Jul 162015
 
Christian Allard at Instant Neighbour foodbank

Christian Allard MSP at Instant Neighbour Foodbank, Aberdeen

With thanks to Lee Robb, Caseworker to Christian Allard MSP.

North East MSP, Christian Allard, has welcomed the news that Aberdeenshire is ahead of Scotland’s capital city in terms of average disposable income. However, the SNP MSP warns that a rising number of foodbanks in the region indicates that many families are being left behind.

This comes in response to a recently released study conducted by SPICE (Scottish Parliament Information Centre) that reviewed levels of average disposable income in areas of Scotland, compared to the UK average.

The SPICE study reports on figures from 2013 and showed Scotland’s average disposable income to be at £17,039 – compared to the UK average of £17,599.

Commenting on the findings, Mr. Allard said:

“The good news is that people are prospering here in the North East. However, it cannot be ignored that there has been a rise in foodbanks in Aberdeenshire over the past few years.

“This is a clear indication that there is an imbalance of wealth and opportunity, leaving families behind to rely on charitable food parcels.

“This, in the most affluent area of the country, is frankly unacceptable. This year, we saw an Aberdeen-based foodbank running out of food!”

Aberdeen’s Instant Neighbour foodbank appealed for help in March after running out of supplies and having to turn away families. Mr. Allard has volunteered with local foodbank collections in Aberdeenshire, the latest one being at the beginning of this month.

“People in Aberdeenshire know the problems that some families face. Unrelenting cuts to basic welfare needs have meant that families cannot sustain themselves. It was incredibly touching to see such a great contribution from the local community to Inverurie Tesco’s push for foodbank donations.

“I would like to congratulate the local Tesco store for their efforts, and thank all those who donated to this cause.”

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Mar 312015
 

Finale_photo_2_by_Matt_Crocket2The Full Monty at HMT. A review by Duncan Harley.

It was clearly only a matter of time before this tale of missing trousers came to the Aberdeen stage.

Is it a mere tribute to the film, or is the stage production of Simon Beaufoy’s award-winning screenplay breaking new ground?

The story explores the issues faced by a group of laid-off steelworkers. The steel mill has closed and the de-skilled men have been chucked on the scrap heap.

The government of the day has little to offer other than the so called Job Club. Impotence, poverty and despair are central themes.

Even suicide by hanging is an option, and in a slapstick but shocking scene the audience are forced to make a decision as to whether to laugh or cry!

Of course it’s all metaphorical. The shedding of clothes in the Chippendale scenes reflects the claiming back of dignity and the casting off of the impotence of mass unemployment. The hanging scene where Bobby Schofield’s Lomper is first rescued, then abandoned, before being taken into the fold reflects on issues to do with the uncertainties of celibacy.

The spectre of a female peeing up against a wall not only challenges gender beliefs, but also further emasculates the jobless men. She has a role to play and they don’t.

At points the lampooning of Thatcherite Britain resembles a Donald McGill seaside postcard and there were cracks. Kate Wood’s Linda was a case in point. Despite her best efforts, the characterisation appeared slightly wooden, and the dialogue disappointingly sparse. Kate’s high spirited Bee and Annie more than made up for this.

In the big scheme of things however this is a superb production. Beside the political moralising the entertainment value shines through. With feelgood galore, plus one of the funniest hanging scenes ever performed on an Aberdeen stage, this hilarious tale of willy waggling in the industrial heartland of England had the audience in stitches from start to finish.

Directed by Roger Haines – Cabaret, Godspell and Driving Miss Daisy – and with choreography by Ian West – The Dog Ate My Homework and The Blues Brothers – this is writer Simon Beaufoy’s first foray into writing for the stage, and he freely admits having to learn a whole new set of skills to make his original screenplay work in a theatrical space.

Of particular note was Brook Exley as Nathan. I have to date yet to see another young lead deliver so many lines so faultlessly.

With a stage set worthy of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and pounding numbers such as Hot Chocolate’s ‘You Sexy Thing’ and the Tom Jones classic ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’ you’ll get good entertainment value from The Full Monty.

The Full Monty plays at HM Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday 4th April.

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122

Words © Duncan Harley, Images © Matt Crocket

Dec 312014
 
Eilidh Whiteford

Dr Eilidh Whiteford. MP for Banff And Buchan.

By Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP.

As the festive season draws to a close, it’s a good time of year not only to reflect on our personal goals for the year ahead, but to consider those for whom Christmas has been a difficult and frugal time.

While many of us will have enjoyed the company of friends and relatives- and more good food and drink than is necessarily good for us – for others Christmas will have been stressful or lonely. For families on low and middle incomes, Christmas can create real financial pressures, especially when youngsters want to keep up with their pals’ clothes, games and gadgets.

Cuts in tax credits and freezes in child benefit have eaten into the finances of many families, and it will have been a lean festive season for many.  

During the Winter months it’s more important than ever look out for elderly, disabled or vulnerable neighbours.

Over the last year, the use of food banks has grown by around 400 per cent around Scotland. Our local food banks in Banff and Buchan are run by voluntary groups and churches, who support those referred to them. They deserve our ongoing gratitude for the lifeline support they offer to those in our communities who need them.

It’s a disgrace, though, that that in a country as rich as ours, food parcels are necessary at all, especially when much of the increase in demand for food aid has been driven by changes to taxes and benefits.

Just before the House of Commons rose for Christmas we debated a motion to repeal the pernicious Bedroom Tax. Although the Scottish Government has mitigated this measure for every affected household in Scotland (8 out of 10 of which are the home of a disabled person) the legislation remains on the statute book, and tenants remain liable in law.

Of course, I voted to end this deeply unjust piece of legislation once and for all, but it was voted down by the Tories and their Lib Dem allies, who claim – in Scotland- to oppose it, yet file through the lobby to support their Tory friends. Actions speak louder than words

I would like to wish everyone in Banff and Buchan a happy New Year going into 2015. I look forward to the next parliamentary session, where I will continue to do my best for all my constituents.

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Dec 112014
 

At this time of year homelessness and hunger hit the vulnerable particularly hard; even in our prosperous city there are rough sleepers and people with issues who need help. The generosity shown by those who donated and volunteered at this year’s Rucksack Project will go a fair way to help. Suzanne Kelly dropped off her goods, and spoke to the volunteers.

rucksacks-3On Saturday 6 December people converged on the Cyreneans’ facilities at 62 Summer Street to donate rucksacks filled with essentials – warm clothing, food, hand warmers, toiletries and more.

Over one hundred rucksacks were collected; these will be handed out to the homeless. Excess packs will be handed out later in the year- and it is not too late to donate.

People currently living rough in Aberdeen are people who have fallen on hard times for numerous reasons – loss of job and home, substance abuse issues, mental health problems, marital break-ups and ex-servicemen.

Depute Chief Executive, Scott Baxter spoke to Aberdeen Voice; he and his team are greatly appreciative of the generosity shown.

He explained that each day on average 35 people come to 62 Summer street for food, to wash, to do their laundry, and crucially for help in getting back on their feet. He led a tour of the facilities. It is clear the Cyreneans are doing a great deal of good work – but they can always use more help, more goods, more volunteers and more resources.

Anyone who finds themselves homeless should report in the first instance to Aberdeen City Council by visiting Marischal College, stating they are homeless and need shelter.

The Rucksack project is a worldwide movement born out of the simple idea to help those sleeping rough during the freezing winter months. The idea behind the rucksack project is simple, participants are asked to provide a rucksack and fill it with items which rough sleepers can use.

Ideal items include a sleeping bag, roll mat, waterproofs, warm clothes, thermals, hat, gloves, scarf, hand warmers, flask, underwear, mini first aid kit, toiletries tissues, lip balm and instant food – i.e. soup and noodle packets. There is no expectation to fill a rucksack with all these items, this is merely a guide as to what would be helpful.

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Dec 112014
 

duthiebandstandWith thanks to Dave Macdermid.

Friends Of Duthie Park will be putting on a Christmas Carol Concert at 11 am and 2 pm on Saturday 20th December 2014 at David Welch Winter Gardens, Duthie Park.
The event will also include a raffle on behalf of Food Banks across the city.

To enter the raffle, and have the opportunity to win a Christmas Fruit Hamper donated by CFine, please bring along any tinned goods, packaged and jars of food, toiletries and staple items such as tea, coffee, sugar etc.

CFine will then distribute all items to those who need that extra bit of help at Christmas.

Anyone wishing to make a donation before the Christmas Carol Concert, should contact Arthur Gill, or drop their donation off at the Winter Gardens.

Dec 112014
 

Dominic Kite representing Aberdeen Asset Management Charitable Foundation and five year old Ben McCartneyWith thanks to Beverly Tricker.

A Cosier Christmas is to be delivered to even more children living in poverty, with the Coats for Kids appeal receiving a second sizeable slice of funding from Aberdeen Asset Management’s Charitable Foundation.

AAM’s latest donation of £7,500 sees its support for the winter campaign rise to £37,500 and means that hundreds of boys and girls in need will beat the cold with new warm outfits.

But in order to match a surge of late requests for assistance that have come flooding in from agencies and professionals working with families in need, there remains a £4,400 shortfall.

If that sum can be raised, then a total of 612 children living across the North-east will benefit this winter.

Emma Kemp of Cash For Kids is appealing to other businesses to show some seasonal spirit by donating to the cause.

Emma says:

“We’ve been a victim of our own success. After people heard about Coats for Kids in the media, after the very generous donation of £30,000 made by Aberdeen Asset Management Charitable Foundation last month, we had a flood of enquiries from support workers, groups and organisations working with families that are struggling financially.

“We did not foresee this demand, and we’re really pleased to receive a second award of £7,500 from the AAM Charitable Foundation which is enabling us to help more families.

“If there is any other business out there that could help us reach our target, it would be a great gesture to make at this time of year.

“If you’d like to be the business that helps us fulfil our remaining applications then please get in touch.”

Cash for Kids has seen a huge increase in applications for essential clothing for children living in poverty in the Aberdeen area. Many local families have to choose between buying food, heating their home and purchasing essential clothing.

Every penny donated to the cause is spent wisely with a deal being struck with a national retailer to ensure that the money stretches as far as possible. Sturdy boots, a cosy coat and socks are among the essential items provided and this means that children don’t have to go to school in cold weather without having suitable clothing.

All children helped are identified via support workers, groups and organisations who work closely with families that are struggling with money.

The feedback from those working with the families that have already received new clothing highlights the big difference the support makes. Not only does it mean parents don’t have to choose between clothing their child and other essentials, but the children have a sense of pride in having a new outfit to wear.

Dominic Kite ( pictured above with 5 year old Ben McCartney), representing Aberdeen Asset Management Charitable Foundation says,

“Our donation totalling £37,500 is the largest single amount to be given from our Charitable Foundation which seeks partnerships with charities where funds can be seen to have a meaningful and measurable impact.

“Cash For Kids work with professionals, organisations and other local children’s charities to make sure that the children who really need help and support can get it.”

To support the Coats for Kids appeal contact Emma on 01224 337010 or email emma.kemp@northsound.co.uk

The Aberdeen Asset Charitable Foundation was established in 2012 to formalise and develop the Group’s charitable giving globally. In Aberdeen, donations have been made to several local charities including sums of £10,000 each to Cash for Kids, to fund a breakfast club for 12 months, to Friends of ANCHOR for the Gene Machine appeal and £25,000 to the ARCHIE for Skype technology at Aberdeen Royal Children’s Hospital.

Nov 282014
 

20141113_Hats_003With thanks to Beverly Tricker.

Children living in poverty will be wrapped up for warmth this winter thanks to a £30,000 donation from Aberdeen Asset Management’s Charitable Foundation.

The sum matches the entire sum required for the Coats for Kids winter 2014 appeal and will ensure that 300 children living in poverty in Aberdeen can be kitted out with cosy seasonal clothing.

It also represents the largest single donation to be made from Aberdeen Asset Management Charitable Foundation to date.

Last year Cash for Kids saw a huge increase in applications for essential clothing for children living in poverty in the Aberdeen area. Many local families have to choose between buying food, heating their home and purchasing essential clothing.

A deal has been agreed with a national retailer that £100 will fund a winter coat, hat, scarf, gloves, jumper, trousers, socks and shoes. It means that these children won’t have to go to school without suitable warm clothing.

All children helped will be identified via support workers, groups and organisations who work closely with families that are struggling financially.

Emma Kemp from Cash for Kids says,

“We are grateful to receive the support of Aberdeen Asset Management Charitable Foundation. Their donation means that we can begin helping families right away, before the weather gets any colder.

“The North-east might be regarded as an area of wealth, but poverty is a very real issue for many families. One in six children in the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire area is living in poverty. Statistics also show us that the rate of poverty in our area has gone up by 22% in the last 12 months.”

Dominic Kite, representing Aberdeen Asset Management Charitable Foundation says,

“Helping local communities is an important strategic aim of our Charitable Foundation. Cash for Kids gets to the heart of communities, identifying and responding to the needs of children in local areas.”

The Aberdeen Asset Charitable Foundation was established in 2012 to formalise and develop the Group’s charitable giving globally.  In Aberdeen, donations have been made to several local charities including sums of £10,000 each to Cash for Kids, to fund a breakfast club for 12 months, to Friends of ANCHOR for the Gene Machine appeal and £25,000 to the ARCHIE for Skype technology at Aberdeen Royal Children’s Hospital.

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Nov 282014
 

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

Emergency food for local people in crisis Tesco Ellon Aberdeenshire

Christian Allard MSP (right) with volunteers at Ellon Tesco food collection in July

SNP MSP Christian Allard is backing the fifth Neighbourhood Food Collection organised by Tesco in stores across the North East.
From Monday 24th November to Saturday 29th November, Tesco stores will invite shoppers to donate an item or two from their weekly groceries to help those in their communities who are struggling to afford to eat.

The collection is being run in partnership with foodbank charity The Trussell Trust and food redistribution charity FareShare. As well as hosting the collection, Tesco will also “top-up” all food donations by 30%.

Since November 2012, Tesco food collections have helped provide 15.3 million meals across the UK.

North East MSP Christian Allard will be volunteering at the Turriff store on Friday 28 November from 10am.

Commenting, Mr Allard said:

“Volunteers at The Trussell Trust make a vital contribution to lives of families struggling to feed themselves in the North East and beyond. I am always happy to lend a hand whenever I can.

“The rise of foodbanks is unacceptable in a country as prosperous as Scotland, but the work of local volunteers is inspiring.

“While their efforts should not be necessary I know that they are greatly appreciated by those in need, particularly in the run up to Christmas.

“I look forward to joining local volunteers in Turriff on Friday and helping out with this important task. I will be encouraging people to be as generous as they can with their donations.”

Christian will attend the Turriff Tesco Neighbourhood Food Collection from 10 am on Friday 28 November.

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Nov 282014
 

World-AIDS-Day-Eilidh Whiteford (2)With thanks to Paul Robertson.

The SNP’s Spokesperson on International Development at Westminster, Dr. Eilidh Whiteford, has called for more effective international assistance as the world recognises those living with HIV/AIDS.

The Banff & Buchan MP, who previously worked for an international charity, will attend a debate in Parliament on 5 December which could lead to the UK making a binding legal commitment to spend 0.7% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on international aid.

The move has been supported by more than 40 organisations representing millions of people across the UK.

Dr. Whiteford explained:

“The figure of 0.7% of UK GDP is a small contribution to international development that makes a big difference to the lives of people in developing countries. With countries across Europe making similar commitments, we have the opportunity to make a really positive impact on the lives of the world’s poorest.”

The call coincides with World AIDS Day, observed on 1 December, which recognises those across the world living with HIV and AIDS. Over 30 million people in the world suffer from the disease, and the number of people living with HIV in the UK continues to rise.

Dr. Whiteford commented:

“The rising number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world is fuelled by the spread of the disease in developing countries where prevention and treatment options are under-developed. This is just one area where international aid from the UK and other wealthy countries can make a real difference to the lives of individuals.”

“The proportion of people living with HIV/AIDS in the UK is still relatively small but World AIDS Day offers us the opportunity to reiterate the messages around prevention, getting tested to know your status, and challenging the stigma and misunderstanding that surrounds the disease. It is important to recognise the enormous level of work done by charities like HIV Scotland, the Terrence Higgins Trust and the National AIDS Trust, in seeking to help people understand the disease and live with their condition.”

Red ribbons for World AIDS Day are available to buy in most large shops and proceeds go to HIV/AIDS charities.

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Aug 192014
 

Scottish currency reportsqWith thanks to Aberdeen Group of Positive Money Supporters.

Positive Money’s ‘A Scottish Currency? 5 Lessons from the Design Flaws in Sterling’ highlights the necessity of limiting the creation of a Scottish currency to a Scottish Central Bank.

The report is helpful in pointing out some of the pitfalls of a Sterling-type currency,
namely:

1. The amount of money in the economy currently depends on the confidence of bankers.

Bank of England Bulletin recently explained:

‘Broad money is made up of bank deposits — which are essentially IOUs from commercial banks to households and companies — and currency — mostly IOUs from the central bank. Of the two types of broad money, bank deposits make up the vast majority — 97% of the amount currently in circulation. And in the modern economy, those bank deposits are mostly created by commercial banks themselves.

‘Commercial banks are the creators of deposit money…rather than banks lending out deposits that are placed with them – the act of lending creates deposits – the reverse of the sequence typically described in textbooks.’ (p15)

Every new bank loan creates new money. Since some economics/finance textbooks do not portray money creation in reality, some people may have (through no fault of their own) incorrect assumptions on this matter.

2. Any attempt to reduce household debt can lead to recession

Since banks create new money when lending, money is destroyed upon repayment. This can shrink the amount of money available in the wider economy.

3. The economy can only be stimulated through encouraging further indebtedness

Most broad money is created as a debt when people borrow, so the fastest way to create an economic recovery is to encourage people to keep borrowing. The only real alternative is something like Quantitative Easing (and even then – please target the real economy!)

4. Proceeds of money creation is captured by the banking sector rather than taxpayers

The Bank of England sells the notes and coins it creates at face value. Between 2000 and 2009, this profit on newly-created money (‘seigniorage’) added up to £18 billion. These profits are passed on to the Treasury.

Between 2000-2007 banks increased the amount of money in the UK by £1 trillion. However the law does not extend to cover seigniorage on this form of money. Banks gain interest from issuing those funds. The Treasury gains nothing.

5. Banks cannot be allowed to fail – if they did the payments system would collapse.

Under one roof you have one bank performing three functions. Firstly, a payments system to receive and transfer money (through your current account). Secondly, providing investment and savings vehicles for the longer term. Thirdly, access to loans and mortgages.

The bank deposit money or electronic money that we use today is simply the accounting liabilities of banks, meaning that if a large bank fails, our money is frozen and can no longer be used to make payments. Hence the need for a government scheme to guarantee deposits in case the bank fails.

Potential Solutions

Scotland could design a better currency and banking system. For instance, at the height of the Great Depression a number of leading U.S. economists advanced a proposal for monetary reform that became known as ‘The Chicago Plan.’  With this –

1. Deposits would be backed 100% by money at the central bank.

2. Banks could not finance loans by simply creating new money.

3. The payments systems would be separated from the savings and loans functions.

4. Under appropriate controls government would issue money directly at zero interest.

Irving Fisher (1936) claimed four major advantages –

1. It would eliminate bank runs

2. Better control of credit cycles

3. A dramatic reduction in private debt

4. A dramatic reduction in net government debt

In 2012 this was tested by the IMF’s Michael Kumhof and Jaromir Benes who modelled the US economy in ‘The Chicago Plan Revisited’. (It has answers to common questions too.)  They found fully capturing seigniorage (the proceeds from creating money) would consistently bring in 3.5% of GDP every year (p84). In the UK context that amount could half the deficit. (2013-14 borrowing is 6.6% of GDP)

They concluded (p68):

‘Our analytical and simulation results fully validate Fisher’s claims….We find that the advantages of the Chicago Plan go even beyond those claimed by Fisher. One additional advantage is large steady state output gains…. Another advantage is the ability to drive steady state inflation to zero… This ability to generate and live with zero steady state inflation is an important result, because it answers the somewhat confused claim of opponents of an exclusive government monopoly on money issuance, namely that such a monetary system would be highly inflationary. There is nothing in our theoretical framework to support this claim.

Kumhof commenting on it all said:

‘We can think of only one serious disadvantage, namely that the transition could be complicated and risky. But earlier thinkers, including Milton Friedman, did not share this concern, and the risks would have to be enormous to justify not giving the Chicago Plan very serious consideration.’

Implications for Scotland

With its own currency and central bank Scotland could create a system where –

1. Deposits would be backed 100% by public reserves.

The Chicago Plan leaves bank deposits completely unchanged; what changes is what deposits represent : indestructible public money rather than volatile destructible private money. Banks would borrow from the Treasury to obtain full coverage for all deposits. Rather than money being destroyed when repaid as at present, it accrues to the government as seigniorage.

2. Credit could not be financed by creation, ex nihilo (out of nothing), of bank deposits.

For money, it requires 100% backing of deposits by government-issued currency, combined with a strict money growth rule to control inflation. Today’s deposit creation out of nothing would be made illegal, the financing of new bank credit could only take place through banks retaining earnings or borrowing funds in the form of government-issued money.

The government is therefore fully in charge of controlling the broad money supply. The power to create and destroy money is taken away from banks, and returned to a democratic transparent and accountable process. And without banks’ rapidly changing attitudes towards credit risk (largely via asset bubbles) the amount of money in the economy would be more consistent reducing business cycle volatility.

3. The monetary and credit functions of banking would be separated.

The state is therefore fully in charge of controlling the broad money supply, but private financial institutions would remain in charge of determining the credit supply of real investments. Financial institutions concentrate on their strength, the extension of credit to investment projects that require monitoring and risk management expertise. Badly-run banks could be allowed to fail.  Meanwhile the payments system of the economy would be fully secure with a 100% reserve.

4. The government would be allowed to issue money directly at zero interest

This allows more money to enter the economy without there also being more debt. Spent rather than lent.  The central bank would decide on how much funds could be created which would then be passed on to the government. What it would be used for would depend on government policies.

Issuing money debt free rather than having to borrow it from banks at interest should help public finances and private debt levels. This could evidently contribute to reducing economy-wide financial fragility.

To conclude, Scotland (or any country for that matter) could have a brighter future with its money under the full control of its central bank alongside a better banking system.

Martin Wolf of the Financial Times has already suggested earlier this year to ‘Strip private banks of their power to create money’. The English and Welsh Greens have a very similar economic policy. There is currently a very small but growing cross party awareness amongst MPs of the monetary and banking issues discussed above.

Positive Money is a movement to democratise money and banking so that it works for society. This article was brought to you today by the Aberdeen Group of Positive Money Supporters.

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