Sep 222017
 

Elizabeth Pittendrigh, Stewart Stevenson MSP and Therine Henderson at the Fraserburgh & District Older People’s stand.

With thanks to Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP.

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson was a guest speaker at the annual Celebrate the Difference event in Fraserburgh on Saturday.
The popular event which brings together the varied cultures and people who call Fraserburgh home and provides an afternoon of Music, Entertainment and Food as well as a showcase for the local voluntary and charitable organisations to meet with local residents.

Commenting Mr Stevenson said:

“I am delighted to have taken part in another successful Celebrate the Difference event at Fraserburgh College this weekend”

“It was good to meet people from around the world who chose to live in the Fraserburgh area and to learn a little about their heritage and culture, as well as our own. Events such as this show the fantastic community spirit we have in the North-east and I would like to thank Margaret Gault and all of the organisers who work tirelessly to make this annual event a success”

“As well the food song and dance, Celebrating the Difference provides many local organisations and voluntary groups an opportunity to highlight the important work and services they provide to the local community, after all when we celebrate the difference, we also make a difference.”

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Sep 222017
 

Duncan Harley reflects on Life, the Universe and Everything. A sideways look at the world and its foibles.

It’s been quite a while since Grumpy Jack made the digital front-page. In fact, I am struggling to decide whether number-nine is the correct nomenclature for this edition of the musings.

In number-one, I recall penning something about the risks of texting while driving. Number- two had me misquoting a local daily as having headlined on ‘Titanic sinks, North East man loses pound on Broad Street’.
In Grumpy Jack’s Corner No. 5, Full Metal Prince Harry, Chelsea Tractors and the SS Politician got the bullet alongside 264,000 bottles of best highland malt and a local Inverurie pub called The Butcher’s Arms.

Saville, Warhol and the Great Gale of 1953 all – in their turn – got a good kicking, and why not I hear you say.

A silly fall out with a fellow writer led to Grumpy Jack’s demise in – I think far off 2014. Or was it 2013? I forget. Suitable apologies have been made and neither of us can really recall the reason why. There surely is history.

So why, I hear you ask, is Jack back?

Well, it’s all down to the Lord Provost of Aberdeen really. A splendid chap by the name of Barney Crockett. He recently commented on a misleading post regarding the invasion of George Square on social media and, within Nano-seconds, a piece penned in far off 2013 came back to haunt me.

Picture the scene if you will. The “War to end all wars” has recently ended and the troops have returned home to discover that all is not well in Scotland-shire. There are few jobs for the returning heroes and working conditions are poor with low wages and a long working week.

The workforce which had been in reserved occupations manufacturing the arms and tools for war are unhappy with the cuts in the standard working week due to the fact that the war has ended and there is no longer much demand in France for barbed wire, bullets and explosives. Plus of course the Bolshevist revolution has taken place leading to the early demise of the entire Russian Royal Family via firing squad.

So, on Friday 31st January 1919, after a general strike by 40,000 workers in the industrial heartland of Scotland, there was a mass rally in Glasgow’s George Square.

Now the aim of the rally was to hear the response of the UK government to the workers’ demands so the Lord Provost, Sir James Watson Stewart, and the Trades Council President, Mannie Shinwell, duly entered the City Chambers to have a wee natter.

Sadly, things got out of control. As they talked, the police baton charged the assembled crowd.

A magistrate tried to read the Riot Act but had the document taken from his hands and ripped up and things just got from bad to worse. Seasoned troops from south of the border were instructed to open fire if required to do so and the failure of the police to control the riot prompted the Coalition Government under one David Lloyd George – of Lendrum to Leeks fame – to react.

After Scottish Secretary Robert Munro described the riot as a Bolshevist uprising troops armed with machine guns, tanks and even a howitzer arrived to occupy Glasgow’s streets.

The howitzer was positioned on the City Chambers steps facing the crowd, the local cattle market was transformed into a tank depot, machine guns were posted on the top of the North British Hotel, the Glasgow Stock Exchange and the General Post Office Buildings.

As is usual in such situations no local troops were used. The local battalions who had recently returned from France were confined in Maryhill Barracks while battle-hardened troops from south of the border were instructed to open fire if required to do so.

Amazingly, there was no major bloodshed.

There were broken heads that afternoon but the Southern soldiers were never ordered to open fire. The government of the day obviously decided that it would be a bad idea to provoke social change via bloodshed.

Activist and sometime MP, Mannie Shinwell and fellow trade union activists were jailed for a bit before a 47-hour working week was agreed. Things then smouldered on until the 1922 General Strike. But that’s another story.

The helicopter-door-gunner sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket kind of sums up what nearly happened in George Square in far off 1919:

So, and moving on, here is Jack some years on and suffering from retirement, ill health and old age. More words are on the way probably. Unless, of course, I die soon. I forgot to say that the NHS are out to kill me.

More next week – that is if I survive that long.

– Grumpy Jack

PS: Thanks for the memories Barney. We all love what you do. Keep up the Lord Provosting  – you do it well.

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Sep 152017
 

Members of Kintore United 2007 with Coach George Boyd (left) and Cllr Glen Reid (right).

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

East Garioch councillor Glen Reid is delighted to announce that he has reached agreement with Aberdeenshire Council to open the superb 3G all weather football pitch at Midmill School to local youth sports group. The school was opened in November 2016, but the brand new pitch has been locked up and unavailable to anyone after the school day finished at 3.15pm.

Commenting, SNP councillor for East Garioch Glen Reid said:

“Today is a great day for the community with the opening up of this pitch. It is one of the reasons that I decided to stand for election in May. As a local resident and a member of Kintore Community Council, I had raised this matter repeatedly, but had no joy. Since being elected, I have campaigned tirelessly for this facility to be accessed by our children, and it’s great to welcome the footballers of Kintore United 2007s here to the inaugural training night.”

Kintore United, who have boys and girls age group teams from primary one right through to academy years, will have access to train on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, from 6.00 until 10.00 pm initially on a trial basis until the end of the year.

Continuing, SNP councillor Glen Reid said:

“If the trial is successful, then we will be looking at adding further dates and opening the venue up to school football teams as well. I wish to thank the Aberdeenshire Council officers who listened to the frustrations of the community. The local grass pitches can be a nightmare during the winter months and even other times of the year, so this facility now offers the children guaranteed training every week in an excellent environment.”

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Sep 072017
 

Old Susannah returns, less feeling her age than feeling her rage. By Suzanne Kelly.

I wish we could ask the late Ian Bell, award-winning Scottish columnist who died in his late 50s, what he’d think of an award in his name that excluded anyone over 30.

Awards and prizes are a great help for upcoming journalists who need to be acknowledged and employed. The NUJ which is involved in this award with Bell’s family, have decided that young writers need encouragement. Over 30? You need not apply.

Not everyone who emerges from a degree course or NCTJ training is under 30. Many people decide to change their careers by choice or force.

Aberdeen has seen 60,000 oil industry jobs go in the latest downturn. Anyone who loves Scotland as Bell did will be concerned for the future of these people, more than a few of whom are older than 30 or, believe it or not, some are even older. 

Many people take up journalism after spending decades watching politicians and stories come and go. Older people have personally experienced more of how the political pendulum swings and have seen more scandals, triumphs and failures than their younger writing counterparts. Serious journalism students of all ages will of course read deeply into historic issues and great writers. 

Sadly, I’ve met fellow students who don’t for instance have any idea who the late great Paul Foot was.

William Faulkner said:

“A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.”

It seems the organisers of this Ian Bell award have prioritised these three traits for us.

Faulkner left out the fact writers need to earn money though, and that is a major factor as to why writers apply for awards. Any journalist going for awards who does so just for the temporary food, praise and trophies these dog and pony shows provide for the ego is not going to get far (unless they are related to someone famous in this world where nepotism extends through every sector from music and the arts through to the Oval Office).

The NUJ is part of the problem in this situation. If this were a completely private prize, then the organisers are free to stipulate that the contestants must all have blue eyes, wear Ancient Weathered MacKay and have been born in Edinburgh in 1988 if it pleases them. But when the National Union of Journalists proudly promotes a competition that excludes a sector of society over a trait they have no control over such as their age, it is discrimination.

Substitute ‘under 30’ in the competition literature for ‘black’ ‘straight’ ‘white’ ‘French’ ‘gay’ ‘over 6′ tall’ – if you need the discriminatory nature of this award spelled out to you, and you will begin to see why this is so very wrong. It’s a union and it’s saying only those under 30 need apply. Is this behaving like a responsible, equitable union?

Sectors of our culture and the media are obsessed with youth. In some sectors happily this is changing. Modelling agencies specialising in older talents realise we have a growing older population.

Everyone who participates is saying they agree with age limits on prizes to writers

If an industry based on outward appearance acknowledges that older people have a great deal to contribute and are to be hired and rewarded, why on earth is a sector based on the mind’s ability to synthesise and create excluding such a rich seam of talent?

What would Bell, who was born in 1956, say about excluding people who are younger than he was when he passed for an award in his name?

His passion for Scotland – is this something he felt only the young could share? The family and the NUJ have indicated that young people may be more likely to write in Bell’s style. They are welcome to explain if that means those under 30 are sharper, better writers, more concerned with issues, and better than their older counterparts trying to break into journalism. We should be told.

The NUJ reps replied fairly swiftly to early complaints about this ageist competition. They have been asked to supply a statement on their position on ageism but have not done so yet. When they do, it will be published here.

The deadline is 15 November. Doubtless a dinner will be held for the finalists, a happy winner will make a speech, and everyone will go home after a feeding and watering, some with new job leads. Everyone who participates is saying they agree with age limits on prizes to writers. Sadly that includes family members who should know better, and the NUJ, which has really compromised itself this time.

There seem to be many awards for writers under 25 or under 30. Many of these are for specific disciplines. This is not discriminatory; it makes sense to look for the best people in specialised fields. What does not make sense is telling people over 25 or 30 that it is acceptable to exclude them. The message is clear: you are not valued if you are not young. 

The NUJ and Bell’s family are applauded for commemorating a great writer. It is however a pity how they decided to do this while shutting the door on so many others.

On a personal note:

This week I found out I passed my NCTJ exams and am now qualified to write. I’ve been writing for many years about Scottish issues from cases of corruption, ineptitude, conflicts of interest, Trump’s involvement, environmental issues, animal welfare, people abused by ATOS and the system.

I’m 56. If continuing to fight against discrimination puts me at odds with a union I’ve just joined so be it.

The people who inspired me to get involved with Aberdeen Voice (an independent, not-for-profit apolitical online publication) were all over 40. We happily took submissions from people in their teens through to pensioners. Am I wrong to expect the same level of integrity and inclusiveness in the NUJ as I do from Aberdeen Voice? It would seem so. 

If this essay seems like sour grapes, it is not myself I am thinking of any more than when I’ve tried to champion Menie resident, ATOS-persecuted people, pensioners and others discriminated against. I am possibly better placed than other upcoming older journalists to find that important first job than many of them are – this kind of bias makes me fear for their futures. 

This is about a union’s responsibility to all of its members, to fighting ageism and treating it as seriously as I would any other form of discrimination. This is about hundreds of older writers who should be considered for this and other prizes. There are forces that would turn journalism into a workplace for young people only – there is a national I know of that unofficially only hires those under 25.

Youth is a wonderful thing. It is also just a bit coincidental that you can pay younger people less than older people in some situations. If your news source seems to be dumbing down, you might want to look at its inclusiveness policies – if any.

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Sep 022017
 

A protest is to take place at Trump International Golf Course on Saturday 9th Sept 12 noon in opposition to the frightening standoff between the US and North Korea. With thanks to Jonathan Russell Chair Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

The cycle of threat and counter-threat is creating an appalling situation in which warfare between nuclear states is being discussed as a serious option on both sides.

The threat of the use of nuclear weapons by both sides has never happened before

Trump’s outbursts against the North Korean regime are deeply troubling. What impact can threat’s of ‘fire and fury’ have but to escalate tension and increase the likelihood of a catastrophic confrontation?

The urgent priority must be the opposite, to de-escalate and pursue a negotiated resolution to the crisis, which major players in the region are trying to achieve and most commentators recognise as possible.

China and Russia have put forward a proposal that the United States, Japan and Korea stop its military exercises and North Korea suspend its ballistic missile programme.

This would, however, require a sharp change of direction from both sides, including from the US, which has dramatically increased its military capabilities in South Korea and its military presence in the area. Already US B-1 bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons have flown from Guam over the Korean peninsula, joining the South Korean and Japanese air forces in joint exercises.

The North Koreans have fired a missile right across Japan. Such provocative actions on both sides must end. We must demand our governments focus on a peaceful resolution to this confrontation.

The alternative is not worth contemplating as not only would the Korean people who historically have already faced huge suffering be effected but China could also be dragged into a war which could include the use of Nuclear weapons. Leading to parody Trump to fire and fury like the world has never seen. We have to hope that sense will prevail.

Don’t let Trump and Kim Jong-Un lead us into Nuclear War. Protest at the entrance to the Trump International Golf Course by the A90, Saturday 9th Sept 12 noon.

The standoff between the US and North Korea is frightening. Be part of the protest which will present an open letter to Trump International Management.

Come by car or bus numbers 61, 62, 63 or 68 from stances 10, 11 or 12 at Union Square bus station, Aberdeen. The bus will take you to the stop at Menie – a short walk back to the Trump International entrance.

For more info contact Jonathan Russell by phone on: 01224-586435 or 07582-456-233 or via email: jhamiltonrussell@hotmail.co.uk 

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Aug 112017
 

A report on waste infrastructure by consultants Eunomia released this week, highlight a “major risk of financial failure” of Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils’ multi million pound incinerator project. This is according to leading Aberdeenshire Councillor, Paul Johnston.

Aberdeenshire Councillor, Paul Johnston.

“The report indicates that under likely scenarios the plant will be at risk of being surplus to requirements with increasing recycling rates even before it is fully working.” Said the leader of the council’s Democratic Independent and Green Group.

“Eunomia as respected researchers indicate that too much capacity could either reduce recycling rates or make surplus capacity incinerators go bust.

“The councils , if they decide to legally commit to such a major project, face a major risk of financial failure”

“This should be a signal for Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Council to stop, take a deep breath and to go back and take a long hard look at the alternatives before they waste as much as £180 million on a white elephant. “

“Each new report such as this from Eunomia or the chartered institute of Waste Management and even from advice out of the European Union waste directorate is adding more and more evidence that the city and Shire have they got it wrong in opting for incineration. It is financially too risky as well as being environmentally unsound.”

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Aug 042017
 

With thanks to Jonathan Russell Chair Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

During the final stage of World War II, the United States dropped nuclear weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively.

The United States had dropped the bombs with the consent of the United Kingdom as outlined in the Quebec
Agreement.

The two bombings, which killed at least 129,000 people, remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history.

We meet to honour the dead and remind ourselves about the horror that would be inflicted if nuclear weapons were ever used again.

Yu Aoki who lives in Aberdeen but comes from Hiroshima will speak at the event. We will lay flowers in the shape of the CND peace symbol and there will be some songs and poetry.

Hiroshima Memorial
Sunday 6th August 2017
12-2pm
Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen.

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Jun 232017
 

With thanks to Jonathan Russell from Aberdeen and District CND, and Maya Evans.

Aberdeen and District CND will host a public meeting on July 10 focusing on the ongoing Afghan conflict.
At the end of 2014 NATO/US forces declared ‘Mission Complete’ in Afghanistan.
Two years on, foreign forces remain within Afghanistan while the Taliban are thought to have gained control of at least 40% of the country. ISIS are now also carrying out attacks.

Today Afghan people have to contend with crushing poverty, mass drug addiction, climate crisis catastrophe and huge internal displacement.

With no faith in the Government people are turning to the grassroots for real change.

One such group are the Afghan Peace Volunteers – young non-violent peace activists who run the ‘Borderfree Peace Centre’ in Kabul; with 18 projects on the go they include: a Street Kids School, the Women’s Duvet Project, Permaculture and the non-violence dance troop and football team.

They are an inspiring group comprised of young Afghans who have known nothing but war and violence, but want to respond and rebuild peace in a creative non-violent way.

This talk will give a political overview on the ‘forgotten war’, the internal problems that people face, and the foreign. Most recently the US unleashed the largest non nuclear bomb in its arsenal on Nangarhar Province, East Afghanistan. The immediate consequences have so far seen the Taliban retaliate by slaughtering over 150 Afghan soldiers during an ambush on a military base.

Speaker Maya Evans, UK Co-ordinator of ‘Voices for Creative non-violence’, has visited Kabul 8 times over the last 6 years. She has seen first hand how the war has worsened and how the Afghan Peace Volunteers have developed and expanded. Her talks are full of funny, moving and uplifting stories, as well as up to date facts.

Hear how the Afghan Peace Volunteers cope and respond to the deepening crisis, being inspired and moved by their relentless work and daily lives.

THE AFGHANISTAN CONFLICT ‘VOICES FOR PEACE’
Meeting taking place on July 10th at 7.30pm at UNITE, 42-44 King Street. 

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Jun 082017
 

With thanks to Jonathan Russell Chair of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and member of Aberdeen Climate Action also Duncan Hart who produced the you tube videos.

On March 25th Aberdeen Climate Action and Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament jointly sponsored a meeting on the above.

The idea of the meeting was to share ideas of the challenges faced by diversification and to kick-start change.

This is the fith of five articles being produced for Aberdeen Voice and concerns a talk on the ‘Politics of Diversification’ from  by Myshele Haywood Co-convenor of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Green Party and a Sociologist.

Myshele Haywood puts forward that all the major decisions about how we live are political, whether they be food, health, energy or lifestyle. The Oil and Gas collapse in the North Sea and what we do about it depends on political factors.

Local politicians may see the need to do something about carbon emissions but they are faced with the immediate needs of their constituents. There are also major players such as multi-nationals and financial institutions that have influence and they can be opposed to the Scottish Renewables lobby.

Even Adam Smith the advocate of free markets saw the need for Governments to intervene when competition was not meeting the needs of society. Political parties have been obsessed with the need for Economy’s to grow but growth, growth, growth is not sustainable and will have long term have dire consequences for our planet and the people that live on it.  

The shift of policy from Westminster has however been away from renewables and though Independence would face many of the same challenges she considers that it would open up more doors for positive change.

Below is Myshele Haywoods contribution in her own words.

The Facebook links to Aberdeen Climate Action and Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament:

https://www.facebook.com/aberdeenclimateaction/
https://www.facebook.com/Aberdeen-Campaign-for-Nuclear-Disarmament-CND-116237695080239/

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Jun 082017
 

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

Fergus Ewing MSP at Braemar Castle with local councillor Geva Blackett and West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine SNP candidate Stuart Donaldson.

Braemar villagers have been hailed as local heroes by leading politicians as examples of how community empowerment works as they celebrate ten successful years of community management of Braemar Castle.

Braemar Community Limited have seen visitor numbers to the 17th century castle soar by over 277% since they took on a 50-year lease on from Invercauld Estate in 2007.

Raising over £500,000 to renovate the building in the past ten years and – as well as repairing the roof – they now have 12 fully-furnished rooms.

And this weekend the community celebrates a decade of delivery for the iconic tourist attraction with a dinner and hog roast ceilidh.

Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing MSP visited the castle on the eve of the party, with local councillor Geva Blackett and West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine SNP candidate Stuart Donaldson.

Mr Ewing said:

“This fantastic community initiative plays such a huge role in the economy of one of Scotland’s most rural communities and draws visitors from around the world. I am delighted to have been able to pay a short visit and will certainly be back with my wife and daughter in the summer to have a proper tour.”

Stuart Donaldson said:

“It’s always a great pleasure to visit Braemar as there is so much going on.

“It’s a truly vibrant community and the work they have done in restoring and improving the castle typifies that.

“Braemar is a small but historic village and there has been terrific buy-in from a huge section of the community to bring visitors back to the castle.

“They are true local heroes who can be immensely proud of the work they have done to restore, improve and promote Braemar Castle.

“I’m delighted they have brought the community together to celebrate the first ten years of community management and I wish them well for the next ten years.”

Councillor Geva Blackett, whose husband Simon is chair of Braemar Community Ltd the community company who run the castle and other projects, is thrilled at the progress they have made since 2007.

Geva said:

“Braemar Castle plays an important role in the life of the village and Stuart Donaldson is very aware of this. But I also wanted the Cabinet Secretary to see for himself how hard everyone here works to ensure Braemar is a sustainable community working together for an exciting future.”

The Earl of Mar initially used the castle as his Highland hunting lodge but after it was partially burnt down in 1689 after becoming the first casualty of the first Jacobite uprising.

The castle has changed several times over the years with a long-list of high profile owners – including a Russian princess and an MP.

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