Dec 172010

By Simon Gall.

‘The Funeral for Higher Education’ was organised by students at Aberdeen University last Friday. The action followed the vote in the House of Commons to raise tuition fees in England. The students marched through the University campus in silence, dressed in black. The Pallbearers carried a coffin draped in a black sheet. The procession continued on to the student association building where the protestors laid white flowers on the casket and listened to a short speech by student activist, Gordon Maloney, about the potential effects of the vote.

Mr. Maloney said “What happened on Thursday was far more than an increase in tuition fees. The cuts to the Further and Higher Education budgets don’t just mean a savage attack on social mobility, they represent a fundamental assault on the role Education plays in society. The fact that these changes do not mean any immediate increase in revenue also blow the argument that we need cuts now out of the water. This attack on Education – and, indeed, the entire welfare state – is ideological and it is unnecessary.”

Dec 032010

By Simon Gall.

On the 30th of November 2010 a crowd of around 200 protestors gathered in front of the Town House in Aberdeen to demonstrate against the proposed cuts by Aberdeen City Council (ACC) to the City’s Music Service Budget.

There are two proposals outlined in ACC’s Priority Based Budgeting Final Draft Report. The first is “a complete closure of the Music Service” (1) and the second is to effectively privatise it. Under the second option instrumental tutors would lose their jobs and then be re-hired as freelance tutors to ‘deliver instrumental lessons to pupils mainly during school time, as demand requires’.

In the video I speak to some of the attendees and ask them what brought them to the protest.

Update : The Finance and Resource Committee (2nd December 2010) decided yesterday to ‘shelf’ plans to cut the Music Service. The proposals will not go to the Full Council vote on the 15th of December. However,  the Committee requested a further report about the service. “Senior councillors said (the Music Service) would continue, potentially with increased charges for all but the poorest families”. (2)

Read more:

(1) – Letter from David Leng – Head of Schools and Education Establishments

(2) –

*Permission was sought to film where needed

Oct 012010

By Simon Gall.
A 72 metre former Russian Navy fire-fighting vessel set sail from Aberdeen Harbour last Monday where it replenished its stocks, collected new crew members and continued its tour of the world’s seas.

The Greenpeace ship the Esperanza currently on its ‘Go Beyond Oil’ Tour aims to “investigate, expose and confront environmental abuse by governments and corporations”(1) and raise awareness about the potential hazards of deepwater drilling, drilling in the Arctic and oil extraction from the Canadian Tar Sands.

The vessel had come to Aberdeen directly from an action against Edinburgh-based Company Cairn Energy in an Arctic region near Greenland known as ‘Iceberg Alley‘, where the company had been drilling two deepwater exploration wells at a depth of 300 to 500 metres (around 300 metres and above usually constitutes deepwater drilling).

Governments and citizens around the world have become very wary of deepwater drilling since the recent BP disaster but Cairn Energy claim they have “put procedures in place to give the highest possible priority to safety and environmental protection,”(2).However, a sceptical Greenpeace highlights that, “if a spill (were to occur) in this harsh and unpredictable Arctic environment the consequences would likely be disastrous. Little to no capacity exists to handle accidents in ice-filled seas. The techniques deployed in the Gulf which were fraught with failure would be useless in the Arctic.

Cold weather, thick ice cover and the slow development of plants and animals means that multiple generations of organisms would be exposed to contamination since the toxic oil would linger in the environment. Even without a major spill, the regular ongoing industry practices of exploration, seismic testing, and extraction of offshore oil reserves has the potential to disrupt seasonal migrations of whales, spawning run of salmon, and crucial reproductive periods of migrating birds”.(1)

First, they occupied the anchor chain and erected a ‘survival pod’ to stop the ship leaving the harbour

Greenpeace activists expressed their concerns about the Arctic project by climbing and occupying the company’s Stena Don oil rig effectively shutting it down, but after 40 hours extreme weather forced the protestors to abandon the action and give themselves up.

They were subsequently arrested, fined roughly $3,440(3) each and deported to their home countries. In the days after the departure of the Esperanza from the area, Cairn Energy announced it had found oil and that it was testing the first samples. The news delighted industry investors and many in Greenland.

Next, the ship travelled to the Shetland Islands (via Aberdeen) where the Chevron drilling ship the ‘Stena Carron’ was about to leave Lerwick Harbour to make it’s way to an exploratory deepwater drilling site to the north of the Islands in the Lagavulin oil field (at the time of writing the company still had not been granted permission by the Department of Energy and Climate Change).

There the touring activists spent a week preventing the ship from reaching its destination. First, they occupied the anchor chain and erected a ‘survival pod’ to stop the ship leaving the harbour but when Chevron’s lawyers won a court order demanding that the occupation be abandoned immediately the 100 hour action was called off and the ‘pod‘ was lowered.

Determined to stop the vessel from reaching its destination, the group changed its tactics and despatched a group of swimmers to block its path.

This controversial action, deemed by many as ‘dangerous’ and ‘reckless’, was brought to end after Chevron’s lawyers made a second trip to Edinburgh and won a second injunction against Greenpeace. On hearing the news, the activists again called off their 50 hour action.

The Stena Carron then continued on its way to the site and the activists returned to the Esperanza. There is currently a nationwide campaign underway to dissuade the Energy Secretary Chris Huhne from granting permission to Chevron to begin its deepwater drilling project in the Lagavulin oil field.

The tour goes on……





Jul 092010

By Simon Gall.

Trump vs. Forbes – An exhibition by David McCue

David McCue, a Glasgow based Artist, unveiled some of his latest artwork this week at the Mill of Menie Farm, situated in the heart of the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire. His work examines and explores “the ongoing psychological battle between American billionaire Donald Trump

and Michael Forbes, the farmer.”(1) Continue reading »

Jul 022010

By Simon Gall and George Chubb.

The trial of a group of 9 climate activists came to a close last week in Aberdeen with the jury finding them guilty of Breach of the Peace. In March 2009, two protesters climbed onto the roof of the terminal building at Aberdeen Airport while 7 occupied a runway and set up a mock golf course in a direct action against it’s planned expansion, C02 emissions and Donald Trump’s enormous planned golf course and hotel complex.”(1)

The action caused delays to 10 flights as well as “23 helicopter flights from the North Sea oil field operator CHC.”(2). A spokesman for Aberdeen Airport described the action as “dangerous and irresponsible”(3) while another stated that “the actions of these individuals was not acceptable.”(4)

The occupation came to an end when the activists were informed that their actions had delayed an air ambulance from collecting a child from the Islands but according to Steven Wright of Gama Aviation Ltd. – the firm which operates the only Government funded Air Ambulance service in the UK – the “flight was scheduled to take off at 8.00am this morning, but in fact took off about 8.35am, but this was due to our operational delay by the medics and not the protestors. This incident has had no financial or life threatening or operational impact on our operation. I have no complaint regarding this matter.”

The group were to be charged with Vandalism but, when staff at the airport reported that there was no sign of damage to the roof and the prosecution was unable to prove the group had damaged the fencing, the charges were dropped.

The protesters aimed to defend themselves through the necessity clause, which states that if an action taken was necessary to prevent something worse from happening it will not be deemed a punishable offense. The argument was that it is becoming necessary for people to stand up and take action on climate change or we will soon hit the ‘point of no return’.

What made this case remarkable was that climate experts from all over came to defend the actions of Climate9 – part of the pressure group Plane Stupid – and to give evidence to the jury about why C02 emissions must be swiftly and drastically cut. The scientists focused on the effects of global warming and warned that the UK Government’s environmental targets are not ambitious enough, Dr. Alice Bows explained “The UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change policy of 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 only gives us a 50:50 chance of avoiding dangerous climate change. You wouldn’t go to sleep in a house that had a 50:50 chance of burning down in the night, so we need even tougher targets. In fact we need a complete de-carbonisation of the economy in the next few decades. Because we need to tackle emissions right now, the actions of both governments and individuals are important.”

Dr. Geoff Meaden, an expert in Biogeography and Coastal Hazards added “At present I see little evidence that governments at all levels are taking sufficient action on climate change. Therefore, like those who have committed civil disobedience in the past I believe that groups such as Plane Stupid must take every opportunity to bring the urgency of climate change to the public attention.”

The Climate9 were found guilty of Breach of the Peace on June 25th 2010 and will be sentenced in August. For more information on the trial and the group visit

(1) Johnny Agnew – climate9


(3) Spokesman for Aberdeen Airport