Jul 242015

The Scottish Government plans to appoint a teacher/ educator/ nurse to oversee every child born. The intent is ‘Getting it right for every child;’ the scheme is commonly known as the ‘Named Person’ scheme. Aberdeen Voice asked the agency responsible for the roll-out of the Named Persons scheme to answer some of the many questions surrounding this controversial scheme. Here are the questions and replies, as well as a few further questions. By Suzanne Kelly

Scottish ParliamentThe controversial ‘Named Person’ scheme is the subject of heated debate and discussion online and offline. The named person will follow a child from birth to age 18, looking at any records they wish concerning the child and its family, such as health, education, police; anything.

The intention may be a good one, to ensure that no child is abused. A number of questions were put to the government, and after a few weeks their spokesperson responded as follows:

Q1.  How do you square this scheme with the opinion of the Law Society, which warns that the move could be illegal under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), which protects a parent’s “private and family life”.


“The legislation was recently the subject of a challenge in court, heard in November and December 2014. The challenges to the legislation were rejected in their entirety by the Court. The Court found that Part 4 (Named Persons) of the Act does not contravene the ECHR, EU law or the Data Protection Act (DPA).”

Q2.  Do you intend to compel children to answer questions?


No. As we have said before, there is no obligation for a parent, child or young person to engage with the Named Person. The legislation brings no new powers for teachers, or any other professionals.”

[At present there are strict laws governing who can access personal data; it is far from clear whether that protection will apply to Named Persons who want to look at files. While the answer says children will not be compelled to answer, it was presented in court that they will indeed be made to answer questions with QC Aiden O’Neil telling the court there is no provision for opt-out http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-30935806 . Anyone who doesn’t want to answer questions, or any family that doesn’t want to participate should be made aware of the answer the government supplied here that says the scheme is not compulsory.]

Q3.  Will children be forewarned before they are questioned?  This apparently did not happen in at least one case.  In Aberdeen, a teenage girl was called out of her class and questioned by someone at first introduced as being a nurse.  She was unprepared and uncomfortable.


The Scottish Government cannot comment on individual cases.”

[The question was whether or not a person would be forewarned they are to be questioned. This was not answered.]

Q4.  The girl was asked questions about her period among other things. Is this sort of questioning what is being rolled out? Please send me a list of questions which children will be asked to answer.


“The Scottish Government cannot comment on individual cases. There is no list of questions.”

[If there are no set questions that can be published, then how can a child or a family possibly know what questions and what subjects are covered under this scheme? The absence of set questions leaves this sensitive questioning of a child open-ended, and can be seen as a carte blanche open to abuse.]

Q5.  A concerned parent wanted to know what had transpired and been written up as notes after their child was interviewed.   The local authority planned to charge £10 per page of documentation supplied – and also was arguing that neither parent or child was really entitled to see any reports created by a named person.


“The Scottish Government cannot comment on individual cases.

“The cost of requesting information held about you (known as a Subject Access Requests) is regulated by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Parents are entitled to access information about their child by making a SAR if the child is unable to act on their own behalf or has given their consent. Further information can be found here: https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisations/documents/1065/subject-access-code-of-practice.pdf

[The costings provided in the document supplied seem very precise. They also seem very low. The scheme will cost central government absolutely nothing. It will cost ‘other bodies, individuals and businesses’ less than £700,000 from now through 2019, and will cost the NHS. The bad news is that these costs which are nothing short of eye-watering will fall on local governments. In 2014-15, local authorities are estimated (rather precisely) to have to spend £78,782,982 on the scheme (I wonder what happens if that rises to £78,782,990?). The figures then shoot up further, costing £107,765,588 the following year, and similar sums going forward. Will we see local authorities hiring squads of child watchers? It certainly looks like a possibility, as Page 47 refers to hiring administrators.]

Q6.  What powers does the named person have over the child?


The Named Person builds on the professional responsibilities of those individuals who are identified as Named Persons (such as Health Visitors, Primary Head Teachers and Guidance or Pastoral Care Teachers), and will form part of their day-to-day work. The Act does not introduce any powers over a child for the Named Person role.”

[Some teachers are less than keen to have any further work piled on them. I have also heard from parents of children with special needs who are currently in litigation concerning bruising and possible use of restraints on their children – the very people who are involved in the legal action would have been likely to also be the ‘Named Person.’ This is worryingly going to cause clashes and in such a case it is hard to see how allowing a Named Person access to records about the child’s bruising and police information which could influence legal action is in the child’s best interests.]

Q7.  What forms of records – school, medical, police, other – would a named person be allowed to look at?


There are no powers in the Act plans to routinely gather and share information, or records. If there is a concern about wellbeing then relevant public bodies will share information proportionately and if relevant to addressing a concern. The child or young person will know what is being shared, for what reason and with whom and their views will be taken into account.”

[This is somewhat reassuring – but how the scheme will be overseen and what checks and balances exist is unclear.]

Q8.  How much is your scheme estimated to cost at the national level, and how much at the local authority levels for Edinburgh, Inverness, Glasgow and Aberdeen?


“Information on the costs of implementing the Getting it Right for Every Child Programme of which Named Person forms a part, are contained within the Financial Memorandum of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, available here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_Bills/Children%20and%20Young%20People%20(Scotland)%20Bill/b27s4-introd-en.pdf

“The Scottish Government does not hold information relating to the cost for individual local authorities.”

Q9.  There are cases where children with special needs have returned home from specialist schools with injuries and legal action is being taken by parents. If the named person is also someone who might potentially be involved in abuse, what safeguards would be created to remove the named person from overseeing that child? What safeguards would ensure that such a person is banned from looking at medical, police or other records which could interfere with any legal action being taken by parents?


The workforce regulation will not change as a result of the Named Person. Anyone undertaking the Named Person role, such as Health Visitors and Head Teachers, will have already undergone a process of checks and vetting through the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme which checks their suitability to work with children.

“The Named Person will be accountable within the management structure already in place for their primary role. They will also be accountable to their professional registration body as is currently the case. Parents and children will be able to hold professionals accountable through the complaints processes in place within agencies.”

[This may be reassuring to some, but as the news attests, there are educators and doctors who have been found guilty of abusing children, all of whom had been passed as suitable to work with young people.]

Q10.  How does the government plan to manage and record instances of named persons accessing a child’s records?  If the Data Protection Act 1998 is to be upheld, how does the scheme plan to manage doing so?


“Part 10 of the draft statutory guidance (available here: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0046/00469613.pdf) outlines how the information sharing requirements of the Act should be met in a manner that is consistent with the Data Protection Act and the ECHR.”

My conclusions:

People have come out in support of the scheme. However, ‘Getting it right for every child’ seems to mean treating all children and families in precisely the same way under this new system. With data protection rights being breached with alarming frequency, coupled with no set questions and therefore no clear guidance about what it is appropriate to ask, will there be abuses under the plan?

The Act reads in part: “The Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill is founded on the key principles of early intervention and prevention…” Who is going to decide what ‘intervention’ is required? Who is going to be deciding that some future abuse or problem should be ‘prevented’, and how would this happen? Removal of the child from the family?

It is not so long ago that the shameful Orkney ‘satanic abuse’ scandal saw children being taken away from their families on the trumped-up charge of ‘satanic abuse’, questioned until exhausted under questionable circumstances, and when they begged to be allowed to go back to their families, their wishes went unheeded. Some of those forcibly removed children, taken for their own safety allegedly, wound up being abused when in care.

Some of these children sued the state for their lost childhood.

The state needs to clean up its own sorry systems before deciding it has the right to intervene and prevent. In the words of one of the Orkney children:

“We kept telling them that we had not been abused, but they wouldn’t listen,” she said. “The interview techniques used were designed to break us down.

“To take a child away from her mother at the age of eight is unforgivable. We were part of a normal, happy family and suddenly we were shattered.”  http://www.scotsman.com/news/scotland/top-stories/orkney-abuse-scandal-victim-to-sue-for-lost-youth-1-1139542

The state assumed it knew better than the families and the children then; it is assuming it knows better than the families and children now.

This is a contentious subject; there have seen some heated exchanges online; some people are assuming objections to this scheme must necessarily be motivated by anti-SNP sentiment. This leap of logic must not be allowed to overshadow the facts of what the government wants to implement. Objectors to the scheme include doctors, families, human rights groups and more.

For those concerned about the increasing encroachment by government on the rights of the individual, this scheme seems Orwellian. Indeed, we are going to teach children from the time they can talk that they are answerable to the State, not that the State should and must be answerable to them.

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Mar 062014

Voice’s Old Susannah gets to grips with grippy politicians, law bending bankers, lawless American builders and law enforcement officers who are selective in selecting what laws they enforce, in the second half of a look at how the law works – or doesn’t work – and who laws do and don’t apply to. By Suzanne Kelly.


Alas! There was no time for any BrewDog as I was in London for a few days this past week. They too have a river, but as well as having industrial harbouring and factories on it, they seem to think people should enjoy the waterside.

There was magical acoustic music on the Battersea Barge from Dave Sharp (who opened for Big Country at the Lemon Tree at the end of last year) and the unequalled Kirk Brandon (who you can see in the Moorings on Sunday 9 March; N.B . the Moorings have a new Putin-inspired cocktail as well which I look forward to trying).

Back in the Granite web city, the unaptly named Carpe Diem Trust failed to do anything with the Bon Accord Baths, which are now possibly going back on the market. Perhaps we’ll get something useful like a shopping mall, parking and/or office space. I’m hoping for a nice big glass box of a building to make us look really really modern.

This week saw Martin Ford acquitted of using Shire council property for interviews with the BBC about dear Mr Trump without getting a permission slip in advance; naughty naughty.

At the time I asked Hall Monitor and Chief Executive Colin MacKenzie what the policy was for holding interviews on council property, where it was written, and where a record of requests to do interviews was held. You will be shocked to hear that there was no such policy, so in short they had no business asking Ford to comply with some unwritten rules. I do hope they write the rules up. I also asked MacKenzie whether giving someone the right to allow or deny interviews could lead to abuses of power; he disagreed, you will be surprised to hear. Or not.

It’s clear that some laws apply to some people and not others. You couldn’t make it up. Unless you are MacKenzie of course.

On a related note, don’t you miss Tony Blair’s rule-making regime? He made more rules to keep us safe than almost anyone else and I know you feel as free as you ever did before, just safer.

According to the Independent, Blair had a law-making frenzy. It seems he also had a very good frenzy in Mrs Wendy Deng Murdoch. Tally ho indeed.

Here’s two examples of the much needed legislation we got under Blair (and with Mrs Murdoch also under Blair and a dossier to sex up for war, I guess didn’t leave much time for considering a bill of rights, whatever that is):-

Polish Potatoes (Notification) (England) Order 2004
No person shall, in the course of business, import into England potatoes which he knows to be or has reasonable cause to suspect to be Polish potatoes. [keep an eye peeled for suspicious spuds, won’t you?]

Vehicles (Crime) Act 2001
Knowingly etc selling plates which are not vehicle registration plates. [I may be getting nicked on this; I sold a lovely set of Royal Doulton dinnerware the other week]

So sleep soundly tonight knowing the world is safe from democracy – sorry safe for democracy.

This is also the week that Labour considered banning Alex Salmond from attending any events in Aberdeen’s civic properties.

So sleep soundly tonight knowing the world is safe from democracy

This is apparently going back to the by-election some months ago when Alex showed up, apparently without permission, and did a bit of meet and greet at a local school. It may also be a bit of tit for tat at how COSLA is cutting our funding.

Then again there is an apparent £7 million quid Willie Young allegedly turned away. Confused you will be.

But everyone is impressed with the speed of this proposed ban. Some might say the Horse (or salmon) long since bolted back to Edinburgh, and the stable door (or school door in this case ) has been long closed. The world has moved on.

But is this possibly an attempt to stifle debate on the Independence Referendum? I for one can’t get enough of the scant Facebook posts, letters in the P&J, and tiny bits of fleeting news coverage the debate is getting. If only we had a few more years to hold our quiet, polite conversations.

Some people behind the scenes tell me Salmond wanted the Union Terrace Gardens to be a test of how a referendum would work. Well, we were split down the middle on that one, and friends and families found themselves in bitter arguments. Thankfully the lessons were learnt, and we’re all having a jolly civilised time talking sensibly about the pros and cons of Scotland’s independence.

Oh, and Old Susannah is staying well out of choosing sides. Then again, if there is a side that will stop making big business pay tax, stop feeding struggling families, get lazy scroungers out of hospitals and back to work, build over the remaining greenbelt, stop immigrants coming, then I’ll be backing them.

Just let me know what ACSEF wants to have happen, and I’ll go along with them.

Anyway, it’s past time for a continuation of last week’s legal definitions defining our legal system. If you suspect that the blindfold has fallen off of justice, and she wields her sword while someone has their finger on the scales, you might be onto something.

Data Protection Act 1998: (Modern English legislation) Legislation protecting your personal details.  In brief personal data is  to only be collected and stored if essential, and which are to only be used for the purposes such data was initially collected for.

Well, we’ve got to keep the wheels of government rolling, and oiling the machine costs money. Therefore forget about how the Data Protection Act makes this latest wheeze by Heath Secretary Jeremy Hunt (no sniggering about the cockney rhyming slang, thank you) totally illegal. Some would say it’s immoral as well, but this is the ConDems, and they’re far more moral than you or I, or so they keep telling us.

Your personal medical history and your loved ones’ details will all be sold to private companies, for important medical research of course. These will be kept confidential. Mostly. Well maybe a little.

There will be stringent safeguards in place should the police (or MI6, MI7, MI8, etc.) wish to access your records, too: they’ll have to ask permission of someone first.

I wouldn’t worry too much about your private details; they’ve probably long since been secretly accessed by that policeman you used to date, sold without your consent, or more likely left in a disused computer forgotten on a train.

As to the police misusing information, remember, these are legal professionals we’re talking about. And if on the odd occasion they want to find out how their ex partner is doing medically, I’m sure it will just be because of a genuine loving concern.

It’s not as if police go raking through supposedly confidential, legally protected files for their own ends, is it. If you want some comfort on the point, here you go with an article about a mere 200 police being done – in one area – for illegally accessing private information. Considering this was in 2011, I’m certain once we found out hundreds of police were perusing our private records, it would have been stopped then and there.

But if you think Big Brother is watching; if you feel like you’re being observed when you’re skyping or sending saucy shots on Yahoo!, you may be right.  And I’m sure you’ll agree what a comforting thought it is that the authorities care so deeply for our welfare.

Optic Nerve: 1. (English Modern Medical – noun) the pathway for images to the brain; 2. (English Modern Spying – noun) the pathway for images to the government

The left wingers at the Guardian seem a bit put out that the government is routinely collecting pictures from your Yahoo! account because you could be a terrorist.

if you have nothing to hide, then you have no real reason to object to being spied on

Edward Snowden, who’s clearly endangered many civil servants (who could be done for spying), was for some reason upset to know how deeply the government cares for you and keeps close watch. A few people, some 1.8 million Yahoo! users, had the government store a wee bit of data from their personal communications.

Just remember, if you have nothing to hide, then you have no real reason to object to being spied on. Old Susannah for one obviously lives the life of a cloistered nun who does nothing more exotic than collecting postage stamps, and therefore is happy to be monitored.

As Oscar Wilde would have said: ‘the only thing worse than being spied on is not being spied on’.

Unfortunately, millions of these images contain nudity. Did you know that some people send their lovers intimate photos? Well, you do now – and so does the government. So be safe in the knowledge that if you ever lose your computer files, some man in a trench coat in a government cubicle will possibly be pouring over them. 

Scottish Planning Law: (Scottish legal) Legislation which controls how construction work is carried out.

Before I run out of space, I’d just like to take a moment on behalf of the Menie Estate residents, to thank the men and mice – sorry women – of Aberdeenshire’s planning department for so bravely standing up to Donald Trump, and ensuring that his many works on the world’s greatest golf course stuck to the original plan and followed the law.

Susan Munro and her family look paler every time I see them. Could this have anything to be with a giant mound of earth covered with dead and dying trees Trump had built blocking their view of the sea and the vista to the south? I doubt it.

Any day now, the planning department will think about the ‘bund’ of earth, and do something about it. Probably the sort of thing an ostrich is wrongly supposed to do – stick its head in the sand.  And what better place for ostriches and planning officials to bury their heads than in the world’s largest sandunes (says Mr Trump) on the Menie Estate.

For the record, here’s what the Shire’s website has to say as it proudly proclaims planning law:-

“In the case of dwelling houses, if the height of any fence or other ‘means of enclosure’ (including a gate or wall) exceeds 2 metres in height, or 1 metre where it fronts a road ; is within a Conservation area or the curtilage of a Listed Building, then planning permission is required. For flatted properties, permission is required if the fence exceeds 1 metre in height within 20 metres of a road. For a property specific answer, please contact us.”

I’m sure the above paragraph from the shire’s website doesn’t apply to what Donald Trump wants.  If I had world enough and time, I’d mention the possibly illegal sign at the entrance, the parking lot’s beautiful, subtle lighting system, and the charming aluminium-clad shed where a historic steading once stood – all of which seem to have come into existence without our planners batting an eyelid. But I haven’t time, so I’ll move on.

I was also going to thank the medical mandarins at ATOS for upholding the principles of the Hippocratic Oath “I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.”

I was also going to tell you how the University of Florida is using a technique favoured by Mr Trump and is suing some unwashed rabble hippies who object to the University tearing primates to pieces for science; the law is there to protect the powerful of course, and if it comes in conflict with the rights to protest and of free speech, then there you go.

I was also going to tell you how the banks we the taxpayer bailed out have sidestepped plans to have their annual, deserved bonuses capped, but alas!  No time for that, either.

Alas! That’s all the time I’ve got. Next week – more of the same (if they’ve not come for me yet)

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Feb 272014

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

Another exciting week passes in Aberdeen; our very own Prime Minister Cameron came up for a nice wee chat, something about independence or other.

I haven’t been able to find much about this topic on the net, but if anything turns up, I’ll keep you posted.

A very huge thanks to a very kind stranger who lent me £5 for bus fare (a long story). Your cheque should be with you, nice to know there are a few kind people still out there.

In my ongoing quest for vegetarian food, I’ve been eating at Café 52 a bit (yes, I know the owners), and am getting used to eating lots of quorn stuff as well. To each his own, but I’m glad I’m doing this. I’m also off to the gym at the Thistle Altens, where there are few fashion victims, and lots of nice people.

I’m still trying to get good at running, something Ben Hukins inspired me to do. I achieved a personal best last week, and didn’t fall off the treadmill while watching the Winter Olympics. As far as I can tell, some people with red and blue flags have faster individuals than some other people with yellow or green flags. And of course, Pussy Riot got playfully teased (i.e. hit) by Cossacks. Good times.

Necessity forced me into a Morrisons recently for some cat food; I don’t usually shop there after an event some years ago. I saw one of their staff members walking around in their street shoes in one of the chiller areas, using the food storage area, filled with food, as a kind of step ladder.

‘How inventive’ I thought at the time, but wondered whether it was the most hygienic way to treat the chilled food I was going to bring home. Somehow the idea of someone walking around the streets of Aberdeen and then walking around on the food (even though packaged, I’d still have to touch it) I was going to prepare didn’t thrill me.

morrisons chller cabinet stepladder

I complained at the time, but was assured nothing like what I’d seen had actually happened. Fair enough. Old Susannah isn’t getting any younger, and you can’t argue with Morrisons, so I forgot about it.

Still, here is a little photo take from my recent visit to a Morrisons, of me imagining something that doesn’t happen in their stores.

You might wonder if there is some kind of guidelines or even laws about how food should be hygienically treated. Well, there are.

The thing is, whether it comes to food, childcare, animal welfare, or journalism, what laws and rules are actually enforced might on occasion be a subjective thing. You can’t expect important, busy and rich people to have to follow rules, and the same holds true of elected officials, governments, and of course private companies.

Here are a few relevant definitions to guide you through the legal minefield.

Ignorantia juris non excusat (Ignorance of the Law is no Excuse)(Latin phrase) – in law, not knowing a practice or act was illegal is not considered grounds for innocence. Or is it?
Applies to: you and me
Probably doesn’t apply to: Rebekah Brooks

Aside from a few bereaved parents, politicians and celebrities whose lives have been blighted, there is one standout victim of the ongoing Old Bailey trial into hacking, and that is poor Mrs Rebekah Brooks, former editor of News of the World, and husband-beater.

According to the BBC:

“Mrs Brooks said she “didn’t think anybody, me included, knew it was illegal”.

“She told the Old Bailey she felt “shock and horror” after she discovered murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked…. She said she was never asked to sanction the accessing of voicemails for a story during her time as editor of the newspaper.”

“’No journalist ever came to me and said ‘We’re working on so and so a story but we need to access their voicemail and we need to ask for my sanction to do it’, she said.”

“Even though I didn’t know it was illegal, I absolutely felt it was in the category of a serious breach of privacy’.”

That’s fair enough; I mean how could anyone have known or suspected it would be illegal to secretly spy on people? It’s not as if there is some kind of skill level you’d need to get the top job on such an illustrious, responsible, value-orientated newspaper. There’s not really time to get your nails done as well as to get up to speed on publishing laws.

Of course, her shock and horror at learning Milly Dowler’s phone was hacked was translated into direct action; it is impressive how she called those involved to account and dealt with them. By doing virtually nothing.

Brooks was a very busy woman, as Private Eye once reported, sometimes so busy she needed two or more hairdressers to attend to her curly red locks at work, much in the same way she needed her husband and a bit on the side in the form of Andy Coulson.

You might have expected Coulson’s high standard of ethics to rub off on Rebekah at some point, but alas, they didn’t. Coulson brought some of his other skills to bear in his role as David Cameron’s spin doctor. More on the sad demise of these media demi-gods can be found here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2480886/Rebekah-Brooks-Andy-Coulson-6-year-affair-phone-hacking-trial-hears.html.

If only there were some way Brooks could have known there was a law against hacking into private telephone conversations and messages. If only News International had say a legal department. I hear that such things exist.Of course Brooks could always turn to the police if she needed advice on what was legal and what wasn’t – the police were indeed in touch with the newspaper’s staff. Then again, the police were probably too busy selling secrets about the Royal Family to News International to dispense any legal advice.

There is also an obscure website – she couldn’t have known about it – which gives advice to professional editors and news professionals; it is called The Press Complaints Commission, and my sources say that News International may have had one or two dealings with them over the years. The code dates from 1991 and has recently been updated, though I can’t imagine why. Details can be found here, should you ever find yourself wondering if you should be writing stories based on information taken from the phones of missing children.

But it is the violation of family privacy that is most upsetting in this sorry tale. In times of trauma and crisis, you don’t want your secrets splashed out in lurid detail in the papers. If only the rest of the press had been as respectful of people as the News of the World had, then a lot of unnecessary shame and embarrassment could have been avoided.

Mrs Brooks is getting the best advice in the world.

When it emerged that Charlie Brooks, Rebekah’s husband, was found carrying some porno around with him, we all realised that the press needed to be reined in. Poor Charlie!

Of course, Old Susannah is just a little confused as to how, if you didn’t think something was illegal, you tried to hide the evidence of doing it by getting rid of black bin liners full of evidence. Anyone who can give me an explanation of that one is welcome to weigh in.

On a final note, rest your minds – Mrs Brooks is getting the best advice in the world. None other than Tony Blair, our former PM, and apparent co-author of the famous ‘dodgy dossier’ which led to our little foray into Iraq, is on the case. He’s kindly offered to advise Rupert Murdoch and Brooks.

How should Rebekah cope? ‘Tough up’, take sleeping pills, and go to the gym says Blair (who may or may not have been having a fling with Rupert’s then wife, Wendy Deng. It must be rather difficult at the office Christmas party for some of these couples). Now we know how he sleeps at night, which had proved something of a mystery.

Old Fashioned Discipline: (English phrase) – to ensure good behaviour by threatening, intimidating, injuring, terrorising.

Applies to: you and me
Doesn’t apply to: tough guys who think they’re doing the right thing, the armed forces.

Children need to know their place and who’s boss. Start them out right – like sending them to the Hamilton school, where as babies they will be taught how to be bored and ignored. Crying infants were left to their own devices as part of the school’s discipline ethics, according to recent reports. That’ll learn ‘em. And then we have those belligerent teens, who need some extra special discipline.

So their basic dignity and human rights may get a bit dented in the process, but discipline comes first. If you can’t find some highlands police to take them to a farm and terrorise them then you can always engage the child-rearing and fitness specialist, Norman McConnachie.

This poor man is in court accused of just doing what he thought was right – helping kids get off to a good start in life. He is accused of just doing the right thing by using a mix of a little ridicule, sexual abuse, torture and fear – all of which can go a long way to getting someone to be a useful member of society.

The Aberdeen high court has heard how in his own words he was just using ‘a little old-fashioned discipline’ and sees nothing wrong with calling teens fat and lazy. He’s no doubt doing the right thing by trying to make a 17 year old girl into a man.

I’m sure he’s the action-man hero he claims he is, but what’s this? A Facebook page called ‘Walter Mitty Hunters’ questions whether this ‘be all you can be’ guy can be all he says he is. For that matter, a few people have been in touch to share very curious observations about his behaviour. We’ll see if the courts uphold this macho fitness instructor, or if they’ll believe some fat, lazy teenage girls.

Intellectual Property: (Eng. legal compound noun) The right of the creator of a piece of work, art, music, film over the use of their work.
Applies to: you and me
Doesn’t apply to: SHMU (see related articles in Aberdeen Voice Public Image? Unauthorised Photos Published By SHMU), Aberdeen City Council (which used artwork on line without permission on at least one occasion).

Wildlife protection laws / Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981: (Modern English ) – laws set to protect wildlife from poaching, cruelty, trade
Applies to: virtually no one

Another day, another rare bird of prey is killed in the highlands (http://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/wildlife-protection-laws-have-had-little-impact-on-driven-grouse-moors/ ). Poisoned bait, illegal, cruel traps, shooting, it’s all the rage. After all, these birds eat other animals, and we can’t have that.

Thankfully, there are laws protecting our wildlife. Pity no one seems to have told the police these laws are to be enforced. Likewise, no one seems to have troubled the judicial system with any need for penalising the few people who do get caught.

I am proud to say that in Aberdeen, the police are as on the case as you would expect. When the severed limbs of deer were discovered on Tullos Hill (and on Kincorth hill by a city warden – but that doesn’t somehow count), the police sprang into action. They decided not to go to the press. They decided not to trouble the Scottish SPCA – there were no suspicious circumstances apparently – just the usual collection of butchered body parts.

They swiftly ensured no signs were posted to warn poachers their actions were illegal. They swiftly, well after a month, answered some of my questions about animal crimes. I can now – as a world exclusive – reveal that the police cannot confirm or deny that dogfighting is taking place in Aberdeen. Remember, you heard this bold, brave police statement here first.

What about all the incidents we know of from the press and Facebook of people attempting to steal dogs and cats?

They are busy behind the scenes, cracking the criminal rings

What about the person who got in touch with me to say they gave the police a description of someone who tried to make off with their dog and that the police dissuaded them from taking the matter further. Well, Police Scotland has come forward to say that there was one reported case in 2013 of an animal theft.

You could start to wonder whether there is a conspiracy of silence. Do the police and our local government want to keep unsavoury crime under wraps so as not to upset potential incoming businesses and residents? Are we keen to deny evidence, such as the nearly starved dog found last year in the north of the city which showed signs of dogfighting abuse?

Are the authorities keeping info back from the Scottish SPCA when they failed to pass on the dismembered deer details? Of course not. They are busy behind the scenes, cracking the criminal rings involved in organised animal crime, and those behind bird of prey poisonings. If we got too much info, that would clearly tip the gangs off, and they might cut their activities down. Since we’ve had such a successful police response to our tiny local car crime problem, let’s just leave them to it on animal issues as well.

So, the next time you forget you’ve let your tax disc expire or the next time you park in the wrong place at the wrong time, just tell the authorities you didn’t realise you were doing wrong. It seems to work for everyone else.

And now, time for a BrewDog.

Next Week: More legal definitions , courtesy of Trump, the University of Florida, Atos, and the government’s plans to sell your NHS files to private companies. Sleep well.

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Sep 262012

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s event’s in the ‘Deen and beyond in her quest to expose the uncovered even at risk of getting under the skin. By Suzanne Kelly. 

Footdee was transformed into an Ibiza foam party this week. Trees and bits of tree were trashed by the wind. Old Susannah wonders how those 89,000 trees planted on Tullos hill are doing.

They may be too small to be toppled by the wind just yet, but that was exactly the kind of weather that will be strong enough to knock them over in a few years’ time. The soil matrix is poor, according to the Forestry Commission’s soil report.

Thankfully it doesn’t rain or get windy in Aberdeen very often, so I’m sure the trees won’t have any problem at all.

The gusts this week knocked over trees and battered cars, but fear not, they weren’t severe enough to spoil Aileen Malone’s hairstyle, which was fetchingly lacquered in place.

Last Saturday she was adding glamour to the 45-minute demo, in a fetching off-white suit. I’d have thought she’d be in a hunting outfit.

They say that ‘size isn’t everything’ and that ‘length doesn’t matter’. Clearly the few at Saturday’s protest against Aberdeen City Council concurred. There were around 70 (I’m being generous) people protesting against Aberdeen City Council for 45 minutes.

You might have thought it was an outdoor rave: ex-councillor Kate Dean was trendily dressed in fetching leggings and a Cove Bay Rangers supporters’ top. I guess this further illustrates that she has no ties to the club which might have remotely prejudiced her handling of the Loirston Loch planning hearing.

Financially or otherwise, someone who might be biased towards one side or another of a hearing isn’t supposed to be the convener, as previously detailed. Anyway, Old Susannah showed up to watch the demo, with a friend and a doggie, and had a chat to some media acquaintances. They were most amused that they’d shown up in the middle of a weekend to cover a demo supposedly by four or five hundred, to find instead between sixty to eighty people, including infants and toddlers.

I learnt a few new vocabulary words from some of these hacked off hacks, but best we don’t define those.

Aileen Malone, councillor, protesting against the council.  Hmm.  Presumably she was protesting against the amiable Martin Greig, Lib Dem, who voted against borrowing £90 million or so for granite walkways. It will be interesting to find out how this move by HoMalone will be viewed by her current party members and by other sitting councillors.  And we shall.

Tom Smith wrote a heart-wrenching, or perhaps ‘stomach-wrenching’, letter to the P&J in response to a letter by one Dr. Howard Gemmell.  Dr Gemmell was disappointed that the city has been split over the UTG situation, and the lack of Wood’s/ACSEF’s willingness to compromise.

There are some absolutely charming comments on the petition which Wood might enjoy

Smith doesn’t seem to agree that there was unwillingness to compromise. I guess he missed all of Sir Ian’s statements to the effect that it was his way or no way, it was the Web or nothing, and if he couldn’t have his Web he’d send the £50 million to help Africans.

Old Susannah started a petition, now with about 175 signatories, asking Wood to honour his February pledge and send the money to do good in Africa instead of getting rid of the city’s lungs.  There are some absolutely charming comments on the petition which Wood might enjoy; it can be found at http://www.gopetition.com/sir-ian-send-your-50m-to-africa

Smith goes on to say ‘there is no strident political campaign by business or Aberdeen City Garden Trust.’  So before getting on to this week’s themes, here is one non-related definition first:

Strident: (Eng. adjective) Characterised by harsh, loud, aggressive noise or commotion.

ACSEF?  Aberdeen City Gardens Trust?  Big Partnership and 300-plus radio adverts?  The letter signed by a hundred businessmen complaining that without a Web we’re doomed?  Strident, these guys?  Never!  I’ve never seen a more refined, elegant polite request to hand control of public, Common Good land over to a private company before.

A member of the royal family playing games in the nude.  A member of the royal family sunbathing in private.  Another royal, Lady Gaga, accused of being ‘fat’.  The naked rambler’s naked ambition.  Kylie’s bottom, again.  A host of issues have made the nude, sorry, news this week.  Here are some relevant definitions to get to the bottom of things.

Right to Privacy: (mod. Eng.; law) The right of an individual not to endure surveillance, be harassed, photographed, recorded, etcetera, as guaranteed by EU Human Rights law, unless there is a legal reason or a journalistic need to expose truth in the public interest.

Apparently, Individuals’ right to privacy is guaranteed in the European Convention on Human Rights.  Journalists however are able to collect and reveal information if it is in the public interest to do so. Smash criminal gangs? Expose illegal activities? These are the kind of things the old-fashioned investigative reporter used to get up to.

But why risk danger, spend ages researching topics, and wind up with a story buried deep in a newspaper if it’s printed at all? After all, not all papers are interested in exposing truths. I wish I could think of an example or two of this.. All you need is a long, long telephoto lens, a decent camera, some recording equipment, and you’ll be in the tabloids earning lots of dosh with little effort. Result.

A newspaper can print a story if it has not been illegally obtained, and if it is definitely in the public interest to print it. This obviously means we need nude photos of the royal family. What could be more in the public interest than that? Perhaps a certain young man was foolish in the extreme to have had a wild US holiday captured in snapshots.

It’s a pity there weren’t any older, wiser professional people around him to stop photos being taken without spoiling the fun, or at least to ensure that the young man was fully aware of the consequences.  If there had been any such experienced, sober professionals around, this particular upset could easily have been avoided. Good on the Sun for printing the photos.

It’s not as if the Sun is in any way an opportunistic paper that will do anything for money.  Beloved of those caught up in Hillsborough, and celebrities and politicians who may have been hacked, thank goodness we’ve got the Sun.

However, a female member of the Royal family was sunbathing at a private French chateau when she was photographed topless. Who could I be referring to? She was photographed by someone with a long lens who was apparently standing nearly half a mile away. She had a reasonable expectation of privacy, and it was taken away from her. Result!  More public interest photos!

Whether or not you are a fan of the royal family, celebrities, sports people, politicians, all these groups of people are contributing by helping our kindly, intrepid newshounds to make a dignified living.  But the stories wouldn’t be as much fun without photos…

Paparazzi(Italian, plural noun) Packs of journalists and photographers who follow famous people around, looking for photo opportunities and stories to sell to tabloids and cheap magazines.

The paparazzi have done a great job so far, and they couldn’t keep it up without people buying magazines.

Whether it’s a drunk singer getting out of a car showing underwear or skin, whether it’s an ageing Peter Falk aka Colombo in California being literally chased by a pack of news hounds (the poor man was old; he was upset and confused when cornered and photographed), or a celebrity’s child going to school, all are fair game for the paparazzi.

After all, everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame, or so I am told, and ‘all publicity is good publicity’. The famous should be grateful that the ever-attentive photographers trail their every move, spying on them, their family and friends.

If you’re famous enough, your accidental death may likewise get a good set of photographers recording it. You’ll be most grateful I’m sure. Old Susannah thought that there was a law and a code or two stopping the exploitation and hounding of celebrities, but apparently there aren’t.

So, keep on buying those mags. Find out who’s been seen cheating on whom, who got drunk, what colour underwear they had on. Most importantly, keep buying these worthy news periodicals to find out crucial things like who looks too fat or too skinny.

Body Image(Mod. Eng. psychological term) The mental picture we have of what we look like to ourselves and the rest of the world.

Anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders were once a comparative rarity confined to teenage girls. However, people of all sexes and ages are suffering these days in increasing numbers.  The problem? Who knows. It’s certainly nothing to do with paparazzi and the celebrity mag. It is mere coincidence that any star in a bikini or ‘revealing outfit’ is immediately deemed to be too thin or more likely too fat by the press.

For one thing, the camera adds ten pounds to us all, or at least that’s my excuse. For another, we’re saturated in images of people who are close to physical perfection, because they’ve been airbrushed. Somehow, when someone doesn’t look quite as tall and thin in real life as in their movie poster, the press is free to speculate whether they have ‘cellulite’.  And ageing is definitely a no-no. Botox to that.

There is obviously no link between the media obsessing over every inch of a celeb’s body and other people wondering if they are beautiful or not. Any link between people binge eating or starving themselves has nothing to do with this tiny societal pressure to be perfect.

Lady Gaga, it is being claimed, has no right to any privacy. So her ex pa claims in a New York law suit. I think Gaga might beg to differ. She has recently posed in a bikini as a response to people saying she’d got fat. As a teenager she suffered eating disorders.

It is almost as if she thinks her music is somehow more important than what she looks like. But here’s the thing: just because someone poses for a photo when there is a photo call or an event on, does it mean they should be photographed in their private time? Of course it does!

Thankfully girls have many positive role models. There is Jordan for instance. Buying quantities of silicone, taking your clothes off, and having a ghost writer are what we want our young girls aspire to.

Exposure: (Eng; crime) exposing oneself wilfully, for instance to young children or in public.

In Aberdeen, a man was spared jail this week. He continues to go out in public and expose himself to young children. What a freedom fighter! Just like our friend, the Naked Rambler.

You might think Old Susannah would rush to defend the Naked Rambler’s right to be naked wherever and whenever he wants. Absolutely!

The thing is, other people’s rights not to be disturbed by the Rambler exposing himself aren’t as important as his right to be naked. He was recently asked to stay clear of a children’s play area when he was naked. He refused. What a hero!

There is a silly old saying ‘your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins’. Surely this doesn’t apply to our naked freedom fighter. So what if something like one in five women can expect to have some kind of sexual assault in their lifetime? Why shouldn’t this nude guy be free to make people wary of a potential attack? Why should anyone have the right to keep their child from seeing him?

An American criminal legal professional I know brought up the subject of crime and nudity once, it was one of those conversations. She said that in her years of court experience there were usually only two reasons a man shows up naked somewhere: one is because they intend a sexual assault; the other is because they are going to kill someone and don’t want to get blood on their clothes. But let’s just let everyone go around naked, shall we? How can that lead to any intimidation or discomfort?

Sadly, we don’t live in an innocent, nice world any more. Some say we never did. By the way, the Naked Rambler has two children by one of his ex-partners. She asked him to keep his clothes on to visit his young children and he refused point blank. Now that’s truly heroic, sacrificing your children’s right to a father so that you can get naked.

Confidential to ‘Forgetful of Bucksburn’:  Sorry you forgot about all the charming posts you put on Facebook extolling the various good points of the EDL. If you need any reminders of what you wrote, just let Old Susannah know. I’ve got screenshots saved and backed up, and I’ll be  happy to refresh your memory.

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Apr 062012

Old Susannah comments on UK Government proposals to access emails between all citizens in the name of preventing Terrorism.

There will be dancing in the streets, celebrations at public squares (as long as they are vibrant, dynamic and have connectivity), and rejoicing all ‘round: the government has found the way to stop terrorism! Result! Yes, the government is getting rid of terrorism. And your basic right to privacy.

Why didn’t we think of it earlier, we are all wondering. Yes, the Government has decided it has the right to record each and every email you receive and send. And that is how terrorism will be stopped once and for all.

I’m happy to give up my private life forever in order for government snoops to be able to catch the bad guys. I’m thrilled to be treated like a new prison inmate every time I want to get on a plane. I’m sure you are as well.

So what if there are the occasional cases of disabled and/or elderly people being strip searched for having mobility aids. If the occasional frightened child is separated from its parents to be frisked, then so be it. It’s the price we pay for having the fantastic safe and secure lifestyles we have.

It was said by an American founding father, Benjamin Franklin that ‘They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.’ How times have changed.

You could also wonder how secure your business secrets will be when they are intercepted by unknown government spooks. Do people ever mis-use information? Hardly ever. The slightly paranoid J Edgar Hoover kept files on American citizens, and would occasionally blackmail people into doing his bidding. Liberty and Justice for all, except if the FBI wanted you.

That would never happen here. Of course a senior police official was recently found guilty of accessing data on an ex-partner of his right here. I’m sure this was just a one-off, no need to trouble ourselves about it.

It’s also a very good thing that terrorists would never use the Royal Mail. Except for those charming people who sent bombs to Celtic’s manager, that is. No one would ever think of using the post for smuggling, planning terrorist attacks or anything else we should concern ourselves with. Phew!

It would be terrible if there were any civil disobedience over this great move. For instance nothing is stopping you from going to an internet cafe, and creating a free email account under the name of john smith. If enough people did this, and only sent or checked emails at internet cafes, then this little snooping plan of our kind government’s would be toast.

Old Susannah thinks this great scheme might run into a few wee problems anyway. For one thing, I keep getting all sorts of ‘spam’. Multiply all the emails selling you drugs or which try to get your personal details out of you by the country’s population, and you’ll need a bank of computer storage just to keep the spam.

Perhaps we should all go back to sending letters.

If anyone wanted to sign a petition against this great piece of legislation, although I can’t think why they would, the online petition is at http://www.avaaz.org/en/stop_the_big_brother_law_a/?tta

Celebrity Blog from Cattie the Millipede and Milly the Caterpillar

Greetings everyone from our safe house in Torry, where we were airlifted to after our beautiful meadow home on Tullos Hill was destroyed – for a LibDem election pledge. We are surviving the cold snap OK, because we have lots of dead leaves to hide under to keep warm. (gardeners should always leave some dead leaves or other mulch around to keep plants – and creatures like us – warm).

We are even more worried now about our old friends on Tullos Hill. The deer have nowhere near as much gorse to shelter in and it’s cold. The birds lost lots of their shelter too when the gorse was ripped out. We are fine – but we wish our friends were, too.

Election Notes

The Labour Party have announced they would – end the Granite Web in its tracks if elected! Rather than borrowing £140,000,000 to put concrete ramps over our garden, chop down 250 year-old trees to turn into wood chip, they seem to want to spend time and energy on helping people.

Gerry Brough, city employee who has generously volunteered to work on the project is said to be incandescent with rage. So no change there then.

Aug 042011

By Tom Shepherd. 

Idle banter, useless prattle
Blether, gossip, tittle-tattle
“Have you heard?”
“No, what’s the matter?”
 Scuttle-butt and empty chatter.

Vacant news and hollow lies
Scarring friendships, breaking ties
Neighbours gossip, rumour mills
Seeds of distrust sown, great ills
Harvested without a care
People once who trusted, stare.
Curtains twitch and heads are turned
Lovers part and colleagues spurned.

As threads through which we all relate
Are severed by fear, doubt and hate,
Where honeyed tongues drown honesty
In stagnant mire of false decree
When speculation, most uncouth,
With hateful slander strangles proof.
Let voices soar, cry from the roof;
“Whatever happened to the truth?”

Image credit: © Guy Shapira | Dreamstime.com