Jul 242015

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

DictionaryTally ho! Or not as the case may be. The SNP decided not to vote with the Conservatives on the proposed fox hunting amendment. This would have allowed people to resume the sporting life of chasing foxes to exhaustion to be ripped apart live by dogs. Some say this was set up as a test to see who would align with who on votes, and the Conservatives were outfoxed. Either way, it’s a sad day for good old-fashioned healthy tradition.

Elsewhere Denmark fights to uphold the Faroe Islands tradition of butchering far more whales and dolphins than can possibly be safely eaten (by those who’d want to eat them in the first place; I prefer puffin and swan).

Some find Denmark’s position a bit at odds with their EU obligation to protect marine mammals. But first things first, how’s a Faroese boy to become a man without a good hearty bloodbath on the shores?

Sadly, a collection of protestors showed up in London the other week to protest against Denmark, which seems to think arresting Sea Shepherd personnel and impounding their vessels indefinitely also fits in well with EU law. I joined them as I was there; it’s almost as if they all believed that culture was less important than animal welfare and EU laws. Funny lot.

I also visited one or two London BrewDog spots to try the local beer cocktails which vary from bar to bar. The finest cocktail remains the Aberdeen flagship bar’s Jackhammer Margarita. Perfect for these nearly warm Scottish summer nights.

Old Susannah escaped from the vibrancy and dynamism of Aberdeen for a bit and went to London and the south. At times I needed to use this cream called sunblock; apparently there are parts of the world where you might get too much sun on you. Who’d have guessed. I dropped in on Rock n Roll Rescue in Camden; the proprietor is my old friend Knox from The Vibrators.

If you have any old clothes, music or memorabilia, Knox would be delighted to hear from you. Contact him here: (The original Vibrators line up plays in London on the 31st July; am hoping for a tour).

Alas! Another culture/heritage icon is in a spot of bother. After postponement upon postponement, it looks as if the Pullar clan are in hot water over their convenient failure to remove leader nets from our waters, thus catching more wild salmon than they should have. They claimed that supposed bad weather made them break the laws 9 times in their favour, for health and safety reasons.

Oddly, there don’t seem to have been any days when it was too rough to go to sea to put the leader nets out; it’s only been too rough to take the nets back in.

While they claim the heritable, traditional right to net wild salmon, it’s funny though- they don’t use traditional nets. Where a small scale traditional operation once caught small numbers of salmon, the modern, non-traditional system of catching the poor creatures uses vast complicated systems the Pullar ancestors never dreamed of. Innovation is good, as long as it doesn’t make you give up your traditions.

what’s wrong with a little good-natured racist banter Trump might wonder?

“It’s our right/tradition/culture/heritage” seems to be the cry of the fox-hunters, Pullars and butchering Faroese.

When I was travelling, Donald Trump’s presidential nomination got off to a bang-up start.

He’s going to keep all those drug-dealing, raping Mexicans out of the US. He’ll even build a wall between the two countries. Some cynics think he wants to keep them in Mexico where they work making his luxurious clothing line. Businesses are dropping links with the hirsuit typhoon with alacrity. But not Aberdeen Sports Village.

Trump Golf International Links Scotland’s logo is proudly displayed on their page. I’d love to know how much money Trump gives them, and I’d love to know how much money we taxpayers give the Sports Village as well. Doubtless my request to them to end their sponsorship will be dealt with swiftly. In other words, a petition might be launched shortly. Watch this space.

So, what’s wrong with a little good-natured racist banter Trump might wonder? Unfortunately, the trouble with a little racist teasing is that people here are doing it to families travelling on trains. Men beat up women who speak with English accents and visiting sports stars get beaten up by yobs. So if Aberdeen Sports Village don’t see the problem with aligning with racists, they would seem to be in good company with some of our fine citizens.

Of course, this kind of light-hearted racism is no obstacle to keeping an honorary degree from Robert Gordon University, especially as it was handed over in person to the Donald by Sir Ian Wood.

It would be nice to think the Village will re-think its position. A sincere apology from Trump would also be nice, but there is as much chance of that as Sarah Malone inviting me for a round of golf .

Apologies, as long as carefully worded and checked with legal departments are wonderful things. They can help you keep your job. They can make for good press releases. The only thing they can’t do is undo what is done. And with that, herewith some definitions.

Apology: (English Noun) An expression of sorry or regret

Pity Sir Stephen House, head of our ever-changing Police Scotland force. He had the sad job of issuing an apology on the force’s failure to investigate a reported car crash. This had fatal consequences for a woman who lay injured for three days next to her dead partner. But Sir is sorry:

“Firstly I want to apologise to the families of John Yuill and Lamara Bell and to the people of Scotland for this individual failure in our service. Everyone in Police Scotland feels this most profoundly.

“Our duty is to keep people safe and we’ve not done that effectively on this occasion, with tragic consequences, and I want to apologise to everyone for that. 

I completely understand the level of concern being raised about the circumstances surrounding the handling of the incident of the crash near the M9 slip road at Bannockburn and, in particular, Police Scotland’s response to information received. That we failed both families involved is without doubt.”

So, it’s an individual failure, but everyone in PS feels badly about it. That’s nice to know. Just for the record though, the duty of PS is to uphold the law, do so equally and fairly. Not everyone is happy with Sir’s fanatical devotion to stop and search targets, his unilateral arming of police on patrols, or how data protection is getting just a bit lost in the sauce as spying on people routinely is on the up.

Must be hard to have to read out a statement. If only there were something Police Scotland and its head could have done to make sure its resources were robust and officers were employed where needed. If there had only been some warning signs that the new all-encompassing force and its local call centre closures were problematic, I’m sure the kindly, understanding man who issued that statement would have done something with his powers.

I’m sure the apology that Sir Stephen issued to the press is good enough

Of course it slightly weakens his apology that he says the new system and his leadership are not at fault; enjoy a lovely video clip of Sir Stephen here. He’s got a job to do, he provides leadership.

Just because the call centre system is failing, centralisation’s value is questionable or the leadership has failed it’s no cause for his resignation. He’s sorry – but not that sorry.

Denial: (Eng Noun) Negation of any culpability, responsibility or involvement.

Two young people are dead; one could have been saved. Two children are orphaned who didn’t have to be. Things happen.

It’s not the fault of Police Scotland, or its head Sir Stephen. They were told that a car had come off the motorway which they didn’t bother to follow it up –or even record. Three days later, a second call came in, and when they did bother themselves to stop spying on people and searching juveniles long enough to investigate, they found a dead man next to his dehydrated, dying partner.

I’m sure the apology that Sir Stephen issued to the press is good enough for all the people concerned and that should be the end of the matter. As he also explained, while they’re all very, very sorry, it wasn’t really his fault:

He said:

“We’re in the middle of massive change in our call-handling. It’s been going on virtually since day one of Police Scotland and it’s still going on and it has some way to go.

“I remain confident and convinced the reform we’re pushing through is the right way to go and provides a more efficient and more professional service. The tragedy is that I’m saying this against the background of two people who have died and that’s been our error which we’ve acknowledged.

“We do work within a budget. Our budget has reduced for the past two years and we’re working to an ambitious savings target for this year.” 

Ah, if not for the changes in the call handling and for the need to work within a budget. He’d love to help; but it was outwith his abilities to make the force he’s in charge of do its job.

I digress, but I wonder what the Tayside branch of Police Scotland were doing over those three days. It would be wrong to wonder how many children were stopped and searched as easy targets while that car spent three days off the road. An experienced police officer who will soon resign puts the huge increase in stop and search at Sir Stephen’s doorstep. This officer said:

This guy [Sir Stephen] is a complete control freak. In the 20 years I have been doing the job I have never wanted to do another job until Police Scotland came into force… I am being honest, in all my time on the force I had never heard the words ‘stop and search’ in Scotland before Mr House arrived. 

“Up here we had policing by consent, this stop and search was an English phenomenon that he brought up from London. Mr House has brought a few of his cronies from down the road up to Scotland and they are ordering cops that they want ten searches every day. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that all these searches are coming up negative because the officers are just searching anyone they see to get the figures up.”

We continue to allow police to do this to children, despite the psychological expertise advising against it, and despite the presumption of innocence. In fact, the vast majority of people stopped (and a huge percentage are non white you’ll be surprised to hear) have broken no laws at all. Herald Scotland reported:

“Frontline officers have contacted The Herald to complain about new practices within divisions and among officers who feel compelled to “massage the figures”. In some instances, officers have been forced to search innocent people as they leave pharmacies and off-licences to meet targets, according to those who have aired concerns…. In the first six months of Police Scotland, officers conducted a record 310,784 stop-searches and recorded a 20% increase in motoring offences….” 

I guess stopping innocent people to get those target figures up to Sir Stephen’s desired levels beats actually following up on calls. (Emergency callers are reporting unacceptable delays as well).

It would be wrong to wonder how many man hours were given over to snooping on our private emails and phonecalls while that woman’s kidneys started to fail. Sir Stephen is going to provide ‘a more efficient and professional service’.

Hard to see how he can improve on his stellar record – but we will be watching him. Am half tempted to write to Sir Stephen to offer commiserations over his budget woes. Must be awful. And he’s got to get by on a salary that’s under £208,000 per year. If only he’d had some previous indication that the new call centre wasn’t working out.

I’m sure that the imposed searches, the routine arming of police, the target setting is all greatly enjoyed by the whole force, despite the fact they’ve taken 53,000 days off with stress.

By the way, Aberdeen will lose its regional call centre in September. Old Susannah had to call emergency services for an ambulance some months ago; even with regional knowledge and detailed instructions of where the injured person was, the ambulance nearly drove right past. I’m sure someone sitting in a call centre in Glasgow will know all about Aberdeen’s back streets, pathways and parks.

So – we can expect more of the same then. Get ready to accept more armed cops, more unnecessary stop and searches, more red tape, increased centralisation – and less legal and human rights. At least we’re all going to be safe. Result!

We’ve had the apology over this latest fatality, which wasn’t really anyone’s fault anyway, because they have to work within a budget. What more do we want? Let’s see what they need to apologise for next, as they continue to eradicate ‘policing by consent’ from our vocabulary. Tally ho!

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Jul 022015

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

DictionaryTally ho! Aberdeen Voice is now five years old. There might not be any cutest baby competitions, advertisements selling everything from trouser presses to holidays to Gdansk, but I dare say there have been a few interesting pieces over the years. We’ve lost comrades along the way.

The poetry mannie Bob Smith passed away, as did one of our editors, Mairi. But here’s to all of its contributors and founder and editor Fred Wilkinson who really is the glue.

He might not have a former beauty queen wife working for Donald Trump, but he makes up for this failing in other ways.

But mostly here’s to all the contributors, the readers, and the donors.

People have tried to tell us what we can and can’t publish. People have threatened us with lawsuits (and even with being reported to the Scottish Football Association – which was really terrifying). But we are still here.

Over the years a few mysteries have warranted investigation, be it by the police or governments local and national. This column will be a round-up of some of these, and the stellar detective work that’s been employed. Or not. Before that though, the career changes of a few high flyers demand some attention.

It’s congratulations to Doctor Maggie Bochel, planning supremo at Aberdeen City Council.

We owe much to her for all the brilliant planning decisions (too numerous to mention) that have made our city centre what it is today. It brings a tear to the eye to think what else she could have accomplished had we been able to persuade her to stay. Alas! She is joining the private sector.

As well as insisting that people use her doctoral title, Doctor Maggie was also Head of Sustainable Development. Sustainability must have something to do with building on any green space you can get your hands on.

I suppose that since her close friend former Councillor Scott Cassie left the council for a career change as a guest of Her Majesty’s Prisons Services, there was little to keep Doctor Maggie at ACC. (Cassie had found what must have looked like a sustainable source of income by borrowing bits here and there from the taxpayer; but the police managed to find fault with his methods. The money was just resting in his account, I am told).

At any rate, Dr Maggie is, by coincidence, joining the private sector in planning, where she will happily have lots of former council pals as contacts. I wonder whether she made any private sector contacts and pals when she was dealing with planners in her role at ACC? It all sounds very cosy, convenient and friendly.

I will always remember Doctor B for her role in helping to turn Loirston Loch and surrounds from protected greenbelt area to a development opportunity. Let’s never forget this huge favour she did us, and let’s hope she is suitably rewarded one day. Looks like that day may have arrived.

It helps to spend some time courting your new employers, and Maggie seems to understand this. Back in 2014 she is quoted on the Burness Paull website in a lovely piece called ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Work for us – sorry – Coming to Dinner’:

“Aberdeen city centre has come under increasing pressure as the economy has boomed – and has failed to keep pace. That was the honest appraisal from Maggie Bochel, Aberdeen City Council Head of Planning and Sustainable Development at Burness Paull’s event on city regeneration – but she insisted the council was doing everything possible to be more “bold, ambitious and aggressive” to make improvements. [Aggressive indeed – Old Susannah]

“One delegate… suggested the relationship between the public and private sectors in Aberdeen was broken. Not so, said Bochel, stressing that the council would work with as many “unlikely partners” as it could to secure a positive future for the city. She laid down a challenge based on the title of the event, Look Who’s Coming To Dinner – all those who wanted a place at the decision-making table had to step up to the plate.

Malcolm Fraser stepped up to the plate with relish and laid down a smorgasbord of ideas for the future of Aberdeen. Suggestions from the chairman of the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Review included giant umbrellas to enliven Castlegate and colony-style housing for Aberdeen harbour, which he described as “one of the great urban dramas”.

Stephen Phillips of Burness Paull agreed, saying all the elements were there to make real progress – a booming economy, a civic master plan and a council willing to build new partnerships for the good of the city.

Jonathan Heaney, banking partner at Burness Paull, said finding significant sums of money to fund public projects was increasingly difficult and conceded the existing financial models to raise money were complex and challenging.

Maggie Bochel stressed that Aberdeen was a poorly-funded council and said the way forward had to be through creativity and innovative partnership working. Throwing down the gauntlet, she effectively said this (to paraphrase a President): “Ask not what Aberdeen can do for you – but what you can do for Aberdeen.””

We wish Maggie – sorry Doctor Bochel much luck in her new job, and hope she makes friends there quickly. The evidence says this may be easy.

Another jobseeker is our American neighbour, Donald Trump.

He’s seeking the job as United States President. In a bid to win hearts and minds, he’s pointed out some of America’s top problems. These are Mexican rapists and Mexican drug dealers. Trump’s not an unreasonable man as we’ve seen time and time again, so he does say that some Mexican people are acceptable. However, in order to protect America, he wants to build a great big wall between Mexico and America.

Well, he does like his walls. Over at the Menie Estate he built a lovely wall of earth between Leyton Cottage and the views over the land to the sea.

His environmental people did a report, and said this was beneficial to the people living in the cottage. I guess in some quarters having dirt blow into your house, garden and car engines is a bonus, and not having to be bothered by sunlight is another plus. The environmentalists didn’t bother to get an opinion from the residents.

I guess this was a combination of just being thoughtful and not wanting to bother them, and having the expertise to know the bund of earth topped with dying trees is just what any home owner would want.

Alas! I do hope Trump gets this presidential job, particularly now that he’s sadly and cruelly lost his NBC television programme The Apprentice and his Miss Universe won’t air on the network either. Macy’s department stores have somehow decided to break their arrangements with The Donald as well. I understand NBC’s statement read in part:

“Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBC Universal is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump” 

I hope that some form of justice will be forthcoming: NBC have violated Trump’s right to free speech. No doubt he will still be welcome to do business here in the UK; it’s not as if we have any laws against hate speech or have ever barred people from entering the UK who have stirred up prejudicial hatred.

But at this rate there won’t be time for all the mysteries that I’d like to cover, so moving swiftly along, here are some cases.

Case of the missing Jewels:

One morning when leaving for an early flight, my bus pass and a bag of jewellery fell out of my handbag in front of my house. When I realised they were gone and what must have happened, I immediately emailed the police to report my bus pass (with name and photo) was lost on such and such date and time, and sent precise details of the jewellery. The email I got in reply said no such property had been handed in. Expecting as much, I let the matter drop.

Meanwhile, a wonderful neighbourhood man had found the items. Rather than keeping them, he had immediately handed them into… the police.

Somewhere in a police office, an officer or two must have spent hours pouring over the jewellery and the bus pass. ‘If there were only some way to find out who owned these items’ they must have thought. If only there were some kind of lead, or maybe someone was looking for the items. How to narrow down which Suzanne Kelly in the United Kingdom had this numbered First Bus pass and looked like the person in the photo, who lived on Victoria Road. Alas, the items went to the lost and found office at Queen Street.

I ran into this Good Samaritan, and he asked me if I’d got my things back. After a brief discussion, I decided to visit the police. Explaining how I could demonstrate a link between this Suzanne Kelly, the Suzanne Kelly whose face looked up from the bus pass and the Suzanne Kelly who had emailed them with details of the lost goods.

For the police, things were starting to fall into place. Could there be a connection? Was this just coincidence? I assume they must have put their brightest and best on the job, because fairly quickly I was reunited with my goods. Perhaps it was a crack team of people in the Inspector Morse mode, or a modern day Poirot, but Police Scotland eventually solved this one (Thank you police, and thank you Good Samaritan).

Mystery of The Carden House Caper:

Back in the bad old days, the City very generously sold property to developers for slightly less than it was worth. Audit Scotland made a big fuss out of this paltry £5,000,000 loss to the taxpayer, and did an investigation.

“Following preliminary enquiries by external auditors into the sale of Carden House, senior officers at Aberdeen City Council requested internal audit to carry out a wider review of property transactions instigated between 2001 and early 2006.

“2. The investigation identified: evidence of procedural and administrative deficiencies and poor record keeping; cases where accurate and relevant information was not reported to elected members; a lack of evidence to support the valuation at which properties were sold; and cases where the Council may have achieved a better price. Overall, it appears that there is a potential loss of capital receipts which may be more than £5 million.

“3. The Council responded quickly when these concerns emerged [sure they did – Old Susannah] …The Council is also taking action through its disciplinary procedures and I understand that Grampian Police are making enquiries.” – Audit report 22 April 2008

This investigation concluded that it was hard to tell if these sales went ahead just as a slight error in judgment, or if something more sinister was afoot. Heaven forfend! Audit Scotland recommended a Grampian Police Investigation. At the time our Chief Executive swore he wouldn’t resign over this. I guess he resigned over something else, for he scarpered shortly afterwards.

The paperwork for this £5,000,000 case was sent to Grampian Police to investigate.

The investigation must have had every senior detective on the case. Time went by, and yet the papers carried no report of a conclusion being reached.

Old Susannah wrote to the police for copies of the documents. You might think that documents pertaining to crimes of this level would be carefully stored, documented and filed. In fact, there is a police document schedule from the time indicating that potential evidence of crimes over a certain amount of money should be retained.

A freedom of information request failed to turn up any documents, but did turn up this summary of the affair (in this case the redacted/blacked out text is my own doing)

“On 22 April 2008, DI XXXXX and T/DI XXXXX met with Area PF XXXXXXX, to discuss the findings of the various audits and our enquiries to date. As a result of the meeting, she undertook to submit a report to Crown Office for guidance.

“No further update.

“The next document for the meeting on 22/09/09 has no mention of the enquiry.

“I’ve spoken to XXXXXXXX who was the fraud DI at the time and he had this enquiry. No Police report or CF was ever raised however there were some subject reports to and from the PF’s office. Unfortunately we can’t find any trace of them.”

And there you have it; there is no trace of this paperwork, or what was done about it. At the same time the city was selling off property for a pittance, including land at Westhills to one Mr S Milne, builder, it was saving money by axing benefits. I guess you have to balance the books somehow.

Data retention is of course important to the police. Fingerprint records taken from school children will likely be on file forever. DNA from renegade journalists Richard Phinney and Anthony Baxter is retained and might hopefully help solve future investigative journalism (the pair was famously arrested on the Menie Estate when working on a story).

The police and the information commissioner concluded that it was all too long ago for anyone to have kept papers relating to a potential criminal £5,000,000 loss to the taxpayer. Fair enough. If only – if only there were someone involved in Aberdeen’s planning department who was there at the time.

If only such a person had a fairly high position, and would have had responsibility for making sure things were all above board, and that the taxpayer got value for money. If only such a person existed, they may be able to answer some tough questions on what was going on. But who could be such a person and may the remember anything at all about this?

Maggie May. Or should that be Dr Maggie May.

Alas! This is not the only instance of the police not being able to find documentation, evidence or retain crucial video footage.

Next week: The George Copland Affair: how the police lost bail papers, destroyed (accidentally of course) custody CCTV footage, and were unable to locate the person Copland wanted contacted on his recent arrest. That was one Fred Wilkinson of Aberdeen. If anyone out there knows how to find out who Fred Wilkinson is, where he might be found, or how to start looking for someone named Fred Wilkinson, please contact Old Susannah.

PS – not confidential to Hugh Thomson of Inverurie, driving drunk while banned

Hi there Hugh. I hear lots of people tried to stop you from driving home from the pub, but you were adamant – you were going to drive. The police stopped you, and found you were well over the limit. Your lawyer says you’ve a terminal illness. I am genuinely sorry for you about your health. I sympathise; life’s full of unfair things.

I thought it was pretty unfair when my teenage boyfriend was hit and run by some drunk, and left on the side of the road with a broken arm. It was also unfair when the same thing happened to my sister, only it was her head that was injured.

When I was a little girl, something else unfair happened to me. My grandmother and her sister were hit and killed in a residential street by a drunk driver. They meant the whole world to me, and let’s just say my life wound up differently because of their absence. One died straight away; the other after a few hours’ suffering and shock.

It also seemed unfair to me that the man I was planning on spending a lot of my future with got killed in an accident days before we were supposed to be getting together. I spent a fair amount of time after that thinking about what was fair and unfair.

So on the whole, life is not always fair, you and I can agree on that. But here’s the thing. There are some unfair things that are avoidable; some aren’t. Your terminal illness is not something you could have avoided. You could have avoided driving – in fact the law said you had to. Maybe you didn’think that was fair. You could have taken a taxi, or got a friend to drive you home. You could have stayed home if you want to drink. Driving that car was avoidable.

I’m sorry you’re ill. I’m sorry life’s not fair. I’m sorry about a whole hell of a lot of things. But as unfair as it may seem to you, please just stop drinking and driving. Thanks.

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May 222015

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


Tally ho! It’s been quite a week in the Granite City and wider world. Well done all you who voted Conservative!

The SNP is now on the move; not since the Covenanters has Scotland been so unanimous. A new Independence Referendum can’t be far off, so I hope you’ve all saved your ‘YES’ banners and Saltires.

Perhaps the best news is that nice Mr Farage tried to resign but they wouldn’t let him. Who else indeed could lead UKIP? Mr Fromage is indeed the man for the job, although I think they were considering a gay Romanian immigrant at one point.

That nice Mr Trump’s coyness and modesty were on display at the end of April. Well, on display in two obscure small legal notices in the back of the Evening Express.

I can’t imagine why, but the pre-application public consultations for a second golf course, 850 houses and 1900 leisure units, whatever they are, came and went with no publicity from the Press & Journal or the Evening Express. I suppose with stories vying for space, some minor issues like Trump building on the Menie Estate have to be overlooked.

‘Cow found in Field’, ‘Man wins Inverurie Rowie baking award’ and ‘three clothing stores may or may not open in Aberdeen’ trumped the Trump news. When alerted to these ads, I wrote to the contact address given for information. Sadly, the nice man hadn’t the time to get back to me. In fact he was too busy to get back to at least six other people who also wanted information in advance of the deadline in order to praise the scheme.

A cynic might think that the Trump organisation, spearheaded at Menie by the planning supremo, golf expert and beauty queen Mrs Sarah Malone Bates, were trying to sneak one over on us. But I’m sure it was just a case of not wanting to brag about these exciting plans that kept any news of them off the pages of AJL papers, except for those ads on the back of the EE.

I guess it’s now too late to get in your notes of praise for the scheme; it would be a pity if the Shire’s planning people thought that this lack of information were sufficient grounds to throw the exercise on the scrap heap. That would be just awful.

Despite having to re-write my original column ‘Hooray for the Liberal Democrat Landslide’, it’s been a great week. I’ve been part of the Aberdonian contingent at the Westworld Weekend in Crewe; the bands were Spear of Destiny, Theatre of Hate, Kirk Brandon acoustic, Folk Grinder and the Death Valley Surfers. The beer was just as impressive: bottles of Punk IPA AND BrewDog Abstracts Nos. 15, 16, 17 and 18. For some strange reason the bar ran out of Punk, I can’t imagine why.

Old Susannah extended her weekend with a night of Julian Cope at the Lemon Tree, where BrewDog also flowed. Cope’s a bit madcap and a bit behind the times. He joked that it would be good if those in power tried LSD. I’m pretty convinced most of them are tripping as it is.

When you’re having a great weekend, you want to prolong it. Therefore my sincere thanks to the guy who decided to have a cigarette in his plane’s toilet when my and other planes should have been landing at Aberdeen.

clearly he was a genius of some sort

What good sport it was to circle for an extra 30 or so minutes, to be told that a plane on the runway had smoke coming out of it, and that we might have to divert.

I had the great pleasure of seeing the suspect explaining himself to the six or so police who surrounded him as my flight finally filed through the airport. A woman PC was saying:

“You have been identified as the man who was smoking in your plane’s toilet.”

I wondered whether he were a famous movie star, international scholar, or perhaps even an ACSEF member. He must have been someone very important indeed who simply needed a smoke. His slightly dirty clothes, his stubbly chin, his knuckles dragging on the floor and his simian posture were just too good a cover; clearly he was a genius of some sort, disguised as a posturing, swaggering self-centred ignorant chav.

Then he spoke and in an instant I knew I was listening to an Einstein. He answered the woman PC thus:

“You’re kidding right?”

Old Susannah is only an amateur student of psychology and human behaviour, but I am reasonably certain the police weren’t kidding. They almost seemed angry for some reason, and they didn’t at all seem the Laughing Policeman kind.

She continued:

“I am not going to search you”

I suppose he must have previously baulked at that prospect,

“but one of my colleagues may want to. Empty your pockets.”

Again confirming my assessment of the man’s undeniable wit, and reaffirming my belief in his complete innocence he said:

“You’re kidding right?”

My own acting skills are little better than novice; but surely no one could have looked as perfectly innocent as this poor man. I’m sure he was set up. The faint whiff of cigarette smoke that was in the area surely had come from one of those policemen.

Then again, if someone as important as this man obviously is, needed a cigarette, then who are the Civil Aviation Authority, the police, Aberdeen Airport, several hundred people wanting to land, and a hundred people on his plane needing to travel to get in his way? I’d feel guilty if I’d inconvenienced our man.

Besides, imagine what a good adventure it must have been for those on his flight: to be airborne and smell smoke, and see it coming out of the plane’s toilet, just like it must have been for the doomed Canadian flight several years ago that started this unfair no-smoking on planes backlash.

It’s not as if anyone circling around was getting nervous with every new announcement that we might have to be diverted elsewhere, that a plane on the runway had to be evacuated and fire was involved.

No worries. It’s not as if anything terrible ever happens to planes or at airports. There weren’t any older people getting worried or upset; there were no stressed out ground crew. Just you and your smoke. Some people just can’t take a joke though, and as a second thought, maybe next time, if they let you fly again, you might want to look into this nicotine patch business.

And so, my sincere thanks to the as-yet unnamed 31-year-old man for giving me the thrill of a lifetime. Really, if I ever get the chance to repay your kindness, I’ll do so. A mention in my humble column will have to do for now. However, if I can find out who your employers are, I’ll be delighted to drop them a suitable commendation for all the fun you provided.

Also in the news there was an election. England wants five more years of David Cameron, and somehow failed to appreciate all that Nick Clegg’s done for them. Scotland wants the SNP.

The voting public has spoken. Some people are puzzled by some of the election outcomes and how votes metamorphose into fair, democratic representation in Parliament. As I’m one of those people, herewith some timely terms for those baffled by ballot box bamboozlement.

First Past The Post: (Modern Conservative compound Noun) A system of counting election results to allocate seats in the English Parliament.

I’m sure you’re as happy as I am at how the elections throughout the UK turned out. This is down to the exciting, but fair ‘first past the post’ voting system. It’s no more complicated than understanding how the Hadron Supercollider’s quest for the God Particle demonstrates that anti-matter underpins the known universe, why you never get all your socks back after doing a load of laundry, or the arbitrary nature of the offside rule, depending on who the ref is.

For those of you slower of wit, here is a bit of number crunching:a_fair_election_result_indeed

The sad thing is that there are some sore losers out there, who would change this system. Take for instance Electoral Reform UK. This band of brigands should be rounded up, and probably will be once that nice Mr Gove gets rid of this Human Rights nonsense, see below. Here is a quote from their radical website:

“[Most] people’s votes were essentially wasted. Of the almost 31 million people who voted on the 7th, 15.4 million voted for losing candidates. That’s 50% of voters who backed a candidate that didn’t win, making the vast majority of voters feel unrepresented. That doesn’t sound like democracy to most people.”

Talk about sour grapes. I’m sure we all feel well represented. If you want to contact Electoral Reform and tell them to leave well enough alone, you can do so here, which is also where you can sign their petition asking for electoral reform. But just ignore that bit.

Still, a system that would leave the beloved Liberal Democrats out in the cold can’t be fair. Old  Susannah is every bit as upset at the defenestration of the LibDems as you might think. Once the equal partners of Dave Cameron’s Conservatives, the chargers of tuition fees, and the slayers of the vermin roe deer, it’s sad to think these noble animals have been metaphorically shot between the eyes, just as they rightfully insisted was done to some 46 Tullos Hill Deer.

If I can stop sobbing into my LibDem logo-embroidered handkerchief long enough, I’ll send a consolatory email to Aileen HoMalone and ask her for a few words on this sad defeat. But back to the fairness of the system.

Special thanks should go to the 33% of UK residents eligible to vote who didn’t do so. It’s not as if getting the opinion of a third of the country’s voters could have made any real difference, not under First Past The Post anyway.

Thank you for staying home to watch the Heartbeat Omnibus, reruns of Neighbours, playing Grand Theft Auto 27 or whatever it was that kept you from spending ten minutes to pick the UK’s future direction. I’m sure those who didn’t bother to join in had very important reasons. Just like the reasons the important man had on that aircraft to smoke in the bathroom.

Human Rights Act: (Modern European Union compound noun) A declaration of inalienable freedoms each person should be entitled to, but never is.

As far as I can work out, this is some kind of wishy-washy left-wing Liberal law from 1998 that brought in the EU’s Human Rights declaration and enshrined it in UK law. It’s even supposed to make the NHS and the Police treat people as if they had rights, even people suspected of crime, just like that guy who smelled of smoke who came out of the plane’s toilet seen by many, who could only comment ‘You’re kidding right?’.

This has been problematic and a nuisance. It’s been implemented fully, as we can see in practice all around us.

We’ve got a war on drugs, a war on terror

The parents of Ashya King were arrested for taking their son for the successful medical treatment he had abroad, because the NHS swore out an arrest warrant.

The police officers who cleverly infiltrated various legal protest groups, sleeping with and impregnating women they pretended to love were only doing their job of course, but under Human Rights law, these women, who were probably criminals anyway, seem to be able to claim damages and child support.

There’s only so much a Conservative government can stand. They’re sending top gun Michael Gove in to correct this over-application of human rights. Any day now, all these freedoms we’re enjoying, like the right to protest the elections in London free from police harassment, may be a distant memory. Too right, too. We’ve got a war on drugs, a war on terror… there’s no room for sentimentality when it comes to breaking a few bones – sorry – breaking a few criminal gangs.

These rights include:

“These rights are: Right to life, right not to be tortured or subjected to inhumane treatment, right not to be held as a slave, right to liberty and security of the person, right to a fair trial, right not be retrospectively convicted for a crime, right to a private and family life, right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, right to freedom of expression, right to freedom of assembly and association, right to marriage, right to an effective remedy, right not to be discriminated against, the right to the peaceful enjoyment of one’s property, and the right to an education. The Act also imposes a duty upon governments to provide free and fair elections.”

If you want to see how hard it is to be a police officer, and the kinds of things they have to put up with from protesters, here’s a little story. It may look like the police are harming citizens who are on the ground at a protest against the Tories, but I’m sure it’s just some form of massage therapy I’m not familiar with.

As if anyone would want to protest against the Tories: we’ve just elected them by a landslide. Apparently.

I get why our rulers want to get rid of this education nonsense and privacy stuff, but since we’ve already got a completely free and fair election system, surely they’ve no complaint on that score. So for those renegades and anarchists who enjoy these so-called rights, enjoy them while you can.

Next week: That’ll depend on whether or not the Conservatives continue to allow political satire.

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May 012015

Old Susannah recounts her latest encounter with Aberdeen Council, and gets to grips with issues in the wider world as well. By Suzanne Kelly

DictionaryChestnuts roasting on an open fire; Jack Frost nipping at your extremities; snow falling. Hope you’re enjoying the spring weather as well.

Perhaps you’ve gone up Tullos Hill to shelter under the Tree for Every Citizen forest during these wintry days. Walking through this award-winning forest, you’ll soon understand why we’ve had to blast the deer – 46 at least – to kingdom come to create this forest primeval.

I had the great privilege of addressing the city’s Petitions Committee last week; it was quite an experience.

Imagine how foolish I felt – there I was, making a presentation, and showing photos of how lovely the weeds had turned out, towering above the beautiful tree guards on Tullos, with barely a sapling rising over its tree guard – only to have Officer Steve Shaw tell the meeting that the Tree For Every Citizen Scheme was a huge success!

It has even won awards! I felt like apologising straight away – but the way things worked, I didn’t get a chance to say another word. This expert in animal welfare, ecology and car accidents (deer apparently were mentioned in 40 accidents last year) explained that deer have to be managed, that we’re in for a real gem of a forest, and that everything is fine.

Funny, he didn’t seem to be able to talk about how much this ‘cost neutral’ scheme is costing the taxpayer. I make it a minimum of £169,000 – for Tullos Hill alone. At such a bargain, I think we should kill everything that moves and turn every field into a future timber yard – for that’s what Pete Leonard is promising us – lots of income from lumber. Result!

Steve put forward a really logical, interesting, award-winning speech. I just wonder why Ranger Ian Talboys, who was happy enough to be photographed with Princess Anne and the award, didn’t want to address the meeting himself? I really thought that the scheme’s chief architect and deer hater extraordinaire, Aileen ‘HoMalone’ Malone, would have come along to wish me well, but there was no sign of her giant hair or giant shoulder pads anywhere.

Perhaps she was out stalking. Remember when you go to the polls to vote, a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for deer killing.

Happily there’s some really good economic news this past week; Scotland now has a few more billionaires and millionaires! This obviously means that their money will ‘trickle down’ onto the rest of us. Any day now. Sometimes it seems as if something is indeed trickling down on the less fortunate, but it doesn’t feel like wealth. But what a great system where the rich get richer and the poor (deserving or undeserving) can live in hope of a few crumbs from the rich’s table.

I’ve heard rumours that some of these billionaires shelter money from the taxman. I’ve also heard that one or two people need to use food banks. If so, I hope they’re the deserving poor, rather than the undeserving poor. There are one or two far left organisations out there like Oxfam and the like which claim if the really rich aren’t paying their share of tax, and are getting richer, this might have something to do with the poor getting poorer.

Then a funny thing happened, a couple of dolphins washed up dead on Japanese shores

Can’t see it myself, but perhaps if only a few people have most of the country’s money that might well mean less money for the rest of us.

If there are any accountants out there, please look into this for me, thanks.

There are other events that seem like they might be interrelated as well. The minor nuclear accident at the otherwise successful Fukushima plant in Japan is all but forgotten I know, and fair enough. This plant was otherwise a huge success for capitalism – checking the boxes for safety, and coming in at the lowest possible cost. For some reason after this minor accident, people left the area. Quickly.

Some even left their pets behind, so it couldn’t have been too serious. Then a funny thing happened, a couple of dolphins washed up dead on Japanese shores the other week. Their lungs had turned a funny white colour, and some scientists say this might be something to do with radioactivity. It’s more likely that the dolphins were just trying to be rescued from the seas and find their way into SeaWorld via Taji Cove.

Japan has lots of animal welfare experts, and some of them have a different explanation for the mass stranding.

The dolphins were depressed and decided to end it all. It wasn’t too many animals, only 150 or so, and as it’s Japan, they probably would have wound up either performing tricks in a sea world park or on a dinner plate, so it’s no big difference how they wound up anyway.

I was interested to read of Japanese experts claiming these big fish had any feelings or emotions in the first place; I thought that was why it was good to keep the Taji Cove tradition of chopping them up alive going. But I wonder – could there be some link between these beached dead creatures and that little radiation leak? Silly I know to even think it – if nuclear power was unsafe, then we wouldn’t be using it, would we.

Moving swiftly on, here are some definitions, and thoughts on whether there are any connected coincidences or causes behind them.

Nickel Ride: (Modern American English Slang) – Placing a handcuffed person in the back of a police van without benefit of a seatbelt or anything to hold onto, then driving as wildly as possible, obviously oblivious to any potential slight harm that may befall them.

A group of people in Baltimore are becoming more lawless by the day. They refuse to obey laws, respect other peoples’ Constitutional rights, and are getting very much out of hand. Indeed; Baltimore’s citizens are disobeying Baltimore police, and that’s terrible. Police brutality is a real problem: people in Baltimore are being unkind to their police.

If the police find you breaking a law, walking down a street, possibly not wearing a seatbelt or selling raffle tickets in Maryland, you pretty much get what you deserve; police are only human and with such outrageous provocation, they must react appropriately. According to online publication The Free Thought Project, these are the sorts of people harassing the police:-

“Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.” http://thefreethoughtproject.com/pregnant-women-elderly-baltimore-cops-dark-history-brutality/#TYUdOYAHoKmS8KiF.99

Being a cop is a dangerous job; you never know when someone may jay walk, spray graffiti or have a mental health issue; you have to always be fit enough to help them see the error of their ways and stop them reoffending. That’s when techniques like ‘nickel rides’ or ‘rough rides’ come in handy.

he had a criminal record, and that tells us all we need to know about him

Of course the police can’t make an omelet without breaking a few skulls, and that’s what happened to one Freddie Gray. For some reason, he went into a police van a healthy lawbreaker, and well, was dead soon after one of these little fun rides.

At present, the police are saying this is self-inflicted. Suspects do that a lot – break their spines.

For some reason, coupled with the odd isolated police incident or two in Baltimore, this death has caused rioting. Some people just overreact with the slightest provocation.

Then again, these little police incidents have seen some $5 million awarded to the victims – sorry – suspected criminals in Maryland. The court actions cost another $5 million or so. Knowing that most of the awards were capped in Maryland at $500,000 gives you a bit of perspective. I’m sure all of the cases we need to know about get to court, and we all understand how easy it is to get over-enthusiastic when doing your job.

The need for reform is clear. In one other state, a man who had badly self-harmed himself (so the police say) was rightly sued for damaging police property: he’d got his blood on their clothes. That’s the kind of reform we need.

Pretty much Gray deserved what he got – first, he had a criminal record, and that tells us all we need to know about him. It’s not as if anyone in the police force in Maryland has ever broken the law. The Telegraph posted footage showing him pretending to be in pain, and two police officers are being made to suffer as they have to drag him into the van they drove him around in for half an hour or so. The Telegraph reported:

“Gray was arrested after making eye contact with officers and then running away, police said. He was held down, handcuffed and loaded into a van without a seat belt. Leg cuffs were put on him when he became irate inside.

He asked for medical help several times even before being put in the van, but paramedics were not called until after a 30-minute ride.” 

For some reason, people who are not wealthy and white are picked up by the police more often than those who aren’t. Makes you wonder.

Now, this may be leaping to a conclusion, but do we think there’s any connection between police interrogating pregnant women, helping grannies to confess their crimes with a bit of physical force, nickel rides, tasering and shooting, and people taking to the streets to protest? But just as I’m not taken seriously about deer and tree issues because I don’t have any degrees or awards, it would be wrong for me to come to any conclusions about this situation.

who can argue against a cull?

One comforting thought is the adage that everything that happens in American happens in Britain 10 years later.

Our Scottish police started carrying guns without troubling any elected officials; that was pretty reassuring and thoughtful of them.

Then they promised they would only carry weapons in life-threatening situations. But then they showed up at shopping malls and restaurants with arms, so you know that citizens have got well out of hand since the police needed to bring guns.

It’s only a matter of time before our police start adopting some tried-and tested American techniques.

Deer-related accidents: (compound modern Scottish noun) Accidents caused by deer being hit by cars.

One or two road accidents in Scotland were caused by police chases or police officers last year. A two week police operation found 13 drunk drivers in Aberdeen last June. Perhaps a couple of accidents happened in bad weather conditions, but you don’t hear much about that. And now, according to Aberdeen City’s officer Steve Shaw, about 40 accidents involving deer happened recently too.

Sometimes the deer were ‘nicked’; sometimes they were badly injured or killed. There is only one solution: shoot the deer.

For a bit of perspective on how serious the deer issue is, National Travel Survey data says the UK gets between 690,000 and 710,000 accidents per year. The sooner we kill the deer so they don’t risk getting hurt, the better. With figures like this, who can argue against a cull? It’s not as if there are any pro-culling lobbyist groups that are trying to make a molehill into a mountain.

Actually, the city have taken up the suggestion and have done a u-turn – they will put up road signs to warn motorists where deer may be. But perhaps we should save the fortune that a few dozen signs will cost, and just pay some hunters to cull these vermin (as Peter Leonard of ACC fondly calls them).

Originally the city wrote to me to say signs were a waste of time because no one reads them. This is why you won’t find signs pointing the way to the Trump Estate, to the airport, warning where elderly people may be crossing the road, or when Kaffee Fasset has a show of quilts on at the art gallery.

Shaw says this is an increase in the number of deer causing accidents! There is apparently no pattern, and it’s happening everywhere! The deer menace must get killed. He did say that some of these accidents weren’t fatal to deer, but we can’t take chances. If we kill them now, then they can’t get in accidents and get killed.

Again, Old Susannah is not an expert, as all the people in favour of planting trees on Tullos Hill are fond of reminding her. But I can’t help wonder all the same, could there be some link to our building over all of our green spaces and removing gorse from places like Tullos, where deer used to live before they were destroyed, and deer moving around the remaining green areas? Could there be a link?

Next week: election result overviews, a new who’s who, and more

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Mar 272015

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

DictionaryApologies for the late running of this service. Old Susannah was on holiday, and catching up with current events is taking time. Hard to know where to start, or what day of the week it is. It’s all so overwhelming – I feel nearly as confused as Aberdeen’s ex-Chief exec Valerie Watts trying to manage her appointments diary.

As you may have seen, Ms Watts was supposed to attend a Standards Commission hearing at the Town House on 11 February. I’m sure you think of her as a woman of her word, and a very competent organiser every bit as much as I do.

Alas! She said she’d be on a video link from her exciting new job in Belfast at the DSS (perhaps a fitting end for the mastermind of our city of culture bid), but at the very last minute, she announced that the Permanent Secretary needed her in a meeting on the very same day.

That’s some coincidence. After a little digging it turns out no such meeting seems to have been requested or recorded.

She’d also seen him two days earlier and was going to see him in a week or two. I’m sure she told the PS about having already accepted going to a hearing, and the PS insisted Valerie spend the entire day in this meeting instead.

The hearing would have decided whether or not 7 councillors in the doc over an allegedly pro-union letter sent to Aberdeen residents was acceptable or not. This is now conveniently – or inconveniently depending on your perspective – kicked into the long grass until after the May elections. Apparently in Northern Ireland, government mandarins make meeting arrangements by telephone.

Call me a simple country girl, but when I schedule business meetings, I use this thing called a computer. A computer can send messages magically to lots of other people; this is called email. Even more amazing, a computer often has an electronic calendar, from which I can send out meeting requests.

Believe it or not, the electronic calendar will save meeting invitations so that I know not to accept meetings if I already have something in the diary!

I think we may chip in and buy Ms Watts such a computer. She also seems to have indicated she takes care of her diary appointments on her own with no help. We also have these people called secretaries and PAs here, but I guess she doesn’t have one. Looks like she’s doing as good and open a job with her diary as she did when she was in office here (her Aberdeen salary was £148,000 per annum).

Thinking on the May elections, it will be very hard to decide which one of the candidates for Prime Minister is the most honest, beneficial, public-serving, intelligent, choice. If you are intending to vote, you may be interested to know that many people think they are on the electoral register but aren’t.

Lots of room for office blocks and Stewart Milne housing

Some fifty people who wanted to sign the petition about Tullos Hill asking for the city to save remaining deer and come clean on the cost of the dead tree for every citizen project had their signatures thrown off the petition for not being registered Aberdeen City voters.

Make sure you register to vote here – and please think about signing the petition here – you have until 3 April. (or contact Suzanne Kelly via Aberdeen Voice if you have problems registering / signing).

During my vacation I was in Taunton, London and Brighton. Taunton has these big rolling green fields with domestic animals and wildlife.  Lots of room for office blocks and Stewart Milne housing. London has these buses which cost about half the price of our own First Buses, come ten times more frequently – and even run frequently after 6pm!

Brighton was very nice – but it could use some bunting. and there aren’t enough multinational shops, so they have to have these little, individualistic shops instead.

Part of the purpose of my visit was to report on something called ‘Whalefest’. I’d hoped this would be a nice yummy Japanese, Faroese or Icelandic buffet kind of thing, but it turns out all these people want to save whales and dolphins, not eat them. For some reason, there are lots of people who want to stand in the way of Japanese scientific  missions to learn about whales.

What better way to learn about a sentient animal than by terrifying, chasing, harpooning, torturing and cutting them up alive? Protesting against Japanese science is some outfit called Sea Shepherd. Don’t worry; they won’t get very far; they even let women captain some of their ships! I’m sure that’s just some kind of token gesture thing though. More about these people and this Whalefest here.

In Brighton I stayed at the same hotel as stars from ‘The X Factor’. I found myself in a lift with a guy who looked about 14 years old. He said, with a world-weary voice ‘You just won’t believe how fast it goes. One minute you’re starting out, and the next thing you know it’s all over’.

It sounded kind of strange coming from someone with their future before them I thought, and today I remembered this encounter, as I found out that Aberdeen Voice’s inimitable, irreplaceable, irreverent poetry mannie Mr Bob Smith had passed away.

He used his wonderful poems to attack the powerful, the vain, the greedy. Somehow here in Aberdeen he never ran out of material to write about. Farewell Mr Smith; all the best wishes to his family and friends. And with that, some definitions.

non omnis moriar: (Latin ) I will never wholly die

The classical poet Horace believed that as long as people read his works, he would never really be completely gone from this world.  Shakespeare echoed this idea in his famous Sonnet 18 (you will know the words ‘shall I compare thee to a summer’s day…). Shakespeare closes the sonnet with the lines:

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”
– William Shakespeare

This is how I feel about those who have passed away, but left art, music, poetry, beautiful architecture or works, or who did great deeds.  This is how I feel about the passing of Aberdeen Voice’s poetry mannie, Mr Bob Smith.

His Doric poems  challenge the authorities, the bullies, the materialistic and greedy, and the Trumps of this world. Bob will be very much missed, but we’ve still got his poems, his books and our memories. You can look through his Aberdeen Voice poems here.

Seagull Survival Guide: (modern English compound noun) An Aberdeenshire booklet created to help with seagull problems.

Did you know that coastal towns such as Aberdeen, Peterhead and Stonehaven might be attractive to birds that live on coastal areas?

Apparently this is true, and the Shire has come up with a great way to help you deal with this astounding fact; they created a seagull guide. Astonishingly, there is no charge for the book – all the collective wisdom of the shire’s best minds is going for free. Result!

It might be a good idea for those who don’t like seagulls and sea birds to consider living somewhere that doesn’t have them.  Failing that, apparently if people don’t discard food and garbage on the pavements and streets, gulls won’t swoop down to eat discarded food and garbage.  I hope this revelation gets national press attention.

The way things are going though, we soon won’t be plagued by any gulls, eider ducks, swans or other ‘vermin’ – as Aberdeen City’s Peter Leonard is fond of calling wildlife. Pretty soon there won’t be a patch of grass, meadow or scrub land anywhere.  The Harbour Board is helping to see to that.

Torry residents are thrilled to find their sandy bay and harbour area will forever be turned into private, no-go areas. Cove residents for some reason feel there is too much building going on goodness knows why, and have started a facebook page. Let’s be grateful that Torry folk haven’t followed suit and organised against the Harbour Board’s land seizure plans. Or have they….

If you think this seagull survival guide is for the birds, perhaps it is the seagulls which need a survival guide. After all, it is not that long ago that seagull hating, shotgun-toting top oil executive Mervyn New showed up for work with an air gun, and blasted a nest of baby gulls to smithereens.

This resulted in no penalty, no police interest, and no sanction from New’s company, Marine Subsea UK. To be fair, those tiny gulls, not yet old enough to fly, and their parents should have checked with New first before moving in. No oil executive in a coastal area should have to put up with listening to seabirds.

the police know how to treat important businessmen

Helpfully, the shire’s new guide tells you that doing as Mervyn did is totally, wholly illegal. I guess if you’re head of a top oil company you can’t be expected to figure out the minor points of law and gun ownership, can you?

There was no record I could find of New being banged up in a cell, or held for questioning overnight.

You’ve got to treat important people carefully, you see.

As for someone like George Copland, whose empty house was stormed by police who were told someone inside had a gun (there is no way anyone would have had a reason to go down the little cul de sac Copland lives on and looked through his window in the first place, and from the mail road no windows are visible – but let’s not split hairs).

Copland, like New, had an air rifle. Nothing illegal was found.

Therefore, days later, the police stormed into Copland’s girlfriend’s home in a dawn raid, and dragged him off for a few days – even though he had broken no law – other than not going to meet the police when they first called him (he was not told he could bring a friend as people who have emotional or mental health issues are entitled to by law, nor was he told he could bring a lawyer. He watched the siege of his house from television, and was rightfully terrified).

So there you have it: the police know how to treat important businessmen, and how to treat punk rock singers. One had discharged a gun killing and wounding animals – against the law. The other one had committed no crime. Guess which one was treated like a criminal.

Old Susannah would like to be able to tell you the latest on Copland, and hopefully there will be an opportunity to tell you more soon.

It was injustices like this that Bob Smith could not abide. He was no fan of Trump, either. Smith, Anthony Baxter and I all met for the first time in the lobby of the Belmont when You’ve Been Trumped was shown for the first time ever. Bob was livid after the film, as were so many of us. Thanks for the memories Bob, the support, and those wonderful poems. Tally ho.

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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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Nov 142014

“They didn’t value my mum’s life and they certainly didn’t value my sister’s life. Ultimately, they’re dead. I will never, ever heal. Ever.”
– Stacey Banner to the BBC, on murders committed by John Lowe. Police returned guns to him despite his threat to ‘blow off’ Stacey Banner’s head.

The police certainly have problems. Previous articles in this series have looked at the issues of institutionalised racism, guns and how our rights are being chipped away, little by little. With all the powers of surveillance at their disposal, police surely are able to determine when people are in potential danger. How are the 21st century UK police treating women? Suzanne Kelly reports.

Police line pic2Christine Lee and her daughter Lucy are dead. Like so many murdered women, they knew their killer. It was 82-year-old puppy farmer John Lowe, who was husband and stepfather to them.

Surrey Police had confiscated guns from 82-year-old John Lowe when he threatened to kill his stepdaughter and his wife.

The guns were returned some eight weeks later. The women are dead. The police are sorry.

There will be the usual inquiry; the usual wrists have been slapped. The women could still be alive, like so many other women who turn to the police, only to be let down again and again.

Domestic Violence:

Women who come forward to report abuse, or the threat of violence, are still being dismissed by the police. The old, outdated notion of dismissing marital violence as ‘just a domestic’ seems to be alive and well, as the murders committed by John Lowe attest.

The police launched a visible offensive against domestic abusers in February this year. One has to hope that the partners were warned in advance; but if so, surely that would have caused anxiety. If the victims of abuse were not warned in advance of their partner’s arrests, the consequences could be very serious: in domestic abuse the pattern is to blame the wife/partner for everything that goes wrong.

One can only hope the women were and are being given all the help and support they need. Otherwise, this particular exercise seems like a headline grabber with potentially lethal consequences.

Sexual Assault and Rape:

One in five women aged 16-59 has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16 according to Rape Crisis.

This is a statistic which should shock the government and police into action. Victims of rape and other violence are often afraid to come forward, and the way they are sometimes treated when they do leaves much to be desired.

In a famous interview Ken Clark in 2011 spoke with an extremely brave woman who reported an attempted rape, endured examinations, court battles, hours spent with police and legal teams. Her attacker, a repeat offender, spent about a year and a half in custody.

More recently, UKIP member and donor Demetri Marchessini said women cannot be raped by their husbands.

It’s sometimes hard to believe that it’s 2014 when we look at how rape victims are treated. The news last week carried the story of Eleanor de Frietas. This vulnerable woman went to the police with a tale of being drug raped. What happened subsequently led to her suicide.

The police had no grounds for thinking she was lying, but when the alleged rapist took her to court in a private action for £200,000, the Crown Prosecution Service decided to go after her as well. Unable to stand the ordeal, she took her own life.

When the Police are the Perpetrators:

Women are being abused by serving officers. An online resource lists various police officers in the UK and the vast array of charges levelled against them, which include rape, sex with a vulnerable woman, and child abuse.

Then there is the case of Ryan Reid, 27, a special constable who used his position to illegally search police files for information about women he was veritably stalking; he sent naked photos and sexual messages to half a dozen women. According to the Daily Mail:

“Reid, of Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire, who was stationed at Carluke Police Office, pleaded guilty to seven charges involving five women … one of his victims was just 15 when he began contacting her…. He admitted two charges of stalking women, three under the Communications Act and one under the Sexual Offenses Act…he also pleaded guilty to an offence under the Data Protection Act that he did ‘knowingly or recklessly and without the consent of the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland obtain and disclose personal data by repeatedly accessing various police systems with no operational reason for doing so.’”

Reid apparently made a social media comment that when men in the forces drop their trousers they are in trouble, when women do so, it is promotion. Is sexism as rife as racism is within the forces? Is this case the tip of the iceberg, indicating institutionalised misogyny? You could be forgiven for thinking so.

This may well explain the number of women who, despite making numerous pleas to the police, are attacked, sometimes fatally, by persistent stalkers. Three years ago a Guardian article pointed out the dismal failure of the police and courts to protect vulnerable women:

“Two-thirds of victims said the police and Crown Prosecution Service did not take their complaints seriously enough, with offenders not being charged in nearly nine out of ten alleged cases.

“The survey of 140 victims was conducted by the charity Protection Against Stalking (PAS), which found “low level” stalking offences were dealt with too leniently and could escalate into more serious offences, including murder.

“The majority of victims are women. One told how the criminal justice system had failed her:

“The police told me to switch my phone off and ignore him. They said nothing could be done. I showed them dozens of texts and they were not really interested. They said nothing could be done unless he actually tried to hurt me.”

“Another victim said:

“Being abandoned by the police while being stalked only adds to the fear and distress of what is already a terrifying situation.””

Ryan Reid may have been found guilty of data access and sexual crimes. But what can a Police Scotland officer expect if accused of illegally accessing data on an ex-partner? As reported in the Evening Express, Police Scotland’s DC Duthie has astonishingly been cleared of any wrong doing when his ex’s personal data was accessed by someone within the police.

“DC Duthie, whose address was given in court papers as care of Police Scotland [note – I doubt a member of the public would be allowed to give their work address to the court – SK], had denied accessing the secure information himself.

“He accepted that the files were viewed on February 27 and April 2, 2012 using his unique username and password but said someone else must have used a computer he was logged on to. But today he was found not guilty of the charges.”

Who else would have wanted to look at the data in question? If someone other than Duthie had an interest in this matter, how did they manage to get Duthie’s personal login information? Why hasn’t the person who accessed this information come forward? Have the police identified who it was, and if so, why is no prosecution forthcoming?

This may seem like a case of one man snooping into his ex-partner’s affairs without due cause. What the court decision has done however has set an extremely dangerous precedent: police officers can now access any data they want, and claim that the unique password and login must have been used by an unknown police operative, who will not be sought.

This tiny decision gives the police legal sanction to do whatever they want with our data. It may have passed unnoticed by the mainstream news, but this is a potentially dangerous legal precedent.


It should be noted that women don’t always fare well inside the police forces, either. Unequal pay, discrimination and sexual harassment are all realities. The Scotsman reported in April this year that women in the force are not getting equal promotion opportunities.

Being a domestic abuser is not a barrier to re-joining the force, either.

However, there are a growing number of women in the force. Perhaps positive, real change is within reach.

But as a Guardian investigation found, there is sexism and bias against women making claims of sexual assault against police officers.

Summing up:

Women are being ignored at best, and attacked at worst, by the people paid to protect them. Rape victims are victimised, domestic violence is often downplayed, and stalking victims are routinely brushed off. The recent cases mentioned are only the tip of the iceberg, and the kinds of problems women face also include trafficking and forced marriage, among other issues.

No doubt there will be some kind of investigations into the senseless deaths of Christine and Lucy Lee, and the farcical CPS attack on Eleanor de Frietas which led to her suicide, as her note indicated.

But the system has gone down these routes before without reforming, and reform is possibly farther away than ever before. Change is long overdue, but with comments like those coming from UKIP donor Marchessini, that a husband can’t be guilty of raping his wife, coupled with the scale of abuse either ignored by or perpetrated by the UK’s police forces, it’s hard to see things improving any time soon.

If the situation for grown women is brutal, then it is a far worse reality for children dependent on the state for protection. The next piece in this series will look at issues such as Rotherham, child abuse and how the state and in particular the police, are involved in the neglect and sometimes abuse of children.

Support Services:

Samaritans Aberdeen

60 Dee Street Aberdeen AB11 6DS
Tel: 01224 574488
Email: jo@samaritans.org
Usual hours open to receive callers at the door: 9am – 10pm

Rape and Abuse Support

88 John Street Aberdeen, AB25 1LE
Office Tel: 01224 639 347
Helpline: 01224 620 772
Email: info@rasane.org.uk
Web: www.rasane.org.uk

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Nov 072014

bowlinghalloweenBy Bob Smith.

On a weel kent street in Aiberdeen
T’wis the nicht o yon Halloween
A fyow chiels dressed as skittles
War oot fer fun, booze an vittles

Doon on Belmont Street they war
Fin they cam upon a bobbie’s car
The loons they did staan their grun
An syne began aa the fun

The boys in blue in their car
Did a gweed job fer polis PR
The car becam the ten pin ba
The “skittles” aa pretendit ti fa

The video o es it wint fair viral
Wi loons bunk balances set ti spiral
A Yankee firm video richts hiv bocht
As mair “hits” on es is socht

Fit next fer the chiels next Halloween
Fin they tak ti the streets o Aiberdeen
They cwid aye dress up as Donald Trumps
Wid the bobbies dare ti “hit” their rumps?

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014
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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 282014

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

Mr Allard about to deliver policing bill letter to Malcolm Bruce and Alison McInnes

Mr Allard about to deliver policing bill letter to Malcolm Bruce and Alison McInnes

SNP MSP Christian Allard is once again calling on North East Liberal Democrats to pay their overdue £800,000 bill owed to Police Scotland. Local Lib Dem politicians have so far failed to respond to Mr Allard’s letter demanding that the overdue bill is paid.

On Monday 6 October Mr Allard wrote to Lib Dem justice spokesperson, North East MSP Alison McInnes and deputy leader Sir Malcolm Bruce MP calling on the politicians to sort out their unpaid policing bills for last year’s Lib Dem conference in Glasgow.

Mr Allard is yet to receive a response from either Alison McInnes or Sir Malcolm Bruce.

Police Scotland has been left several hundred thousand pounds out of pocket, yet when asked about the £800,000 bill by Andrew Neil on the BBC’s Daily Politics the Lib Dem leader in Scotland Willie Rennie MSP said:

“I don’t know very much about that at all”

Mr Allard expressed his frustration that Alison McInnes failed to even comment on the issue at a Policing debate in the Scottish Parliament.

North East MSP Christian Allard said:

“It is quite unbelievable that the Liberal Democrats remain silent on this issue. Alison McInnes likes to talk a lot about policing but all we hear right now is deafening silence.

“Alison McInnes even had an opportunity to address the issue during a parliamentary debate last week but all she managed to do was criticise our police service.

“Every penny counts in the battle to keep our communities safe and the Lib Dems’ unpaid bill leaves an £800,000 hole in the Scottish police budget. This is deeply irresponsible behaviour.

“Malcolm Bruce and his party are showing contempt for Police Scotland which does a fantastic job protecting our communities. My message to the Lib Dems – pay up.”

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