Jan 212011

Old Susannah has been constantly on the go the past week. Here’s her travelogue…

On Friday I attended most of the public hearing on the Loirston Loch proposal at the Town House. Admittedly, I left before the full meeting ended, so missing Kate Dean’s concluding remarks, but I would have lost the will to live altogether, and I had to be at Peacock for 6pm.

Sorry I only lasted 8 hours at the hearing, but seeing as Kate was doing a great job of being impartial as convener, I left, in the knowledge that the stadium was in safe hands. See the article elsewhere in this edition of Voice.

Next day, the P&J printed an article favouring the stadium development which ignored all the practical problems and local objections, alongside a piece on Cove Rangers being allowed to move to new premises. Of course, these two developments in the Aberdeen footballing world are completely unrelated. Old Susannah must have wandered into a completely different public hearing from the one the P&J wrote about, as I missed the parts that proved how this stadium will not only make us all rich, but also make us the envy of the northern hemisphere. I came away with the subtle feeling that one or two of the residents might not be onside with putting a 21,000 seat stadium on their greenbelt.

The Peacock exhibition features Alicia Bruce’s photographic portraits of the residents facing potential eviction through compulsory purchase, so that Mr Trump can have the world’s most kitsch – sorry – most excellent, perfect, wonderful, swell, expensive golf course. A review and photos of the exhibition is elsewhere in Voice.

Finally, George Galloway and his moustache are in the news this week. He seems to be saying he will end his political career in Scotland. Has no one told him that his political career well and truly ended when he was on Big Brother pretending to be Rula Lenska’s cat?  Respect….?

..and she shares the week’s defining moments in her Dictionary, Part 21


(Verb) To embezzle is to appropriate goods, property or money fraudulently when in a position of power, rather like when we pay Council Tax to local government with the false promise we’ll get something of value in return. Now it looks as if a City Council employee has been taking his work home with him literally – to the tune of somewhere between £300,000 and £400,000. It is understood the person and his wife are now ‘helping police with their enquiries’.

there is no fraud to worry about really, except the odd half million pound case like this one

Yes, it’s hard to understand how our well-run, efficient, properly audited and controlled City could have allowed such a thing to happen; ‘financial impropriety’ and ‘Aberdeen City Council’ are words you’d never expect to hear in the same sentence, I know.

Stringent controls are in place to prevent, for instance, property being sold below market value, property being sold to private developers when the City thinks it is really selling property to the NHS, or building work contract values escalating out of control, and the like. In fact there are ‘Investigation Managers’ and ‘Budget Analysts’ on the City’s efficient payroll.

But relax –  there is no fraud to worry about really, except the odd half million pound case like this one, which clearly is a one-off and will never happen again.

Incandescent (Adjective) Incandescent is the ‘condition of glowing or emitting heat and light’. Indeed, it is often associated with lightbulbs but presumably less so with the new mercury-filled ones which don’t give out quite enough light for my taste. John Major famously took the word ‘incandescent’ and coupled it with his anger, coming up with the phrase, ‘not inconsiderably incandescent with rage’ to describe how he usually felt. This may have been his greatest contribution as Prime Minister, although we might want to ask Mrs Edwina Currie her opinion.

This adjective is still being used by the brightest stars in the political firmament, as no less a luminary than our own Kate Dean has told the press she is incandescent. No, not just her natural glow of warmth, charm and beauty; she is incandescent with anger.

Who’s upset Kate? The Scottish Government transport authorities have had the gall to criticise Aberdeen’s public transport management – the nerve!

outsiders might mistakenly think we have problems. I hope that an apology to Kate is on the way

As if there was anything to criticise. Kate’s main problem is that she didn’t have a chance to defend the City’s sterling record on public transport. The frequent bus services, the low prices, the potholes, the bus lanes.Apparently we’ve created one million pounds worth of bus lanes recently, part of the reason traffic moves so swiftly.

The well thought-out transport arrangements for Union Square and the bus and railway stations are greatly appreciated by people with mobility problems as well as car drivers and bus passengers, who, in rush hour or late night shopping days, can spend ages window-shopping at Union Square from the comfort of their own cars. Building the new AFC stadium is going to add 80 buses at current estimate and 1400 cars to the mix on Wellington Road, pollution levels on which can be higher than national recommended levels, but with the new bus lanes, well, it will be fine.

Part of Ms Dean’s problem is that Aberdeen wasn’t invited to the particular meeting where the criticism was levelled, so she could not defend our excellent system. Clearly a system as perfect as ours would not be able to stand on its own merits for others to marvel at – outsiders might mistakenly think we have problems. I hope that an apology to Kate is on the way.

Joined-up government.

How do things in the public sector work so well?

How do our governors manage to accomplish so much good with our tax money so efficiently?

The answer is that we have ‘joined-up government’.

The term ‘joined-up government’ is defined as ‘a method of governing wherein all departments and branches communicate efficiently with each other and act together purposefully and effectively towards well-defined objectives – but you don’t need me to tell you that’s what you’ve got in the ‘deen.

It is little wonder that international property developers want to come here when they see how ‘joined up’ we are.

It’s hard to pick out just one example pertaining to our government in terms of its ‘joined-up’ thinking, so I’ll take the most recent one. In the P&J on 19 January, there’s a story of how Scottish Enterprise and Aberdeen City Council work in harmony to our benefit.

Peacock Art Gallery, you may recall, had managed to secure a large grant from the Arts Council to build new premises. Like vultures smelling blood, the City and Scottish Enterprise moved in to offer assistance. They assisted Peacock right out of its plans for the Union Terrace Gardens arts centre it had proposed.

But what becomes of the grant from the Arts Council? It’s now probably lost forever, and we have the amusing spectacle of Aberdeen City v Scottish Enterprise. The blame game is on.  Who did what and when is being argued over in the press as these two entities try to blame each other for the loss. Strangely enough, many years back, the Arts Council had ring-fenced a few million for an arts centre in the Castlegate. This money too was lost forever. A deadline approached, and the City Council seems not to have known anything about it, despite having a Council representative attending the relevant meetings. It is little wonder that international property developers want to come here when they see how ‘joined up’ we are. They know when they see examples like the latest drama over Peacock funding unfold, that we are people to be reckoned with – smart, astute business minds working in conjunction. There is no way we will be fooled or taken advantage of when great minds are in control. Not here.

On a serious note

Spare a thought for Sandy Ingram, the 79 year-old man found severely beaten in June of last year. He will now need full-time care, and can never return to the home he knew. Apparently he had seen two men on his property before he was assaulted. Whilst the residents in his area of Newmachar are now more vigilant regarding strangers, and are reporting suspicious behaviour to police, it comes too late for the Ingram family.

Someone out there knows what happened to him which is still a mystery to the rest of us. If you don’t come forward you are as guilty as if you’d hurt this elderly man yourself. And the next time someone else gets permanently injured or worse, you’ll have to live knowing you could have prevented it.

Even if you just suspect something, make an anonymous call. Do the right thing.

Jan 142011

Dons attract standing room only crowd! Not at a Pittodrie fixture, unfortunately. David Innes calls in from the joint Community Councils’ public meeting on the Loirston stadium plans.

It is a measure of the interest being taken by citizens – mostly residents of the area affected – in the proposed Dons stadium development at Loirston that the Altens Thistle Hotel had to provide additional seating to accommodate those who attended.
Latecomers were left to stand. This is not a problem the Dons are likely to suffer in their current home nor in any new 21000 capacity stadium.

All four community councils for the area united to host the meeting and local councillors attended, in “listening mode”, as they are prohibited from offering opinions on the development before the Council meets to vote on it. They were able, however, to give input on the planning process, being at pains to point out that this was consultation but that did not mean a majority opposing the development could stop it. That sounded very familiar…..

An early show of hands showed that nobody in attendance was in favour of the facility, or perhaps any proponents were not prepared to admit it their support.

Although not always on-topic, questions were asked politely, points were made passionately and despite the general feeling that the development is almost a fait accompli, several contributors urged attendees that it is not too late, that statements for and against the development may be made right up to the time our representatives begin the final debate.

Discussion was along predictable lines – irreversible loss of green belt, traffic and parking issues, light pollution, the financial impact on Pittodrie area businesses on match days, the competition with the AECC for lucrative conferences and, bizarrely, potential noise nuisance from late evening gigs featuring bands “like Black Sabbath”.

More probing issues were also examined – why cannot the facility be shared between the Dons and Cove Rangers? What would the impact be if the Reds and Cove played at home at the same time? How would visiting fans arriving by means other than supporters’ buses be safely segregated from the home support? What about the four distinct natural habitats unlikely to be protected by the guaranteed 50m “no go area” between the stadium area and Loirston Loch?

The plan goes to a Pre-Determination Hearing of the Development Management Sub-Committee on 14 January. 144 objections have been received. Messages of support and representations from interested groups have been gathered. Details are here http://tinyurl.com/65n32af Voice will be in attendance and will give its view on proceedings next week.

Dec 312010

Voice’s Old Susannah tackles more tricky terms with a locally topical taste.

Aberdeen is such a cool city.  Make that frozen.  For those of you with snowshoes, ice skates or skis who have been able to make it out of your homes, you may have noticed a few minor problems.  There may have been one or two late-running buses during rush hour.

A few flights and trains couldn’t run.  Nearly two and a half thousand of us have had frozen pipes in our homes, including Old Susannah, who couldn’t find a plumber who wasn’t fully booked up.

Therefore a “thank you very much” to the brains at ‘Wayne’s Drains’ for giving such great help over the telephone; with their guidance I was able to avoid a burst pipe.

For a few days I had no running water which was a great adventure.  I do apologise for turning in such a short ‘Dictionary Corner’ this week but I have three days’ worth of washing, cleaning and mopping up awaiting me.  Sorry!  It was messy and no fun at all clearing the pipes, and if I never see a U-bend or a tub of ‘Plumber’s Mait’ putty again it will be too soon. Still, I was much better off than an acquaintance who had a frozen toilet.  He wound up in quite a mess.  Speaking of messes…

Local Development  Plan: The Local Development Plan, or ‘LDP’ to its friends, sets out the realistic, wonderful future for Aberdeen.  There are goals such as doubling the City’s population, building thousands of new homes, and making a ‘community stadium’ on Loirston Loch (NB – Old Susannah cannot as yet find a definition of what a ‘community stadium’ is).  Part of this ingenious plan is to always have land available to developers for creating industrial estates – again,

I always thought land was a finite commodity, and that we still had such a thing as ‘greenbelt land’.  Apparently the ‘Planners’ don’t happen to agree.  As a voter in Aberdeen, you were presumably made aware that your elected representatives would create this plan, only I can’t seem to find anything to back that up as yet.

You could also be forgiven for thinking that the local, elected Community Councils get asked what they’d like to see  – or not see – in the plans from the earliest stages.  Apparently there is a ‘statutory duty’ for Community Councils to be consulted for matters in their areas.  The truth is that the developers (hmm – can we think of any influential local developers?) and the planning chiefs sit down and invent the whole thing without bothering the elected Community Councils – the rationale for this seems to be that the Community Councils get a chance to object later on.

Where would the needy ‘All Energy Aberdeen’ have been had we not spent over £9K on a wine, beer and juice reception

This is a bit like the farmer objecting to the gate after the horse has bolted.  Therefore the ‘community stadium’ planners had a budget of our money capped at approximately £250,000 to spend to investigate the pros and cons of the deal.  Had they asked the local councils first, they might well have been told to scrap the idea.

But remember, consultants have to make a living, too.  It’s quite funny how the pros (like a big, shiny, new, red-glowing building where Aberdeen Football Club can astound 22,000 people with previously unsuspected footballing skills) are made to be realistic and important, and the cons – such as loss of wildlife habitat, urban sprawl, traffic and expense don’t seem nearly as important.

Of course, the community councils get to comment later in the ‘consultation’ process, during which their opinions are given the consideration that they are worth.  For Loirston Loch’s destruction, they get a maximum input at the public hearing of 30 minutes per council.  I hope they can talk fast.  (Old Susannah will be getting up to have her say about the ‘community stadium’ at this public hearing, which is on 14 January at the Town House City Council offices on Broad Street at 09:30.  If you’ve nothing better to do than see Old Susannah talking to a brick wall, do come along).

Hospitality: Dictionary definitions for the noun ‘hospitality’ describe it as meaning “… hospitable treatment, reception, or disposition .”  Do not let anyone tell you there is any truth in the stereotype that the Scots are not generous and hospitable; Aberdeen City has definitely dispelled that myth.  It might have done so using your tax money, but it’s money well spent.  It shows the rest of the world how prosperous we are.  Secondly, as previously established, our Lord Provost is worried about being embarrassed or looking foolish – which is why he and his wife need a generous clothing allowance and why he wants us to take Sir Ian Wood’s £50 million for the Union Terrace car park.

Let’s look at some of the hospitality we dished out last year.  On the one hand, we only spent £129,472.5 pence according to the City.  On the other hand, one wonders if it was all necessary.  We threw events for councillors and a whole host of special interest groups.  Where would the needy ‘All Energy Aberdeen’ have been had we not spent over £9K on a wine, beer and juice reception for it at the AECC?  You and I gladly paid for the ‘Aberdeen Sports Person of the Year Awards’ at the Beach Ballroom where some 275 luminati had dinner and drinks for £9,774.25.

Lest we forget, the City just recently had to stump up an extra £64K or so for the international football programme’s going over budget.  I can’t really complain, we attracted an amazing array of footballing talent, including Birmingham City.  We still don’t have enough money to keep our schools or have children continue with music lessons.  We might have to close our parks (or turn them into something profitable).  I have no doubt that our elected officials who dutifully attend these drinkfests stick to water and soft drinks; they might wind up  useless,  sozzled and brain-addled otherwise; thankfully this hasn’t happened as yet.

However, let’s raise a glass to the forty plus drinks events we held last year.  Cheers!

Aug 202010

By Fred Wilkinson.

A new red light district is to be established on the outskirts of the city!
Aberdeen Football Club, last week, lodged a planning application for the proposed new community stadium to be situated to the north of Loirston Loch.

Along with some impressive computer generated images of the new facility comes the announcement that lighting will be installed to give the stadium a red glow at night. The club’s official colour of course, as oft witnessed on the faces of embarrassed fans. Continue reading »

Aug 062010

Aberdeen Voice reader Jeremy Millar sees history repeating itself in the city.

In a recent bout of clearing-out, I came across a letter I wrote to the local paper in 1986.

“Dear Sir,

It appears to me that the stream of letters expressing dismay at the inefficiency of Aberdeen district council’s new computer booking system is but an ongoing symptom of an ongoing identity crisis afflicting the council.

Continue reading »

Jun 242010
Pittodrie Stadium

It would appear things are not too happy down Pittodrie way at the moment.

On the back of a dreadful season, the Club has lost key players and there seems to be mounting apathy among fans with season ticket sales numbers not expected to break records. There is also a feeling of torpor as the Club finds itself caught in limbo with a large debt, the real chance of a significant drop in income and in the midst of all this, the need to find the finance to move to the proposed community stadium at Loirston.

Yes, there have been happier times, and the fledgling AFC Heritage Trust is doing its best to preserve those memories whilst at the same time keeping fingers crossed that the Dons can emerge from the current apparent gloom and begin challenging for honours again.

Continue reading »