Dec 232017
 

This is an attempt at satire. Any resemblance to a person living, dead or somewhere in between; competent or wholly incompetent; greedy or otherwise is purely and yugely coincidental. By Suzanne Kelly.

It was a cold November rain that fell on the glistening, gleaming, sparkly, shiny granite stone of the Granite City.

The rain even dared to fall on the city council’s Town House and Marischal College.

Inside said Town House, a vulnerable Willie Wonky was clearing out his desk. It was late at night and unusually he felt tired and emotional.

And indeed angry – too angry even to throw out a few enlightening tweets to his many admirers – though being agitated had never stopped him before.

“It was only a fence, a wall, pathways…” Willie thought to himself; he was feeling rather hard done by.

“What about everything Dean for instance got away with?”

He had been forced from his office and his post on the City Council unceremoniously.

He felt that the science-based evidence against him was insignificant – after all, there was Pete Leonard, the man responsible for the crematorium scandal, and on a lesser note, he had formally reported that the Tullos Hill deer should be wiped out to create a forest – cost neutral no less – when he already had a letter telling him it wasn’t possible to have a forest on the hill, a former rubbish-tip.

The man was soundly hated by 99.9% of his staff – yet got months of gardening leave with full pay and a golden parachute.

“If only the public knew how much we gave Leonard.” Wonky muttered to himself.

He opened his desk and began taking out the files, deciding which to keep and which to leave behind – or destroy.

‘City Garden Project’ was by far the largest folder in his desk.

“Humpf” Wonky thought

“What a load of old cobblers. F me that was a stupid idea – ramps going up to a steep height only to descend to the other side. So much for the excuse of ‘accessibility’ being the reason to turn the gardens into a parking lot with astroturf. You’d have to be a mountain goat to get up or down those f-ing arches. So much for anyone in a wheelchair.

“Anne Begg easily accessed the gardens as they are . The idea of spending £180 million on this drivel and expecting people to fly in from all over the world to walk up and down a ramp or sit in an outdoor theatre – an outdoor theatre no less – to shop at Next and Boots; old Ian Wood must have thought we were out of our minds.”

Willie pulled this thick file out of the drawer and unceremoniously heaved it on his desk.

Rifling through the file drawer was considerably easier with the bulk of the Union Terrace Gardens out of the way.

“Oh look, the Stewart Milne Stadium plan.” Willie snorted derisively.

This huge white elephant was going to be great for everyone, especially one Stewart Milne.

File after file Wonky pulled out of his desk, from cabinets; dust was flying. Outside the rain intensified and the wind howled.

With each passing file he found – ‘Tree for Every Citizen feasibility study’ (by the man who gained £100k if it went ahead), ‘Art Gallery renovation costings’ (a work of sheer fantasy Wonky thought to himself with a sneer), ‘Donald Trump impact study – benefits for Aberdeen City, by VisitScotland’, ‘Invitation to Trump’s doctorate celebration’; ‘Benefits for Torry of having a breaking yard and incinerator’ – dozens of reports, papers, invitations and so on were piling high on Wonky’s desk now.

The wind moaned louder and the windows rattled, but Willie ploughed on.

‘Gerry Brough – curriculum vitae and list of academic credentials’; Wonky laughed aloud as he found this file; Brough was the bully who shouted down all opposition to the Garden project and stopped the public having a vote on just fixing the gardens up.

“F this wind and rain.” Willie thought as he turned on his computer – well, it was still his for a day or maybe two, as he decided to have some Netflix and chill.

The computer warmed up, and the next thing Willie heard was an old familiar voice

“Ahn tae all me friends – comrades – I should say – This is Alex Salmond, welcoming you to another instalment of McRussian TV. Have I ever told ye about the time I was doon te Balmoral and was singing with Prince –“

“F that!” shouted Wonky at his computer and closed the tab for the Alex Salmond show,

“how the f did that get on my computer?”

He opened an new tab and waited for Amazon videos to load up; he swiped haphazardly at the screen and hit the Christmas movies button.

Willie unlatched the window; as rainy and windy as it was, he had unaccountably become clammy, hot and excitable.

When he crossed the room to return to his desk, he could see there was a big box still on top of the cabinet, a yuge box.

“F that, I’d better see what the F’s in that F-ing thing.” Willie said, his anger growing.

A random Christmas movie whirred into life on his laptop; ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ had started. He could hear it play in the background.

Pushing his swivel chair close to the cabinet, Willie stepped onto its seat, reached for the huge cardboard box high on the shelf and started to pull it towards him. At that moment several things happened all at once.

The wind suddenly gusted, blowing the windows wide opened. This caused the papers in the room and on his desk to spring to sudden life and swirl through the air.

“Waa F!” Willie thought as this sudden commotion caused him to lose his footing and the chair started to wheel away. Alas, he had not lost his grip on the giant box.

The box Willie had grabbed slid off the shelf, knocking him straight between the eyes, causing him to wince and howl in pain as he fell backwards. Then to cap things off, a long-forgotten trophy ‘Aberdeen – best employer in Scotland’ made of faux granite and cheap metal clonked Wonky straight on the head. Down and out he went.

#          #          #

A voice in Wonky’s head was saying: “Congratulations! You’re the final winner of the Aberdeen Art Gallery renovation lottery Golden Ticket contest!”

“What the F?” Willie thought, then he opened his eyes. He was in a vast crowd in front of the Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Crowds cheered. There was a podium on which were about 8 of the most ridiculous-looking people Willy had ever seen. The man who congratulated him was a tall, thin man of about 70.

The man, dressed in a top hat, tails and with a big bow tie kept speaking.

“I better cut down on my order” thought Wonky as he was helped to his feet.

The oddly dressed man was addressing the crowd:

“Friends, thank you for buying the 7 million Aberdeen Art Gallery refurbishment tickets in a single afternoon! We will have the art gallery back opened in no time – say 3 to 5 years! Result!”

The frenzied crowd roared with its approval.

The man fixed his top hat, adjusted his satin waistcoat, and continued:

“The art gallery lottery promised there would be six winners whose golden tickets would get them an amazing prize! More about that in a moment. We’ve raised £7 million pounds! Hooray us!”

The crowd cheered some more.

“We’re going to raise even more money through some – ah efficiencies! We’re going to stop the Youth Festival – that’ll save £100k! No more kids wandering around town in the summer! No need to thank me or your councillors!”

The crowd were delirious with joy.

“Back to the Art Gallery Golden ticket winners” said Ian Wood – for it was he,

“These lucky people are the winners who will get the once-in-a-lifetime chance to come inside Marischal College and see where all the great ideas you love are dreamed up!”

There was more cheering, as you’d expect.

“The final winner is Willie Wonky here, who won the final golden ticket when he bought his Art Gallery lottery ticket. He too has won this vibrant and dynamic look behind the scenes at Marischal.”

“The other winners are Donnie Trump from America, who loves watching television and playing with guns; He is with his lovely assistant and spokesperson Sarah Malone Bates!”

Again with the crowds cheering.

“We also have Professor Bill Ritchie, former Head of Housing Peter Leonard, and… Stewart Milne!”

The crowd was delirious by now with joy.

“And friends” continued Sir Ian, bowing and tipping his top hat,

“Before I take the lucky winners on the tour of the dream factory that is Marischal College, I just want you to know it is pure coincidence that most of the people who have won are friends of mine – but then again – who isn’t?”

The crowds cheered more furiously than ever, as the lucky winners – Donald Trump, Sarah Malone, Willie Wonky (who was still feeling groggy and confused), Professor Bill Ritchie, Peter Leonard and Stewart Milne all stepped away from the crowds and past the statue of Sir Robert The Bruce towards a revolving door which would lead into the magical Marischal College building, where the magic happens.

Willie looked at the statue. For an instant he thought the horse snorted and Sir Robert bowed his head to expose a tear, but the fancy lasted only a moment.

Here we are! All pack in now! And Sir Ian stepped into the revolving door.

The other guests did their best to cosy up to him.

“Easy Stewart, if you get any closer you’ll be behind me.” chuckled Sir Ian.

Willie didn’t see why they all had to crowd into the same section of the revolving door, but no one else complained; they just looked adoringly at Sir Ian.

“ARGH!” shouted Willie – “What the F-’”

“-No need to worry my boy, it’s just one of the Troompa Loompas who run Marischal College.” Smiled Sir Ian Wood.

“But it’s hideous! Why is its hair that colour and doesn’t it own a comb or a mirror! Why is its skin bright orange? Is it human?” said Willie, pointing

“That’s my reflection you’re pointing at pal.” Said Donnie Trump angrily

“I’ll be tweeting about this, mark my words!”

“No, that other hideous thing!” said Wonky, pointing to another orange skinned creature that looked only half human.

“Ah, that’s Valerie Watts, the old Chief Executive. She’s been stuck in this revolving door for years now, one executive appointment after another, going around in circles.” Said Sir Ian.

“Stick with me everyone, you’re on the ride of your lives!” Ian said, as the real Troompa Loompas, orange skinned minions with frizzy white hair started to make the revolving door spin faster and faster.

The revolving door was jam packed, the Troompa Loompa s made it go faster and faster.

Willie Wonky could see shapes as the revolving door spun round – there were flowers, birds, meadows of grass, gorse and birds. The elevator slowed, and out the occupants all spilled onto Tullos Hill.

A deer ambled past. A quick gunshot rang out, and the deer fell dead.

“Isn’t it beautiful?!” asked Sir Ian. Wonky looked at the dead deer, but noticed Ian was pointing at a parking lot by a new building.

“Wood House and its new parking lot!” Sir Ian sighed.

“I’d like to thank you Pete Leonard for helping me. Aside from the unfortunate crematorium debacle – which we won’t talk of .” Wonky said, noticing the obsequious yet bullying Leonard had coughed,

“if not for how you handled the Tullos situation, I might not have got that parking lot made.”

“I have to hand it to you Pete. You knew there was no chance of growing a ‘Tree for every Citizen’ forest on this hill – it’s a rubbish heap, and you were sent a letter proving it. But, on you went – and here’s the genius thing – you told everyone in a report it was – cost neutral! Brilliant!”

Everyone laughed and clapped. The deer made a further spasm. Gunshots echoed all around.

“Pete, I like your spirit. You not only got rid of these deer, the migration of which was also a stumbling block for other projects – more of that soon – but you let the land donated to the city fall into such disrepair that the private owners took it back. If there’s now coincidentally a parking lot I need for my beautiful new building, then I thank you.

“And all that money paid to the consultants – what was that guy’s name – Chris Piper? Then well done you” Sir Ian said pinching and shaking Peter’s cheek.

“I hope if any crumbs fell off that table, you swept them up Pete.”

As the group surveyed the parking lot, the now barren hill save for a few dying saplings in tiny tree guards, a group of the Troompa Loompas marched into the scene.

As the Troompa Loompas gathered the group together to go to the next destination, they broke into song.

Troompa Loompa doopity dee
If you are wise you’ll listen to me
If Ian Wood wants a new parking lot
Wildlife and habitat don’t matter a jot

Let the land he needs fall into disuse
So he can get it – use any excuse
Kill a few deer and ignore the public outcry
Peter Leonard, you’re our kind of guy

You lied to the public
You lied to the public
You can live in luxury too
Like Sir Ian and Helen doopity do.

As they were getting ready to leave the hill, Willie was sure he saw Sir Ian give Pete a bag marked ‘swag’. The deer’s tiny back leg gave its final twitch.

“And now if you’ll all pile onto this magic bus” said Sir Ian as the Troompa Loompas helped the guests get on a Number 3 Stagecoach.

All the while Willy Wonky felt something was wonky.

The next stop is Loirston Loch! Where I’ve got a surprise for my friend Stewart!

“Sir Ian,” asked Sarah Malone-Bates.

“That’s like great an’ all, like, but it will take ages in this traffic?”

She pointed to the gridlocked cars on Wellington Road.

“I have a nail appointment at 5, Botox at 8, then my colonic at….” She droned on

Willie started to ask whether the new Wood building with its full parking lot was a good idea for this already congested road (which was and still is one of Scotland’s most over-polluted Roads) but a Troompa Loompa shot him a dirty look.

“It will take us no time to get to Loirston, isn’t that right Stewart?” said Sir Ian with a wink.

The doughy, sweaty kitchen fitter Stewart Milne nodded emphatically:

“Yes, anything you say Sir Ian, you look wonderful today. Yes, that’s right. In my plan to build a new stadium on top of Loirston Loch, we told the public and the planners that you could get to Loirston Loch by bus from the centre of town when a football match was on in 15 minutes.”

“Fifteen minutes? It takes that longer than that to get to Torry as it is.” Willie thought as the last of the entourage climbed on the magic No. 3 bus which sped off and to Willie’s amazement flew through the air over the gridlocked cars.

Before the group knew it, the Troompa Loompas were helping them off the bus and out onto a construction site near a lake. Not a bird could be seen or heard amid the rising girders and hum of machinery.

“Well Stewart my dear friend” started Sir Ian

“We might not have got you that football stadium at Loirston you wanted – yet – but look at all these houses and businesses going up! More office space! Just what we need!”

Willie looked around, and noticed he was standing on a faded, splintered wooden sign that said: ‘The City of Aberdeen recognises the importance of Loirston Lake both to wildlife…. A first view of our city… agree it should never be built on…’

“But Sir Ian, er, don’t we already have a glut of office space? asked Willie Wonky, whose head was hurting and spinning now.

We can’t even fill the new Marischal Square, even though it does have a giant leopard statue in it?”

The looks of the rest of the assembly were of scorn and derision, but Sir Ian said:

“My boy, Willie – when I say ‘we’ need office space – I mean WE. The construction industry, Scottish Enterprise – we have to keep building stuff so we have work to do and can brag about new buildings.

“Then there’s all the – ah – associated benefits – consulting work, subcontracting… We definitely need this building. Who’s going to let a few threatened species of birds stand in our way?”

Everyone laughed and Willie smiled weakly.

Stewart Milne toddled forward, and hugged Sir Ian – although this amounted to hugging him by the waist given the height differential.

“I’ve got a wee something for you in your Swiss account Stewart, see you at the next ACSEF meeting after this tour’s over.” Said Sir Ian winking again

“You mean the next First meeting don’t you, Sir Ian; we changed the name and the logo – remember?” asked Stewart Milne?

“Whatever.” Said Sir Ian.

And the Troompa Loompas again broke out into song, which was beginning to wear thin thought Willie.

Troompa Loompa doopity doo
I have another conundrum for you
What good’s a loch and a birdie or two
When there’s money to be made for you-know-who?

If a bird can’t earn enough to feather its nest
Making it clear off is definitely best
More office space is what we all really need
A ‘Smart successful Scotland’ well, and maybe some greed

You can live in luxury too
Like Sir Ian and Helen doopity do.

The group were ushered awa from the lock, and Sarah humpfed as her 6” Jimmy Blahnik dolphin-hide heels sank into the grass.

A helicopter was waiting for them marked Scottish Enterprise

“All aboard, and I’ll show you places where Aberdeen city and Shire have made several dreams come true!” said a jubilant Sir Ian Wood

“Who’s the pilot?” asked Sarah, who looked a little green with envy at the tall blond woman.

“Everyone, this is Jennifer Claw.” Said Sir Ian with a wink to the pilot.

“She’s got a degree in nutrition and the cutest little dimples when she – ah – smiles. So, as she had a degree in nutrition or something, so I made her the head of Scottish Enterprise Grampian and put her on the board of my Wood Family Trust – is it holding £25 million now? I forget.”

“Jennifer’s also on the Robert Gordon University board – no need to thank me just now Jennie darling – and– look you can see it down there as we fly over!” said Sir Ian, distracting everyone away from Jennifer who had blown him a kiss by pointing out the sprawling campus

“And that’s the Sir Ian Wood building” he said as all the assembled marvelled and clapped.

Except for Willie. Willie was beginning to sense a link to all these Aberdeen City Council projects, and he wasn’t sure he liked it.

“So, where’s Lady Helen today Sir Ian?” Willie asked. You could have heard a pin drop.

“Ah, she’s off playing tennis; her ball control’s improved, and her strokes are decidedly better.” Sir Ian said as he mopped his brow with a hugely oversized hanky.

“We’re not going to stop in, but look over to your right as we fly up the Aberdeen Coast – that’s Torry and Nigg, near where we were at Tullos – isn’t it beautiful?”

Sir Ian gesticulated towards the coast south of the city centre which the copter was now flying over.

All Willy saw was a plume of smoke, lots of lorries, barbed wire and a huge construction project on the bay of Nigg.

“The people there are so lucky Aberdeen City and its Harbour Board helped come up with these huge improvements” said Sir Ian – “well, with a little help from Scottish Enterprise and ACSEF.”

Again all those aboard laughed and clapped.

“Hey, isn’t this the same helicopter youse guys paid me to fly in to the Menie Estate in when I came over looking for a place for a golf course?” asked Donnie Trump.

“The very same.” Sir Ian replied.

“The wonderful, important golf course at Menie, the wonderful, important cruise line for Torry – does everyone know who we have to thank for these developments?”

Professor Bill Ritchie gave his head a jaunty tilt and a little shake of false modesty.

“Oh, I’m just happy to help my friends Donnie and of course you Sir Ian.” The professor started,

“I was once on the board of the East Grampian Coastal partnership. I used to think we needed a public marina, wildlife habitat, and a place to educate young people for maritime careers. But (he said looking at Sir Ian) I changed my way of thinking.

“I was proud to be helpful to you too Donnie when you wanted your golf course. I said it was easy to build 900 homes, a hotel, 2 golf courses and a country club – as well as living quarters for the lackeys – without harming the environment or the protected sites. I’m so happy to have been proven right.”

Professor Ritchie’s chest puffed out, he was filled with self-satisfied pride and almost everyone on the chopper applauded him.

“F me not another F-ing song” thought Willie as those Troompy looking hobbits geared up for another verse.

Troompa Loompa doopity da
If you’ve no scruples you’re sure to go fa
What does an expert get whose opinions for hire?
Consultancy cash from SE, ACSEF and Aspire

Using his titles to feather his nest
Swearing to everyone that he knows best
Just don’t talk to reporters
Don’t talk to reporters

You can live in luxury too
Like Sir Ian and Helen doopity do.

Willie Wonky was starting to get fed up with his golden ticket tour of all the magical things Aberdeen City was making happen. And that bloody singing.

Willie asked:

“Professor, weren’t you supposed to lead an environmental monitoring group with Sarah to protect wildlife, and isn’t it true that since the monitoring fell apart you won’t answer any questions from the press about your role?”

He immediately sensed he had overstepped the mark with this question; for a moment a shadow passed Sir Ian’s face and Sarah wrinkled her expensive nose. The professor scurried away and didn’t say a word for the rest of the trip. Donnie was turning blue in the face.

Sarah spoke.

“Oh, we did that, but it was too cold for me to go outside in my Prada, and besides, it’s the world’s greatest golf course on the world’s largest sand dunes.”

At her words Donnie Trump calmed down a bit, his face returning to its orange hue.

“Sarah’s right” started Sir Ian;

“She’s smart as a whip. Why everything’s fine and just how we want it. Sarah’s so smart I had one of my little groups invite her to give a talk, isn’t that right honey?” he asked her.

“Sure, it was fun too,” Sarah Malone-Bates said, “I got to give a talk called “’The Bigger the Vision, the Bigger the Opposition,” and the event – held at the Sir Ian Wood building of course at RGU where Woody – I mean Sir Ian – runs things. I must thank whoever wrote that speech for me sometime.”

Sarah continued to list her accomplishments, how she was whisked out of the Gordon Highlanders Museum to be Trump’s first ever Scottish Executive Vice President, how good she was at moisturising and accessorising, and how much her husband, coincidentally who used to edit the local newspaper, loved her [surely some mistake? – editor].

Willie audibly groaned as the Troompa Loompas circled Sarah Malone, whose shoulder pads were a marvel to behold, as he knew another song was coming; he felt he was going to be sick.

Troompa Loompa doopity de
I have another puzzle for ye
What’s more important than designer clothes,
Having the right hair and a beautiful nose?

Attracting the right man, obviously
Especially if that man has lots of money
She’s the Face of Aberdeen
She’s the Face of Aberdeen

What do you get when you tell lots of lies
If you are Sarah then you get a pay rise
Trading your looks in for cash is her solution
So what if other people think it’s prostitution?

(Sarah’s a Vice President)

You can live in luxury too
Like Sir Ian and Helen doopity do.

Willie Wonky’s brain was putting together all the puzzle pieces from the day, and was starting not to like the picture they were forming.

But on the copter flew, and just before they started to land on a helipad with a giant letter T, Donnie Trump exclaimed:

“There they are, the world’s largest sand dunes! I even made a plaque, didn’t we Sarah Malone honey, to say so! Biggest! Bestest! Yugest!”

A tumbleweed blew past as the rotor blades slowed, and out the lucky Aberdeen Art Gallery golden ticket winners scrambled into the freezing air.

“Anyone for 18 holes?” bellowed Donnie in the freezing winds as the rest of the group ran for the shelter of the clubhouse.

Once inside this building on an empty parking lot, Sarah snapped her fingers, and waiters and waitresses appeared with bottles of whisky and glasses.

“Trump whisky – £50 a glass or £500 for a bottle. £250 a bottle if signed by Donnie.” She hawked.

“Later Sarah Dear” said Sir Ian, adjusting his top hat and billowy bow tie.

“No one’s here, aren’t there supposed to be golfers – what’s going on?” asked Willie; everyone smiled at him.

The room started to spin as he sipped one of those whiskies.

“We don’t want anyone here.” said Sir Ian quietly, the others faces started to look mean and contorted.

Willie Wonky stumbled and fell into a chair – a chair with a big Donald Trump crest on it. The other winners, the Troompa Loompas leaned in closer.

Willie felt quite ill now, as these ghastly, grotesque faces sneered at him and laughed. Sir Ian spoke.

“We don’t want anyone here; never did. Another few years of tax write offs in the USA for Trump – if he doesn’t get impeached or jailed yet – no offence Donnie, but you’re not quite as subtle as you should be sometimes – and then it’ll be sold off. Donnie – we’ll talk about that international charity US tax break later.

“It will go to housing – we’ll all see to that. And what housing developer is favoured in this neck of the woods? That would be my good friend Stewart Milne.

“And what organisation would get involved with such a huge or if you will ‘yuge’ undertaking? Why Scottish Enterprise of course. I may have retired, but after decades as head of the thing, don’t you think I still have my claws still in it one way or the other?

“Think of the construction jobs, the consultancies, the money to be made. And Willie, the granite web is making a comeback; do you think I give up that easily? And when the idea was being promoted so hard, ask yourself two questions – who stood to benefit is one.

“Stewart owned the adjacent Triple Kirks, and he needed parking; we could have got that for him, but it’s not all over yet. The other thing to ask yourself – what did the public miss while we were distracting them with a design consultation vote when we already knew what design we wanted – the ludicrous web design.  And they fell for it.

“We have Donald Trump in charge of the USA; over here he will be allowed to do as he pleases.

And while tens – hundreds of millions are moving through Scottish Enterprise, land deals – like when the city sold that land to you Stewart for a peppercorn, and while public land is snapped up – we’ll get people to focus on other things.

“Either we’ll threaten to take away what little arts provision they and their children get, or the more mean-spirited ones will be convinced that people from abroad are taking their land, money and jobs – not you Donnie though” Ian winked, any previous trace of gentility gone from his features.

“While we’re at it, there’s one more item on the agenda for your tour Willie Wonky – we’re going to look at the City of Culture Bid.

“All aboard the helicopter for gigs on oil rigs! How much public money and time did that nonsense soak up? Well, here’s Rita Stephen to tell you all about it!

“Remember Willie – whether it’s a football stadium, a parking lot, a breaking yard, Trump’s golf course – and his honorary degree from the University I own that has a building with my name on it – you now know who’s behind everything in this town. Nothing, I mean nothing goes on in this town without my say so.

“I said as much to people before, and I’m telling you now.”

Oor Willie whined as, while his eyes fluttered open and closed, the Troompa Loompas broke into one last verse of their song:

Troompa Loompa doopity do
I have final question for you
Who in Aberdeen is behind everything
That is environmentally damaging?

ACSEF, First, RGU and SE.
As the saying goes, ‘follow the money’
Sir Ian is behind it
Sir Ian is behind it

You can live in luxury to
Just do what Sir Ian Wood –

tells

you

to!

#          #          #

Willie’s eyes had glazed over; the other golden ticket winners’ laughs had turned to a huge roar of noise, and he fluttered his eyes.

As if he hadn’t been through enough, standing over him was… Rita Stephen

“NOOO!” shouted Willie,

“Anything but the City of Culture bid! – Anything!”

“Willie, are ye alright mon?” She said.

“I was just going to re-write the symphony for orchestra, ship’s horns and horses that was part of me great City of Culture bid tonight, when I saw yer door open.

“I’d seen you passed oot and thought it was the usual, but I noted the gash on yer heid.”

His eyes focused and leaning over him was Rita Stephen, the woman behind among other things the City of Culture bid that made Aberdeen the laughing stock of the western hemisphere – again.

“AIEEEEE” Willie screamed, and sprinted out of the office, leaving all of his paperwork behind.

He didn’t stop running until he was safely locked in his house and under his covers.

The sun was shining. Willie woke up as the phone rang.

He remembered with a sudden start his horrible nightmare. He shook his head violently from side to side and answered the phone.

“Hi Willie, well, you’ve been gone long enough; what’s it been, a few days now? Fancy being deputy Lord Provost?”

Willie thought of all the corruption he knew about; he thought of all the pieces that had fallen so neatly into place in his fevered dream. He took a deep breath.

“Sounds great Barney; I’ll be over in a few hours. I’ll want a bigger office with a view mind.”

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Nov 222016
 

marischalpicBy Suzanne Kelly.

While pondering whether to offer Aberdeen Press & Journal and the Evening Express a free base for one year in the controversial Marischal College office building, Aberdeen City Council has certainly been helping the paper financially as it spends £200,000 per annum on advertisements in the papers. 

A recent Freedom of Information request shows that the city council has advertised in Aberdeen Journals Ltd’s local papers to the tune of £626,500 over the last three years. 

This is a mean of £205,500 per year. 

The breakdown is as follows:

2016 – £199,818.78 (up to 25 October 2016)

2015 – £219,123.87

2014 – £197,513.68

The City explained:

“Unfortunately, we are unable to provide a breakdown of each expense. The types of expense that ACC would use Aberdeen Journals for would be, for example, Public Notices and Job Advertisements.”

The city also claims it would be too expensive to get a breakdown of what these ads are.

Aberdeenshire Council on the other hand spend a grand total of £6,998 on advertising with the two newspapers over the same three year period. When asked to check the figures, the Shire spokesperson confirmed this figure was all-inclusive.

The city declined to give a breakdown, stating there were a staggering 3,000 invoices for the time period, and the cost to them of collating the information was over £3,000.

There IS such a thing as free rent.

The City Council declines to answer whether it is planning to give free rent to the P&J or other future Marischal Square residents.

The City does advise:

“The discussions in relation to the proposals for the AJL terms have involved the advice of external property agents, the Council’s development partner and a number of Council officers.  The Council officers involved  were Head of Finance, Head of Land and Property Assets, and Asset Management Manager.” 

The P&J editor Damian Bates seems unsurprisingly keen to move to the building his papers previously called ‘controversial’. 

He commented in a recent article:

“It’s in no-one’s interests for it to sit empty and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to head back home; back into the city centre where we belong and where The Press and Journal started its amazing journey more than 270 years ago.

“We are now a multi-media business and this prospective move will provide a bright future for the Evening Express, P&J, Energy Voice and all our other products and sites. The council has been our landlord since approximately 1970 so nothing is going to change.”  

Some Free Advice on Free Rent, Expensive Advertising and Ethics.

Some notices must be published in newspapers for legal requirements. Job advertisements appear on the City Council’s website, which is free to access by anyone with a computer, and anyone with a library card can access computers for free. There is no excuse for cutting services while spending this kind of money on advertising.

Considering that jobs can be easily, freely posted on the city council’s website, and citizens are told that services and that citizens were told budget cuts have to be made, cutting down on advertising should have been a priority. In January Finance Committee Convener, Cllr Willie Young told the council’s advertising vehicle the Evening Express:

“It’s possible third sector organisations could see funding cut…We have to look at everything.”

Perhaps before any other services are cut, Aberdeen City Council might want to think twice about its advertising spend and giving new office space away for free, with the taxpayer picking up the tab.

According to the P&J, office space in Aberdeen commands a high price – or at least should do:

“…Aberdeen continues to lead the way for prime office rents, with Ryden reporting a current price of £32 per sq ft – higher than Glasgow’s £30 figure, with sites in Edinburgh and Dundee generating £28 and £15 respectively.” 

If the city could and should be making money out of the massive eyesore which could have been that civic square everyone in a position of power once Jonesed for (oh Sir Ian, where art thou? Why didn’t you want the civic square there? And I note that ‘Opportunity North East Limited’ has extended its accounting period so it won’t have to report at the end of this month now and has until the end of March 2017 – your comment welcome Sir Ian), and if the city has to ‘look at everything’ to find money – why should Aberdeen Journals Ltd. enjoy this largess?

Then again there is a small moral issue. For most of the rest of the UK, a newspaper has a duty to investigate with impartiality, serving as a check on government and a check on the powerful. As it stands, the P&J’s alliance to the editor’s wife’s boss Donald Trump is a dark stain.

Can the P&J really morally afford to be indebted to the city council it should be investigating, or has any pretence of journalism now left the building. We should be told.

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Nov 042016
 

There are few people taking to social media to profess love for Muse’s Marischal Square development which is growing up and around – and now under Provost Skene House.  Photographs from the site show that far from respecting the house, it is not only surrounded by this oversized new office structure, but also digging works are also taking place which certainly seem less than safe for the Provost Skene House. Article by Jon Symons, Photographs by Suzanne Kelly of the Provost’s House as it now sits, and from Writing from Scotland – by Christine Laennec.

provost-skene-house-one-use-onlyPhotographs which have appeared on social media make it look as if the fabric of Lord Provost Skene House is not being respected by the builders. Aberdeen Voice has been promised access to the site and a statement from the builders.

This will be published in due course.

So what is it about Provost Skene House (PSH) that inspires an abiding affinity with most Aberdonians?

Is it the fact it was initially built in 1545 and is 471 years old?

Is it the fact Mary the First was on the Scottish throne when the foundation stones were laid?

Perhaps it’s because PSH is the oldest surviving house in Aberdeen and one of the few remaining examples of early burgh architecture in the city.

It has an exceptional interior with outstanding examples of 17th century plasterwork and a painted gallery with an unusual cycle of religious tempera paintings.

The first records of the house date back to 1545 and the vaulted basement is likely to be from this period.

In 1622 this former three storey house was bought by Matthew Lumsden who added a two storey and attic gabled section to the south west side. His Coat-of-Arms, dated 1626 is clearly visible in one of the dormer gables.

The house was then bought in 1669 by the wealthy merchant and later Provost of Aberdeen, George Skene of Rubislaw and he reconstructed the original house and built the square tower on the north west side.

The house is steeped in history and was used by the marauding Duke of Cumberland’s troops in 1746 and for a long time after was known as ‘Cumberland’s House’.

In 1732, the house was divided into two separate tenements but was then brought together again in the mid 19th century and later used as a lodging house (Victoria Lodging House) but thereafter it slowly fell into disrepair.

Many of the slum buildings surrounding it were demolished in the 1930s but a public campaign (purportedly supported by the Queen Mother) saved Provost Skene House from Council vandalism.

provost-skene-house-one-use-only-facadeThe painted gallery is important and unusual.

Originally depicting The Life of Christ in 10 panels the ceiling is by an unknown artist although it does show Flemish and Germanic influences.

Some of the armorial devices included in the paintings may be those of previous owner Matthew Lumsden and this suggests the ceiling may have been painted between 1622-44.

The smaller painted room depicts landscapes with figures all done in a Classical style.

The archway, now removed at Muse’s instigation, was transported from Union Terrace Gardens and rebuilt at the house in 1931.

In the sixties the then Council decided to erect the monstrosity known as St Nicholas House and PSH was virtually hidden from public view from 1968 until 2013 when the Council’s carbuncle was finally demolished.

You could be forgiven for thinking Aberdonians had forgotten about their historical city centre jewel but that was not the case. During the limited (some might say derisory) consultation with the public on what should be done with the site it became obvious that Aberdeen’s residents had rediscovered their love for PSH.

Even the present Council realised this and determined, in recognition of the importance of the Broad Street site to the future of the city centre, officers should explore the options open to the council to ensure any development was of the highest quality and sympathetic to Provost Skene House and Marischal College and ruled that should include consideration of the council developing the site through a joint venture and the possibility of a design competition tender exercise.

Of course, saying one thing and doing something completely different would seem to be the hallmark of the current Council administration and it appears they have put money and potential profit ahead of all other considerations.

The final design (Muse Developments) was supposedly chosen by an unbiased and independently minded ten person working group based on Urban Design, Culture and Heritage but only five of the group were Councillors. The other five were Council Officers and an employee of Ryden, the site selling agent and later the company Muse chose to market the property.

More recently photographs have shown the apparent disregard the contractor has shown for PSH as they appear to dig under the south west gable end foundations with no obvious support for the four hundred and seventy one year old building.

When completed the Council seems determined to dumb down the house and use some of the rooms to showcase the likes of Joey Harper, Annie Lennox and other lesser known Aberdeen celebrities.

provost-skene-house-one-use-only-detailThey have also decided not to reopen the once popular PSH tea room and this may well be because they hope to rent the ground floor retail units of Marischal Square to fast food outlets.

Provost Skene House is a national, never mind a city, treasure and most Aberdonians hoped and thought it would finally be showcased in the green grassed and tree lined surroundings it deserved.

Unfortunately it seems this Council, just like the one in the nineteen thirties, has little if any regard for the needs and wants of Aberdeen’s long suffering citizens but then again, why on earth should we be surprised?

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Sep 092016
 

Old Susannah’s takes account of how no one is accountable any more for their actions. By Suzanne Kelly

DictionaryA lovely week of great weather in the Deen has passed; if only we had some city centre concrete slabs we could have relaxed on instead of a suntrap in the form of a sunken, historic, green, grassy garden. Oh well.

BrewDog threw another of its Drink and Draw events; these are for people of all abilities, and are going down a storm. Lush helped raise awareness and funds this past weekend for excellent charity DAWGS.

This past week in the UK saw some of the great thinkers of our time explaining some of their great works.

A 63 year old man in Manchester is being unfairly persecuted for punching a 5 day old baby in a supermarket. The proud parents were holding the child up to show to some of their friends on the child’s first-ever day out, when the man came over and punched the child in the head.

For some reason security called the police and the child was hospitalised (apparently she is fine now). Inexplicably, the police wanted the man to explain.

“I thought it was a doll,” he said. 

The Manchester City doll-punching finals will be held next month, we hear.

Closer to home, Aberdeen City Council is once again the toast of the town.

Not content with giving us Marischal Square and giving the P&J free rent for a year (while we have homeless on the streets and empty, habitable council properties it should be noted – thanks Pete Leonard), they are making the streets safe. By safe, I mean they are covering those hazardous cobbled streets of the merchant quarter (if that’s what we’re calling the Green this week) with tar.

No more high-heel-related trips; no more boring historical ambiance. It was all going to be lovely – then the not in my back yard brigade demanded the cobbles should be restored.

If only there were someone in charge of making decisions about our Housing and Environment who could know what’s going on and what’s happening. But if you’re only going to pay someone about £112,000 a year plus expenses and a £20,000 a year pension contribution, you’re not going to find anyone but a selfless saint to take on the job and actually know what his department heads are up to (isn’t that right Pete Leonard?)

Well, autumn is on the way, and Old Susannah will be joining Aberdeen’s fashionistas to do some shopping. And where better to wear the latest fashions?

ESCALE FRANCE is a Union Street shop selling fox and racoon fur clothing. Nothing screams ‘I am ignorant, self-absorbed and don’t care about needless suffering’ than decorating yourself with the pelt of an animal that was caged, tortured, terrified and skinned, usually alive, sometimes after being clubbed to death.

SPECIAL OFFER: Visit Escale France, and for every OS reader who tells them to stuff their fur where there will be no danger of sunburn, I will buy you a free half pint of BrewDog. I am serious. Send me a photo of yourself in front of their shop with an anti-fur poster to Aberdeen Voice, and I will stand you to a drink (first 50 people).

It is a well-kept secret, but it is possible to be warm and good looking in 21st century Scotland without sewing together the skins of tortured dead animals, raised only for fur, to wear.

Whether it’s making money out of torturing animals, tarring over a medieval cobblestone street, selling Aberdeen taxpayer-owned land for a pittance, or punching infant girls, the people who engage in such activities always have excuses.

Just remember – you can do anything you like – as long as you have a good back up story. Here are some examples of today’s best excuses, great and small. Have you screwed up? Did you lie down on the job? Over your head and don’t know what’s going on? Here are some helpful examples of how great leaders cope.

Clerical Error: (Modern English compound noun) To make an unintentional administrative mistake, which might include making a typographical error, mis-filing documents.

Didn’t get obey the law on Data Protection? No idea there was one? Are you charged with No clue how to do anything but your nails? No worries! If you’ve not registered your multi-million pound, 6,000 person employing golf resort complex with the UK authorities and are in breach of some serious human rights – just tell them you made a clerical error.

If you’ve been filming all those tedious plebs, camera crews and residents for years but didn’t actually register your activities, just tell the authorities it was not your fault, but one of your thousands of employees made a mistake and didn’t file.

According to that leftie newspaper The Guardian, the Scottish Information Commissioner’s office said:

““The Data Protection Act requires every organisation that processes personal information to register with the ICO, unless it is exempt. Failure to do so is a criminal offence,” the commissioner’s office said last week. “We’ll be writing to the company, asking it to clarify how it is registered.”

The award-winning most beautiful golf course in the world ever told the Guardian:

“We take the security of our employees and guests’ personal data very seriously and comply with all aspects of the Data Protection Act. [sure you do – Old Suz] A clerical oversight has just been brought to our attention which is now being rectified.

“As a public facility open to all, Trump International has CCTV cameras located at its entrance and around the public buildings within the estate, for the safety and security of its members, guests and staff. [but not for the safety and security of ramblers like Rohan Beyts, filmed while on the course, obvs – Old Suz]

So, it’s all just a clerical error. The clerk in question forgot to register with the Information Commissioner, assuming they had the sense to know that if you put up security cameras you need to do so. It would be a harsh person indeed who disagrees with the Trump position this is a clerical error.

Far be it from Old Susannah to suggest this is yet another mistake in a catalogue of mistakes (planning, budgeting, forecasting, course design – remember when part of the course was washed away?…) which demonstrate the management shows that it is both out of its depth as to what is required for legal compliance, egotistical to the point they feel themselves above the law, and demonstrative of disdain for the rest of us.

Yes, just a clerical error.

Bonus example of clerical error: The Press & Journal has reported on how lovely the course is, and how tastefully decorated the Trump-crested MacLeod house is. It also reported on Rohan Beyts’ being arrested for allegedly urinating in the Marram grass – and being allegedly filmed on Malone-Bates’ orders.

However, I can’t find a record of Damian Bates’s P&J reporting on Mrs Sarah Malone-Bates’ failure to register the Trump resort with the Scottish Information Commissioner. This omission is most likely just a clerical error.

Road Repair: (Modern English Compound noun) act of ensuring street surfaces are safe.

You really have to hand it to the people responsible for road maintenance in The Granite City. For centuries a cobbled street surface at the Green managed to endure. It’s just wild speculation, but in the past, Old Susannah guesses that if a cobblestone got chipped or loose, either it was replaced or the area around it would have been fixed. How did those past craftsmen manage for the hundreds of years before ACC 2016 existed?

Yes, someone near the top of the food chain, possibly of course in Housing & Environment (would that be you Pete Leonard?) decided the thing to do was to tar over the cobbles. Now I prefer the romance of a tarred street in a historic area as much as the next gal, but apparently people complained, and the cobbles will be restored.

Why did the city suddenly decide to tar the road over? According to the BBC:

“Aberdeen City Council said the resurfacing on Windmill Brae was necessary because some of the stones had come loose. Concerns had been raised on safety grounds by local businesses.”

The BBC piece continues:

“However, the local authority said the work was below standard and the tar would be removed. A “permanent solution” is being sought.” 

Why fix a few loose stones when you can tar over history? You might think that since policy seems to be pothole repair is done on a patchwork spot by spot area (when it’s done at all), some due care might have been given to fixing whatever stones were loose.

It does get better though – this whole debacle shows just how responsive and caring our council is. Local businesses – not named, not coming forward – apparently have safety concerns about the cobbles. Naturally, whenever a business or a person expresses a concern or a wish, the city will immediately spring into action to fix the issue or respond to the request. Just like when 3,000 of us and three community councils asked the city to leave Tullos Hill alone, spare the deer and save money.

If you don’t recall, the head of Housing & Environment helped push the destruction of 36 deer and we now have neither deer nor thriving trees in the scheme our head called ‘cost neutral’ (but you were wrong on all counts, and it’s cost the taxpayer a five figure sum so far, hasn’t it Pete Leonard? Ever thought of going into a different line of work?) But I digress.

Yes, some businesses apparently had safety concerns. Answer: change the hundreds of years old cobblestone streets. I am on the edge of my seat to see what businesses come forward to say they wanted this, and to see what the ‘permanent solution’ would be.

So the next time you vandalise a historic structure by covering it with tar (why didn’t the workmen wonder at the stupidity of their task you might ask?), just say you were trying to please local businesses, and it was unsafe – but you’ll undo it anyway. Makes perfect sense here in the Deen.

Finally, while I am in two minds about including this in a satirical column, sometimes satire is a good response in place of fury. Here are some of Pete Leonard’s excuses for the Aberdeen Crematorium ash scandal. Despite industry bodies existing in the UK for decades, despite best practice standards being easily found on the internet, despite being the man ultimately in charge, Pete Leonard has his reasons for what happened on his watch.

Vacation: (English Noun) State of being away from work, perhaps involved in travel and/or leisure.

While the families who were denied the chance of personally disposing of the ashes of their offspring waited for answers, Leonard was on vacation.

Signed off Sick: (English compound noun) Non attendance at work due to illness.

Mr Leonard did not return from holiday; he is signed off ill.

No Excuse:

So many people seek power and money; I’ve lost track of the people who asked me to try and help with long-running Aberdeen City housing issues (some quite horrific). I’ve tried to make Pete Leonard see sense over the deer cull; he would not take any heed or even listen to the experts who were lined up to give free advice on how to control deer without culling.

Leonard did however deliberately stop the proposal put forward by a councillor to retain and enhance the meadow at Tullos and leave the deer alone – Leonard said leaving the land alone was ‘too costly’.

Housing & Environment always had a reason for delays, bad decisions, and stubbornness. I will, as stated, publish a crematorium review report, but I leave you with this sobering conclusion from the public-facing report (I am trying to get the ‘secret’ report released, you know – by contacting that Information Commissioner Malone hadn’t a clue about). Here is what the report said about the crematorium service, which fell under Leonard’s remit:

“this was a section of the City Council working in almost complete isolation without any strategic direction, development or quality control of the service, so far as it related to babies, infants and non-viable foetuses. There was little knowledge by Senior Management of the service provided to the families of these babies.

“There was insufficient interest taken or leadership shown by management” 

I am sorry if Mr Leonard is ill. I do however want him out of office, as I have done since first encountering him. I am far sorrier for all the people who should have had someone in this highly-paid senior management who actually gave a damn. The evidence over the years convinces me he never did.

Let’s not leave on this bitter note though. Just a few words of advice in summary.

1.  if you are going to run the world’s greatest golf course, there may well be some laws that apply – even to you.

2.  Fur belongs on the animals that bear it. The animals do not belong in cages. The fur trade is obscene.

3.  If you are the sort of person involved in the doll-punching scene, try to make sure you can tell the difference between a doll and a living, breathing infant. If not – consider asking for permission to punch someone’s doll/child before actually doing it.

Next week: hopefully a report on Leonard’s resignation, and more definitions. And – hopefully by then Aberdeen City Council will have offered Aberdeen Voice a free office space too – if they do it for the P&J, then they should do it for us too (nb – we’d turn it down because of things called journalistic ethics, principle, and the fact Marischal Square is nearly as unpopular with the pubic as the P&J has made itself.)

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Aug 262016
 

In this week’s satirical offering from Suzanne Kelly aka Old Susannah, she delights in Aberdeen’s generosity to the Press & Journal, and is happy to brush aside any minor qualms there might be about use of taxpayer money, conflict of interests and ethics; she also spares a few words on an advert for a US gun festival – in Orlando – featuring a skeleton wielding a semi-automatic weapon…(Psst – any non-Aberdeen readers, you might want to skip directly to the last few paragraphs of this column, cheers).

DictionaryTally ho! Another week flies past in Aberdeen. The original BrewDog bar (Old Dog – Gallowgate as opposed to New Dog – Castlegate) have hung up some of my recent paintings and just hosted another successful, fun, packed Drink and Draw session. Their ‘Live Dead Pony’ – it’s the addition of live yeast to their popular brew Dead Pony Club makes it ‘live’ – has proven popular as well.
So for those who can’t stand this small shareholder (one of over 10,000) talking about Aberdeenshire’s most successful start-up company, please feel free to send in a diatribe as to why I shouldn’t be allowed to talk about things I like, even though I’ve disclosed my shareholding since the first mention.

Otherwise, the BrewDog team are looking for further artists’ work to hang, so get in touch at the Old Dog.

For those of you with bigger fish to fry, it’s been quite an interesting few weeks in the Granite City.

The crematorium ash scandal is not a suitable topic for satire, but it needs to be addressed.

The remark made by the man in charge, Peter Leonard, displays all the contempt you’d expect from the man’s previous form, but this belies far more callowness than even seasoned Leonard-watchers have come to expect. If you missed it, the BBC reports (and the council haven’t asked for a retraction which speaks volumes) Leonard saying to/in front of inspectors:

“we’re slow-cooking babies.”

How can anyone who lost an infant or child and was caught up in the crematorium scandal can be expected to work for, with, or have to communicate with this lizard? Why are we keeping him in his job?

My interest in the man goes back to his report which condemned the Tullos Hill deer to massive culling. He told the council the tree-planting scheme was completely cost neutral and would succeed – if we shot the deer and kept the weeds down. Lib Dem councillor Aileen ‘Ho’Malone was at the helm of the relevant committee which pushed the scheme through.

She’s just the sort of person you could convince to wipe out a meadow full of flowers and a herd of deer to plant trees on top of rocks and industrial waste where there is no topsoil.

‘A tree for every citizen’ they called it. They deliberately left the culling and the £43k penalty out of the initial public consultation (correspondence proves they knew a cull was planned – but they wanted to ‘manage’ the public which they knew would object. The city tried to deny the £43,800 penalty it paid for the previous failure, too – that’s what we call open government; but I digress).

Peter’s cost neutral scheme? Looks like it’s cost nearly half a million, with £100k alone going to the consultant Chris Piper.

So, Leonard sits in his highly-paid post having been out with his estimates by half a million pounds of taxpayer money, and having insulted everyone with his ash scandal remark, and has not been bounced out of office. Blame the elected officials for bad decisions if you must – but it’s the officers like Leonard who create the reports the councillors have to vote on. Has he stuffed up one too many times?

Any member of staff who’d blundered like he has would have been disciplined and/or let go. Maybe the powers that be will keep him in place. By many accounts, should Mr Leonard be sent packing, there are a fair few staff who will not shed any tears.

Apologies for the lack of humour to this point, but that needed to be said.

Perhaps a few words on the happy event everyone’s talking about will change the mood. It’s not just that the Marischal Square building project is proving to be a breath-taking beauty (I hear people gasp when they look at it). It’s even better than that: everyone’s favourite newspaper, The Press and Journal, is to grace the building with its presence. Better still: the paper won’t have to pay any rent for a whole year. Result!

I’m thinking of starting a petition so that they’ll never have to pay any rent ever. After all, we’re supposed to be trying to attract smart, successful, vibrant, dynamic, forward-looking businesses to the beating heart of Aberdeen.

What better way to cheer us all up each morning than the sight of Damian Bates rounding Broad Street in his Maserati after dropping Sarah Malone off to her job as Trump’s spokesperson? I can barely wait! And with that, it’s time for some timely definitions.

Limousine Bull: (Proper Scottish Noun) – a Torry-based artists collective which had education, training, exhibition services for people in the south of the city. Closed for lack of £10,000.

These art types; just can’t balance the books. Perhaps if they had gone on one of the city’s cultural (?) ‘speed dating’ events they could have begged the rich for funding and kept going.

Alas, the city’s uber-rich wanted to build granite ramps and parking spaces; spending money on an actual arts and education service for the less advantaged was never going to get a look-in. And thus it was that after years of having a small warehouse space with studios for artists, Limousine Bull had to close. As their website reported:

“When we discovered ACC had given details of a new round of funding, with applications to be submitted just 6 weeks after our rejection notice, we put together a greatly revised funding proposal and were due to apply for just £1,700 of the £10,000 available to our category.

“On the day and almost exact time of the deadline for this, Carrie messaged the rest of us on the committee, saying she had decided not to submit the application, as she thought ACC’s demands upon applicants were too strict to follow for such a small amount of funding.” – LB website

Perhaps the people who wonder why we couldn’t win the ‘city of culture’ accolade (or is that poisoned chalice – cities that have won have often found themselves in debt afterwards) might think that getting rid of small groups like this might have made us look smarter and more successful to the judges. The people who submitted our exciting CoC bid had no use for Limousine Bull – they wanted to have ‘Gigs on Rigs’ instead.

How exciting that could have been– flying rock bands to play to offshore oil installations where, er, the footage would have been beamed back to shore. Only the worst kind of philistine would have asked ‘why not just have them play on shore?’. What musician wouldn’t rather do survival training, fly to an alcohol-free oil rig in the chilly North Sea than play a few sets in nightclubs and hotels? But I digress.

Back to Limousine Bull – Old Susannah’s not surprised it went under; after all £10,000 is a lot of money (about one fifth of the amount we had to pay back to central government for the first Tree for Every Citizen failure on Tullos. Or, about one 14,000th of the cost of the granite web. But I digress again). Maybe someone in ACC is offering Limousine Bull a chance to resurrect itself rent-free at Marischal Square?

If so, I’ve not heard of it yet. And funnily enough, for some reason Aberdeen Voice’s invitation to a rent-free office suite at the taxpayer’s expense hasn’t come in the post just yet.

Ethics: (archaic term) Morality, knowledge of right and wrong.

We all know what ethics are (well, you do if you’re not in ACSEF … or whatever it is called this week) – the sense of a common morality that would stop a man making crass remarks about deceased children. It’s that sense of right and wrong that would stop people in power from crushing the weak while, for instance, using public resources to subsidise a newspaper thereby gaining control and advantage.

Many companies have ethics policies governing what freebies, advantages, and hospitality can be accepted without compromising the company. If as an employee you are going to accept a gift or hospitality, say a hamper of food or a few bottles of wine, most companies would expect you to declare it or decline it.

You see, accepting something might put you in a position where you would be indebted to the person giving you a gift. If one company were to offer another company something valuable these days – a weekend at a hotel, a trip, or say a year’s free rent for your business in a brand new suite of offices: you’d be expected by your code of ethics to turn it down.

Otherwise you would be either asked to do something in return for the largess, or even if you weren’t asked to do so, there would be an expectation of a ‘quid pro quo’ situation. In other words, there is no free lunch. And for that matter, there are also laws about using public money unethically, laws about public institutions ensuring ‘value for money’ is sought, and avoiding conflict of interests.

Then again, that kind of thing never hampers the truly creative Aberdeen spirit.

I come back to my friend Peter Leonard again. While the deer cull protest raged (several community councils, thousands of residents, the Scottish SPCA all objecting to the plan), an article appeared in the Evening Express:

“TWO DEER FOUND DEAD AHEAD OF CULL”. 

This story was planted by someone in ACC, although surprisingly, no investigation was held to find out who the ‘leak’ was. The intrepid reporter either didn’t ask, or omitted to say when the dead deer were actually found: and it emerged (after AV asked about it) that the deer were found dead two years before the cull.

The city’s insinuation that to stop deer from suffering starvation or possible accidents was not to supply more grazing land and erect fences – but to stop their lives being blighted by taking their lives away. But, shall we say, some readers found the absence of that little gap of several years somewhat misleading. To some people, this little episode might seem ethically bankrupt. However, I’m sure nothing misleading has been printed before or since by AJL.

I’d never insinuate that an organisation like the ACC would or could ever corrupt an organisation like the P&J – how could it? Sadly, other observers have made a few unfortunate remarks about the free rent offer. I think some of these people need shaming:

“If this if it goes ahead, (and all the hall markers suggest it will) it can but only be seen for what it appears to be – a covenant between the ACC and the P&J/EE. So where now lies objectivity, impartiality, indeed freedom to report and print news on anything that objects to the working of their landlord?”
– A MacDonald

“Don’t they realise that the continuing fall in readership is due to their biased approach to local stories in aberdeen. lets remember too that they are not a local paper anymore but another D. C. Thomson, Dundee rag. I for one cancelled my evening express as soon as it was made public that they were in talks to secure office space in Willies folly and i would suggest that others do the same”
– C Duguid

“Many readers were of the impression that the Press and Journal supported the opposition to the Muse development as evidenced by the publication of numerous stories relating to the opposition to Marischal Square and the scores of letters from the public over the past couple of years… It therefore case as quite a shock to many to learn that Aberdeen Journals themselves are to take up office space in Marischal Square.

“Many of your readers saw that as a betrayal…. Surely any deal that did not deliver the projected returns on the council’s investment would be seen as a failure by the council to secure its financial position and deliver on the promise of sustainable rental profits to fund essential public services.”
– a Mr W Skidmore, who is waiting patiently for this letter to be printed in the P & Poo (an affectionate term I’m told). I trust he isn’t holding his breath.

I hope these people will feel suitably ashamed at their negative words, which strike at the very beating heart of the civic district of the Granite City. It’s always sad for Old Susannah to see such cynical, suspicious minds at work criticising our beloved institutions which have done so much for us.

Perhaps the honesty, integrity and wisdom the council is known for will eventually rub off on such harsh critics. I’m sure we’re only talking a few hundred thousand pounds anyway, and it’s not as if there’s anything better to do with the money.

Conflict of interest: (English compound noun) an unethical condition wherein a person or entity owes allegiance to two opposing forces.

Can the P&J continue to claim the moral high ground it has rightly held these many years if it is now Aberdeen City’s bitch – sorry — tenant?

Perhaps we should mention a potential conflict of interest that’s been brought up on social media. For some reason, there are people who see something wrong with Aberdeen Journals Limited taking a year’s free rent in Marischal College from Aberdeen City Council.

I’m trying to figure out why this bothers some people. Sure, the P&J might in the past have called the development ‘controversial’ in its articles: that just shows that they’re not afraid of standing up to the city council!

I’m sure that fighting spirit, and love of investigation we love in the P&J won’t be compromised just because they will have had their bacon saved by ACC. What an insinuation! I think by now the values the P&J have are clear to us all. And, they win awards so we can tell they’re great.

No, I for one don’t think we will see any change to their usual ethical standards. Where would you be without the tiny tots baby competition? Without photos of the Menie Golf course and MacLeod House to look at every day?

An aside….

orlando ad for gun eventI’m sometimes asked, ‘don’t you miss America?’

There are things I don’t miss. I think the whole machinery that’s created a school to prison pipeline for the disadvantaged and minorities (where police brutality runs riot in schools) stinks. I hate the system that allows mega pharmaceuticals to ruin people’s lives for fat profit margins and where drugs and care can be priced out of the reach of those most in need.

I hate it that a woman can take a device like a medi pen, raise its cost through the roof, and pay herself an 18 million dollar bonus.

I hate it that the alleged founding principle of individuals having a right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ is not as fought for as the right to have a well-trained militia which has been torqued into the invented ‘rights’ of anyone to have a semi-automatic weapon.

There are many things I love about my country of birth: the majority of people, the land, the wildlife, the pre-existing culture and our potential. However, we’ve decimated the original inhabitants, the native Americans – and yet now they are leading the fight against our corporate greed. Native Peoples are campaigning on horseback and on foot in the face of the fury of the government and its armies over pipelines which can only devastate the environment.

This is a country where people who were brought in chains on slave ships can eventually see their descendants become professors, leaders, successes in all areas and icons.

We’ve seen heroes like the late great Mohammed Ali and Jesse Hagopian, an educational reformer who was teargassed on a peaceful protest, but still pursues his dream of fair education for all nonetheless.

It’s a country where ancestors like mine came fleeing from famine to find signs in New York’s windows and doors reading ‘no blacks, no Irish and no dogs’ and yet in a few generations, one such Irish catholic descendant became a president.

This is a country where a young American boy of Japanese ancestry can be imprisoned without due course or rights in an internment camp in World War II and somehow still come out of the experience with a wicked sense of humour to emerge as a voice for tolerance and forgiveness.

There is natural beauty (cross your fingers) and biodiversity.

There are also people who will take that right to have a well-armed militia, and exploit it until we have bloodbaths like the recent slaughter in Orlando. And why?

Ultimately to make money for the gun manufacturers. Gun manufacturers do not care who gets killed. Statistically we know that you are more likely to have an accidental shooting at a home with a gun in it rather than your successfully shooting a would be burglar.

The image above belongs to the Orlando Weekly, which sees nothing wrong in advertising a semi-automatic shooting event … with an image of a skeleton. Now, I’m possibly not the most sensitive person in the world, but I see something very wrong in printing an ad like this to a city which is still mourning.

So America, as dearly as I love some things about you, please start worrying more about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and less about this supposed right to have guns. You are locking up people for collecting their own rainwater, for growing herbs – such as ginseng – and you are criminalising people who want to pursue a different life/liberty/happiness than the status quo. That’s not what was meant to be.

Look at this ad. Does this say responsible, sober gun ownership and respect for life to you – or is this nearly the lowest appeal to base nature (save the videos with bikini clad girls firing automatic weapons) and lack of empathy for the dead of Orlando (and the wider country) that can be imagined?

If not for the likes of those who emerged from hardships in the US, I’d despair completely.

The editor of the Orlando Weekly is Graham Jarrett. At first he tried to claim he was forced to print the ad; it was pointed out that no one can force a news publication to take an ad. We’re waiting to hear what you are going to say and do next Mr Jarrett.

(Want to fight against this kind of gun happy propaganda? On Facebook seek out and join One Pulse, a closed pressure group with the fanciful aim of making people want to stop shooting other people. I’m honoured and happy to be a member).

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Jul 212014
 

By Ken Hutcheon.

Provost Skene's House by Stanley Wright

Provost Skene’s House – Credit: Stanley Wright

The date for lodging any comments/objections to the Marischal Square and/or Provost Skene Developments has now passed with 146 formal comments/objections having been received by Aberdeen City Planning Dept.

The Council are now considering whether to have a public hearing regarding this development.

The Planning Committee will meet next Thursday 24th July to decide.

Unfortunately it appears that leading councillors are confident they can push this present development plans through WITHOUT a public hearing. If we can get enough councillors to understand that they should be voting to support the wishes of the people that put them in power we can achieve a public hearing to get the developers to think again.

The developers can surely produce a far more innovative design that will open the magnificent view of the shining granite of Marischal College and the historic frontage of Provost Skene’s House for generations of Aberdonians and tourists to the city.

To condemn the centre of Aberdeen (the silver city) to a series of boring square boxes which hide the beauty of Marischal College and Provost Skene’s House is a terrible act of vandalism by our council.

Anyone who is understandably concerned regarding this development should email the Councillors for their area to suggest they vote to hold a public hearing. Over 1100 Aberdeen citizens stated at the exhibitions of this development they do not want these plans to go ahead.

To find your councillor and their email address, the easiest way is to put your postcode into the Aberdeen City Interactive map.

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Jun 232014
 

Provost Skene's House by Stanley WrightBy Ken Hutcheon.

The Marischal Square Development objections closing date may be gone, but MUSE developers have further plans in mind.
Proposals to remove the historic archway, stairs and wall in front of Provost Skene’s House are being considered. The plans can be viewed here.

This is despite the fact that on MUSE’s own website it states:

“Provost Skene’s House will be at the heart of the Marischal Square project……. The role and setting of Provost Skene’s House will be given special consideration in the new development. It will be protected from the demolition then re-opened at an appropriate time.

“Money is being set aside for conservation work.”

There is also a picture of Provost Skene House as it is now, complete with arch and surrounding wall, on that page. Presumably the money that is being set aside is for the removal of part of the frontage of Provost Skene’s House.

You still have time, till 3rd July to comment on, or object to these changes.

You will find more information on my website at www.marischalsquare.weebly.com. Note reference for this plan is 140755.

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May 302014
 

By Ken Hutcheon.
marischal pic lo

People will be aware that there is a major development being proposed where the old council buildings are being demolished at Broad Street.

Several hundred went to see the exhibitions by MUSE (the developers) and indeed many put in their comments and often objections to the plans they saw.

The final plans have now been submitted to Aberdeen Council to obtain approval.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, MUSE did not take those approx. 1100 comments and objections into account when arriving at their final design. (See the web site below for a breakdown of the feedback responses given to MUSE at the first exhibitions). So now is the time to make your comments or objections really count.

A website has been set up at  www.marischalsquare.weebly.com which shows the wonderful perspective in Central Aberdeen we are about to lose for generations unless you object by following the links on the web site which will take you through to Aberdeen City Planning.

There you can view the latest plans and make comments or objections to the plans online while on their site. These comments/objections will form part of the report which will go to Aberdeen City Planning Committee and have to be taken into account when the Council make their final decision on the plans.

After some correspondence with Aberdeen City the cut off date for objections or comments has been changed from 06/06/2014 to 18/06/2014 so there is time to lodge your comments on the plans.

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Nov 012013
 

By Duncan Harley

St Nicks in the building ofThe old Aberdeen Council office building formally known as St Nicholas House is being torn down piece by piece after less than fifty years.

At today’s prices, the £2m cost of the 1965 project may seem small fry to many Aberdeen residents, who are more used to municipal architectural bills on a far grander scale.

Granite-built projects such as Marischal College, which lies just across the road from the part-demolished 1960s concrete multi-storey office block, often last for hundreds of years at a far lower cost per century.

Of course, in its day, St Nicholas House was seen as the way ahead in terms of municipal architecture. Scottish Secretary Willie Ross officially opened it on the first of May 1970. The retiring city architect, George Keith, was present at the opening. Seemingly St Nicholas House was one of the “outstanding features of the considerable role Mr Keith played in the design of post war Aberdeen.”

Many city residents were looking forward to its demolition. The blowing up of the building was a favoured option, and camera enthusiasts are reported to have been enthusiastically checking out vantage points all around the city in expectation of the event. However the building’s tightly contained position within the city centre precluded destruction by an explosives team, and the current demolition carries on piecemeal.

Aberdonians are this week invited to comment on plans to re-develop the site. Gordon McIntosh, Director of Enterprise and Planning, has described the new proposals by Muse Developments, as “exciting.”

If you care about the future of your city, take a look at the consultation exhibition at Aberdeen Art Gallery. It runs until November 2nd and is free to view. Employees from Muse Developments Ltd and the Aberdeen City Council will be on hand to advise and listen to your comments.

Until 8th November, you can have your say online. Relating to Marischal Square, views are being sought on transport options for Broad Street. An online questionnaire will be open until 22nd november.

A more detailed scheme to re-develop the site is expected to be lodged with the City Planning Department in a few months.

Comments to the Marischal Square Working Group can be sent via Councillor Marie Boulton, Depute Leader of the Council at :  mboulton@aberdeencity.gov.uk

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May 092013
 

By Bob Smith.

Boxes, boxes, boxes
Is aa we nooadays see
The “darlins” o modern architects
Be it Aiberdeen or Torquay

Thingies like yon Rubik’s Cube
O a Uni Library biggin
Leukin like the pint his run
A think it’s bliddy mingin

Union Square, o michty me
It’s jist aa steel an gless
Oor toon’s in the hauns o Philistines
Creatin a maist affa mess

The city skyline is fair important
Says Aiberdeen mannie Eric Auld
Seen throwe his artistic ee
Marischal Square it leaves him cauld

Fowk noo are fair upset
At fit they see gyaan on
Aa in the guise o progress
In the toon twixt Dee an Don

“Progress is jist the exchange
O ae nuisance fer anither”
So wrote  yon Havelock Ellis
Writer, Doctor an life giver

Boxes are fer storin things
Bit nae the human race
Stop biggins fit are jist bland
Dinna chynge oor city’s face

Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013
Image credit: Corporate Tree 2 © Andres Rodriguez | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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