Mar 212020
 

Three former Torry community councillors have lodged a complaint against Depute Lord Provost Jennifer Stewart with The Commission for Ethical Standards in Public Life. By Suzanne Kelly (one of the three).

The Commission for Ethical Standards in Public Life received a complaint from Bee Kerr, Renee Slater and Suzanne Kelly against Councillor Jennifer Stewart.
They have asked the Commission to investigate, and if appropriate, censure or suspend Jennifer Stewart on account of her behaviour following Councillor Alan Donnelly’s sexual assault of a person at a civic function.

Councillor Donnelly, who has represented Torry and Ferryhill in the past, was placed on the sex offenders register by the Aberdeen Sheriff Court. The court found him guilty of sexually assaulting a waiter.

The offence occurred while Donnelly was at a civic function in his capacity as councillor.

Donnelly tried to deny events; the court said he should be ashamed. He refused to step down despite his criminal act being a clear violation of the Code of Conduct for councillors.

Renee Slater launched a petition demanding Donnelly resign, which was signed by over 700 people.

The Standards Commissioner’s office announced his suspension one day after he voted on a crucial budget during a stormy council session, to the benefit of the council’s majority group. If he doesn’t resign, he will face a public trial.

Prior to this vote, Cllr Stewart took to radio and commented that the sexual assault didn’t sound serious.

She said:

“I would wonder if it was an attack. To me an attack is a much more physical and aggressive thing, but sentence has been passed.”

Her remarks infuriated many including councillors, residents and people connected to victim support groups.

The signatories to the complaint and experts they spoke to feel it is hard enough to cope as a victim of an assault; it is harder still to report it.  Getting to trial is stressful, and many trials end with no conviction.

It is arguably harder for a man to be a victim of sexual assault given some societal attitudes. Elected officials should not use their office to question the judgment of the courts and to add to the burden of the victim, who has had to endure the harmful insult by way of the Depute Lord Provost suggesting the assault was not serious.

It is quite probable, the complainers feel, that future sex assault victims who are aware of Stewart’s widely-reported remarks may be reluctant to come forward fearing she may weigh in to judge them too.

Undoubtedly, her comments on the assault would not have been published had she not been the Depute Lord Provost. She has not responded to a request for comment.

In press coverage almost immediately following her remarks, she accused both the SNP and Liberal Democrats of contributing to her confessed mental health problems through bullying and intimidation.

She named no names; the Liberal Democrats denied any such wrongdoing, and the SNP wished her recovery.

The complainants know the Ethics Commissioner will look into her remarks, which, as they stand, smear the entire opposition with serious accusations of breaking the Code of Conduct – accusations they cannot counter as they are not levelled at any one person or persons.

The Evening Express have been asked to explain how they verified her later claims of mental health problems caused by the SNP and Liberal Democrats; 5 days on, we still await their response

Anyone who wishes to add their name to the complaint or lodge a complaint against a councillor can contact the Commission here: info@ethicalstandards.org.uk

Mar 022020
 

Will a convicted sex offender hold the key vote on Aberdeen City budget cuts? Suzanne Kelly writes.

Disgraced Alan Donnelly was found guilty, in an Aberdeen Sheriff court, of sexually assaulting a waiter at a civic function.
Despite this completely contravening the Councillors Code of Conduct, he’s staying in power and may hold a key vote on swinging budget cuts at the council’s meeting Tuesday 3 March: and some councillors are happy with him staying put.

The council’s ‘Urgent Action’ Committee have removed him from committees he was on, and reported him to the Commission for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland (they had to really – so many people have done so, the Commission won’t take more complaints).

However, it does not appear they asked the Commissioner to exercise the power and suspend Donnelly. Instead, some councillors have been making statements in their official capacity to support Donnelly. Many believe this is because his vote is needed.

Repercussions.

While publications such as Private Eye (Eye 1516) cover this scandal and, as the Commissioner confirms, it is investigating Donnelly’s breaking of the code, Donnelly is still being allowed to attend civic functions and represent the city – and vote.

If he hangs on, he will be the subject of a public hearing by the Commission.

The Commission may be asked to look into what the council did to protect people from Donnelly, not least as there are reports Donnelly, who once was attached to ACC social services, bought alcohol for a sex offender in violation of protocol.

Did the city really do all it could to prevent this sexual assault? Were councillors’ remarks and actions appropriate? The commission’s remit is apparently widening by the day.

A petition started by Renee Slater, a former Torry Community Councillor (Donnelly’s ward) has over 770 signatures asking for Donnelly’s swift departure from office.

Reaction: Survivors UK say ‘he should step down or be removed’

“I agree wholeheartedly that he should step down or be removed from being a Councillor,” said Alex Feis-Bryce, Chief Executive Officer of SURVIVORS UK.

SURVIVORS UK helps sexually abused men as well as their friends and family, no matter when the abuse happened, and challenge the silence and attitudes.

Mr Feis-Bryce added:

“I say this as a survivor, the CEO of an organisation supporting thousands of survivors and a former Councillor.” 

According to the group, an estimated 12,000 men are raped in the UK every year, and more than 70,000 are sexually abused or assaulted.

Which witch hunt? What Jennifer Stewart did next.

“What I see is that there is a bit of a witch hunt to get him (Donnelly) out.”
– Depute Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Jennifer Stewart

As Survivors UK’s web page says:

“we know male sexual abuse has profound effects on those who experience it and can deeply affect their mental health and relationships.”

Most people understand sexual assault does not have to be a penetrative rape or involve being beaten. Not Cllr Stewart.

Jennifer Stewart, now in Donnelly’s former role as Depute Lord Provost went to the press in her official capacity and said:

“I would wonder if it was an attack. To me an attack is a much more physical and aggressive thing but sentence has been passed.”

In other words, the Depute Lord Provost of Aberdeen went to the press to call into question the robustness of an Aberdeen Sheriff court decision and to denigrate the sexual assault victim.

She said that those seeking to get Donnelly out were on a ‘witch hunt’.

Was she trying to conflate a hysterical persecution of the innocent (witch hunt) with trying to protect people from a sex offender, protect the council’s reputation, and ensuring the code was adhered to by councillors? Surely she knows the definition of the phrase ‘witch hunt?’

The barrage of justified criticism of her words was swift. Stewart immediately took to the press again and released a story, again in her official capacity, claiming she suffered mental health problems. These, she said, were so bad she was scared to walk down certain council corridors.

Stewart said:

“The level of pressure that was brought on me by the SNP and Liberal Democrats caused me significant mental health issues and anxiety, something I have never suffered from before.

“I have been ostracised, shunned and prevented from walking down certain corridors.

“Other councillors have no right to go on a witch-hunt to try and get rid of someone.”

In her next press outing, she was praised for her work to help female victims of domestic abuse in a new initiative with the police and a charity.

(NB – The most recent figures (Scottish Government 2012a) show that in 2011/12 there were 9,569 reports to the police of a domestic abuse incident where the ‘victim’ was male and the perpetrator female and 659 reports where there was a male ‘victim’ of a male perpetrator (where the sex of the parties were recorded).

A day or two later she was portrayed in the press again sympathetically, talking about the death of a friend.

Ms Stewart was asked to comment but has not replied. If it is true, she has mental health issues which she is willing to talk to the press about while accusing political opponents of causing these problems, then the Standards Commission should be asked to investigate these as a matter of urgency.

However, if she suffers mental health problems because of bullying, perhaps she should not go around contradicting the sheriff court’s finding a man was a victim of sexual assault, and in her official role telling the press ‘an attack is a physical (it was) and aggressive (it was) thing’.

If, however she has cynically made a false claim of mental health problems caused by political opponents (who strenuously deny such claims – and Stewart named no names) as a means of garnering sympathy and to deflect attention from her contentious remarks over Donnelly’s victim, this must be investigated.

For a woman who uses the term ‘witch hunt’ about those wanting Donnelly out, she has herself started a genuine witch hunt with her claim unnamed people gave her mental health problems.

She has tarnished her every opponent and by not naming anyone has made the public wonder who is harming her mental health, thereby causing people to mistrust those who would do such a thing: with absolutely no evidence for her claims.

It is understood Ms Stewart’s conduct will be reported to the Standards Commission shortly too.

Reaction.

At least some members of ACC recognize the crime of sexual assault is serious. Councillor Alex Nicoll and Steve Delaney want Donnelly out now.

The calls came not long after Donnelly was seen at a Town House event to celebrate the success of local food bank (the ‘oil capitol of Europe’ should not need food banks, by the way).

Lord Provost Barney Crockett told the BBC the city must:

“ensure everybody is treated appropriately, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

How he is treating Donnelly’s victim appropriately remains to be seen.
Mr Nicoll demanded Crockett must:

“clarify why he feels the sex offender should be treated the same as everyone else.”

Responsibility.

Mr Nicoll added:

“It is utterly disgraceful that Councillor Donnelly continues to attend events, by invitation, as if nothing has happened.

“I would urge the Lord Provost to ban him from civic events if he is serious about protecting the public and ensuring Aberdeen City Council is not a laughing stock.”

When asked where the responsibility for protecting the public from a further Donnelly attack lies, a spokesman for Aberdeen Sheriff Court said

“This would be a matter for Aberdeen District Council.”

Risible.

As things stand, Donnelly is on the council, attending events, drinking alcohol, enjoying himself, laughing with other councillors.

He is poised to vote, and may be key to getting a controversial budget passed. Depending on what ACC do over this vote, it looks as if the Standards Commission is going to be very busy with investigations indeed.

But, alas for Cllr Nicoll, Aberdeen is now a laughing stock throughout the UK and is on record as being an institution callous to sexual assault victims.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.

Mar 022017
 

A landmark law to tackle violence against women passed its Third Reading in the House of Commons on Friday with an overwhelming majority of 138 in favour to just 1 against. With thanks to Banff & Buchan SNP.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP with campaigners and MPs after the vote.

Local MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford’s Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill 2017, requires the UK government to ratify the Istanbul Convention – a far-reaching new law that puts legal obligations on the state to prevent violence against women, protect
women and prosecute the perpetrators.

The Convention encompasses many forms of sexual violence and domestic abuse including stalking, harassment, sexual assault and rape, physical and psychological abuse by a partner, forced marriage, forced abortion or sterilisation and female genital mutilation.

The UK signed the treaty in 2012 but has yet to ratify it to make it part of UK law.

The SNP MP for Banff & Buchan, who is the party’s Westminster spokesperson for Social Justice, secured cross-party support for her Bill, which has been championed by women’s equality organisations including IC Change, Women’s Aid, Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland, White Ribbon, End Violence Against Women, Scottish Women’s convention, NUS, Girlguiding, and the Fawcett Society.

The Bill also received strong support from the actor and UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson, who this week wrote to all MPs urging them to vote for the Bill.

Commenting after the Bill passed its Third Reading, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“I am delighted that this landmark legislation to combat gender-based violence has received such overwhelming cross-party support and now looks set to become UK law.

“This is a huge and historic step forward in efforts to tackle violence against women and has the potential to transform the lives of thousands of women right across the country.

“Women’s equality organisations and activists have been campaigning for the UK government to ratify the Istanbul Convention for many years now – so today’s vote is a cause for celebration and a testament to their sustained efforts.

“The Istanbul Convention is the most comprehensive and far-reaching framework that exists to tackle violence against women in its many forms and manifestations, and critically, it provides the legal apparatus to hold governments accountable for their progress. This is a powerful vehicle for improving policy, practices and services on an ongoing basis.

“Sexual violence and domestic abuse are neither natural nor inevitable. We can prevent it, we can challenge it and we can hold perpetrators to account. We need to do all these things if we are to end this systematic abuse of women’s basic human rights, and ratifying the Istanbul Convention is a big step in the right direction.

“We have travelled some distance in this struggle but we still have such long way still to go and we need to recognise that Ratification of the Istanbul Convention is a milestone on the journey to equality and justice for women, not an end point.”

Further reading:

 Emma Watson backs SNP MP’s bid to combat domestic abuse.
 Theresa May urges MPs to back Whiteford bill and stamp out violence against women.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Dec 312015
 

howwesupportWith thanks to Esther Green, Tricker PR

A new project to support childhood rape and abuse survivors has got off the ground in Aberdeen – with a helping hand from Aberdeen Asset Management.
The firm’s Charitable Foundation has given a donation that has enabled the city’s Rape and Abuse Support (RAS) to set up a new programme providing assistance and relief to young people and adults who have suffered abuse.

Trained volunteers offer direct and tailored support through a 12-step programme, providing a listening ear in a safe and comfortable environment where issues and coping mechanisms can be discussed.

RAS offers support and information to anyone over 13 years old who has been raped or sexually abused at any time in their life. It works in the main with the survivors of rape and abuse who may have issues around self harm, alcoholism, self esteem and post-traumatic stress disorder. It also provides information and support to families, friends and partners to enable them to support the survivor in the long term.

The charity works with partners in the community to address rape and sexual violence, has a prevention programme and receives referrals from a wide range of organisations. In January 2014, RAS expanded its service to support men and boys.

Lorraine Dobson, the charity’s support services co-ordinator said:

“We are very grateful for this donation from Aberdeen Asset Management that has allowed us to roll out this new support project for young girls and women in the North East. This project enables survivors to discuss issues relating to abuse, and the impact it has had on their lives and to explore issues including developing coping mechanises to address this in everyday life.

“Childhood survivors can share their stories with trained volunteers who can offer direct and unique support to them. This will be an ongoing project as we aim to help as many people as we can.”

Dominic Kite of Aberdeen Asset Management’s Charitable Foundation said:

“Rape and Abuse Support Aberdeen carries out vital work in the city and surrounding area and this new support group will build and develop the service it is able to offer.”

The Aberdeen Asset Charitable Foundation was established in 2012 to formalise and develop the Group’s charitable giving globally. The Foundation seeks partnerships with smaller charities around the world, where funds can be seen to have a meaningful and measurable impact and the firm encourages its employees to use their time and skills to support its charitable projects. The donation to RAS which has enabled the setting up of the new support project totals £4,000.

For more information visit http://www.aberdeen-asset.co.uk/aam.nsf/foundation/home

Feb 072014
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

February 4, 2014 – BrewDog launches the world’s first protest beer – ‘Hello My Name is Vladimir’.  Within 24 hours the flagship Aberdeen bar had completely sold out of its stock of ‘Vladimir’ both bottled and draft beer. 

“Hello My Name is Vladimir mocks Putin’s discriminatory legislation ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi”

Brewdog Vlad sqScottish craft brewery, BrewDog has today launched Hello My Name is Vladimir, a craft beer apparently ‘not for gays’ that carries an image of the Russian premier wearing make up on the label.

The ale is the world’s first ‘protest beer’, aiming to support LGBT communities by undermining the potential of the Winter Olympics to deflect attention from Russia’s recent law banning ‘homosexual propaganda’.

  • 50 per cent of profits from the sale of Hello My Name is Vladimir will be donated directly to charities that represent oppressed minorities around the world.
  •  BrewDog has also sent a case of the limited edition beer to President Putin himself.
  • Hello My Name is Vladimir is a 8.2% ABV double IPA containing Limonnik berries, an ingredient regarded by some Russian hunters to enhance sexual performance in men.
  • As well as claiming the beer is ‘not for gays’, the label carries a garish Warhol-style image of Putin wearing eye shadow and lipstick and suggests the beer ‘may contain traces of sarcasm’.
  • The Putin-inspired double IPA is the latest in a long line of BrewDog beers making an impact during major events. In 2012, the brewer launched Never Mind the Anabolics, a beer laced with steroids, mocking Heineken’s sponsorship of the Olympic Games in London, whilst in 2011 BrewDog’s Royal Virility Performance beer was laced with herbal Viagra to mark the Royal Wedding and ‘take the wheels off the bandwagon’ being ridden by breweries manufacturing saccharine celebratory beers.
  • Hello My Name is Vladimir will be available for £2.89 per bottle in all BrewDog bars and brewdog.com from 4th February 2014.
  • BrewDog is trying to mount global social media pressure on Putin using the dedicated hashtag #NotForGays

James Watt, BrewDog co-founder commented:

Vlad-Label-copy-3“We sincerely hope that when Vladimir Putin is tired from a busy day riding horses with his top off, grappling with burly men on the Judo mat or fishing in his Speedos, he reclines on a velvet chaise longue and has one of his handsome helpers wet his whistle with a glass of Hello My Name is Vladimir.”

“As Hello My Name is Vladimir is clearly marked ‘not for gays’ we should bypass the legislation introduced by Putin outlawing supposed ‘homosexual propaganda’, so Vlad shouldn’t have an issue with it.

“He might even invite us to ride bareback with him in the Siberian mountains.”

“It’s been our mission at BrewDog to upend the status quo in whatever form it occurs.

“Whether it’s the stranglehold the mega brewers have had on beer production in Europe over the last 50 years, or in the case of Russia, the sick legislation that discriminates against millions of its citizens.

“Our core beliefs of freedom, integrity and passion drive all our actions. Since we started in 2007, we’ve always striven to strike fear at the heart of the gatekeepers and establishment, the launch of Hello My Name is Vladimir is simply a continuation of that tradition.”

  •  Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Jan 242014
 

In a fit of pique Duncan Harley rages against the machine for what its worth.

bruce duncan harley4Big Brother, Corrie and now Benefits Street are at odds with much of normality in the UK.

Following the revelations about Saville using Auntie Beeb’s dressing rooms to groom over one thousand vulnerable children for sexual purposes it’s really quite surprising that anyone even watches terrestrial TV in the land of Logie Baird.

With the advent of Roku and Netflix, who really wants to be confronted with folk at the front door demanding money with menace.

–          Hello sir or madam, I am a licensing authority enforcer. How are you tonight?

–          Mainly fine, why do you ask?

–          It’s just a courtesy really.

–          Good. I have corns due to my age and a problem with my eyes.

–          Yes, we have the power to destroy your credit rating.

–          Oh, is that good? I don’t watch TV much.

–          Why is that?

–          I am blind and deaf.

–          Can I come in to your house please to discus this delicate matter?

–          Actually, under the terms of my moral obligation to be disgusted by the BBC’s failure to safeguard my childhood fantasies regarding Top of the Pops, veteran broadcaster Stuart Hall and those Daleks who turned out to be just plastic studio props with toilet plunger’s sticking out the front, I think not.

– OK, that’s all right then. Good day sir or madam. We have the power to destroy your credit rating.

You pays your money and you get what you pay for though and at €170.28 a pop, the licence fee raises some £3.6bn per year for those such as Mark Byford, the former deputy director general of the BBC, who defended a controversial pay-off package that saw him leave the BBC with £949,000 in his bank account.

Byford left the BBC in 2011 after being made redundant as part of a drive to cut the number of highly-paid senior executives at the BBC. He told BBC Radio 5 live’s Victoria Derbyshire:

“I absolutely don’t think it was greed on my part at all”.

He said the pay-off was “properly approved” and added:

“I absolutely think I’ve done no wrong.”

A report by the National Audit Office released in July 2013 criticised the BBC for paying out £25m in severance pay to 150 outgoing senior BBC managers which was some £2m more than their contracts stipulated.

Mr Byford’s payment was revealed to be the highest at £949,000, after 32 years of service at the BBC. That’s around 65 thousand licence fees. Good money indeed!

In contrast the Albanian licence fee is 800 Lekë (€5.81) per year and in Bosnia and Herzegovina where the civil war and the associated collapse of infrastructure caused very high evasion rates it is around €46 per year. Seemingly the somewhat desperate Bosnian authorities collect the fee via telephone bills. BT with a vengeance perhaps?

Mind you Albanian State TV was until quite recently mainly showing Norman Wisdom movies from the 1960’s and Bosnia has yet to recover from the effects of the international outrage following the ethnic cleansing of the country during the Balkan genocide.

As for Coronation Strasse, lips may well be sealed until the result of an upcoming court case involving street TV star Bill Roach is settled.

According to the Guardian:

“a woman alleges she was led to men’s toilets and made to perform sex act during studio visit at the age of 14.”

“The court were told by two women that Coronation Street actor Bill Roach sexually assaulted them in the toilets at the programme’s television studios when they were teenagers. The now 63 year old complainant told Preston crown court that Mr Roach “pulled her into the men’s toilets and forced her to masturbate him.””

If indeed true, this is disturbing testimony.

Then there’s that case unfolding against Mr Rolf Harris of Tie Me Kangaroo down fame plus something about It’s a Knockout host Stuart Hall who is currently in jail after finally admitting 14 counts of indecent assault on girls as young as nine between 1967 and 1987

With Lord McAlpines untimely death the national press may wonder whether to publish and be damned or to stay silent and appear uncertain.

Somewhat famously, Lord McAlpine was completely and wrongly accused of sexual misconduct. Various bodies such as the BBC wrongly implied that the now dead peer was a paedophile. Some of his friends attribute his demise entirely to the completely unfounded allegations. Many will feel sorry for the peers sad last days.

The BBC will be plunged into a major crisis with the publication of a damning review, expected next month, that will reveal its staff turned a blind eye to the rape and sexual assault of up to 1,000 girls and boys by long time disc jockey Jimmy Savile in the corporation’s changing rooms and studios.

Dame Janet Smith, a former court of appeal judge, who previously led the inquiry into the mass murders by local GP Dr Harold Shipman will seemingly say in her final report that the true number of victims of Savile’s sexual proclivities may never be known but that his behaviour had been recognised by BBC executives who took no action.

Many in the UK currently wonder why they are paying a licence fee to fund a shameful publicly funded system which appears to ignore not only the law but also morality.

The UK requirement for a dog licence was abolished in 1987. Prior to this dog licences were mandatory but the requirement was widely ignored with only about fifty percent of owners having one. The final rate for a dog licence was a meagre 37 pence.

The TV licence should perhaps follow suit very soon.

A YouGov poll for The Telegraph recently found that almost two thirds of those surveyed agreed that the licence fee should be abolished because so many households had satellite or cable television.

The “Stop BBC Bias” campaign is encouraging “refuseniks” to register with it by phoning 09012 702 414 or by visiting its website – www.bbcbias.org although as of the time of writing the site is unavailable due to “technical problems.” It’s on error 404 seemingly.

A BBC spokesman recently said:

“Our policy is and always has been clear. If you don’t have a licence and are using televisual equipment, you’re breaking the law.”

There perhaps lies self interest.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Oct 182013
 

Old Susannah, aka Suzanne Kelly, gets to grips with her greens this week, with the never-ending Union Terrace Gardens saga, GM crops and various vegetables – including Eric Pickles – all vying for news coverage this past week.

Dictionary

Another vibrant and dynamic, connectivity-laden, smart, successful Scottish week passes in Aberdeen.

The weather is taking a turn for the cooler at night, and I’m starting to throw old unread copies of the Evening Express (is there any other kind?) onto the fire at night (living without central heating has its charms).

Alas, I’ve been down in London and missed many events here, including Thrashist Regime, who I’m told were so lively the staid Lemon Tree staff were freaking out at all the rule infractions the band committed.

London was wonderful, but the Londoners seem to think they can manage without one central square smack in the geographical centre of town.  Somehow they carry on, in a city which is more like a series of different villages, each with its own ‘green/living/vibrant/dynamic’ heart, as our Evening Express reporters would put it.

Why, they haven’t even drawn up a map to show what is the Civic Zone or the Merchant Quarter, like we’ve done.  London clearly needs a transformational project – if only one man with a horrific – sorry terrific vision would come along, put money on London’s table (well theoretical money anyway) and tell Boris Johnson what to build and where to build it, London would start to thrive.

Thankfully, we have Sir Ian Wood.

Looking at aerial maps of London, huge great green open spaces abound.  Some call these parks/wildlife reserves/wetland centres/leisure spaces. Some people hold that these green spaces help give London a decent air quality, encourage wildlife, provide leisure space – even decrease stress levels and improve fitness.

Such spaces are, at least to the more sophisticated billionaire and ACSEF member, development opportunities. Oddly, London chooses to build in its disused brownfield rather than ‘transforming’ its green areas. Thankfully, we’re not falling for that stuff here. (I did hear a rumour that Hampstead Heath was going to be lowered to ground level for greater accessibility and connectivity. Watch this space).

Trafalgar Square remains a focal point, but it is far too small.

That will make London and Moscow take note.

At some 12,000 square metres for a population that’s around 8 million, it’s clear they are out of step with our Aberdonian city square project, otherwise known as the thing that wouldn’t die. Our much needed outdoor square will, if Sir Ian gets his way, be larger than Moscow’s Red Square.

Perhaps Aberdeen’s quangos, committees and elite have more in common with Moscow than London, come to think on it.

The City Square/Granite Web/Garden Project is proof that reincarnation is real; the thing just keeps coming back under new names, with increasingly beautiful, workable, desirable details.  Our broken heart (aka Union Terrace Gardens) could have had a new beating heart (copyright Evening Express), dwarfing both Trafalgar and Red Squares, for our population which is around, er, a quarter of a million people.

That will make London and Moscow take note.

You have to hand it to Sir Ian Wood (or so he thinks); he is persistent.  If half the goings-on I hear of were true for his retinue, finding time for any granite web project flogging would be nigh on impossible.

Aside from London’s museums, I saw the amazing Deborah Bonham and band at the Half Moon in Putney; I hope that someone is working on getting them an Aberdeen date…

Returning from London to the Deen, I eagerly bought the first P&J I could find, and started to catch up on the news; learning that former top cop Ian Paterson has just been found guilty of sexually harassing and assaulting several women over time.  Looking back over old news stories, council records and so on, I find he was involved not only with the AVCO but also with groups working with young and vulnerable people.  How wonderful.

Old Susannah remembers first moving to the Deen, and reading stories about old people being neglected, abused and mistreated in residential homes.  There was even a home that had a broken lift for weeks – leaving people stranded and unable to get outside (I’ll bet it was a jolly adventure and fun for them, rather than a hardship).

Some might find his behaviour sleazy, contemptible, inexcusable, predatory and degrading

Naively I wanted to do my part, and I called my nearest residential home, asking how I could volunteer / help.  ‘Oh, no, you have to get all kinds of clearance and be security checked’ was the response I got; I was definitely discouraged from taking it further.  Fair enough – leave the volunteer work to the professionals, I thought.

All the while, some people were allowed access to vulnerable, young and old people because they were important – like Paterson.

Kindly, Patting Paterson would ‘comfort’ women – whether they wanted him to or not – by touching them where he had no business touching them. Sounds very comforting indeed.  Then again, he only did this for a few years to a score of women. If those around him knew about this, they were quite right to leave it be, so he could continue ‘comforting’ others.

Some might find his behaviour sleazy, contemptible, inexcusable, predatory and degrading, but you can’t argue with a policeman, or indeed an ex-policeman, can you?

Old Susannah wonders now just who his friends/colleagues were (kerb crawling ex-councillors perhaps like Gordon Leslie?). Who knew what of his activities? What work was he presiding over as Chief Superintendent, or as chief executive of Aberdeen Council of Voluntary Organisations?

Could his actions and decision-making have been compromised at any time? Could he have been coerced or influenced by people who knew what he was doing? Was he around when the police were tasked by Audit Scotland to look into the dodgy property dealings uncovered in 2008?

Thankfully, we don’t need to bother with any such questions, because it’s all in the past.  The police could find no wrong-doing on the former council’s part, for instance when we sold land for peanuts, ripping off the taxpayer, and keeping very shoddy records.  Who knows what could be unravelled, but I’ll certainly not be pulling at that loose piece of yarn on the jumper, will I?

Time for some definitions (and a shot of BrewDog’s Watt Dickie) after thinking over this week’s news.  Note to self – I must try some ‘Hello my name is Sonja’, a new addition to the ‘Hello’ BrewDog collection.  And to Messrs Dickie & Watt, and all at the BrewDog Aberdeen Bar, a Happy Third Birthday.

Garden Salad: (modern English compound noun) – A dish comprising leafy and other vegetables, or a recipe for same.

Take one small, perfectly formed natural hollow, fill with trees, greens and flowers. Add greed, a pinch of desperation for immortality, and lashings of ego. Add in various vegetables (Tom Smith, Ian Wood, Stewart Milne, etc.) and toss.  Add a few hundred inches of column spaces, revoltingly poor architectural grandiosity, and unintelligible drawings.

Garnish lavishly with hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayer money (for consultants, PR, etc.). Serve with a side helping of indigestible financial sauce. Add £50 million pounds; remove; add again; remove. This dish can be served again and again. And again. Keep serving until someone, somewhere swallows. Best eaten out of Sir Ian’s hands.

Yes, he’s at it again.  We can’t keep our only city centre green space, despite having so much unused brownfield, because Wood wants it.

Barney Crockett has promised that if the garden is raised, it will not be for parking spaces – which are what was wanted by the ACSEF/Wood mob in the first place.  If you have any opinions on this, please let your elected councillors know, lest they then turn around and say no one ever got in touch with them.

Let your council know how great a glass pyramid will be, or how ruining the back side of Belmont Street’s businesses which overlook the park will somehow add to connectivity.  Tell your councillor how destroying our only natural wind break, getting rid of the few city centre trees we have will mean to your sense of transformation.

Pickles: (English noun) A sour, bitter, bloated vegetable, preserved in brine.

Eric Pickles. Where does one even start with this one man’s accomplishments?  He’s been in the news again lately, and like me, I’m sure you relish reading about him. I love to ketchup with his doings, even if some people find Pickles unpalatable.

MP Pickles claimed expenses for a second home so he wouldn’t have to commute the massive 37 mile trek from his first home to Westminster.  (I wonder if Pickles’ second home is close to the Gherkin?) This may have seemed a bit greedy to some, but for Eric to have to travel so far to get to work just wouldn’t have been right.

If he was tired in the House of Commons, he might not be able to cut the mustard. He also needed at least £300 in cleaning expenses, which he kindly repaid when asked to, at the height of the MPs expense scandal.

One of the reasons he’s rated so highly is his love of the countryside, as development opportunity anyway. As Secretary of State, he refused to call in controversial plans which saw a vast swathe of historic Dover and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty turned into a housing development / complex.

Area residents found Pickles jarring.

If the refusal to listen to a public demand sounds familiar to anyone in the Balmedie area, another quote from this particular debacle may ring bells with Union Terrace Gardens watchers: defenders of the plan said “This is about building for the future; unlocking the economic potential of our heritage assets.”  – the tone of which somehow seems familiar to me.
http://pickles_public_inquiry_into_controversial_development

You can’t help but wonder if Pickles and his supporters would find a spiritual home in city and shire.

teenagers at the Kendall House home in Gravesend were restrained with huge doses of tranquillisers

He was also instrumental in getting rid of greenbelt in Yorkshire, Liverpool and other formerly boring areas in favour of skyscrapers and parking lots- and a gas plant in Tewkesbury where the objections were virtually unanimous.  We do need a man of his vision here.

But in his latest pickle, Eric told a woman with health issues, who had severe side effects to ‘increase her medication’ as he wisely disputed her story of residential care home forced drugging. His friend (yes, I didn’t know he had any either) told the BBC that Pickles “was giving her a frank piece of advice in private. It wasn’t meant in any way to offend or insult her”. 

What a nice guy.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24324556

The BBC story goes on to say “An investigation… claimed that teenagers at the Kendall House home in Gravesend were restrained with huge doses of tranquillisers and other drugs… 10 girls who were heavily sedated while living at the care home during the 1970s and 1980s went on to have children with a range of birth defects.”  – Doesn’t sound like much of a big deal to me; perhaps upping her medication was just Eric’s fatherly, well-meant advice.  With Pickles around, there is never a dill moment.

Golden Rice: (Modern English noun) A genetically modified, patented rice variety.

Are you one of those people who are unsure about GM foods – not certain that Monsanto should be able to splice genetic material from arctic fish into strawberries, own entire strains of food, seek a monopoly on existing seed businesses, charge farmers each season for food crops rather than farmers being able to store and use their own seed?

Are you unsure about environmental and health aspects of newly-nascent GM plants entering our food chain? Do you have ethical qualms about the third world being indebted to Monsanto forever for using GM food?  Maybe you’re not convinced farmers should be sued for theft when GM pollen gets into their own crops (as happened in Canada)?

Then Minister Owen Paterson knows what you are: wicked.

Paterson said as much to the BBC; quite rightly too.  The proliferation of GM food into our environment is nothing to fear at all, no more so than when the pesticide DDT came into wide use, and was hailed by the Patersons of the day. Of course, traces of the deadly stuff can now be found in EVERY living organism in the planet, but there you go; no harm done.

There may have been the occasional reason to harbour doubts about scientific advancements, but Science is always right, and technological advances are not made for profit, but for the betterment of the world in every instance.  The odd nuclear accident, Thalidomide birth defects, tranquilisers with deadly side effects such as Halcyon – that sort of thing doesn’t happen anymore, well hardly ever.

Don’t question, don’t worry, don’t object – doing so is wicked.  Where would we be without the guiding moral compass of Paterson and his ilk?

You wicked people should be ashamed; Paterson also says it is your fault people are starving in the third world, and golden rice will solve everything.  That’s you told, then.  And here I was thinking centuries of colonialism, civil war, disease, violence and draught were to blame.

Next week:  A look at recent Trump news including his classy new roadside sign and 2012 accounts; a glance at Stewart Milne-related news, and more definitions.

Confidential to anyone who is feeling old:  In passing, someone in their mid 50s told me they were old. First of all, I was Old Susannah way before anyone else decided to be old. Secondly, don’t be old if you don’t want to be old. One of the most youthful people I’ll ever meet was Les Paul (the guitarist and innovator).

I had the extreme pleasure of watching him play many times. There was nothing like it; the music he made; the passion for what he was doing all kept him at a mental age of perhaps 21. He’d joke; he always smiled; he had a twinkle in his eye, and he loved every moment. (And I wish I could see and hear him again). Did he have pains, aches, heartache, problems the same as the rest of us? Absolutely. He just chose to be young.

I hope to be as young as he was one of these days. Anyone who’s reading this at a computer/phone, in a warm building with food in their stomach is pretty lucky compared to most of the rest of the world, something too easily forgotten. If you have some kind of talent or gift, you have much more reason to lighten up.

Refuse to be jaded. Carpe Diem. Do something new. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Go on an adventure. Start something. I can promise you, you can stay young in heart and mind if you want to. As they say, ‘this is not a dress rehearsal’.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Jan 142013
 

In the second of a new series of topical commentaries, Duncan Harley reflects on Life, the Universe and Everything. A sideways look at the world and its foibles.

Carnegie Libraries

Scotland has a tradition of public education second to none and libraries have been at the forefront of the disbursement of knowledge since the establishment of the Leadhills Miners Reading Society in Lanarkshire.

Founded in 1741, it is the oldest subscription library in the British Isles.

Research by The Carnegie UK Trust in 2012 shows that Scots still love libraries, with over three-quarters believing they are either very important or essential to their community, with 61% reporting having used a library at least once in the last year – a higher figure than any other part of the UK.

The Trust is one of over twenty foundations established by Andrew Carnegie in the 19th Century and almost certainly funded a local library near you.

The name of the game was:

“improvement of the well-being of the masses of the people of Great Britain and Ireland by such means as are embraced within the meaning of the word charitable and which the Trustees may, from time to time, select as best fitted from age to age for securing these purposes, remembering that new needs are constantly arising as the masses advance”.

The result was a massive step forward in the emancipation of the working folk of Scotland.

This image above is of Inverurie’s Andrew Carnegie Library.  Built in 1911 as an addition to the rather striking Italian style 1863 Town Hall, it has a rather functional and even stern appearance. This was I am sure down to the architect, one Harbourne Maclennan, who seemingly was a specialist in designing papermaking factories, including those in Culter, Stoneywood and Woodside in Aberdeen.

Mind you, in many ways it is quite apt a designer of the means of producing paper should be instrumental in the experience of the end user.

“Titanic sinks, North East Man Loses Pound in Broad Street”

On Saturday I purchased the Independent and the Guardian at a cost of £3.90. Somewhat unusually, I even took a peek at the Sun and the Mail but I would try to avoid the Sunday Post the next morning, which is quite easy since it only has made-up news no one would believe anyway.

Billed on its website as:

“a colourful, upbeat paper, with pages packed with news, views and features of a particularly Scottish flavour and part of Scotland’s culture for many years, successfully retaining the best of the old with the zest of the new”.

I feel quite dizzy when confronted with a copy. Recent front page headlines include “Esther Blasts Savile Probe” and a “Free Photo Print For Every Reader”.

The victims of Savile and 1370 redundant Jessops staff members will no doubt be very amused.

I digress. I bought the newspapers because I am a voyeur of all things odd. We all are to some extent, I think.

Folk used to turn up at public hangings in Aberdeen city centre. The condemned person would be forced to walk out of the townhouse windows onto the scaffold, make a wee speech in front of the assembled crowd, then hanged for all to view. There are many contemporary accounts of such judicial killings in the book Hangman’s Brae by Norman Adams, which I highly recommend.

One is a somewhat heart-rending recount of the execution of Kate Humphrey in 1830. Convicted of the murder of her husband, her last words were:

“I die innocent, I loved my husband, I love my life, Jesus Christ have mercy on my soul.”

Upon which her body dropped. It took six minutes for her to die and afterwards her corpse was transported to Edinburgh to be dissected at Dr Alexander Munro’s dissecting rooms. A sad end, indeed, but good reading if you like that sort of stuff!

I have to report, however, that I am so far unable to read about that Savile man in my newspapers of choice. It’s not because I am a coward or a wimp. It’s not because I cannot face the issues. It’s not because the issues are unimportant.

In fact, it’s the opposite.

When that man in Dunblane, whose name should never be mentioned, murdered all those children a few years ago, the site of the atrocity was demolished, the law in Scotland was changed to prohibit the ownership of guns without good cause and the press focused mainly not upon the perpetrator but on the victims and the need for change. Rightly so, in my opinion.

In the case of Savile, the reporting often seems to be sensational in the extreme and directed purely towards the selling of newspapers at the expense of good, unbiased articles. The victims seem to have been somewhat sidelined.

I sincerely hope those who suffered at Savile’s hands can have closure on what is an horrific situation. The press, however – including that newspaper we all like and love in the North East, which carried “Savile Victim in Aberdeen” as a front page headline – should back off and show some respect.

That headline seemed to be proclaiming that Aberdeen was not going to be left out of the scandal.

The oddest thing about Savile is that for decades he was known by many in power to be a rapist, paedophile and sex offender, yet they did nothing much about it until after his death.

Reminds me of Ronnie and Reggie Kray, somehow. Actresses, bishops and even policemen loved to have their photographs taken with the jolly pair. They kept order in the East End of London, after all, and most importantly, they loved their old mum.

Mind you, they did have an unfortunate habit of nailing folk to coffee tables to convince them of their errant ways.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Nov 302012
 

With thanks to Kathryn Russell.

To mark the United Nations’ International Elimination of Violence Against Women Day, Aberdeen Women’s Alliance (AWA) took to the streets to collect donations for Rape and Abuse Support (RAS).
They also took the opportunity to discuss with city shoppers the recent funding issues experienced by the charity and the importance of the service it provides.

RAS provides support and advocacy to female survivors of sexual violence, whether recent or historical, as well as challenging public attitudes towards rape through outreach work.

AWA chose to fundraise for RAS following news earlier this year that the charity’s Scottish Government funding had been cut by 50%.

Director for the charity and member of AWA, Kathryn Russell stated:

“Despite the weather, we had a great turn out from members of the AWA and were delighted by the generosity of Aberdeen’s Christmas shoppers.

“Sexual violence is a crime which can have a devastating impact, and it is crucial survivors have access to appropriate support and help following a rape or sexual assault. That’s why it’s essential that we retain the important service provided by RAS in the North-east.”

Following fears that the rape crisis centre would have to close after Christmas, RAS successfully raised enough funds to ensure its immediate future. Donations are still required, however, and those wishing to donate can do so at:  http://www.justgiving.com/rapeandabusesupportaberdeen

Nov 092012
 

With thanks to Gordon Maloney.

Students from the University of Aberdeen have organised a night-time march through the city for this weekend to tackle what they say is a “victim-blaming” culture around sexual violence.

The march follows the vicious sexual assault of a young woman near the main campus of the University.

The students say that the advice being given to young women, to stay safe by not walking alone, shifts the blame away from the perpetrators of sexual violence onto the victims, blaming women for walking alone rather than men for attacking them.

Lisa Frach, the Women’s Officer at Aberdeen University Students’ Association, issued the following statement:

“Many of you will have heard about the sexual assault that took place in Bedford Avenue last Saturday morning. The Grampian Police department, which is investigating in the Bedford Avenue case, has advised women not to walk alone, even in the daytime. This and similar advice have been given to women basically forever.

“However, this way of arguing forces not only the focus on the victim, but also the blame. Feminists and student groups in the 70’s started opposing this way of thinking and organised very successful “Reclaim the Night” marches throughout the world to shift the focus on the perpetrator.

“A facebook page called Aberdeen University Confessions, that was recently shut down due to questionable content, brought to light that the view women would bring sexual assault upon themselves, is still held among some students of our university. Your Students’ Association would like to remind everyone that while incidents such as the one in Bedford Avenue are rare, we would like to reaffirm that sex without consent is rape. This is equally true in the pub with your friends as it is late at night when you’re walking home.

“As reaction to the sexual assault, the advice given by the police and the persistent way of victim blaming we are organising a “Reclaim the Night” – march on November 10th. Starting at 6pm in Hillhead, we are heading to Bedford Avenue following the route the young woman took on Saturday morning.

“For women to liberate themselves from victim blaming and to emphasize the fact that women don’t need to be protected by men the march is going to be for self-defining women (including trans*-women and genderqueer persons) only.

“While we support the general safety advice we would like to encourage that if you wish to talk to someone about suspicious behaviour, harassment or violence, contact the police about criminal offences. If you don’t feel comfortable with the police you can consult the Student Advice Centre (SAC) in Butchart or RAS (Rape and Abuse Support) on 01224 620 772.

“The SAC service and RAS are both confidential services that are here to listen and offer advice if you need it, as well as give support in reporting incidents formally through the police service. Even if you have no plans to formally report an incident, it can help to discuss it with someone who is sympathetic and trained to give you non-judgemental support.

“Please, look out for each other and support one another.”