Jan 192017

With thanks to Charlie Abel.

Joanna Lumley has become the first award recipients of the 2017 Scottish Samurai

Besides being a well known BAFTA TV award winning actress, former model, author and voice over artist, Joanna has been a great advocate for human rights for Survival International and the Ghurka Justice

She is also a great supporter of Animal welfare charities such as Compassion in World Farming and Vegetarians International Voice for Animals.

Her recent documentary ‘Joanna Lumley’s Japan’ was a great hit with the Samurai Award’s membership and U.K. audience. 

The Scottish Samurai awards were founded in Aberdeen by Culter resident and international 9th Dan Karate instructor Ronnie Watt OBE, ORS to celebrate those who serve and excel. The award of Great Shogun recognises those who have reached the ultimate achievement in their field.

Joanna Lumley has said she is very proud and very humbled to receive the honour and she is:

“thrilled to be a Scottish Samurai.”

Ronnie Watt is delighted to add Joanna to the ever-growing list of Samurai.

Some of the previous award winners include Sean Connery, Billy Connolly, Alex Salmond, Aberdeen City Council, Sir Ian Wood, Lord Charles Bruce, Compton Ross, Tommy Dreelan and the current and former Japanese Consul Generals of Japan in Edinburgh.

Each year the Scottish Samurai awards grow and continues to encourage and recognise people from different walks of life for their positive contributions to society and those around them.

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Dec 032015

Inside Fur screen2With thanks to Flo Blackbourn.

International animal rights organisation, Animal Justice Project, is hosting a Nationwide tour of award-winning premiere documentary, Inside Fur, which takes viewers undercover inside the secretive fur industry in Norway and China.
On 8th December 2015 at 7pm the film premieres at A19, Taylor Building, University of Aberdeen.

The 57 min. documentary directed by Norwegian film director, Ola Waagen, follows the work of undercover investigator and psychologist, Frank Nervik, as he goes deep undercover to dupe fur farmers into believing he is entering the industry to farm animals for their skins.

Nervick reveals harrowing, never-seen-before footage using covert cameras in both Norway – one of the largest fur producing countries in the world – and China, the number one fur producer.

Major fur export markets include China, Russia, Canada, and the EU. Norway is a major fox fur producer, along with Finland and Poland. Skins from these countries are sold under the Saga brand through the Saga Furs auctions. The UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Austria, Croatia, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, Germany and Italy are among the countries that have banned parts of or their entire fur industry, though these countries still allow imports.

The European Fur Breeders Association (EFBA) has an affiliated national fur breeder association in Norway, as well as Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.

Norway’s controversial fur industry – which involves over 200 fox and mink farms – has been exposed by several leading animal protection organisations in the country, revealing numerous and severe violations of the law, as well as wounded and suffering animals. State authorities in Norway have stated that there is ‘shocking’ evidence of animal abuse.

In May 2015, the Norwegian government announced that it would slash financial support to the industry and, this month, over 7,000 Norwegians took the streets in Europe’s largest anti-fur event to call for a ban on fur farming. The Government is now considering banning fur altogether following this event and the launch of a groundbreaking report on the industry.

Fur is currently a hot topic in Britain also, and the film tour follows closely an airing of the investigatory BBC1 television program ‘Fake Britain’, which exposes well-known high street shops such as TK Maxx and House of Fraser, to be selling real mink, raccoon, raccoon-dog and weasel fur fraudulently labeled as ‘Faux’.

Animal Justice Project Spokesperson, Flo Blackbourn states:

“This film, Inside Fur, is very relevant right now, as we are entering the season in which fur trim and the occasional fur coat are increasingly seen on the high street. This film is important viewing for anyone who has an interest in animals and the fashion industry, as it exposes the truth of the fur industry and the immense cruelty involved.”

Animal Justice Project is an international organisation working in Europe and the United States to end the use of animals in laboratory research and other forms of speciesism.

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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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Aug 152014

In mid-July Suzanne Kelly wrote to all the City councillors and the new Chief Executive. This was following Evening Express revelations that according to a Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) count, there may be only nineteen deer left in the entire city, with only three or four left on Tullos Hill. Tullos had a deer population which was stable for decades, until the Liberal Democrats foisted a ‘tree for every citizen’ scheme on the city, and the deer’s days were numbered as the City Council refused even to consider alternatives to shooting.

In response to Kelly’s email, the City Council created a document which it sent to all councillors, but not to Kelly. Kelly has obtained this missive, and in this article seeks to dismiss its points.

baby deer

We may be in danger of losing all of our city deer.

This will be due in no small part to the recent drive to cull dozens of them at a time, on the pretexts that ‘they have no natural predators’ and that for reasons best known to scheme proponents Councillor Aileen Malone and ranger Ian Talboys, we need to ‘plant a tree’ for every citizen.

Having written to all the councillors, a few did respond with sympathetic views, advising that they were against the cull, and that they knew of the 3,000-plus citizens and the community councils which had asked for the tree scheme and the cull to be scrapped. However, many councillors never got back in touch.

Many people have since forwarded an email sent by the City Council’s media division. The media department chose to write to the councillors and the Chief Executive rebutting my email. They left me out of the correspondence.

Perhaps they knew that most of their points could readily be countered. This article is a response to the City Council’s justifications for how it treats its deer population and the low regard in which it clearly holds its voters.

Here is the gist of what the City Council tried to claim, and what I would like to say to the councillors and the City Council by way of rebuttal, a courtesy they decided not to extend to me. There go my hopes for a new Chief Executive who would be open, accountable and transparent in her dealings.

Thanks to the many people who sent me the City Council’s claims which I will deal with point by point.

  • The City Council claims there are errors and inaccuracies in an  Evening Express article of 19th July. The City Council claims the article did not report the real story regarding the roe deer population.

An interesting introduction; but the City Council fails to discount the article in this opening paragraph, or to say specifically what those inaccuracies are. They are going to address these ‘inaccuracies’ with the Evening Express. How very odd then, to remember an  Evening Express article of a few years back. This story advised that ‘two deer were found dead ahead of the planned cull’.

Well, that was true: the deer had died of unknown causes TWO YEARS before the cull. Someone in the City Council contacted the  Evening Express and encouraged this story. The City Council had no interest in correcting that little inaccuracy.

  • The City Council addresses the claim that Tullos Hill is “under threat from deer extinction”, and says this is not true. They say the survey was undertaken by SNH in January 2014 at only four of the city’s new woodland sites, out of 39 woodland sites. The sites looked at were Tullos Hill, Seaton, Danestone and Greenferns.

The SNH want to have only four to six animals on the whole of Tullos Hill, to fit in with their recent guidelines.

Perhaps the deer were hiding from the infrared sensors

These are for guidance and not legally binding, although you would not know that as the City Council repeats the mantra over and over again that deer must be ‘managed’ (ie shot).

The ranger Ian Talboys wrote an email in response to 16 deer limbs being found in a ‘suspected’ poaching incident on Tullos. More on that later. If he ever did express a desire to protect the remaining animals, find the culprits or find a means to discourage wildlife crime, he doesn’t seem to have put it into writing: a Freedom of Information (FOI) request disclosed all relevant correspondence.

Talboys says that he believed the deer must have been shot elsewhere, a rather wild claim some might think, as he thought there were fewer deer than that on Tullos:

“I would be surprised if there were enough deer in the area for anyone to be able to take four in one go so it may be the remains have been taken from somewhere else and dumped on Tullos Hill”

Perhaps it’s just as well that Talboys is not a criminologist. But the bottom line is, how can four to six deer, even if migrating between sites, have a healthy, stable gene pool and survive poaching? At such numbers exactly how will we continue to have deer on the hill?

  • The City Council’s media personnel then go on to offer conjecture, not fact, as to why the count may have been low. The count was aided by the contribution from Ian Burnett of Aberdeen City Council.

Perhaps the deer were hiding from the infrared sensors is one idea they offer. It is interesting how the City Council flits from conjecture to fact when it suits its purposes. What I asked for was a halt to any further culling, until at the very least another count was done to establish the numbers.

The apologists go on to explain in great detail how hard it is for the SNH to get accurate numbers for counting deer: temperature, other animals, weather, all sorts of reasons are given for why counts are inaccurate.

No one in the City Council seemed to have any concerns about inaccurate counting of deer when it put out its ‘Granite City Forest Tree for Every Citizen Programme – Tullos Hill Community Woodland’ document (BRN 165321 Case No 4158709).

It stated categorically that in 2011, 29 deer were counted on the hill. I will put up my hand and admit that at present I can’t find my source for the count of 70 deer in the area. However, if I am inaccurate with numbers, then I have company in the City Council’s paid professionals; only my counting doesn’t form the basis for shooting them.

Fact: the above-referenced report says that in February 2011 there were “seven bucks, ten does, six juveniles and six unclassified animals” (Page 67). The targets set (same page) were the destruction of eight bucks, nine does and seven juveniles in 2012/13 in the first killing, i.e. 24 of the 29 would be killed.

The great scheme was then to destroy four more creatures each season until 2016/17.

one of the complainants coincidentally writes to Aileen Malone with great frequency

No mention seems to appear in this 69-page report, in my opinion a highly biased apology for deer killing, that it’s hard to count the animals, or that there could be a doubt over the number of animals on the hill.

As above, councillors were told there were 29 animals on Tullos in February 2011. The hunter(s) paid to do the shooting that first season killed either 34 or 35 animals: the records are so poorly written that not even the City Council’s FOI request managed to find a figure.

So there you have it: 29 deer counted, of which 24 were going to be destroyed, and 34 or 35 were in fact killed. And now we are told it’s hard to count them.

  • The City Council’s cull apologist goes on to say that The Housing and Environment directorate continues to receive reports of, and complaints about large deer populations and the damage they cause across Aberdeen.

In response to my FOI request I was sent complaints about deer.

Oddly enough, one of the complainants coincidentally writes to Aileen Malone with great frequency, about deer in the Cults area which apparently go into the complainant’s garden. There would also seem to be one other complainer. These people must be amazed that they have moved to a countryside area and found countryside animals on private property.

  • ACC officers monitor the new woodland sites for field signs of the roe deer and evidence of deer browsing on the young and established trees, to establish the likely population of deer in the area and any impact they are having on the sites. The management of these sites ensures that there is a balance between habitats and species through weed control, scrub management, deer management, woodland management operations etc.

The public stated resoundingly that it did not want Tullos to become a woodland site. As it has gone ahead, the City Council has demonstrably left the weeds unchecked while killing the deer. The Forestry Commission clearly stated that the previous failure was related to weeds as well as alleged deer browsing.

The City Council has done nothing to rectify the poor soil matrix on Tullos. The report on the failure of phase 1 states that trees are likely to topple in the wind (wind toss) because of the poor soil matrix. The fact that debris are visible throughout the tree planting area demonstrates this fact. It is probably an insoluble problem, making Tullos an unlikely area for a forest.

  • The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 and the Code of Practice on Deer Management place a duty on anyone with deer on their land to manage them at sustainable level, whereby the population density is not causing significant damage to property, crops, woodlands, protected areas or creating welfare issues for the deer themselves through lack of food or habitat to rest up in, or causing safety issues for people.

It is voluntary code of practice we are talking about, and a contentious one at that. The above-referenced report says about the code:

“although not mandatory, [the code] incorporates the legal framework for deer management… The Code supports the voluntary approach…”  

The City Council really should stop maintaining that it is following the law, it is following a code. It’s funny, there seems no such zeal to follow codes on our air pollution levels, still failing to meet EU permissible levels for particulates for years and years. There is no such zeal when allowing class sizes to exceed government guidelines.

And yet, the deer cull guidelines are presented to councillors as if they are mandatory legal requirements which must be obeyed.

At Tullos the deer posed no threat of property damage. There were no crops, there was no woodland, only a meadow. There were no deer welfare issues, there were no safety issue for people. Any evidence to the contrary has not yet been presented to the public and a chance to scrutinise any that exists would be welcome.

In the absence of any evidence, and having proved that the Code of Practice is not binding law, and did not apply as there were no crops, no starving deer, etc. at Tullos, this is meaningless jargon and a general statement not relevant to the specifics of the low level of deer now left in the city and the small number on Tullos.

But now the City Council plays a trump card: it gets into deer vehicle collisions. The City Council says that in 2013/14

  • “the Aberdeen City Council Cleansing Teams collected 30 roe deer carcasses from the city’s road network that had been hit by vehicles and died at the roadside. …which will have caused damage to vehicles, distress to drivers and their passengers as well as suffering to the deer.”

There does not seem to be a single sign erected in the city to warn of deer crossing. And yet the City Council is aware of all of these crashes without taking any mitigating action – except to advocate deer shooting. I have campaigned for signs to be erected, as are used in many other areas.

The City Council’s response? They claim people don’t pay attention to signs.

As logic goes, this is quite a fail. If the City Council is aware of risks to Health and Safety, and decides not to use fencing, deer deterrents (there are devices which emit noises which repel deer) or to warn motorists of hazards, then that’s rather a damning indictment of how it handles public safety and how little the protection of animals, and thereby our biodiversity, means to them.

The media pros then get around to my statement that the trees are not thriving.

  • “In ACC’s professional opinion the trees are doing well. The site has been inspected by Forestry Commission Scotland as a part of the grant conditions and they are content with the growth of the trees”.

IMG_1495I suppose a layman’s photograph of tiny tree saplings planted amid rubbish, overshadowed by huge quantities of healthy weeds is a professional’s version of doing well.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

For some reason, no documentation from the City Council or Forestry Commission painting a glowing portrait of a thriving plantation was included with the FOI documents sent to me.

Since we wasted £43,800 of taxpayer money trying to plant trees on Tullos before, which were beset by weeds, no doubt the City Council asked the Forestry Commission for a comfort letter, agreeing that the trees are just fine and we’re in no danger of repeating our past failure.

I have noted that Glasgow at one point refused to cull its deer for this voluntary code. With a grandiose sweep of the pen, the person attempting to shoot down my arguments tells the councillors

  • “It is not Aberdeen City Council’s place to comment on Glasgow City Council deer management policies.”

It might not be necessary to comment on Glasgow, but it is rather useful to note that other Scottish authorities are treating the deer-culling guidelines as guidelines, and not legal requirements.

  • Finally, we get to the reports sent in to me about deer poaching. The City Council has gone on in most of its correspondence and reports to explain that deer need to be shot ‘because they have no natural predators’. .

“Given the number of deer legs found it is highly unlikely that they were taken from this site as they would have come from more deer than were known to be in the area at the time. This is the advice provided by Grampian Police Wildlife Crime Officers following their investigations. In respect of the poaching, there is no proof that the deer legs found on Tullos Hill were from deer taken on Tullos Hill or the surrounding area.”

Well, we might not have wolves in the hills, but we certainly have poachers.

An article on the scale of poaching and the money involved was in The Observer on 10th August, page 9. But the City Council has reverted to wild conjecture. Talboys had written in an email that he doubted anyone could find four deer to poach on Tullos: his theory, and the theory being put to councillors here is that the deer were poached elsewhere.

Let’s imagine the scene. Deer poachers hunt, trap and kill four deer. The poachers decide what to do next: they take the deer carcasses, all four of them, put them in their vehicle, drive somewhere close to Tullos and park. They then carry the dead deer to a spot on Tullos hill, all the while risking detection.

Then they cut the deer up, take the meat, and hide the legs and guts in a bush. Or, having cut the deer up already, apparently to ensure the meat doesn’t get contaminated, they then carry the legs and innards in their car to a parking area close to the hill, grab the sixteen legs and the internal organs, walk along the hill and hide the remains in the bushes.

I wonder what Inspector Morse would say.

We will have to wonder what Police Scotland’s Wildlife Crime Officer has to say as well. There has not been a single press release about deer poaching in our area.

So, dear councillors and readers, if you have made it this far into my comments on the City Council’s attempt to trash my arguments, thanks to those who continue to oppose this senseless slaughter. Thanks to those who have sent me the City Council’s rebuttal when it failed to do so. Would you do me three favours?

The first is to halt any deer culling until we have a better grasp of how many, or how few deer we have.

The second? Protect motorists and deer: let’s just see if putting up signs might help. You might want to ask yourself how thirty deer–related accidents stack up to the drink-related, speed-related fatalities on our roads, and how many hit-and-runs we have.

Thirdly, would someone like to please find out whether ranger Ian Talboys, who is such a staunch supporter of shooting the animals, gets any money or expenses for his role in the deer-culling lobbying entity, the “Lowland Deer Management Group?” This would be rather interesting to know.

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

Aug 062014

A recent Aberdeen Voice piece looked at salmon fishing issues and Montrose-based USAN. Seals were shot in Gardenstown, confrontations occurred between Sea Shepherd, hunt saboteurs and USAN, who operate salmon nets in the Crovie area. Animal welfare organisations condemned USAN’s activities.

USAN’s George Pullar invited Suzanne Kelly out on the boat to experience first-hand a typical day on the water taking salmon. Pullar wanted to explain his operations and his difficulties; this is the story of how the day unfolded. By Suzanne Kelly.

George  Pullar of USAN. Credit: Suzanne Kelly

George Pullar of USAN. Credit: Suzanne Kelly

It is a pleasant afternoon when George Pullar collects me from the Montrose train station for my visit. Montrose station by the way is adjacent to wildlife habitat, the Montrose Basin.

This is a highly valued local nature reserve  where fishing and wildfowling are permitted leisure activities.

I am admittedly the sort of person who only wants to shoot wildlife with a camera. I wonder what sort of day I’m in store for.

We arrive at the USAN operations south of Montrose. A floating net is currently hung up on the grounds of the Pullar property; the cage is, I am struck by its huge size.

USAN operates in a number of areas around the east coast of Scotland; USAN advise they purchased fishing rights as private heritable titles on a willing buyer/willing seller basis, as with all the rights they own, and are keen to point out they have not operated nets in the Ythan Estuary area and state that they have not shot any seals.  However, anglers concerned about salmon stocks and animal welfare groups are concerned about seals in the area, and George has told me that if a seal persistently steals from any of his nets, he wants to have it shot.   The local anglers, who have contributed towards maintaining salmon stocks, are ‘dismayed’ at the news of USAN operating in the area.

USAN was also granted a licence to shoot some 100 seals; after public outcry, the company was widely quoted in the press as saying it will not take seals. But George Pullar is adamant seals which interfere with the nets will be shot.

The Scottish Government via Marine Scotland issues licences for killing grey and common seals to the farms and the netting fisheries. Their 2013 figures brag that ‘only’ “105 seals have been shot across 216 individual fish farms and 169 seals across over 40 river fisheries and netting stations during the third year.” and that “licensees are only shooting seals as a last resort.”

Pullar and I get onto the subject of hunting in general; there are a few nice looking dogs on the property. Pullar is not interested in shooting deer or rabbits for fun or sport; he says his shooting is confined to protecting his nets and his fish from seals.

Arrival at USAN Suzanne Kelly

Arrival at USAN. Credit: Suzanne Kelly

We walk down a path to the bothy, where we are joined by others including George’s son. Everyone puts on protective gear and a life vest, and we go aboard the motorised boat. Eight large fish packing boxes are aboard, empty. They will soon almost all be filled with salmon, large and small.

The motorboat goes to the netting areas past ‘Elephant Rock’ a local landmark. We pass George’s cliff top house.

He tells me that hunt saboteurs, wearing balaclavas have not only been monitoring USAN’s activities on the water, but have also been watching his house. Unsurprisingly, the police are monitoring the hunt saboteurs, and George tells me that anti-terrorism police are also involved and are interested. Pullar is concerned for his family and his business.

We arrive at the first net, a floating cage. The fish go into the wide opening, and the further in they go, the more trapped they become.

The crew grab one side of the net from the side of the boat; they begin to haul their catch. Then each man grabs a small wooden club. Suddenly the bottom of the boat is filled with salmon, struggling for oxygen. They are terrified, they are gasping; they flap helplessly. Small fish, large fish, all are clubbed to death on the head as swiftly as the crew can manage.

We repeat this process some 14 times more; I’ve lost count.

My first impulse is to put the salmon back in the water and save them; this is of course impossible and whether or not I am there, the fish will be killed. The small ones look particularly helpless to me; the large ones are nothing short of majestic. But I must report that the killing of these animals is accomplished quickly.

I think of the many ways fish and meats are produced; I think of the farmed salmon.

salmon net on Pullar property by Suzanne Kelly

If animals are to go into the food chain, it is better that they have a free, natural life and a swift end to my way of thinking.

George agrees with me readily as to the treatment meted out to farm animals; if I’ve understood him correctly he has seen a chicken processing plant in operation.
I want to discuss his relatively swift despatching of the previously wild salmon as opposed to how caged salmon live.

Farmed salmon are kept in relatively small pens, where in the wild they would have covered wide open sea and river areas. Farmed fish are fed a cocktail of drugs; they are prone to sea lice, which cause great pain as they eat the farmed salmon’s flesh, often to the bone. And there is powerful evidence that the areas under these cages become barren; I spoke to a diver who equated the area under a salmon cage he’d seen with the Empty Quarter desert.

George asks me if I eat fish; I say no. He asks if I eat any meat; I say I’m vegetarian. I do say though that from what I know and what I’ve seen of meat production, I cannot really argue with the speed in which the salmon are killed on his boat.

After they are killed, they are tagged as wild Scottish salmon with a tag carrying the USAN logo.

The number of fish in each net varies. Some have only 2-3 fish. Some have dead salmon and a fair number of jellyfish. I only see a few types of other fish in the nets; a mackerel, and Pullar points out some herring. He tells me in effect there are plenty of fish in the sea.

That may be so, but there are some serious concerns being expressed about the number of wild salmon to be found in the rivers. The anglers also support local businesses and bring money into rural economies. The anglers of late are hardly catching a thing. Pullar today has taken at least 50 salmon, and while this number can vary greatly, he says they clear the cages twice a day.

Some reports state that  total salmon catch figure decreased from 500,000  in 1975, to 100,000 in 2000.  Today, anglers in Scotland’s rivers are hardly getting any salmon at all. Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of the Salmon and Trout Association (Scotland) said:

“This is a very bad year for salmon. Numbers returning to the coast from their marine migrations appear to be well down. Very few are entering their rivers of origin. This situation is exacerbated by the dry weather. Given the lack of flow in the rivers fish tend to wait in coastal waters where they are highly vulnerable to coastal nets – such as those operated by USAN.”

USAN’s nets south of Montrose are a classic “mixed stocks fishery” – taking fish destined for many rivers between the Tay and the Spey. Radio tracking by Marine Scotland of fish caught south of Montrose shows conclusively that some are destined for the Dee.

Some of the salmon catch in one box. Credit: Suzanne Kelly

Some of the salmon catch in one box. Credit: Suzanne Kelly

USAN is answerable to The Esk District Fishery Board for its operations. There are conflicts in legislation – ‘leaders’ are meant to be removed from the floating nets at specific times – but the rules take no account as to prevailing weather conditions. USAN has fallen foul of these laws, and is seeking to change them.

I haven’t seen a seal all day; and on previous boat trips down the coast, I have almost always seen some.

I wonder why there are none at all in such an area as George’s nets are. I ask him about seals.

“If a seal only comes to the nets once, it’s not a problem. But if the same seal comes back, then (it will be shot). These are my fish (the ones in his nets)”

George also seeks to assure me that the police were happy with his having guns and how they were stored in Gardenstown and Crovie. This was an issue touched on in a previous article.

I know that Marc Ellington, who owns the lands in Gardenstown and Crovie has formally forbidden USAN to shoot from  his lands. As I understand, it is illegal to shoot from a boat (for rather obvious reasons; the water is hardly a stable place from which to aim).

Pullar tells me that his company is working with developers to improve devices which use sound to repel seals (he says not all seals are susceptible to the noise such devices emit). He points out to me the steel bars he has installed on some of his floating cages to prevent seal access to the salmon, and netting in use on other cages to prevent seal access as well.

George feels that the press is ignoring efforts he is making with the university and developers to keep seals out of the nets and therefore out of the equation which is one of the main objections people have to USAN’s operations – the shooting of seals.

It is clear to me that if USAN were to market itself as a company that took wild salmon without ever harming any other wildlife – it would be pleasing clients and people concerned with the environment. Even if the company took fewer fish as a result, it seems clear to me people who care about wildlife (even if they eat salmon) would be willing to pay more for a product that didn’t involve shooting other creatures.

Last year a seal was shot in Gardenstown in front of two newly-arrived tourists who had rented a cottage.

They promptly packed and left. The police’s investigation into the shooting – which took place without the landowner’s permission – fizzled out. 

A salmon netted, clubbed and tagged for sale. Credit: Suzanne Kelly

A salmon netted, clubbed and tagged for sale. Credit: Suzanne Kelly

USAN makes no secret of the fact they will shoot the animals if they interfere with the nets.

USAN made a statement to government which sets out its arguments – theirs is a heritable business in a sector which they see as being persecuted by angling interests.

In the document USAN discusses the Close season and the fact anglers get a longer period in which to fish. USAN employs some 14 people, and support the local economy.

But when USAN states:

 “It is reprehensible for us to have to survive on reduced fishing time, where there is no threat to salmon stocks.”

– it is clear that this conflict is about more than seals; it is also about conflicting opinions on how much salmon stock should be taken, and what the future holds for the wild salmon population.

It’s A Living Thing.

Pullar wants to provide for his family and to pass his business on, just as his father has done. We talk about what I do for a living (I’m a secretary when I’m not writing for Aberdeen Voice, by the way, as well as a painter and craftsperson, and a few other things). My skills are transferable; I’m also always trying to learn new skills.

I wonder perhaps if the Pullar business model could benefit from some diversification – adding wildlife tours, education, etc. to the business model.

The world is rapidly changing; in Aberdeen the talk often turns to what will happen when oil runs out. It is entirely possible that the salmon population is dwindling – overfishing (arguably), pollution, climate change are driving changes which can’t be beneficial for any wildlife. Pullar could always find other ways to work; he doesn’t want to and by law he doesn’t have to.

I think of the seals. They have to eat what they find – there is no choice for them. Do we really have to take as many fish as we do Experts advise that many dead seals are found not to have salmon in their stomachs when examined. But if the definition of ‘vermin’ is one species going after the food needed by another species – are the seals the vermin – or are we?

On our way back to the Pullar bothy, three hunt saboteurs are sitting on the shoreline.  They wear balaclavas and are filming us.  The boat goes closer; George is filiming them; they film George and I am filming them both.  It is a sureal moment and soon we are back to the Pullar property.

We return to shore; the boxes which had filled up with fish are put on a forklift, and taken to the bothy’s packing plant. On my way back to George’s car, I meet his father. Three generations of the Pullar family are engaged in the business.

My Closing Thoughts.

I leave with a bit more insight into USAN’s operations and its issues, and with some hope that a way will be found to stop shooting any seals.

Salmon amid the jellyfish. Fishing with USAN. Credit: Suzanne Kelly

Salmon amid the jellyfish. Fishing with USAN. Credit: Suzanne Kelly

It’s clear to me they aren’t the only ones shooting seals. Once again I find myself wondering if the Scottish Government and its environmental bodies SNH and Marine Scotland are more interested in money and politics than in the state of Scotland’s ecology and the biodiversity of the future.

I think that if I were a hunt sab, or animal rights activist, Pullar would be of less interest to me than the people involved in industrial farming on land and on sea and the institutionalised cruelties entailed.

I question the tactic of hanging around someone’s house wearing a balaclava; the hunt sabs didn’t make very many friends in Gardenstown either; they were asked to leave.

Intimidation is a tool, but working together to find solutions in a less confrontational manner should be preferred. Pullar says he’s working on ways to keep the seals away from the nets; I will follow his progress and encourage it.

I also leave with renewed determination to remain a vegetarian, and may perhaps go vegan.

But mostly, I’m thinking of the seals, deer, geese and the habitats that are being destroyed before my eyes since I moved to Scotland. That for me is the bigger picture, and until someone in power decides that money is less important than halting urban sprawl and encouraging biodiversity in deed rather than in words, I believe we are all heading for trouble.

Do not watch the following video if seeing fish being clubbed will upset you. Do not assume that is meant to show up USAN’s killing. It will show everyone who likes their smoked salmon exactly where it comes from. I recommend watching it while bearing in mind what is going on to get the low-cost chicken, lamb, pork and beef onto your table, which would be far more upsetting to watch.

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Jul 252014

Aberdeen City’s deer population has been more than decimated by what seems like a heady cocktail of politics, bad science and greed. Aberdeen Voice covers the issues in a series of articles. By Suzanne Kelly.


A recent SNH count suggests that the number of deer on Tullos Hill may be no more than three.

The controversial Tree for Every Citizen scheme, originally a Lib Dem election promise, was promoted in particular  by Aberdeen City Councillor Aileen Malone, paid consultant Chris Piper, and city ranger Ian Talboys.

Nearly three dozen deer were shot on Tullos Hill alone, despite a large public outcry from residents, community councils, elected officials and animal welfare charities.

That wasn’t the end of the persecution of this herd of deer, which had been successfully established on the hill for over 70 years. The SNH issued new controversial guidelines, suggesting that the hill can only support 3 or 4 deer – an idea which is demonstrably untrue, and which would of course virtually destroy a healthy gene pool. The trees planted during the first phase of the scheme failed to grow, admittedly in part due to deer browsing – but unchecked weed growth, the wrong size tree guards and the very poor soil matrix on the hill were cited by experts as reasons for failure. The deer are virtually gone; the weeds outnumber and overshadow the new trees. The establishment of the trees seems very unlikely to experts and observers. But things got worse for the deer. Deer legs were found on both Kincorth and Tullos Hills in January of this year, apparently severed. Information from recent Freedom of Information requests has revealed a catalogue of issues to be addressed, and one of these is the poaching of several deer, and how the officials handled it.

Poaching: On 6th January walkers found deer legs on Tullos Hill. One week later, more animal remains were found on Kincorth Hill. These included a deer leg, and remains of a domestic cat that had been apparently skinned.  In the Kincorth Hill case, the findswere reported to a city warden at the time; the warden saw the animal remains.   There was a small amount of uncertainty at the time whether it was a warden or a ranger involved on Kincorth; it was later confirmed to be a warden. In any event, the warden made no report at all to the city rangers, police or the Scottish SPCA – which should be immediately notified of any potential animal-related crime. This disturbing news of these two finds never appeared at the time in the press, this is hardly surprising, as documents show the City was keen to keep the story of two trapped deer away from the Evening Express.

“We would not want this getting into the Evening Express so we need to act as a matter of urgency.”

The deer carcases were not found on the hills, only the legs. One of the City’s strongest arguments for killing the Tullos deer was that they had ‘no natural predators’.

a city warden failed to act on the evidence

Wildlife experts at the time pointed out that foxes for instance will take young fawns, and dogs also attack deer. The City and the SNH make no mention of illegal poaching, lamping and deliberate attacks on wild deer when they make this argument that there are ‘no natural predators’. A 19 February email from someone in the city’s ranger service confirms a cat pelt was found on Kincorth Hill:

“I have just got some info back from the City Wardens on their aspect of this so can now complete it. They did apparently find a cat pelt on Kincorth Hill, but no indication of how it had been obtained and which was reported to the Police and they had seen a dog with a deer leg but it looks like that was not reported to the police.”

There is also an admission that a city warden failed to act on the evidence. On 3 Feb someone emails:

“I’d hope that the would report this sort of thing to the police. [name redacted] manages this service now and it may be worth having a chat to him. He is very helpful”

Astonishingly, someone in the city’s ranger service makes an unfounded conclusion about the deer:

“The Tullos one is something we heard about from the police who are investigating this as poaching though [name redacted] and I suspect the animals could not have been taken on Tullos Hill as the population that [name redacted] has seen in recent months is less than this. SNH were due to be doing their repeat thermal imaging survey on the Tull0s Hill last night, I haven’t heard the results of how many deer they found.”

No evidence to support the ranger’s conclusion was supplied in the FOI request. If the ranger’s expertise is taken for granted, then person or persons unknown killed four (or more) deer at a different location, dismembered the bodies, and then walked fairly far from any vehicle parking area to deposit the legs on Tullos Hill. Perhaps if the rangers are making these kinds of conclusions without evidence, then there is a case for examining all the evidence they have asked the City and public to take at face value on the viability of the tree scheme and the ‘need’ to destroy the herd. The statement above also reveals that the rangers know the population was extremely low. Originally 22 deer (approximately) were to be killed in the first year of culling: 34 or 35 were taken. More were killed on subsequent years, and the plan is to kill still more. Members of the public are reacting angrily to the decimation of the city’s deer, now possibly only 19 in number according to the SNH. And the rangers want to kill more still.

The SNH deer population recommendations are guidance only, and do not have to be adhered to. It is hoped the City will look into the issues surrounding the depleted deer numbers, call a halt to the further destruction of animals for the foreseeable future at least, and ensure the authorities share all information on similar crimes with the Scottish SPCA, – and all future crimes are fully reported and investigated. Ideally, a proactive ranger service that would monitor the hill in a robust manner 7 days a week with a view to preventing further illegal poaching and all other illegal activities would be welcome.

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Jul 252014

Old Susannah locks horns with deer-slaying officials while wading through city documents on the deer slaughter going on around us.  By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryDoe! Old Susannah’s been home reading stacks of paperwork received from the City, in response to a freedom of information request. These papers are the basis for some Aberdeen Voice stories on the city’s deer ‘management’ and other issues. More coming soon.

Aberdeen City Council officers are none too pleased by this, as we’ve found out some, just the tip of the iceberg really, of what they’ve been playing at with the SNH’s blessing. Basically, we may have as few as nineteen deer left in the entire city. That’s from Danestone to Cove, Tullos to Cults. And of course, they want to kill more.

Some poor chap in Cults whose property borders the countryside says that scores of deer are coming into his garden, depositing ticks and nibbling at his little courgettes.

In effect, he wants the city to come and blast the creatures. Based on his verbal evidence this is what’s happening.

In other parts of the city, attempted dog thefts were reported; staffies were found with horrific fighting injuries, cats have disappeared, and a dog fighting ring was exposed some years back.

Well, in the same lot of correspondence in which the city is looking for ways to help kill the deer in Cults, it is also dryly explained that the police and the city aren’t interested in looking into dog fighting, because there is no actual evidence or eyewitnesses. One rule for one, it seems.

Alas! The city will be further embarrassed. The documents show that the city did not want the public to get too many facts about what’s going on.

A councillor had asked questions about roe deer culling and population, and the reply explains that the officer is afraid of giving too much information away. In another instance, deer were trapped in an enclosure on Tullos over a weekend, with not much to eat as the plants had all been killed by spraying.

The correspondence between the City’s people shows how these things work. For one thing, no one cares what happens in our parks at weekends, so don’t leave a message if it’s urgent.

Secondly, when the problem of two trapped, frightened deer was discovered, our trusty City operatives couldn’t decide whether to find a way to open the gate and shoo them out – difficult, admittedly; or just to shoot them. Decisions, decisions. Those involved were in agreement on one thing though: to solve the problem before the Evening Express got wind of it.

Got to get those priorities right you know.

The SNH thinks we should follow its non-binding guidelines, and have a maximum population on Tullos of three or four deer. How the roe deer survived for the past seven decades, minimum, with a fluctuating herd of three to five dozen is miraculous.

I’m glad the city thinks everyone knows and obeys all wildlife rules

Of course, the deer are deadly. We had a very small number of automobile incidents over the years, let’s just say slightly less in number than drunk driving and speeding-related accidents. My suggestion of putting up signs to warn motorists of deer crossing was dismissed.

As the documents explain, people don’t pay attention to signs.

Think on that when you see all the signs on the roads when you’re out and about. As per Aberdeen Voice and Evening Express articles, the remains of some animals were found in very suspicious circumstances. I had suggested erecting ‘no hunting or poaching’ signs at the park entrance. This was dismissed because you can’t put up signs for every illegal act.

I’m glad the city thinks everyone knows and obeys all wildlife rules, irrespective of their backgrounds, education and culture. So, no signs about not killing the deer, even though they were clearly being killed. Unless they’ve taken to surgically dismembering themselves.

Think on that when you next go to the ‘fun’ beach and see the signs prohibiting half a dozen recreational activities.  Trust your officials, they know what’s best. Maybe not what is best for you, for wildlife or for our levels of pollution, but they know what’s best for them.

Do feel free to drop your councillors and the architects of the deer’s demise, Aileen Malone, Peter Leonard, the SNH and ranger Ian Talboys a note of thanks. Ian is also on the board of an SNH- and taxpayer-funded group which encourages deer killing.

You will find their email addresses here. Let’s not forget well-paid consultant Chris Piper; he definitely got a quick buck from this wheeze.

Will anyone take responsibility, sorry, credit, for the crash in the deer population? No, they’re all busy being fawned over at award ceremonies for planting trees.

It wouldn’t be fair to blame LibDem Aileen HoMalone, except that for one thing she tried to blackmail animal lovers before the first Tullos cull:  pay £200,000+ for fencing, or we’ll kill deer, and the LibDem’s only election pledge adhered to was this tree scheme.

It wouldn’t be fair to blame the officers who kept repeating that we suddenly had more deer than we could manage, and who allowed 34 or 35 deer to be killed on Tullos alone in the first ‘tree for every citizen’ cull, when the agreed report said that 22 would be killed.

We were given that land to look after; we failed

It wouldn’t be right to blame the ranger, who insisted that the fairly new, and assuredly contentious SNH guidelines were put in place.

He was only following SNH orders: except that these were only guidance, and in no way legally binding.

And we all know we must follow orders without question.

That’s why the City keeps class sizes within the legal limits, for instance. It would also be wrong to blame the council for the fact that we’ve lost the parking lot near Nexen that we used to own, and the path that led from it to the hill. We were given that land to look after; we failed, and we lost it back to the private sector, conveniently for those who wanted to build on it.

No, clearly no one bears any responsibility for any of these trivial problems, and any day now there will be a lovely forest on Tullos. I’d start shopping for picnic baskets and blankets. Any day now, the nutritious soil of Tullos will produce a beautiful forest of healthy trees, trees which soon will be nearly as tall as the weeds surrounding them.

The Evening Express has two articles for your enjoyment


It’s time for some definitions relating to this week’s news from the Granite City and beyond.

Corporate Responsibility: (Modern English compound noun) The concept that a business entity’s officers, shareholders and affiliates are responsible for the ethics, behaviour, financial health and operation of the entity.

Poor Mr Donald Trump, some people just don’t understand business, so he’s just a poor misunderstood paper billionaire. So what if he’s declared bankruptcy four or so times, leaving creditors to go belly up? It’s really not his fault. I know this because he says so.

And it’s certainly not his fault that some of the casinos in Atlantic City are to lay off 1400 or so people. One or two of the casinos may bear his name, but as he’ll tell you, these businesses, with twenty-foot high letters spelling out his name are obviously nothing to do with him. After all, he can’t be everywhere at once, can he?

There’s only so much that a poor guy can take on, even if he does have the business acumen and expertise of Sara Malone Bates to rely on.

So come on now, let’s stop picking on the poor guy. It’s not as if there’s some link between the Trumpster and Trump Plaza casino, unless you count:

“…Mr. Trump serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Trump Atlantic City Associates (Trump AC) and has been President since June 2000. He has been the Chief Executive Officer of Trump Atlantic City Funding Inc. (Trump AC Funding) since June 2000. He has been the President of Trump Atlantic City Funding Inc., Trump Atlantic City Funding II Inc. and Trump Atlantic City Funding III Inc., since June 2000 … He has been the President of Trump Atlantic City Holding Inc., Trump Atlantic City Corporation … Mr. Trump has been the President and Treasurer of Trump Casinos Inc. (TCI). He served as Treasurer of Trump’s Castle Funding Inc. (Castle Funding) until April 1998 … He served as the Chief Executive Officer of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Funding Inc. and Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Holdings L.P since June 2000. He served as Chief Executive Officer and President of Trump Entertainment Resorts Funding, Inc. .. from June 2000 to 2005. He served as President of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc. (THCR), Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Funding Inc. (THCR Funding) and Trump Entertainment Resorts Holdings, L.P. (a/k/a Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Holdings LP (THCR Holdings)) …” http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/person.asp?personId=341397&privcapId=927734

Visit this link for the whole list of companies Trump is an executive of, but has no relationship with, if you have a few spare hours to get through the whole list.

So you see, there’s no story there.  I hope that’s drawn a line under it for you.

The funny thing is, some people suspect that there may be some dodgy financial dealings in Atlantic City, and that the underworld may be involved. Just because BBC’s Panorama found a link between Donald Trump and the criminal element is no more reason to think he’s involved with crime, than there is any reason to think he’s involved with any of the Trump casino businesses in New Jersey.

Do enjoy your game of golf at Trump Scotland Menie Links or Trump Turnberry, safe in the knowledge that the 1400 people about to lose their jobs, and the thousands who have lost their livelihoods previously, are not likely to rub shoulders with you at a Trump golf resort. Fore!

Gene Pool (English compound noun) The potential for genetic variation within a particular species or population of a species of animal.

I’m sure we’ll all be celebrating how the Tullos Hill tree saplings were rescued from the roe deer peril. Congratulations to those who left us with three or four deer on a hill that for decades supported several dozen animals.

A spoilsport however might question the science behind the rationale for exterminating the critters. These small deer live for six or seven years on average, and are

“65–75 cm (2.1–2.5 ft), and a weight of 15–35 kg (33–77 lb)”

and females usually bear one young per year.  Such a person may conclude that the Tullos Hill roe deer gene pool has been destroyed.

According to the boffins at ‘How Stuff works’ , you need a few animals to have a healthy gene pool:

“A large gene pool provides a good buffer against genetic diseases. Some of the common genetic problems that occur when the gene pool shrinks include:

  • Low fertility
  • Deformities
  • Genetic diseases

“The two most common places to see these effects are in animals nearing extinction and in animal breeds.”

So now that we have the ‘manageable’ figure of three or four Tullos roe left, perhaps the Danestone, Sheddocksley and Cults deer will hop on a bus to Tullos for dating purposes. Perhaps the SNH, ‘Scottish Natural Heritage’ to some, ‘Shootin ‘n Huntin’ to others, have achieved what some say was their and the City’s aim: get rid of the creatures altogether and grow some trees, which hopefully can be felled and sold.

The SNH, paid for by our taxes, in turn funds a private group, Lowland Deer Network Scotland, which lobbies local government to shoot deer, in partnership with other government members, funders and pro-hunting groups. Well done guys.

And well done in particular to ranger Ian Talboys, who is on this committee. It would be a shame if someone looked into the amounts of money involved, the group’s structure (it’s not listed with Companies House) and asked questions about the use of taxpayers’ money by a national government entity to push policy onto local government. No, that would be awful.

All of the stats about how the deer will suffer if not culled to these numbers sound very scientific, but they ignore little things like the gene pool, and that being free and grazing on grass, which is apparently their preferred food, is better than being dead. Trebles all round, and enjoy your free venison, City and SNH boffins: you’ve earned it.

And that’s some of what’s been going on in the ‘Deen this week.

Later this week:  Some definitions about our privacy, and monitoring by Inspired and others. Feel free to go about your normal business: someone is monitoring your every move and storing the data, permanently.

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Jul 252014

Christian Allard Citizens Advice BureauWith thanks to Gavin Mowat, Constituency Assistant to Christian Allard MSP

Local MSPs have praised the contribution of the Aberdeen Citizens Advice Bureau as the office celebrates its 75th Anniversary today. Aberdeen South and North Kincardine MSP Maureen Watt and North East MSP Christian Allard praised the office for their hard work over the course of 75 years.
The Aberdeen Citizens Advice Bureau first started in the City’s Music Hall to support people during the Second World War.

To honour the occasion the Lord Provost of Aberdeen City Council will hold a Civic Reception in the Town House at 7pm on Thursday evening.

Maureen Watt MSP also lodged a motion to the Scottish Parliament to commend the office for their work over the last 75 years.

Commenting, Maureen Watt MSP said:

“The service and advice offered to confused, disheartened and frustrated individuals for 75 years is truly invaluable.

“I often marvel at the hard working attitude and diligence of Advisors at our Aberdeen Bureau. They are to be applauded for their efforts, especially in dealing with the additional workload brought on by the UK Governments disastrous welfare reforms.

“Thank you for your service and dedication to our communities.” 

Christian Allard MSP added:

“It is great that Aberdeen Citizens Advice Bureau is celebrating 75 years of operating in the city.

“I know offices like this do a fantastic job supporting communities. As a widower and single father I relied on support from Aberdeen Citizens Advice Bureau – their advice enabled me to feel secure and I remain very grateful for their help.

“Citizens Advice Bureaus are making a tremendous contribution the lives of single parents and many more people who need support. Attending this Civic Reception is a fantastic opportunity to thank everyone involved for their effort.”

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Jul 202012

Aberdeen Voice’s Old Susannah can barely contain her excitement over the imminent Olympics, and reviews the week’s past local events. By Suzanne Kelly.

Yet another exciting week in the Granite City has just passed. I had a great weekend with Anthony Baxter, the Milnes, Susan Munro, photographer Alicia Bruce and more at the Belmont on Saturday.

Baxter’s award-winning documentary, You’ve Been Trumped has returned, and at the Saturday evening show Menie residents and director Baxter did a lengthy Q&A session. I enjoyed the additional footage on the windfarm controversy and other updates. The film still makes me angry, it must be said.

Oddly the residents have a completely different take on what is going on at the estate than the Shire’s Clerk of Works – I wonder why?

If you’ve seen the film you will remember shots of trees being buried in a giant excavation. The Clerk wrote to me months back and advised that this hadn’t happened. So there. I sat next to David Milne during the screening; we are both amazed at the unprecedented way this documentary is doing the rounds. Next stops are New York and LA.

Don’t bother looking for any news of You’ve Been Trumped’s return or its many awards in the local press: you will be searching in vain.  If however you want a nice picture or two of Ivanka Trump, you’ll be well rewarded. We are all as good as rolling in money and new jobs now, I’m sure.

Sunday was a great day to visit Willows; Sandi Thom performed a lovely acoustic set in a barn packed with peacocks, peahens, cats and people of all ages. I like her voice, I hadn’t appreciated her guitar skills until I saw her play. You can’t fake it unplugged with an acoustic guitar. Even the animals were attentive. The Willows is a wonderful place to visit – and a great place to support.

Later in the week Old Susannah and Aberdeen Voice editor Fred met with some legal consultants. Do watch this space, particularly if you’ve ever had doubts about the legality of some of the previous Aberdeen City administration’s decisions. I even had a nice long chat with a councillor or two about some of the issues of the day. There may be some developments coming in the near future.

Tomorrow there is an event in Union Terrace Gardens. In the words of Dorothy from Common Good Aberdeen:

“There is to be a very interesting and moving event taking place in Union Terrace Gardens this Saturday, 21st July 2012 at 2 p.m. T.A.C.T. Bereavement Support are to hold their service of remembrance for loved ones, with a Book of Remembrance being opened. Quiet observation and reflection would be the order of the day, and what better place to have it. Common Good Aberdeen will be there to support in the form of helping with the afternoon tea.”

Hope to see you there.

Despite all the running around and events, I’m managing to stick to the diet programme I’ve been put on by Temple Aesthetics. It is called the Alizonne diet, it seems to be working a treat, and I do get a variety of flavours in the meals I eat on this plan.

The problem is, my visits to BrewDog are out for now (unless I go there and drink water and coffee – and with the best willpower in the world, I’m not sure I could do that just yet). Still, I’ve lost 5½ pounds in the first week. I hope to be back to normal eating habits soon. And normal drinking habits too.

This week I have to admit that I got a bit jealous of the lucky few who attended the opening of Trump’s golf course at Menie. I’ve had a look at the goody bag they took away.

Wow. Not only did I miss out on the free toothpaste (I think that’s what I saw) and golf goodies – but I have to do without an embroidered baseball cap as well. Shucks. It was clear that this collection of goods was put together by an imaginative billionaire with the highest standards of class and taste.

Even though I didn’t get an invitation or a bag myself (I wonder why?) I will still try and get ‘Trump’ baseball caps for Anthony Baxter and the Menie estate residents; I’m sure that will make everything seem better.

But let’s move on with some definitions.

Miscalculate: (verb, Eng.) to incorrectly estimate a quantity or a situation; to fail to appreciate all relevant variables when making decisions.

For all those Olympic fans out there (I presume there are some, even though there is evidence coming in to the contrary), it seems that a few little errors of judgement may have been made.  These involve the demand for tickets, and the all-important security arrangements.

Firstly, despite our Prime Minister pleading with us to agree that the games are great for the UK (he doesn’t want us to call them the ‘soggy’ Olympics, we should think of these as the Great Olympics; do make sure you think accordingly), not all of us seem to be keen on the games.  The football matches, which we have all dreamt of for years, are not exactly selling tickets quite as quickly as expected.

This minor miscalculation means that sales have been overestimated by around half a million tickets, depending on who you talk to. The BBC has this to say on its website:-

Organisers said there had been around one million football tickets left but these have been cut in half by reducing capacity at stadiums. A spokesman for Locog said: “We are planning to reduce capacity across the venues by up to 500,000 tickets across the tournament This will involve possibly not using a tier, or an area of a ground, in some of the venues.”

I hear they might want to hold one of the games in my back garden to cut costs.  Old Susannah is no economist of course, but if there are one million football tickets left unsold from an event that was supposed to make tons of money, does that mean we might not make quite as much money as we thought?  Even if the tickets were £1 each (they were not), that is one million pounds less than expected.

G4S, has said that it ‘regrets’ taking on this contract.  I’m sure they do.

But I don’t want to be negative.  I guess people are skipping football tickets in favour of the more important, exciting events, like women’s 10k three legged race or the men’s McDonald’s hamburger eating contest.

I am sure the sponsors won’t mind a little bit that a few million people less than expected will be there to look at their logos and be impressed at sponsorship for the events.

The other wee bit of miscalculation seems to involve how many security personnel would be needed. After all, we have to make sure that no one is allowed to bring in their own food and drink to the stadium village; the sponsors would be up in arms, and sponsorship is what the games are all about.

It seems that the firm that won the security contract have got their sums wrong, and every able-bodied police person in the UK is being told that they must go down to London to help out.

Don’t worry about the crime issues locally or the cost to the taxpayer: Cameron has already explained that the Age of Austerity will last until 2020.  If we have to stump up a few million pounds in police overtime, and the rest of the UK is hit with crime waves, it’s a small price to pay for finding out who is the best 50 yard dash runner in the world.

The firm which altruistically won the work for Olympic Security, G4S, has said that it ‘regrets’ taking on this contract.  I’m sure they do.  Having only secured a contract worth an estimated £57 million or more, depending on who’s doing the calculations, or miscalculations, they can hardly be blamed for small hiccoughs.

They might not have hired enough people, not arranged sufficient training or obtained uniforms, offered salaries below industry standards, but they couldn’t have been cutting any corners for reasons of profit.  After all £57 million doesn’t go nearly as far as it used to; it would barely get you half of a Granite Web.

The Home Office, which usually gets everything perfect, has also fallen a bit flat.  They had no way of knowing that lots of people from around the world would be coming to compete in London.  If the occasional terrorist suspect has got through the Border Agency without a hitch, I guess that’s fair enough.  I will try and remember that the next time I see a granny or a little child being body searched at the airport.

  Tom Smith says economist Mackay just doesn’t understand economics.  Good enough for me.

These little miscalculations demonstrate that this kind of thing can happen to anyone.  Except that it will not happen with the Granite Web. We don’t exactly know what’s proposed to go in the gardens.  We don’t have any working drawings available to the public showing how the ramps over the gardens will be safe, but they will of course have to be enclosed, barbed wire being a cost-effective solution.

We don’t know what the negative impacts will be on the existing city centre businesses, as the streets are clogged with construction vehicles and construction dust, if the thing is allowed to go ahead.  If only there were some other Scottish city that had started an open-ended civic project using many layers of public/private companies, then we could get a handle on the potential problems.  But I can’t think of a single example.

Failing that, we must rely on PriceWaterhouseCooper’s projections of 6,000 totally new jobs appearing and £122 million pouring into the city every year until 2023.  It all sounds so precise, doesn’t it?  Of course there was some economist named Mackay, but Tom Smith says economist Mackay just doesn’t understand economics.  Good enough for me.

So, since the economy is in such great shape, this is a great time to take an Olympic-sized leap of faith, get rid of the city’s only lungs, the UTG trees, clog the streets with construction vehicles – and of course borrow £92 million to pay for it.  It could all either go vastly over budget like the trams in Edinburgh, or turn out to be not quite as lucrative as £122 million flowing in per year.

The Olympics overstated the financial gain case, but this is Aberdeen:  the web will be a profitable, problem free project built to budget and completed without a hitch in no time at all, not like these amateurish cities London and Edinburgh.

Same Sex Marriage: (mod. English phrase) Situation in which two consenting adults of the same sex agree to enter into a marriage contract.

Readers of a sensitive disposition might wish to stop reading. This will be a shock, but there are people out there who apparently are not heterosexual.  Some of these people want to have long-term, legally-recognised partnerships or even marriages with their beloveds.  Clearly this is wrong.

The SNP were going to consider this issue, but have developed cold feet.  And too right.  What kind of a society would we have if people who loved each other could get married as they wanted?  Let’s stick to what we know works – a society where some six out of ten marriages end in divorce and separation.

  Actors are exactly the kind of people who go in for this kind of wild behaviour

On what the kids call ‘social network’ websites, there are a number of protagonists claiming that it should be their right to choose who to be with.  Top among these is one Mr George Takei.  He may be remembered for his role as ‘Sulu’ in Star Trek television and film appearances.

Actors are exactly the kind of people who go in for this kind of wild behaviour.  Elton John too has a ‘same sex’ partner.  Just  because they are intensively creative, intelligent, witty, generous men who have entertained millions for generations is no reason to think this kind of thing won’t mean the entire breakdown of society, or even the planet.

It is clearly our business what consenting adults get up to, so let’s put paid to any same sex marriage ideas here in Scotland – Scotland, arguably the home of modern philosophy, invention and upholder of the Rights of Man.  Next thing you know, we’ll have men going around in skirts.  God forbid.

Confidential to a certain councillor

I am very glad to know that you are having doubts about the private companies set up to carve up the Common Good land of Union Terrace Gardens.  You have confided that you are not sure the financials stack up, and you wonder if this isn’t either a vanity project, or a ‘jobs for the construction boys’ deal.

As you have those doubts, you will have to err on the side of caution, and reject any plans to start any project over UTG at this time.  If you vote to go ahead, you are going against your own better judgment.  I am glad you have these doubts – and as long as there is any doubt, the project must not proceed.  Don’t listen to me:  listen to your own common sense.

Next Week:  Old Susannah wants your gift suggestions for Ian Wood’s retirement.  What do you give the billionaire who has everything?

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Jul 202012

With thanks to Aberdeen Against Austerity.

Aberdeen Against Austerity’s ‘Summer Series’ of talks and film showings continues this Friday with a presentation by Hannah Knight entitled ‘Animal Rights and the Philosophy that Underpins it’. This will be number 2 in a series of 5 talks organised this Summer to explore radical and alternative ideas, lifestyles and histories.

All talks will be free (donations accepted) and will take place in The Blue Lamp (upstairs) at 7.30pm.

The Program is as follows –

20th July

The Philosophy of Animal Rightsfollowed by ‘The Animals Film’

Hannah Knight

27th July

Energy: The Impact of Big Biomass’ and film TBC

Ally Coutts

10th August

Feminism 101followed by TBC

Aberdeen Feminists

24th August

‘Aberdeen Against Apartheid: From Johannesburg to Jerusalem’ 

Short talks plus discussion:

Tommy Campbell  (Leader of Unite the Union Aberdeen)
Fiona Napier         (Chair of SPSC Aberdeen)
Dave Black           (Stop the JNF UK)
Karolin Hijazi        (‘Welcome to Palestine’ participant)
Stuart Maltman     (SPSC Aberdeen)

Followed by live music.