the world to mark locations of fatal cycle accidents, to act both as memorial and warning. Andy Arthur, a cyclist involved in the Holyrood installation, explained the reasoning behind it.

We feel that the blame for these avoidable deaths must lie as much with the inaction of the Scottish Government as with the drivers concerned. The political leadership in Holyrood have the power and the budgets to do something about the safety of cycling, yet they seem to lack political will.

 “By leaving the memorial in full view of Parliament we hope it will stir our elected representatives into action, or else shame them for their inaction. It emerged spontaneously out of the real anger and hurt we felt at the news of yet another death this week, coming on top of the loss of two members of the Edinburgh Triathletes club in separate crashes this year.’”

Sara Dorman, among the organisers of Pedal on Parliament, said:

Only two months ago 4000 people pedalled on the Scottish Parliament to ask for just £100m a year to make Scotland’s roads safer for everyone, from eight to eighty, to cycle.

“Sadly, this year we’ve seen the death of an eight year old and someone who was almost eighty. Unfortunately, the state of our roads means that deaths are inevitable, as bikes are regularly brought into conflict with fast-moving traffic. Despite the government finding £3bn to dual the A9, supposedly on safety grounds, they’ve told us there’s no money to increase investment in safer cycling and all they’ve suggested is an information campaign urging mutual respect, the sort of campaign which has failed over and over in the past.

“It seems that there’s no sum too large to make the roads safer for driving, but when it comes to the safety of people on bikes, even children, then even the smallest sum is begrudged. We hope that Scotland’s politicians will see these memorials and show real leadership in making cycling safer for everyone.”

A memorial to all cyclists fatally-injured in the last five years was unveiled with the ghost bikes. It reads:

“This Memorial was placed here on July 22nd 2013 by a small group of Edinburgh cyclists; for and on behalf of all cyclists in Scotland. It has been placed here in memory of each cyclist killed on Scotland’s roads in recent years; these were people’s friends and loved ones; husbands and wives, fathers and mothers; sons and daughters; grandparents, aunts and uncles.

“The tally on this memorial shows how deaths amongst cyclists on Scotland’s roads are increasing. In mid-2013, the per-capita death rate for cyclists on Scotland’s roads is 3 times that of London. The Scottish Transport Secretary states that fatalities are down on our roads and that they are safer than ever. This is not the case, and the inaction and denial on the part of the Scottish Government must stop now.

“This Memorial accompanies Ghost Bikes, which have been placed outside the Scottish Parliament so that they are in full view of our elected representatives, who have the power, authority and budgets to do all that it takes to tackle the preventable loss of life on our roads. Ghost Bikes have been used all over the world as a memorial to cyclists who have been killed or severely injured on the road.

“All it takes for people to keep being killed cycling on Scotland’s roads is for our Government to keep doing nothing”


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Jun 102013

On behalf of Aberdeen Voice, and in response to complaints from readers, Editor, Fred Wilkinson comments on the Labour Party’s latest election literature.

It’s flattering to see that our provision of a local news service has been a success in our three-year existence, to the extent that the Labour Party in Aberdeen has used the title “Aberdeen Voice” for its election communication to the electors of Aberdeen Donside.

We can see why some have raised their eyebrows at this, and wish to make it clear that we are non-partisan when it comes to political issues and will consider publishing material, whatever its political viewpoint as long as it conforms to the standards of decency and truth on which we’re based and which we’re proud to uphold.

The Labour Party’s communication is its business, not ours. We feel it unfortunate that they have chosen, carelessly, it seems, a title that has come to mean non-partisan and fair journalism to those who have been with us for our three years of publication.

We have nothing to do with this piece of election material and hope that our neutrality has not been compromised.

Thanks for sticking with us.

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Jun 032013

With thanks to Kenneth Watt.

Two senior youth councillors took part in a Donside tour, handing out leaflets to every secondary school, community centre and library in the constituency ahead of the group’s hustings on Thursday 6th June.

Struan King (Vice-chair, pictured) and Kenneth Watt (Press Officer) visited over 25 venues distributing 1500 leaflets.

On Saturday and Sunday afternoons the youth council will be leafleting young people outside Marks and Spencers, with a further 1000 leaflets ready to be handed out.

The hustings on Thursday 6th June is the only one to feature all five candidates from parties with representation at Holyrood which is open to the public. A free ticket is required and can be downloaded from http://donside.eventbrite.com. People of all ages are invited, with half of all tickets guaranteed for young Donside electors.

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May 302013

With thanks to Kenneth Watt.

The Aberdeen City Youth Council has announced that it will be hosting a hustings event for candidates in the Donside by-election in the Belmont Cinema at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday 6th June, 2013.

The event is open to people of all ages, but a significant number of tickets have been reserved for young people living in the constituency.

The event is free to attend but, due to the limited capacity of the venue, audience members are required to register at http://donside.eventbrite.co.uk/ in order to obtain a ticket.

Youth council Chair Barry Black ( pictured ) said:

“This should turn out to be a great event.  The significance of the Donside seat is huge in Scottish Politics and is one that is being watched more and more closely every day.

“A number of issues regarding young people in Aberdeen will turn out to be major factors for voters in the by-election.  

Cuts to college funding, a review of the school estate, and controversial changes to tuition fees in England are news stories which are discussed frequently, all of which I am sure will resonate strongly with young people and families in the constituency. 

“On top of that, some communities in Donside unfortunately have incredibly high levels of child poverty and increasing crime rates.  

“These are all subjects on which I’m sure that the candidates will be quizzed.”

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Feb 212013

David Milne, resident at Aberdeenshire’s coastal Menie Estate, launched a petition on 14 February 2013 which may yet lead to the local and national governments being scrutinised over their handling of planning permission granted to Trump International to build a complex on the estate. Suzanne Kelly reports.

Milne explained to Aberdeen Voice that he worked with the Public Petitions Committee for several months before the wording was agreed and accepted.

If four thousand people sign, then the petition will go before the relevant committee – and an inquiry could be launched.

Since its launch on Valentine’s Day, people have been signing rapidly.  At the time of writing, the petition is less than 500 signatures short of its 4,000 target.

The more signatories, the more likely it is that the Committee will look into the manner in which planning permission was granted.

In an unprecedented move, central government called in Trump’s plans  for scrutiny when the local authority turned them down.

Opponents to the scheme claim that the site is far too large (900 holiday homes, 2 golf courses, homes for over 400 staff, a hotel, etc.), that two SSSIs would be compromised, there would be a permanent, detrimental effects on wildlife, lack of road infrastructure, and other reasons made the development overly ambitious and not sympathetic to the site.

Proponents claim they are building the world’s greatest golf course.  Part of the world’s greatest golf course spectacularly washed out to sea following January storms.

Residents have been subjected to intrusive private security operations, and have lived with the threat of compulsory purchases orders. Huge mounds of earth – bunds – have been built up on two sides of the Munro family’s property and part of the Milne property, blocking sunlight, coastal views, and causing dust and dirt problems.

Proponents say that the plans have been previously scrutinised.  However, the role of local and national government has not been formally examined.  Aberdeen Voice will shortly carry a report on potential areas for investigations covering both public and private sector issues.

The petition which can be found at http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/public-inquiry-into-handling-of-the-trump-resort reads:-

“We are calling on the Scottish Parliament, through the Public Petitions Committee, to urge the Scottish Government to hold a public inquiry into the way local government, Scottish Ministers and other relevant public bodies conducted themselves throughout their dealings with the Trump Organisation in relation to the Menie project.

“Why is this important?

“Only a full public inquiry can now get to the bottom of this story. We need to know how local and central government dealt with the Trump Organisation, what was offered by whom and when, and we need to establish why planning guidelines and environmental regulations were simply unable to protect our community and the unique environment we live in. Finally, we need to know what changes can be made so the planning system again works like it is supposed to.”

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Oct 152012

A Local Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament praises the decision to extend the franchise to vote in the independence referendum to 16 and 17 year olds.  With thanks to Kenneth Watt.

Barry Black, chair of the Aberdeen City Youth Council and member of the Scottish Youth Parliament for Aberdeen Central, today praised the decision by the UK and Scottish governments to extend the voting franchise in the 2014 independence referendum to 16 and 17 year olds.
The Scottish Youth Parliament has spent a number of years focussing on campaigning for extending voting rights to younger ages and Barry, who has been on the SYP for three years, has been a key figure in this campaign and witnessed the growing recognition of reasons why those under 18 should be ‘trusted’ with the vote.

Making it clear that the focus now is to engage the city’s youth Barry said:

“Today’s news is fantastic for young people across Scotland and represents a successful campaign from the youth parliament.  I am delighted at the decision by both governments to extend the franchise and am confident that the decision made is for the better.  Across the nation, young people will be instrumental in deciding the future of our membership of the UK.

 “This is a great opportunity to engage young people in politics, especially those who have previously lost interest in politicians or have felt left down by the system.  Independence will dominate the news over the next couple of years and the ACYC will be focussing on involving Aberdeen’s youth so that they can make an informed choice when it comes to the referendum in 2014.”

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