Aug 042016

With thanks to David Forbes.

David Forbes with Devon ThompsonVoluntary Disabled Charity Future Choices Celebrates it’s Eighth Year this year with the introduction of it’s youngest committee member taking up the role of Vice Chairman.

Devon Thompson (21) joined Future Choices a few years ago and then had to leave to pursue others life commitments before recently returning to help out with many of the Charity’s key projects.

He works tirelessly to make sure the members are catered for when the group meets up every Tuesday from 11-2 at their base at Inchgarth Community Centre in Garthdee.

Charity Chairman, David Forbes explained:

“Having Devon on my management committee has been a tremendous asset to running the group and now he’s taking the role on as my deputy, he’s the perfect man for the job, young, energetic and very inspirational. In my view this is the greatest motivation to many young volunteers out there – that you can achieve success with hard work and determination.”

Devon said:

“I am deeply and truly honoured to be elected as Vice Chairman of Future Choices. I have served in the care sector for four years now and have never come across such a dedicated and hardworking Charity, with a constant hunger to grow and develop as an organisation that puts the emphasis on the well being of their members, I am truly humbled that they have shown support and faith in my abilities.”

David added:

“Devon taking up this role is very humbling to me as the Charity heads to it’s biggest milestone of 10 years in 2 years time, so to keep the group vibrant and progressive is something Devon will be involved with alongside me and the rest of my team.”

Devon Concluded:

“It is my deepest desire to rise to the challenge and develop. In my experience, collaboration is the stuff of growth and I look forward to working further with the committee to provide for our members greater choices, for the future.”

For more information on Future Choices, visit

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Jun 102016

outside_cover_vol_3_Bennachie_Duncan Harley reviews Bennachie Landscapes Series 3.

In this, the third publication in the Bennachie Landscapes Series, further aspects of the story of Grampian’s favourite hill are discussed in often minute detail.

Dedicated to Gordon Ingram, treasurer to the Bailies of Bennachie until 2000, and with a foreword by Dr Jo Vergunst of the University of Aberdeen’s Department of Anthropology this publication focuses on both our historical and our modern day relationship with the Bennachie range.

Funded through the Connected Communities programme the content reflects the work of project partners including the University of Aberdeen, The Forestry Commission Scotland and The Bailies of Bennachie.

The book presents as 10 research papers, each distinct but related and written by both Bennachie experts and Bennachie enthusiasts.

The ecology and social history of the area feature alongside the geology, flora and the exploitation of both peat and stone on and around the hill. Additionally there are excavation reports featuring Colony houses and Drumminor Castle.

Several of the papers make for highly technical reading and are not for the faint hearted. Peter Thorn’s description of the geological setting around Drumminor Castle is a case in point. Other chapters such as the interim report into the excavations at Drumminor Castle are written with the general reader in mind and should be accessible to anyone happy to sit through an episode of Time Team.

The site of the Bennachie Colonists comes under particular scrutiny. Sue Taylor provides insight into the social and domestic lives of the crofters, who made a living on the slopes of the hill, through the interpretation of pottery found at the Bennachie Colony site.

The excavations during 2011 – 2013 at Shepherd’s Lodge and Hillside yielded both sponge decorated and transfer printed earthenware indicating perhaps a previously unsuspected degree of economic sophistication amongst Colony settlers who often lived at subsistence level.

Barry Foster’s introduction to the peat lands of the hill not only gives the reader food for thought but illustrates clearly, using aerial photographs, the scale of the 18th century peat cutting industry.

In 2013 a partnership between Keig School and the Bennachie Landscapes Fieldwork Group surveyed the ecology and landscape use within the Lordship of Forbes. The research report makes for fascinating reading and describes the discovery of a previously unknown water-mill in the grounds of Castle Forbes.

A dig at the Back of Bennachie by students of Kemnay Academy features alongside an investigation of the English Quarry by Andrew Wainwright and a paper, by Colin Millar, reflects on the controversial 19th century seizure and “Division of the Commonty of Bennachie” by a group of powerful local landowners.

Illustrated throughout with both images relating to Bennachie and survey maps describing the digs and investigations, this book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the North East and clearly illustrates the value of community partnership research.

At 115pp, Bennachie Landscapes Series 3 is available from Inverurie Library and at  p
Price £10. ISBN 978-0-9576384-1-9

This review was first published in the May 2016 edition of Leopard Magazine.

Words © Duncan Harley

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Oct 292015

Depression And Suicide – Is Aberdeen Really ‘The Happiest City In Scotland’? By Anne Carter.

town-house-rain-featAll over the world, people are falling prey to the terrible malaise of depression, and losing their lives to suicidal impulses. Statistically, Scotland is the worst affected part of the UK, with more depressed people and suicide attempts per capita than anywhere else in Britain.
This has consistently been the case for a good decade or so, and it does not seem to be improving [1].

Aberdeen, however, for all of its dour, grey reputation [2], appears on the face of it to be bucking the overall trend.

Unemployment in Aberdeen is low, and disposable income is relatively high for certain sectors within the town. This would seem to indicate that Aberdeen is a generally happier, less depressed area than other Scottish towns. But are we letting materialistic assessments blind us to other issues which may be of real concern to the vulnerable of Aberdeen?

Risk Factors:

There are several factors which put people at risk of depression and suicide. Unemployment is one of these, and Aberdeen has an impressively low unemployment rate [3]. Older people are also vulnerable to depression [4], and – unusually for a coastal town – Aberdeen’s elderly population is relatively low. Students and younger oil-workers on the make tend to predominate.

Low average income is also a factor which tends to affect depression statistics within a given region, and Aberdeen has a reasonably high average income. Indeed, it boasts the highest concentration of millionaires in the UK. All in all, it would seem that Aberdeen is ideally situated to avoid the depression epidemic currently sweeping the rest of Scotland.

However, to view just this broader picture is to fail to take the nuances into account – and the nuances are all important when it comes to the mental health of individuals.


Going purely by averages, Aberdeen is doing pretty well. But there is an insidious undercurrent to this ostensibly happily booming town which must be taken into account. Aberdeen has one of the most unequal pay structures in the UK [5], which means that for those at the bottom end, life is extremely hard indeed. The cost of living in this rich city is, not incomprehensibly, high, so those who do the necessary but poorly paid jobs of Aberdeen really struggle to get by.

The polarisation of wages and the general inequality means that, while Aberdeen may on average be richer and have higher employment rates than the rest of the UK, some of those adding to the employment statistics are struggling to get by on very little disposable income, comparatively speaking. As such, their risk of suicide is significantly higher than average, money issues being tremendously stressful and a big contributer towards depression.

Furthermore, Aberdeen has a significant issue with binge-drinking and alcoholism, both of which are known to enhance someone’s risk of suicide. Aberdeen’s glaring gap between rich and poor, and the general level of equality in the town means that, for those who do fall into the ‘at risk’ category for depression and suicide, they tend to be at more risk than average.

Union Bridge:

In 2013, the Council was so concerned about the high number of suicides who took their lives at Union Bridge that they held a debate upon the matter [6]. Various suicide prevention measures were proposed, including nets (the favoured option of the police) and a fence.

Between 2008 and 2013, over 100 people jumped or attempted to jump from the bridge. Unfortunately, the bridge continues to attract those determined to take their own lives – its combination of height and passing trains seeming to guarantee a speedy demise. Many more Aberdonians take their lives each year through other means.

While Aberdeen has by no means the highest suicide rate in Scotland – far from it – it is notable that the route from depression to suicide appears to be a lot faster in Aberdeen’s intensely polarised socio-economic environment. While we may ostensibly be the ‘happiest town in Scotland’, it may be worth appreciating that the flipside of that happiness is not nice. Aberdeen is not invulnerable, and we need to look after those who are suffering within our community.

[1] BBC News, “Scots suicide rate highest in UK”, Aug 2006

[2] Tim Pauling, “Aberdeen named the most dismal town in Scotland”, Press And Journal, Feb 2015

[3] Kevin McKenna, “Aberdeen is the happiest place in Scotland…and that’s no joke”, The Guardian, Nov 2012

[4] PsychGuides, “Living With: Depression In Older Adults”

[5] Neil Lee, Paul Sissons, Katy Jones, “Wage inequality and employment polarisation in British cities”, The Work Foundation, May 2013

[6] Iona Paterson, “Suicide Rates Force City Council Debate”, The Tab, Oct 2013

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Oct 222015

Deirdre Forsyth featWith thanks to Richard Bunting.

Transforming how money is used for social good – and to create a fairer society across Scotland – will be in the spotlight in Edinburgh next month, at the country’s first conference focused on social finance.

John Swinney, Deputy First Minister of the Scottish Government, will open the event at Edinburgh’s Roxburghe Hotel on Thursday 19 November, and a range of international experts will be speaking on social finance, investment and banking.

Delegates will hear how social finance can achieve major benefits for society, the environment and people’s wellbeing.

The conference – ‘Social Finance: Social Investment: Social Banking – What makes them Social?’ – is being hosted by Scottish Community Re: Investment Trust, an independent charity working to influence, inform and assist the Scottish third sector to align its financial resources and planning with its aspirations for a more social and environmentally just Scotland.

Deirdre Forsyth, Chair of Scottish Community Re: Investment Trust, said:

“This pioneering conference will explore how Scotland’s third sector – which makes such a vital, positive difference to Scottish society – can enhance its social impact through more sustainable, collaborative and socially responsible use of its money.”

Workshops and discussions will include crowdfunding campaigns, community shares, social banks and more.

Speakers include Eric Holterhues, Head of SRI Funds at Triodos Investment Management BV in The Netherlands; Rod Ashley, Chief Executive at Scotland’s Airdrie Savings Bank; Adrian Saches, Client Executive at GLS Social Bank in Germany; Dan Gregory, Blogger at Common Capital; and Peter Quarmby, Founding Director of Community Sector Banking in Australia.

The event is part of Scottish Community Re: Investment Trust’s ambition to transform Scotland’s third sector finances. The trust says that the sector lacks a financial framework suited to its values and ways of working – with challenges including scattered resources, unsuitable financial products, and a lack of Scottish-focused banks offering a transparent way to invest ethically.

For details of ticket prices and to book in advance, please see

Principle sponsor of the conference is Airdrie Savings Bank ( Other sponsors include Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Zero Waste Scotland.

Rod Ashley said:

“Airdrie Savings Bank is delighted to sponsor this conference. We are a not for profit community bank with no shareholders, governed by a Board made up, principally, of unremunerated Trustees.  All returns are for the communities and customers we serve. The bank is committed to social justice within a sustainable economy and is pioneering Scotland’s engagement in banking which considers its environmental, cultural and social impact.

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Oct 082015

With thanks to Jonathan Russell.

OneWorldA concert has organised for next Sunday by Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear
Disarmament to celebrate One World Week.
It will include peace songs and poetry, music from India, Scotland, Eastern Europe and Romania, as well as poetry and dance from Nepal. The concert will end with some Bob Dylan Anthems

One World Week aims to bring people together across the world in the cause of Peace and Justice. The event is dedicated to all people suffering injustice worldwide.

This will be a free event – Donations to Global Justice Now and CND.

The Programme will be compèred by David Kelly and Kathleen Watt.

Performances include:

  • Dave Davies and friends
  • Nigel Lammas and friends,
  • Fred and Charlie from Iron Broo (Eastern European Music),
  • Remas Stana – violin from Romania,
  • Rev Dr Isaac and Dr Amudha Poobalan (Indian music),
  • Prithwis Banerje (Indian vocals)
  • Kirsty Potts (Peace songs),
  • Imagine ensemble,
  • Gillian Siddons (poems by Hilda Meers),
  • Nabin Chhetri (Nepalese poetry),
  • Nepalese Dance,
  • Jigs Akimbo.

Finale: Keith Mesnier will perform three songs: Trident No More and the Bob Dylan anthems, ‘Masters of War’ and ‘The Times They Are A-changin’

For more info contact Jonathan via email:   or tel: 01224-586435

Peace And Justice Concert.
The Blue Lamp, Gallowgate
Sunday 18th October, 2pm-5.30pm.

Oct 082015

With thanks to Kenny Hutchison, Parliamentary Assistant to Dr. Eilidh Whiteford MP.

Eilidh Whiteford, Parliament [2015]feat

SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has written to Scottish Secretary David Mundell seeking confirmation that the UK Government will amend the Scotland Bill to devolve complete control over Universal Credit – after he promised the power to top up tax credits would be given to the Scottish Parliament through the Scotland Bill.

Mr Mundell said on Good Morning Scotland yesterday that the Scottish Parliament would have the ability to “adjust tax credits” or “top-up tax credits”.

As working tax credits and child tax credits are now part of Universal Credit, which is already being rolled out across the country, the only way the Scottish Parliament would be able to do this fairly and simply, and without having to ask the permission of the DWP, would be through complete control of Universal Credit.

Commenting, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, the SNP’s Social Justice spokesperson said:

“The Scotland Bill in its current form limits the ability of the Scottish Government to use the additional powers it proposes and retains vetoes for UK Government ministers. Scotland needs more powers over social security to tackle poverty, inequality and help those who need support the most.

“350,000 children in Scotland will be badly hit by the tax credit changes coming into force, and we want the power in Scotland to pull children and families out of poverty.

“This can only be done if we have full control over Universal Credit.

“Mr Mundell voted against the removal of the Secretary of State veto on changes to the Universal Credit, voted against powers to create new benefits, and voted against the devolution of Housing Benefit which is an element of Universal Credit – but now he says that Scotland should have the power to adjust tax credits.

“Overwhelmingly, civic Scotland has said that social security powers should be in the hands of Scotland to allow us to protect children and low income families. The Secretary of State now needs to put up or shut up and show us the amendments they are planning.”

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Aug 282015

With thanks to Esther Green, Tricker PR.

Scottish Women's InstitutesIn cities, towns and rural areas of Scotland, a new generation of women is discovering for the first time the appeal of the Scottish Women’s Institute.

They are trying activities like speed crafting, going on brewery trips, making cocktails and learning to play the ukulele at new branches that have popped in Leith, Shawlands, Aberdeen and Dervaig on the Isle of Mull.

Moves to introduce the SWI to a broader reach of women have led to the birth of pilot meetings which are being trialled in different parts of Scotland.

These less formal gatherings have been encouraging women to meet with other like-minded women to make friendships and learn new skills and interests at times of the day and week that best suit their lifestyles.

The latest pilot to get off the ground is in Aberdeen which held its first meeting on Wednesday, August 19, inspired by the new style groups that are taking root elsewhere in Scotland.

Ann Milne, the driving force behind the Granite City’s Deen Divas says:

“There has been tremendous interest in an informal group of women getting together to socialise, enjoy shared interests and above all have fun.  About 40 people attend our first meeting and we’re looking forward to developing and growing in the coming months.”

Leith SWI is part of the new generation SWI with Facebook taking the place of committee meetings and cocktail making and ukulele lessons among its meeting themes.

Member Dawn Endean says:

“It’s about people getting together because they want to make friends. We do whatever people fancy doing.”

Dervaig Divas held its first meeting in a pub in the north of the island of Mull and has been the brainchild of the SWI’s Sheelagh Still who finds it refreshing to go forward with younger people’s ideas, input and enthusiasm.

Says Sheelagh:

“We recognise that women want flexibility and may wish to dip in and out of meetings as their other commitments allow. It’s great to see new interest being generated in the SWI.”

Shawlands in Glasgow launched its new-style SWI on Sunday, 23rd August with plans to focus on women’s safety, alongside crafts and baking.

Angela Tamburrini of Shawlands sought out a local SWI to learn more about homecrafts and baking, but with none near her home decided to do something about it by forming a new group.

“That was at the beginning of June and I’ve had 80 women register their interest,” explains Angela.

“Activities will be whatever the majority want but will include speakers to talk about topics such as women’s safety.

“Some of the talent out there is gobsmacking and some of the ladies are happy to do demonstrations like make jewellery, quiltmaking, baking, decoupage, paper crafts. 

“I’d also like to help women improve their employment prospects and am thinking about getting someone from a recruitment background to give their CVs a health check – for free of course!”

SWI national chairwoman Christine Hutton is encouraged to see new members coming on board and taking an interest in the organisation and says it bodes well for the future.

Christine adds:

“The SWI will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2017 and to see fresh blood coming in, and new institutes being formed, is a positive step in the right direction.”

The new style meetings have come about as part of the rebranding of the movement introduced earlier this year to address the organisation’s ageing membership and to inspire women to join an organisation more reflective of modern lives where women work, have family and busy lifestyles.

The word ‘Rural’ has been dropped from the name, to reflect the growing membership in urban areas, while a new logo has been designed to give a fresh look along with the strapline ‘Women Together’. A new website has also been launched making it easier to search for Institutes.

Flexible meetings at different times of the day and in different venues are being trialled with new Institutes encouraged to take up themes and activities that reflect their own interests, lifestyles and communities, alongside existing SWI groups where education and training in home skills, family welfare, citizenship and friendship remain the key aims.

The new groups complement the existing network of traditional meetings that have been held all over Scotland since the organisation’s foundations in 1917.

The SWI remains one of Scotland’s most loved institutions with a membership of around 17,700 women.

For more details of how to find your nearest institute, or advice on how to set up a new one, visit or go to its Facebook pages at

Aug 282015

With thanks to Kenneth Hutchison, Parliamentary Assistant to Dr. Eilidh Whiteford MP

Eilidh Whiteford FraserburghBanff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed new figures showing a 20% increase in the number of social sector homes built over the past seven years.
The figures, obtained from a parliamentary question, show that in the last seven years of the Labour-LibDem administration (2000-01 to 2006-07) 28,988 homes for social rent were completed.

In the last seven years of the SNP government, 34,633 social rent homes have been completed – 19.5% more than in the last seven years of the Labour-led executive.

The Scottish Government has pledged an ambitious 30,000 affordable homes to be built by the end of this Parliament, and is on target to deliver with 26,972 affordable homes already built since 2011-12 – 90% of its target. This includes 18,670 homes for social rent – 93% of the Scottish Government’s social rent target, and comes despite real terms cuts to Scotland’s block grant from Westminster.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“These figures demonstrate the Scottish Government’s commitment to regenerating Scotland’s social housing sector.

“Despite cuts of 26% to our capital budget from the UK Government, the SNP has made affordable housing a priority, and the Scottish Government is doing everything in its power to address the massive waiting lists which developed under successive Conservative and Labour administrations. Indeed, in their last four years in power, Labour built just four council houses in the whole of Scotland,

“Everyone deserves a warm, affordable place to live, and the SNP is committed to ensuring a steady supply of new social housing. The Scottish Government is already on track to deliver 30,000 affordable homes by the end of this Parliament, including 20,000 homes for social rent.”

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Jul 102015

futurechoicessainsburys3With thanks to David Forbes.

Future Choices received a fabulous cheque for £7092.03 from Sainsbury’s Garthdee.

The sum was raised through dedicated fundraising from Sainsbury’s Garthdee store staff and customers, Future Choices being voted as their Charity of the Year for 2014-2015.

Margaret Pitcairn of Sainsbury’s presented the cheque to Future Choices along with colleagues.

David Forbes, Chairperson, Future Choices stated:

“Future Choices is absolutely delighted to receive such an amazing donation. We have a brilliant relationship with Sainsbury’s Garthdee who provide such great support to charities and communities. The donation will make a real positive difference to all the people we support. I thank all staff and customers of Sainsbury’s Garthdee.”

Future Choices is a volunteer led charity undertaking fantastic, important work providing a range of activities for disabled people every week at Inchgarth Community Centre. This includes arts and crafts, boccia, board games, dominoes and provides an opportunity for people to meet up, socialise and support each other. The charity continues to grow with the support of the community and volunteers.

Future Choices always greatly appreciate any help and support people can be to the charity as volunteers, members or supporters and very much actively encourage anyone who wishes to make a big difference to the lives of disabled people in Aberdeen to contact them on Freephone 0800 5668728 or email to find out how you can assist.

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