Feb 272015

martin-fordEast Garioch councillor Martin Ford has urged the owners of the Kintore Arms Inn in Kintore not to delay and get the hotel open again as soon as possible.

The B-listed Kintore Arms Inn is in a prominent location in The Square in Kintore’s town centre. The front part of the building was sold last summer and the Inn has remained shut since the property changed hands.

This has left the four and a half thousand residents of Kintore without a local pub or hotel, whereas a few years ago there were two in the town. Twenty years ago there were three.

“Kintore needs a hotel, an inn, and is certainly large enough to support one, or more than one,” said Cllr Ford.

Cllr Ford (pictured) was speaking at Tuesday’s Garioch Area Committee meeting during the Committee’s consideration of two planning applications from the owners of the Kintore Arms for ‘part change of use and subdivision of hotel (class 7) to form two class 3 (food and drink) units’. One of the applications was for listed building consent.

The applications had attracted 85 letters of objection, mostly from local residents concerned that Kintore would be left without a pub.

Cllr Ford supported the planners’ recommendation that both planning applications be refused. He said:

“There is a planning policy presumption in favour of retention of tourist accommodation, unless it has been marketed as a going concern and failed to attract interest and it is shown that the business is no longer viable.

“The applicant has not demonstrated that the existing hotel business is not viable. But the proposed subdivision certainly calls into question how the upstairs hotel rooms would operate subsequently, potentially compromising the overall use of the building as a tourist facility. As such the application for subdivision and change of use is clearly contrary to policy.

“The lack of detail from the applicant means it would be completely inappropriate to agree the listed building consent.”

Addressing the Area Committee, the applicant’s agent suggested a refusal might lead to a protracted closure.

Cllr Ford refuted this suggestion, saying:

“I want to see the hotel back in use and open again. It is not in the interests of the owner or the wider community for the building to stay shut. The new owner has clearly spent a considerable amount to buy the Inn, and will want an income from the property. The community wants a pub in the town, and the population must be large enough to support that.

“This doesn’t mean there can’t be changes, and clearly the owner is perfectly entitled to make planning applications as he wishes. But the planning policy to protect the building’s use as a hotel is right. The Inn is important to the character and vitality of the town centre.”

The Garioch Area Committee agreed unanimously to refuse both planning applications.

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Feb 202015

One hundred columns ago, Old Susannah wrote on the theme of how propaganda permeates our media and government, and how it’s used by the powerful to steer us and to blinker us. Times haven’t changed. By Suzanne Kelly

DictionaryIt’s been a confusing week in the Deen; it’s been very hard to read the signs. Not least the signs pointing the way to the tourist board. An eagle-eyed local restaurateur (and pal) Steve Bothwell noticed that signs near the green point people in the wrong directions; those who wanted tourist info are merrily sent the wrong way.

If only we had some way to fix this problem. Word is those responsible for this error are planning to solve the problem by having the tourist board moved to a location near where the sign points.

All things considered, I think we’re on our way to being a modern, major Scottish city like Edinburgh.  We may still be able to escalate the St Nicholas House/Muse plans into our own Holyrood.

Holyrood of course was a well defined, precisely-run, on budget project which created the lovely building which fits so beautifully into the existing architecture of Edinburgh. If the building leaks, creaks and looks like its facade was drawn badly on the back of an envelope by someone using their foot and a crayon that just means it’s adventurous.

Perhaps we’ll yet have our own Tram scheme; we did have a councillor in the last administration calling for a monorail. Again Edinburgh handled that wonderfully well.

But as we learned this week, Edinburgh’s taken property management to a whole new level this week. Mandarins in the council managed to sell the historic Parliament building:  the only problem was that it didn’t actually own it – Edinburgh’s citizens do.

Or should I say Edinburgh’s citizens did own it. Scottish property ownership expert Andy Wightman’s account of this imaginative sale can be found here.  Aberdeen readers may be interested to know that the property in question was considered common good. At least you wouldn’t find anyone around the Granite City trying to appropriate common good land, Wood you?

Back here in the Glass City – sorry – Granite City, the Lord Provost decided that a motion to stop the Muse project was ‘incompetent’. It’s good to know the city is continuing to stop incompetence wherever and whenever they find it. Perhaps they want a word with the people who put up the tourist board sign though.

If only there was some way for the city to see whether or not people wanted a glass box or green space. Perhaps if a few hundred people protested, lobbied and campaigned. STV has a little poll going on; and while it’s a close-run thing, about 90% of people don’t want Muse’s glass box building.

Some people felt they were slightly misled over what would and wouldn’t happen to the St Nick’s site.  While it’s not like a politician to ever mislead anyone, perhaps a few propaganda-related definitions may remind us that once in a blue moon, we should question the information put before us.  And with that, a few definitions.

Emotive: (English adjective) Condition of having feelings and impulses not associated with logic or fact.

One thing we can’t have is people with feelings getting in the way of those who don’t have any.  The favoured propaganda tactic  to quash these Emos is to call them names, even if this paradoxically implies that those doing the name-calling are being aggressive, bullying and abrasive.   This is a strategy beloved of the SNH for those of us who want to find means to manage our environment without killing animals unnecessarily.

The Scotsman’s headline set the tone last week, portraying the people and organisations opposed to deer culling as ‘angry’. You see, if you’re angry – you’re emotional. A good headline should set the tone of the article to come.

I hope no one will be embarrassed by how emotive I got in commenting on this Scotsman article, but here is a comment I made:

“It’s disappointing that so many of the comments on this page have to sink to insulting those who oppose the cull. I’ve been studying for some years now the draconian proposals and guidelines that SNH have created about deer populations. You could be forgiven for thinking that the latest SNH guidelines were written by the pro-hunting lobby. In Aberdeen, a hill which supported a few dozen deer for decades with meadowland and gorse had no starvation issues.

“The roe deer live a short span, and foxes are well known predator as are man (we had five deer poached last year in the area I’m talking about – Tullos) and dogs. The SNH now says a herd size for this hill will be only 3 or 4 animals. The SNH don’t explain how this can be a healthy gene pool – how could they? Anyone who protests the punishing guidelines is, as comments on here show, insulted and denigrated.

“The fact is it is becoming a nice little earner to turn meadowland into forest; my city has spent at least £200,000 so far to transform Tullos – when several thousand residents signed a petition to leave the hill alone. In the mean time, SNH last counted 19 deer in the entire city green belt and urban fringe. We won’t have any deer left if the SNH’s position goes unchallenged.

“The people who manage private land may also be forced to kill more deer than they think is sensible. When there are humane ways to control deer numbers, why are we choosing culling as a first and only option? No it is not scientific and has no historic basis at least in my area.”

What caused this gushing show of emotion on my part? Here are some of the rational, measured comments made on the article by pro deer culling people:

“The animal rights groups made a big fuss about “game management” claiming that it was cruel, akin to killing Bambi…sound familiar? Now the deer have over-populated and are starting to starve to death. It pays to listen to the experts who know what they are doing and disregard the sappy tree huggers.”

“These animal charities are notorious for attracting vicious and malevolent people, and so I hope the people of Perthshire will keep an extra-careful eye on them.”


“We can thank these so called animal rights nutters for releasing Mink into the wild and all the damage they have done to our natural wild life…. These campaigners should be prosecuted for promoting animal cruelty, because as has been said by many others below, the deer population is out of control and many die slowly of starvation and disease…..”

Well, that’s me told. Heaven forbid the pro-culling posts were orchestrated or that people who hid behind pseudonyms were part of the authorities trying to convince the rest of us that if you’re against deer culls you’re being emotional. Heaven also forbid that the SNH had issued any press releases that fed into the line the Scotsman chose to take. That would never happen.

Being emotional is of course a major failing in a person in this day and age; if you do somehow have any emotions left after the constant bombardment we’re subject to of violence, racism, misogyny, animal abuse, best keep those emotions hidden.  You see, if you have any emotional reaction to something, then this means you are incapable of exercising any logic or intelligence. The two can’t be separated. Therefore, if you are against deer culling, you are unintelligent.

In this week’s papers we’re told that the subject of sentencing is also ‘emotive.’  You don’t say.

Happily, all sentencing in Scotland is proportional, measured, and no favouritism is ever shown to the powerful, the police, or the famous. I still fondly remember how a local policeman was cleared of looking up info on his ex regarding a drug case. The court found someone else must have accessed the data – using the accused’s password.

No doubt the police are looking for the real culprit – someone else in the force with the accused’s password who would have wanted info on the accused’s ex. Makes sense to me.

Not only is sentencing emotive, it can also be complicated. I’m as amazed as you are. Happily, the government is setting up yet another board, and no doubt sentencing, which the likes of  you and I can’t hope to understand of course, will be handled just as fairly in the future as it is now.

The Government in fact is committed to making justice ‘FAIR, FAST AND FLEXIBLE JUSTICE‘.

Well, it can be fast. It certainly is flexible. I guess two out of three ain’t bad.


How do you get your own way in politics? As is the case here in Aberdeen, by persuasion with facts and reason. However, on the rare occasion the public need to be guided just that little bit more.

Back when the new St Nick’s proposal was first launched at the city’s art gallery (itself soon to be closed for a few years for a tasteful destruction of its marble stair and for a portacabin tm to be plunked on top of it), a consultation was held. It was wonderful to see the pretty drawings. Obviously though, the details were meant to be left to the architects of this city’s current architecture – our planners and those with big chequebooks.

With the people we have controlling the master (?) plan, many of whom have important titles like ‘Dr’ and so on, we’ll be the rival of Washington DC, Paris and London in just a few more years. If not, we may wind up twinned with Milton Keynes or Redditch. Anyway, I wrote to the city with my (emotive) criticisms of the scheme. In due course, I was invited to give a 5 minute deputation to the full council (Result!) on what I thought was wrong with the scheme.

A whole 5 minutes – and all I had to do was spend the entire day off work hanging around in the Town House.

I wondered – Should I take a day off work, buy a new frock, get a Valerie Watt spray tan and have my nails done and come and make a speech for 5 minutes? No doubt concerns of traffic congestion, pollution, architectural concerns, etc. would have won the day.

I called someone at the council and we discussed the pros and cons of this deputation. The word on the street as it were was that the decision to build glass boxes on the former St Nicholas House site was metaphorically set in stone. I could come along, but in the view of my contact, it would not make a difference. I don’t want to get my source in trouble; like me, they had been told it was too late to make any change.

We both believed this to be true. So I declined my chance to bring up a few emotive issues about St Nick’s former site.

Fast forward a few months, and it seems both my source and I were misinformed. The city won’t lose a hundred million pounds if we say no to the current design.

The future of the site has seen one or two little changes since that consultation at the art gallery.   Today the story is that we’re getting that glass office after all.  Somehow this will revitalise our retail sector, cure baldness, and make billions of jobs.  I wonder what the story will be tomorrow.

Yellow Journalism: (org. USA  – compound noun) Sensationalising or fabricating stories in order to both sell newspapers and to influence opinions.

This term hardly matters in today’s modern, well-informed age, but just for historical interest, here’s a word on yellow journalism.  In  days gone by newspaper giants Hearst and Pulitzer were fighting for supremacy in the US market, there was the occasional bit of creative licence taken with the facts.  A fight for a cartoon strip featuring ‘the yellow’ kid – a very popular feature – lent its name to a kind of journalism where facts don’t get in the way of a story, where hatred can be inflamed to influence opinion, and where the powerful are pulling the strings, often distracting people from the truth by the use of sensationalism, propaganda and misinformation.  This was the time of American expansionism, and a few little wars here and there.  Isn’t it great to be in the enlightened age?

As described on one website:

The rise of yellow journalism helped to create a climate conducive to the outbreak of international conflict and the expansion of U.S. influence overseas, but it did not by itself cause the war.

“In spite of Hearst’s often quoted statement—“You furnish the pictures, I’ll provide the war!”—other factors played a greater role in leading to the outbreak of war. The papers did not create anti-Spanish sentiments out of thin air, nor did the publishers fabricate the events to which the U.S. public and politicians reacted so strongly.”

Of course, a newspaper editor has several responsibilities to balance. One – to make lots of dosh for the shareholders. Two – to take lots of dosh for the sponsors and advertisers, who must be kept happy at all costs. Three – to make people buy the newspaper in the first place. It’s a tough job.

Remember the giant Evening Express headlines about ‘packets of white powder’ being found on an offshore oil installation? The implication was it was illegal drugs, and the paper milked it for all it was worth. Alas!  it was only cold medicine. You’ll remember the paper’s headlines announcing it had made a mistake. Or perhaps not.

Some papers such as the Daily Mail are subject to similar creative embellishments. Emotive headlines are a great way to get facts across to us emotive, slow-witted people, especially about immigrants, benefit scroungers, foreigners and other kinds of undesirables. It’s also a good way to sell papers.

News Blackout: (modern English compound noun) To deliberately withhold news and information.

If they don’t know about it, they can’t be upset about it. Whether it’s the P&J veritably ignoring stories about Donald Trump having underworld links, sometimes it’s best to have a media blackout. We’ve all those hoards of incoming tourists to think about, and Sarah Malone needs a new pair of Choos. Best a newspaper editor is selective with what stories they print.

That’s the case these days at London-based news institution The Telegraph.

The paper is just a little on the conservative side, and its rational, balanced, live-and-let live owners, the Barclay Brothers, have been doing a great job of livening things up.

Once the paper of choice for Tories it’s far more inclusive now, with stories about women with three breasts (that wasn’t quite true). Any story about business profits, exam results, you name it is usually dressed up with a picture of a pretty girl – and of course all the guys like their news served up like that. Private Eye magazine has cruelly made fun of the paper’s use of ‘fruity’ girls, and accuses the Torygraph (as PE calls it) of ‘dumbing down’.

It’s not really dumbing down if you decide not to trouble your readership with stories that are either boring or complicated (which is pretty much the same thing).  Take for instance the stories circulating about HSBC (‘the world’s local bank’) being somewhat in a pickle, the Telegraph decided that it wasn’t much of a story. So there are some questions about the bank’s operations, a wee black hole in its books and its Swiss offices being raided by police and the like.

HSBC has also apparently helped wealthy people avoid paying tax – that’s hardly news is it? While the rest of the UK’s papers were covering this story, the Torygraph was ignoring it. It’s almost as if the Barclay Bros had rich, powerful interest to protect – but surely not.

I’m certainly not suggesting that the government, quangos, media, police and our local politicians are manipulative, self-serving, devious or dishonest – heaven forbid. But I am beginning to have my doubts.

Next week- an updated who’s who of the great and powerful of city and shire.

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Jan 302015

By Suzanne Kelly.

Marischal protest (6)a

A protest was held at 1pm at Marischal College on Saturday 24 January. The protestors came from all walks of life and all age groups; at least 200 were there. Credit: Suzanne Kelly.

Marischal College played host a large demonstration on Saturday 24 January, as hundreds took to the city council’s offices to protest a development which will change the area’s character forever.

Directly across from Marischal College, one of Scotland’s most important modern buildings, another glass box office / retail complex will add to our growing collection of anonymous, soul-less architecture.

With the old St Nicholas House now torn down, space and light enters this part of the city; the Provost’s House and Marischal College are both set off to far better effect.

A natural civic square – if such a thing is really needed further to the Castlegate (which hosted a protest last Saturday for Charlie Hebdo solidarity) – exists where St Nicholas stood, which would have required hardly any money to create. Sadly, it seems that commercial interests override scale, the existing architectural environment, and the historic importance of the Provost’s House.

A protest was held at 1pm at Marischal College on Saturday 24 January; the protestors came from all walks of life and all age groups; at least 200 were there.

I spoke to some of those present; all believe that an opportunity has been lost at the site of the former St Nicholas House and Provost Skene’s House, a small historic structure which will be claustrophobically dwarfed by the glass box architecture Muse developments have agreed with the city.

What this will mean either for road traffic or for the city’s chronic air pollution issues (we have 3 of Scotland’s most polluted roads with air particulate levels well above European emission rules). But it seems certain the plans will go ahead.

Alan Spence said:

“I think it’s a complete waste of money; it’s a monstrosity that nobody wants.”

One of the prime organisers, Gordon Robertson, added:

“Last week’s protest had only about 30 or 40 protestors, hopefully with today’s turnout we can drum up more support and get more signatures… I just think the new building is far too big; it’s not in keeping with the style of the existing buildings. It’s not what the people want. We have six shopping centres already; we have offices … this just isn’t the place for this development.”

I spoke to Alan Morocco who likewise was protesting. He spoke about Dundee’s public spaces, and felt we compared badly besides that city. Morocco said:

“We got rid of one monstrosity and it appears we’re replacing it with another. I don’t think it’s in keeping with the area.”

Most of the protestors were citizens without any particular political axe to grind. However, some people showed up who just might have been there for political point scoring.

Kevin Stewart of the previous ACC administration was in the crowd.

Marischal protest (4)When he was in power, we saw land being sold at prices so low that Audit Scotland condemned the practices which cost the taxpayer dearly in terms of money and space.

Stewart of course had been instrumental in implementing the draconian cuts to social programmes which saw thousands take to the streets in protest.

His particular time in the city council didn’t exactly take the views of the citizens into account when it came to budget cuts or to developments either; that government’s fondness of developers saw parcels of land handed to developers like Stewart Milne for small amounts of money and allowed longstanding environmental protection to be swept aside at Loirston Loch.

Tom Smith of Aberdeen City Gardens Trust was there – although there seems to be no record of his group – which was poised to take over Common Good Land in the form of Union Terrace Gardens for the £190 million ‘granite web’ project – objecting to the Muse plans formally.

As a formal objector to the plans myself, I had been one of many people given an opportunity to address the full council on the matter – but by the time the full council was to meet, the plans seemed all but finalised to me. It would be wonderful to think that someone, somewhere in planning could look at the scale of this proposal, the problems it will bring, and even at this late date admit this is a huge – and very huge – error.

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Oct 312014

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryTally Ho! And Happy Christmas and Season’s greetings while I’m at it. Halloween costumes sit next to Christmas cards in all the stores; hope you’ve finished writing  your cards and wrapping your presents.

Despite this being the season of peace on earth, good will to men, etc, etc. there seem to be a few bad-tempered people patrolling Aberdeen’s vibrant streets these days; quite a departure from the peaceful scenes we’re used to.

One man seems to have been provoked past endurance of late at the Bridge of Don area.

I’m sure the disagreement he had with a lady must have been over a spectacularly important issue, as he concluded his best course of action was to use his car to pin her to another car.

To be fair, he did threaten her with his staffie first (I’m sure that dog must have a great existence), so she should have backed down. When he gets his eventual day in court all will become clear.

Elsewhere a man jumped a street sweeper on the green (or Merchant Quarter if you prefer). I’m certain the cleaner must have started it. Believe it or not, drink may have been involved. All was caught on camera by a nearby restaurant mogul who stepped in to stop the beating. Never step into a violent fight; you may risk getting hurt. Do call the police ASAP – and ensure you film all either for a court case or better yet, for youtube.

And for all those people who violently oppose restrictions on air rifles and bb guns, a champion arises. Thirty something (age, not IQ) Aleksandrs Kolosovs apparently said he might shoot a judge after bringing an air gun to an Aberdeen pub.

Our gunslinger was in court charged with threatening to shoot a judge and having an offensive weapon – a BB air gun – in his possession at the East Neuk Bar in Aberdeen. Good tempered Kolosovs is also accused of assaulting a man earlier this year who was shot twice in the head.

Remember, as we’re so often told, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  Of course if  you make it easy for violent tempered people to get guns, it makes it that much easier for them to kill people. Remember, having a weapon that can maim or kill is within your reach and you’re allowed to have them.

Funny though that on hearsay, Dod Copeland had his flat trashed and was taken into custody because some unknown witnesses said he had a rifle inside his flat. These witnesses must have peered (with no reason) into the flat which is off the beaten track, seen a gun, decided it could not have been an air gun or BB gun, convinced the police to launch a massive raid, and thereby trashing Copeland’s home and health.

Let’s not forget that the police later wanted Copeland to say that his feather duster looked like an assault rifle; a mistake any serving police officer could have made when lauching a siege on an empty property. So let’s leave our excellent, clear-cut gun laws as they are, and let’s let the police escalate if they want.  What possible harm can come of it?

He’ll see first hand how transformational the hand of Donald Trump has been

Thankfully there are tales of great generosity to balance things out.

The largess of Scottish Enterprise with our tax money to some big companies is particularly heartwarming.

There may be a small conflict of interest given that a Scottish Enterprise executive had shares in some of these companies, but nothing for us to worry about (more on that later).

Alicia Bruce had a wonderful reception at Woodend barn where her new photographs following a residency there were adored by all visitors. A few Menie Estate residents were on hand; her portraits of these people which mirror well-known paintings have become world famous. The Moorings continues to bring excellent music legends our way; The Men They  Couldn’t Hang and the Anti Nowhere League being recent guests.

Easter Anguston Farm had some Halloween celebrations, and Old Susannah bought a wonderful pumpkin from their shop.

But the big news this week is all the leadership changes and challenges taking place. Exit Alex Salmond, who will now have more time to spend with his constituents.

His overdue visit to the Menie Estate residents will no doubt be scheduled soon. He’ll see first hand how transformational the hand of Donald Trump has been, and if he acts soon, he may get his hands on a discarded Trump hotel bedstead, complete with Trump family crest. Of course the actual origins of the Trump family may be open to some speculation, despite The Donald having a granny from the Western Islands.

And with that it’s time for some definitions.

Salmond: (Scottish proper noun) Former Scottish National Party Leader; MSP for Banff and Buchan.  Not to be confused with Alex Salmon, as Wikipedia advises.

I’m tempted to swallow the bait and do some fish jokes about Salmond and Sturgeon, but we’ve already done that, so I’ll clam up. Apparently some readers find bad puns give them a haddock, but I do like to throw some in now and then for the halibut.

Always reliable, Wikipedia will give you the gen on Mr Salmond. It’s been a remarkable career from independence campaign to unannounced visits during by elections to closure-threatened schools.  From dinners with the Donald to singing at Balmoral Castle. Now that he has more time to spend in his constituency, his visit to Menie will be well received indeed. It may be about a decade overdue, but he’ll be coming.

Salmond’s heir apparent (also know as Fiona to Salmond’s Shrek, as a colleague reminds me – though I can’t think why) Nicola Sturgeon is off to a flying start; she’s insisting that any referendum on EU membership continuing should be voted on by England, Wales Scotland and Ireland as individual countries, not by a UK wide vote as a whole.

Hats off to Nicola for bringing up a constitutional crisis her first fortnight on the job

Funny, when we had the independence referendum, also having impact on the future of the entire UK, she was happy for that to exclude the other 3 nations. Scotland has 5.3 million people; Wales 3 million; Ireland  4.5 million and England England 57 million .

It will be really easy to manage a vote split up by nation. Will residence outweigh place of birth? If you work in Scotland but live in England, where will you vote? No better to split everyone up, have separate votes taken, and then see if 3 of 4 countries agree and we leave – irrespective of the numbers of people involved. Hats off to Nicola for bringing up a constitutional crisis her first fortnight on the job. She’ll have her cake and eat it, too.

We really should stay in the EU; look at all the peace, stability and economic prosperity it’s brought us. Funny, the often used phrase ‘value for money’ never gets mentioned when polititicans talk about the EU.

What has the EU done for us anyway? We’ve given lots of money to countries to keep them stable, like Greece. We’ve had lots of nice farming subsidies, even if no one in Italy, Spain or Portugal can explain exactly where the money’s all gone over the years. In fact, the EU has yet to have a single one of its annual budgets successfully approved and signed off by an auditor. Whistle blowers get interesting transfers.

Carbuncle:  (English Noun)  An infection, boil or growth signaling illness; an unpleasant site (see also ‘Aberdeen’)

The Deen may somehow have lost the city of culture bid we were all so desperately praying for, but take heart! We are probably about to win something big after all. It seems no one does carbuncles quite like we do.

We are certainly ahead of the field in the Carbuncle Award list. A bit more help from our planners, title-proud officers, ACSEF  and the rest, and no one will be able to touch us. When it comes to thinking outside the box, we don’t. If it’s a glass box or a concrete box, it gets planning permission. If it’s a historic building like the Lord  Provost’s house, ignoring the importance of setting or agreeing to a few little nips and changes is fine.

If it’s a building like Westburn House, we’ll let it fall apart. If it’s an important historic site like Thomas Glover’s house, we’ll allow the trustees (including former Lord Provost Stephen) to flog the important contents, and still let the place go.  Result!

Urban Realm editor John Glenday said:

“Aberdeen has a rich granite heritage and in the Victorian era the city was built to last, sadly the same can’t be said of the flimsy, ill-considered buildings going up across the city today.

“Despite its riches Aberdeen has become the poor relation of the Scottish cities.”

Glenday is wrong; this is proved by all the city council reports that clearly state in black and white that we are forward-looking, vibrant, dynamic, etc. etc. That’s good enough for me.

See you this Christmas at the tree in Union Terrace Gardens, surrounded again no doubt by guards, festive people barricades and holiday anti-climb paint. Perhaps Rockefeller Centre could learn a lesson or two from us on the real Christmas spirit.

We’ll see what happens across from Marischal College in due course; perhaps it will make us yearn for the beauty, majesty and proportion of St Nicholas House after all.

Happy  Christmas and Happy New Year! Remember, tis the season for shopping.

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Oct 312014

A cheerful article in Aberdeen’s free sheet, the Aberdeen Citizen, appeared on the 23rd of October.  The piece proclaims that plans to take over Nigg Bay for industrialisation “have today been welcomed by local residents.” 

Suzanne Kelly, knowing full well the strength of local opposition to this scheme, looks at the two residents quoted in the piece, and finds the Citizen’s ‘happy’ conclusion somewhat wanting.

rainbow torry 1 apr 06 2

Rainbow viewed across the harbour from Torry

The Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, scandal-hit again lately over millions given to companies that its board has shares in, and Aberdeen’s Harbour Board want to take over Nigg Bay and significant other greenbelt locations in Torry and
They rejected plans to renovate brownfield sites north of the harbour and want Nigg Bay because it is the least expensive option.

They are also worried that other Scottish, or worse, European harbours may expand instead, thereby allowing other communities to gain from shipping instead of just Aberdeen.

All of this is spelled out in the booklet the Harbour Board is dishing out to the public at recent consultations. The booklet is written as if the scheme to take Nigg Bay out of public use is a fait accompli.

It should be noted that the public was never asked to consider the options. The one option we are having foisted on us is to give up the Torry coastline and land. That means giving up our already threatened wildlife and our recreation areas, and it means turning this community into a completely industrialised area.

It is a rare resident of Torry who can be delighted at increased pollution: marine fuel is not refined, and is a serious pollutant. Or at the prospect of increased road traffic , and loss of amenities and environment. So, how did the Citizen come up with a headline and an article so favourable to the city’s business interests?

You can understand a booklet written by supporters of a scheme being slanted, but should the Citizen have produced a more objective, honest piece than the one it printed? According to Aberdeen Journals Ltd., we are happy about this. Well, two of us are happy, anyway. Alan Reid, described as being of the Torry Heritage Group is quoted, and so is another person, Tinotendra Okere.

Many people just glance at headlines, and assume something in print is accurate. This is exactly what a propagandist relies on. The article talks about everything, except air quality, loss of land, increasing industrialisation, increased lorry traffic in Torry, loss of wildlife and wildlife habitat, and further urban sprawl. We are meant to be happy for money and jobs creation, and anything else is a secondary concern.

Alan Reid is interested in the area’s heritage, that is clear (seemingly the built environment is more important to him than the natural heritage, as he is happy to consign Nigg Bay and its two SSSIs to history for potential job creation). He is entitled to his opinion.  The article sees fit to mention that he is part of Torry Heritage (one of 1600 members on the Facebook page), but to be clear – he does not speak for the group.   The Citizen doesn’t tell us about Tinotendra Okere’s interest,s though it tells us about Reid’s background.  If Reid’s background is relevant, than surely so is Okere’s.  Researching what her interests may be, it seems Ms Okere may indeed be quite happy about the industrial expansion plan…

‘Happy’ Tinotendra Okere, your average Torry resident who…

… is a journalist and Director of Aberdeen Geophysical Services Limited, a company formed at the end of August this year.


Ms Okere seems to have been involved in many interesting, worthwhile activities and charities. When it comes to the harbour issue, could she possibly have an interest? Perhaps this is just a ‘happy’ coincidence for Aberdeen Citizen’s reporter, but surely one journalist would identify themselves if another journalist approached them for an interview?

Surely it is relevant for the reader to know the happy camper in question is one.

Aberdeen Geophysical Services Limited does not list the nature of its work on its Companies House listing; but from further internet searches, it would seem this company is involved in marine geophysical services:  perhaps building in Nigg Bay would be a very happy opportunity for them?

Ms Okere describes herself on Linked In as :-

“I am a focused, self-motivated and determined information and communications professional with more than four years experience. I have been instrumental in the formulation and revision of internal and external communication strategies which have yielded excellent results.

“I have also played an active role in sourcing and contacting potential partners and donors which were key in the success of specific programme areas. Am an excellent and insightful communicator, with experience working in multi-cultural environments and clients of various calibres.”

It seems fair to wonder, given her communication and strategy skills, coupled with her business venture, whether she may have an interest in the project going ahead. It is a pity the Aberdeen Citizen article didn’t find time to mention any of this, which undoubtedly its reporter would have learnt as part of her thorough interview at the time.

Alan Reid – maybe not so happy after all? The Citizen quotes Alan as being very pleased by the proposal:

“If it is going to get people jobs and bring money into the area, then it is a good thing.  Creating jobs in this day and age is the most important thing…. [it is] vital the development preserved the heritage and history of the area… I hope people still have access to the recreational facilities in the area.

“People should still be able to go out and have picnics by the burn for example. Nothing should be blocked off by gates or security.” – Alan Reid quote, Aberdeen Citizen 23rd October 2014

Alan later advised that he was questioned at the Union Square public display. From his quotes it seems he hasn’t had time to digest everything fully as there will be fenced off areas, it is not just a question of a bit of jetty jutting into the Bay. Aberdeen is not at a loss for either jobs or money and compared to many other parts of the UK is quite strong.

torry thistles aug 04The harbour will be made deeper, with inevitable consequences for marine life. Further areas of land are wanted, the Bay itself will be out of bounds for people, and the whole coast will be lost for wildlife and recreation. Two Sites of Special Scientific interest (SSSIs) will be compromised. The presentation booklet tells you some of this, but it does not tell you about the SSSIs and wildlife does not get much attention.

Alan can be forgiven for not digesting the issues on the spot.

Here is what Alan wrote when asked about his position on a Facebook thread:-

“.. as far as I know the bit at the bottom of St Fitticks Road is the area where they will jut out into the sea to the south of that on the Cove Road will be widened much about the same along Greyhope Road. The back bit where the church and burn runs should be okay I know what you’re saying and I agree but when the wheels start rolling the decisions are made.

“You know how the council are, look what happened to the Victoria Road school project once they make up their mind we don’t count. We need to vote these lot out, they don’t care about Torry” – Facebook 24 October

So as well-intentioned as Mr Reid is towards Torry, this statement is hardly a rolling endorsement from a ‘happy’ resident.

The Citizen could have asked him whether or not he had read all the materials; they could also have looked on Facebook where they will find some in favour, and many people against the plans. Here are some recent Facebook quotes; ‘happiness’ is not exactly the word that best sums these feelings up:

“I did notice at last week’s meeting the Harbour guy said that the ‘majority’ of Torry people were ‘happy’ with the plans for the harbour & the work it would promote. There was no mention of the beach, coastline, wildlife or the increase in road traffic unfortunately.  Does this mean the majority of the Torry people are unaware of these issues? [quite possibly]

“Me [sic] personally thinks it would be a great benefit for the city!  Nobody really uses that beach anymore anyway”

“I read the same article In the Evening Express. In my opinion I think the expansion would be a disaster to the beautiful scenery away from the bustle of the harbour. We don’t have a lot of natural scenery left and we should preserve/improve on what we have. But in all honesty I don’t think it will matter to the city of our views as Aberdeen has and always will be driven by money…”

“No one cared what Torriers thought of closing a school or demolishing a landmark, this will be no different, it will come down to whose pockets are lined the thickest.”

“The Torry beach is always full of people at the first hint of sunshine!”

“You don’t need to be up a mountain to enjoy the view of the mountain just as you don’t need to sit on the beach to enjoy the scenery. I think it will be a sad day for the city when they destroy this natural Bay Area.”

“They need to sort at god awful stench if they want to entice cruise ships tho! I remember the days of the ice cream shop at the Bay, picking Buckies, camping there etc Harbour Board have spent millions already on this new project, so this ‘Consulting’ with local residents is utter nonsense!!”

Maybe it was the case that the Aberdeen Citizen interviewed scores of people, all of whom were happy. This happiness is clearly not universal.

In due course plans will be lodged that the public can object to. There seems to be no shortage of grounds to do so.

It should be noted the Harbour Board are regularly attending Torry Community Council meetings to update the council on developments: this is all well and good, but since these updates are made by those who want to take over Nigg Bay and several other swathes of land, let’s hope Torry Community Council is actively seeking representatives to update the council on the other side of the coin.

  • No doubt SEPA, with offices on the coastline in question, will raise all the environmental objections and take an active part in protecting Torry’s built (lighthouse) and natural (bay, land, wildlife, landscape) heritage from pollution and industrialisation. We will see.Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Aug 262014

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryTally Ho! There is much ado in the Granite City; Friday is the Public Meeting concerning the future of the former St Nicholas House site.

Of course the beautiful, iconic, vibrant, dynamic creative glass-box office and retail development is a foregone conclusion; it will go ahead. It may take a chunk or two out of property that is part of the Lord Provost’s House, but at least we’ll have new places to shop.

As I say, whatever speakers say in their 10 minutes of allotted time, nothing will change; the plans are unchangeable.

Then again, it was a meant to be set in stone that the land at Loirston Loch was to be kept pristine green and serene as a wildlife habitat. It’s now being surrounded by more urban sprawl.

Old Susannah was allowed 10 minutes to come in and speak about the plans for the former St Nicholas site, but as the plans are made, somehow I don’t think I’ll speak after all.

You could be forgiven for thinking that planning in Aberdeen is a ratchet which can only be torqued in favour of developers’ wishes and construction projects, and never towards conservation, clean air and green space. But there you go.

On the other hand, it may be worth showing up to this meeting, for surely some people will be speaking of the crucial need for a civic square. Sir Ian Wood will doubtless remind us of his passion for a civic square. Aberdeen City Gardens Trust and ACSEF affiliate Tom Smith will surely be leading the charge to demand we take this opportunity to  make the public gathering space that he desperately wanted the ACGT to manage.

Stewart Milne will renew his impassioned, selfless case for a city square or granite web as well, which clearly had nothing to do with his then need for parking spaces for Triple Kirks (also now to be a glass box office complex). Perhaps this is an unfair comparison for me to make; after all Union Terrace Gardens is bigger than the area now under consideration.

I’m sure it is a complete coincidence that UTG is common good land worth a small packet and that ACSEF, Wood and the ACGT were so keen to get their hands on it. I guess we need a civic square (whatever that is) an outdoor theatre (great in winter no doubt) and so on – but only if they’re to be built on top of open, green spaces owned by the people.

It’s not as if I think the city’s officers don’t listen to the public or formulate plans and carry them out no matter what. But considering the deer cull and tree planting at Tullos, I could be forgiven for thinking so.

On a less contentious note, I saw the amazing, singular Jeremy Paxman in his Edinburgh Festival premier. For some reason he was acting nice; guess it was all part of the show for clearly he must be scathing and sarcastic all the time. The tickets had sold out quickly for some reason or other.

At one point he explained why he wasn’t always nice and kind to elected officials. Apparently, there are some elected officials who are dishonest, inept, bumbling, self-serving and dishonest. I’d never have thought it. At least we’re safe from that kind of thing in the Deen.

Clearly we don’t always appreciate the saintly self-sacrificing nature of our elected officials, experts and public figures.  Perhaps a few timely definitions may help engender more respect from us for our betters.

But first:  a competition.  A bottle of BrewDog to the first correct answer pulled from the hat on Friday:-

Q1. Garden Talk: Match the person to the quote

  1. wanted  “to create a hub, a focal point for future generations, which will draw together the retail and cultural aspects of the city.”
  2. asked “that it be noted that every week the councillors of the Monitoring group have asked for the ‘no action’ option to be part of the public display and this has been passed on to the Management Board by Mr Brough. The Councillors stated that they were very disappointed that this [voting to keep the gardens as they were and improve them] was still not an option.”
  3. “This [Granite Web] ingenious and inspiring design for Aberdeen’s key public space gives the city a new social landscape but one rooted in its extraordinarily rich heritage and natural assets.”
  4. “Right enough, there have been more people in the gardens recently but they seem to go in to have their photograph taken and wave placards, rather than to play draughts or spot trains as they did many years ago.”
  5. “there would NOT be a ‘no action’ option [to vote to leave the gardens alone ]at this stage because the feedback was part of a tendering process to select the best of six designs [allowing the public to reject the scheme would, of course, saved the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds and a divisive referendum.  no one outside of private company ACTG has seen all of the votes or been allowed to count the votes against the scheme cast]”

a) Morris the Monkey – fictional character used by BiG Partnership to promote building in UTG (presumably either no one else wanted the job, or a fictional character was all they could afford to explain the benefits of a £140 million pound granite spaghetti junction).

b) Sir Ian Wood the Monkey (Scottish Enterprise, Wood Group, Wood Family Trust).

c) Sir Duncan Rice the Monkey – chair of this, that and the other and the design committee.

d) Gerry Brough the Monkey – long-gone ACC employee gently persuading us to have a granite web (and nothing but a granite web) known for his gentle temper and soft words.  Missed by no one.

e) Councillor West.

Q2. How many times over the years has First Minister Alex Salmond visited the Menie Estate residents to hear concerns living under Donald Trump’s stewardship of the estate?

a) 10
b) 20
c) 0
d) 0 – but he will accept an invitation to visit and will come to see Anthony Baxter’s and Richard Phinney’s new film ‘A Dangerous Game’ on 5 September in Aberdeen

Q3. Mixed bag:  match the number to the fact

  1. 5,847
  2. 7
  3. 1,378
  4. £50,000,000
  5. £50,000,000
  6. more than 16,000
  7. £15,000,000 approximately
  8. 65,000

a)  Approximate amount of money sitting in The Wood Family Trust to be used for charitable works (eventually).

b)  Number of people signing David Milne’s petition asking for an investigation held into propriety and handling of planning permission granted to Donald Trump at the Menie Estate.

c)   Number of people who voted for the granite web during the UTG design consultation.

d)  Amount of money shielded by tax from certain oil giant’s empire’s offshore payroll scheme.

e)  Sum of money pledged by Sir Ian Wood to create Granite Web.

f)   Number of people in Scotland reliant on food banks according to one charity.

g)  Number of people who voted for the winter garden design during the UTG design consultation.

h)   Number of people who turned down David Milne’s petition on Trump

Q4. How much oil do we have left?

a)  24bn barrels of oil could be recovered – First Minister Alex Salmond.

b)  12 – 24 billion barrels of oil potential  – Sir Ian Wood, report of February 2014.

c)  ‘Sir Ian claimed there are about 15bn to 16.5bn barrels of recoverable oil left, and that the figure from the White Paper is 45% to 60% too high’. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-28867487

d)  “hard-pushed” to extract 15bn barrels – Melfort Campbell.

e)  no one really knows for certain – everyone else.

And now time for one brief but poignant definition

Suffering (English gerund) the state of being in pain, discomfort, hardship

Never let it be said that Old Susannah turns a blind eye to the hardships faced by some of our older people, and the forces that conspire to break up families.  With today’s economic problems, some men are having to slave long, hard hours and travel extensively to keep their families together.  I am of course thinking about our depute Lord Provost John Reynolds, his wife and family. And so are you.

It all started innocently enough; some spoilsports were questioning the necessity of some of the wee trips the depute was going to make. Well, quite rightly Mrs depute Lord Provost wrote a letter to the Press & Journal. Standing by her man, she explained:

“I am his wife of  nearly 45 years [you can feel the pain], I have supported his work as a councillor and kept quiet when things have been said that upsets us as a family.

“Your piece has changed all that and I will not sit back and let you make it appear he is going off on ‘cooncil jaunts’. ..During his years as Lord Provost, 70 hours weeks became the norm… John was asked to take on the role of promoting Aberdeen and its oil-related industries abroad because he is passionate about the city and everything it has to offer.”

Alas! One of his upcoming trips to the US to go to a conference was booked on the assumption the conference was yearly, not biannual. But it’s going ahead anyway, so we can demonstrate ‘we’re open for business’ according to Jenny Laing, Council Leader. Reynolds said

“because it was approved there was still business to be done in Louisiana, doors that can be opened for Aberdeen businesses particularly, but also bringing Louisiana companies with their technology over to Aberdeen.”

One killjoy, Cllr Yuill said:

“we should remove this visit on the basis that the committee agreed to it based on inaccurate information.” 

I’m sure any private sector business wouldn’t mind finding out its employees were jetting out to non-existent events without any disciplinary action being taken. And if a person booking travel at taxpayer expense doesn’t have time to check out whether the conference actually exists that they’re booking someone to travel to, that’s pretty understandable as well.

It’s not as if the council has never taken decisions based on inaccurate information before, is it?

In my part of the world, the private sector has to watch costs. Bring in business? Private companies  send out literature and presentations are made in teleconferences. Touting for business on spec? The internet is cheaper and just that little bit more environmentally friendly. It’s just that little bit easier to spend taxpayer money isn’t it?

We are assuredly open for business. Perhaps the depute Lord Provost will find our next Donald Trump on one of his jaunts, or another businessman determined to take the small boats off the tiny harbour in Cove. I can’t wait.

But while Reynolds is looking for business in America, it’s just a shame that his family life has had to suffer. The drinks receptions, the public events, the hospitality – all very wearing after a bit don’t you know.

Perhaps we should not have forced him into being a councillor, being a depute / Lord Provost. So if you’re a nurse working double shifts, an oil rig worker, in the police, fire department or in teaching, just think how comparatively lucky you have it. Perhaps if things get rougher, you’ll see a few of our hard-done by councillors on your next visit to the food bank.

Next week: A new version of who’s who in the city and shire – what councillors are in what quangos and groups; what businessmen have cosy links to what politicians, and more.

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Jul 212014

By Ken Hutcheon.

Provost Skene's House by Stanley Wright

Provost Skene’s House – Credit: Stanley Wright

The date for lodging any comments/objections to the Marischal Square and/or Provost Skene Developments has now passed with 146 formal comments/objections having been received by Aberdeen City Planning Dept.

The Council are now considering whether to have a public hearing regarding this development.

The Planning Committee will meet next Thursday 24th July to decide.

Unfortunately it appears that leading councillors are confident they can push this present development plans through WITHOUT a public hearing. If we can get enough councillors to understand that they should be voting to support the wishes of the people that put them in power we can achieve a public hearing to get the developers to think again.

The developers can surely produce a far more innovative design that will open the magnificent view of the shining granite of Marischal College and the historic frontage of Provost Skene’s House for generations of Aberdonians and tourists to the city.

To condemn the centre of Aberdeen (the silver city) to a series of boring square boxes which hide the beauty of Marischal College and Provost Skene’s House is a terrible act of vandalism by our council.

Anyone who is understandably concerned regarding this development should email the Councillors for their area to suggest they vote to hold a public hearing. Over 1100 Aberdeen citizens stated at the exhibitions of this development they do not want these plans to go ahead.

To find your councillor and their email address, the easiest way is to put your postcode into the Aberdeen City Interactive map.

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Jun 232014

Provost Skene's House by Stanley WrightBy Ken Hutcheon.

The Marischal Square Development objections closing date may be gone, but MUSE developers have further plans in mind.
Proposals to remove the historic archway, stairs and wall in front of Provost Skene’s House are being considered. The plans can be viewed here.

This is despite the fact that on MUSE’s own website it states:

“Provost Skene’s House will be at the heart of the Marischal Square project……. The role and setting of Provost Skene’s House will be given special consideration in the new development. It will be protected from the demolition then re-opened at an appropriate time.

“Money is being set aside for conservation work.”

There is also a picture of Provost Skene House as it is now, complete with arch and surrounding wall, on that page. Presumably the money that is being set aside is for the removal of part of the frontage of Provost Skene’s House.

You still have time, till 3rd July to comment on, or object to these changes.

You will find more information on my website at www.marischalsquare.weebly.com. Note reference for this plan is 140755.

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May 302014

By Ken Hutcheon.
marischal pic lo

People will be aware that there is a major development being proposed where the old council buildings are being demolished at Broad Street.

Several hundred went to see the exhibitions by MUSE (the developers) and indeed many put in their comments and often objections to the plans they saw.

The final plans have now been submitted to Aberdeen Council to obtain approval.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, MUSE did not take those approx. 1100 comments and objections into account when arriving at their final design. (See the web site below for a breakdown of the feedback responses given to MUSE at the first exhibitions). So now is the time to make your comments or objections really count.

A website has been set up at  www.marischalsquare.weebly.com which shows the wonderful perspective in Central Aberdeen we are about to lose for generations unless you object by following the links on the web site which will take you through to Aberdeen City Planning.

There you can view the latest plans and make comments or objections to the plans online while on their site. These comments/objections will form part of the report which will go to Aberdeen City Planning Committee and have to be taken into account when the Council make their final decision on the plans.

After some correspondence with Aberdeen City the cut off date for objections or comments has been changed from 06/06/2014 to 18/06/2014 so there is time to lodge your comments on the plans.

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May 232014

By Suzanne Kelly.


With local councillors from all parties supporting the move to reopen Bon Accord Baths, surely the thousands who want them reopened will prevail. The BBC was on hand recently for a photo call. Despite having a very small window of time to get supporters to the baths on a work day, Craig Adams, leading the Bon Accord Campaign, got nearly 100 people down on the day to show their support.

As well as the BBC, STV and Northsound were on hand, looking for photos and quotes. Aberdeen Voice spoke to one of the many supporters on the day, Kate Urbaniak, and her partner.

Kate said:

 “It’s a shame about how things are going on here; look at St Nicholas House.  I learned how to swim in these baths, and if there is a chance they could be put to good use, then they should be. I used to come here, my family would come here, and people used to come here and have baths if they didn’t have baths at home. It’s a great building, and I’ve never been in nicer baths.”

Mr Urbaniak talked about the carbon footprint of the people who would be driving to the large new pool and how convenient the bon accord baths were for transport.

There are many reasons for opening this much-loved city centre recreation opportunity; for more information look here.  https://www.facebook.com/savebonaccordbaths Many skills will be needed to get the project going; see how you can help.

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