Apr 082016

Old Susannah aka Suzanne Kelly ponders her betters this week, and tugs her forelock in the general direction of the wealthy who have shaped the society we have today.

DictionaryIt actually has been a dynamic and vibrant week in the Deen. With huge regrets I missed Granite, the National Theatre of Scotland’s multimedia all-star cast production that sold out three nights last week.

The night I had tickets for the driving rain drove me indoors (asthma you know). Everyone who saw it loved it.

Cast members came from the city as well, with Dame Ann Begg doing a turn, and Aberdeen Voice’s Fred Wilkinson was involved too.

Elly Rothnie helped bring us this production; she works at the National Theatre of Scotland, although in a perfect, honest, meritocracy would by now be helping to run things in a brand new Peacock Visual Arts Centre in Union Terrace Gardens.

For the many people out there who’ve forgotten what really happened – well, we don’t really do know what happened.

One day Scottish Enterprise (headed for years by Sir Ian Wood) was helping Peacock’s plans. The next day, Scottish Enterprise decided that Sir Ian Wood’s dream of a subterranean car park in the gardens, run by acquaintances of Sir Ian Wood in a private company was a better idea, with Sir Ian Wood deciding what would be built in the gardens (common good land, lest we forget).

Perhaps it’s just that I never had any formal investigative journalism training, but I’ve always had the oddest feeling that there was some kind of connection between Scottish Enterprise’s change of heart and Sir Ian. Clearly there wasn’t though – or the Press & Journal would have written about it.

Moving swiftly along, the big event coming this week is BrewDog’s colossal Annual General Meeting on Saturday. This will be my fourth (I think), and it’s going to see 6,000 people coming to the AECC for fun, froth and frolics. And of course business.

Is it possible that Aberdeen can attract people even without a granite web and before the beautiful Marischal Square complex is built? Seems so. I’ve been to the new bar, and love its menu, feeling and of course bottle shop, but I’m still more at home in the original, first-ever BrewDog bar opposite Marischal College. The Beermuda Triangle will be teaming with international beer fans this weekend; and I can’t wait.

Outside the geography of the Beermuda Triangle you’ll find Under The Hammer on North Silver Street. I’ve been in a few group shows there with Neal Bothwell over the past few years (thanks Keith Byres); Neale’s got a solo show on at present; catch it if you can.

Aside from this Aberdonian excitement, it’s been hard to find any interesting news stories this week to write about. That nice Mr Donald Trump wants women to be punished for having abortions. Then he said he wants them punished if abortion was illegal. Next he didn’t want the women tarred and feathered, but the doctors instead.

Iain Duncan Smith is REALLY REALLY SORRY

Now, he thinks no one should be punished (this may or may not have happened after a journalist asked if any of his past squeezes ever had one).

It’s exactly this sensitive, well thought through take on today’s issues that we want in a world leader. I’m sure every woman feels like I do that we’re better off having some big, strong, handsome, intelligent man telling us what we should or shouldn’t do with our own bodies. I really can’t tell you how grateful I am to Mr Trump for this.

A Guardian article is for some reason critical of The Donald, but then again, it was written by some no doubt hysterical woman

Elsewhere Iain Duncan Smith is REALLY REALLY SORRY that he’d made all those laws he rolled out. I personally thought he was just trying to get the lazy skivers out of their hospital beds and into some kind of profitable (if not well paying) work.

In an interview with Private Eye’s Ian Hislop, Smith is on the verge of tears as he slices an onion – sorry – as he thinks about a suffering mum. No doubt he’ll be devoting himself to helping people today who he penalised yesterday. It might be too late for some people, but IDS is sorry, and that’s all that matters.

Leaving behind the tedious problems of the disabled and the poor, the news this week also had some story about money laundering in Panama. What’s wrong with laundering money? I put a fiver in the wash the other week in my jeans pocket, and it came out smelling like orchid and lavender.

Panama is an interesting small Central American country known for hats and a canal. It’s motto is “For the Benefit of the World”. That’s awfully nice of them.

The country had some previous tax haven problems, sad to say.

Result! Panama was removed:

“… from the Organization of Economic Development’s gray-list of tax havens by signing various double taxation treaties with other nations.” 

That’s turned out well then.

With a little hard work, and the right relatives, you too can have an offshore bank account or two. If not, and you find yourself queuing at the job centre or being hauled up for a disability benefits review, take heart.

At least other people are doing very well indeed, and Iain Duncan Smith is sorry and feels your pain.

Sure, no one’s paying tax anymore (well, no one important or rich anyway), and the NHS and benefits are at breaking point. Still, it’s good economic news because we’re attracting business to the UK. Mind you, we’re doing that by letting multinationals based here pay no tax. But don’t worry. It’s all going to be just fine.

Did you miss David Cameron’s stirring speech on tax evasion? Never fear, for here it is.

I’m sure this moving oration won’t require any explanation, but just in case you don’t quite follow Mr Cameron when he talks of the vast chasm of difference between the words ‘avoidance’ and ‘evasion’, here are some definitions.

Tax Avoidance: (Modern English Conservative Speak) – not paying all the tax you should pay by avoiding tax.


Tax Evasion: (Modern English Conservative Speak) – not paying all the tax you should pay by evading tax.


Treating people like children is not my intention, but it’s important that we all understand the clear difference between avoidance and evasion. I’d not want you think I was being evasive in avoiding this point, so here are some vastly differing definitions.

To Avoid: (English Verb) –

Merriam-Webster has this to say about the word avoid:

“to get or keep away from (as a responsibility) through cleverness or trickery <trying to avoid writing thank-you notes for the gifts he didn’t like>.

“Synonyms escape, dodge, duck, elude, eschew, evade, finesse, get around, scape, shake, shirk, shuffle (out of), shun, weasel (out of)

“Related Words miss; avert, deflect, divert, obviate, parry, prevent, ward (off); ban, bar, debar, eliminate, except, exclude, preclude, rule out; bypass, circumvent, skirt; foil, fox, frustrate, outfox, outsmart, outwit, overreach, thwart”
– http://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/avoid

So clearly, avoiding tax is fine.

To Evade: (English Verb) –

Merriam-Webster says of the word evade :

“to get or keep away from (as a responsibility) through cleverness or trickery <people who use every loophole in the law to evade paying taxes>.

“Synonyms avoid, dodge, duck, elude, eschew, escape, finesse, get around, scape, shake, shirk, shuffle (out of), shun, weasel (out of)

“Related Words miss; avert, deflect, divert, obviate, parry, prevent, ward (off); ban, bar, debar, eliminate, except, exclude, preclude, rule out; bypass, circumvent, skirt; foil, fox, frustrate, outfox, outsmart, outwit, overreach, thwart”
– http://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/evade

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Oct 082015

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

Eilidh Whiteford, Parliament [2015]feat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Feb 122015

MartinFordatUTGWith thanks to Martin Ford.

Two Aberdeenshire councillors are calling for an end to the Council Tax freeze as their council faces up to £50 million in budget cuts over the next four years.

The call comes in the week Aberdeenshire and other councils across Scotland set their revenue budgets for the next financial year.

“This cannot go on,” said Green councillor Martin Ford.

“It’s the elephant in the room on budget day. Most councillors know the Council Tax freeze is unsustainable, but aren’t prepared to say so.”

Allowing for inflation, a freeze in cash terms is actually a real-terms cut in income to the Council. Meanwhile, Aberdeenshire is having to plan for demand-led spending pressures due to rising school rolls and increasing numbers of very elderly people.

“The inevitable consequence of a continuation of the Council Tax freeze is more cuts in public services,” said Democratic Independent councillor Paul Johnston.

“Expecting the Council to do more with less, year after year, is not realistic.”

The Scottish Government has ensured that councils do not increase the Council Tax by threatening a lower grant settlement if the Council Tax is increased – ensuring any reasonable increase in Council Tax would leave the council in an even worse position financially than maintaining the Tax freeze.

“Local Government has effectively been reduced to local administration,” said Cllr Martin Ford.

“The Council’s total budget is essentially decided for it by the Scottish Government. The councillors are just left with deciding which are the least damaging cuts to make – the alternative option of avoiding cuts by raising some additional tax revenue having been blocked.

“The decision on the balance to strike between cutting council services or raising some additional tax income should be taken locally, not by the SNP government in Edinburgh.”

The current Band D Council Tax in Aberdeenshire is £1,141. A one per cent increase would result in a Band D rate of £1,152, or eleven pounds a year more, only 21 pence extra per week. An increase equal to the current Retail Price Index (RPI) of 1.6 per cent would see the Aberdeenshire Band D Council Tax set at £1,159.

“Scottish Government politicians must trust the people of Aberdeenshire with tax raising powers, in the same way as they want tax powers from Westminster,” said Cllr Paul Johnston.

“This is all about trust on tax. Trust Aberdeenshire to take decisions on tax for Aberdeenshire.”

Cllr Ford added:

“Even a one per cent rise in the Council Tax would prevent some cuts in public services,”

Aberdeenshire Council is budgeting for a Council Tax income in the next financial year of £124.658 million. A one per cent increase in the Council Tax would increase revenue to £125.905 million. An RPI-linked 1.6 per cent increase in the Council Tax would bring the Council almost £2 million extra income.

“An extra £2 million annual income would certainly not enable the Council to avoid cutting some services over the next several years,” said Cllr Paul Johnston.

“But it would prevent the most undesirable cuts.”

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Oct 102014

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryHope you’re enjoying the weather. The trains Stopped running further north, streets are flooded, and it’s chaos. Thankfully, none of the building we’re doing in the remaining greenbelt will have a negative impact on the ability of the soil to soak up the rains.

A mere 3,000 new homes in Countesswells  on what’s currently open land won’t make much difference to the environment and flooding; congratulations to the planners and developer (S Milne). Don’t worry about any additional road traffic either, the AWPR will have us all sailing down open roads very soon.

I wish an artist would make us a rendition of what the granite web will look like when it rains hard like it did on Tuesday. No doubt the levels of underground parking replacing the soil wouldn’t cause any  flooding.

In fact, the granite web would be great fun when the ground and ramps are frozen over, and we’d all sitting outdoors watching open air theatre.

Make no mistake, as sure as it will rain again, a certain billionaire hasn’t forgotten that web, and neither has his equally kind-hearted, socially-minded altruist friends. As long as the web story continues dominating the local printed press, the web  won’t be forgotten here. either.

Many other developments are afoot here in the dynamic Deen. The plan for the city’s museum to have its marble staircase hacked up, and a giant box put on the top of the building is going ahead. I guess those developers and architects who think this looks wonderful went to different art schools than I did. I’m sure it will be iconic.

Funny, London’s Tate decided not to ruin its beautiful original building; instead it renovated a disused building when it wanted to expand. If only we had some brown field land in the city centre that should be regenerated to really bring the city back to life. Can’t think of a single site though.

And it’s farewell to Victoria Road School in Torry. Councillors met in secret to vote on axing the site; so no real change in transparency there. Let’s see who buys the site, what they paid for it, and what will take its place.

The Harbour Board are so very keen on turning Torry into an extension of the industrial harbour may well have a hand in this. It will be for our own good when Nigg Bay is taken off our hands, and more lorries travel our roads. It will be a breath of fresh air. Or maybe not. But no doubt it will mean more jobs, the rallying call of all local development.

Never mind the fact we have plenty of work and low unemployment; if you want to build anything, just say you’re creating jobs, and permission arrives on a silver platter.

Some had the temerity to register to vote in the referendum

Moving vibrantly and dynamically along, it’s wonderful to see that everyone’s getting along so well after the referendum. People are respecting each other’s opinions and positions; and intelligent debate continues to dominate the social media sites.

Perhaps the only thing that Old Susannah finds more heart-warming than the post-referendum bonhomie is the riveting, electric Lib Dem party convention. And do those guys know how to party!  Nick Clegg was so cool that he wore dungarees one day!  I guess that sort of thing impresses most of you young people.

However, Kyle Joseph Wagner, a local writer and bon vivant had this to say:

“Nick Clegg delivering his conference speech yesterday in jeans and a navy-blue shirt with the top two buttons undone is funnier, sadder and more pathetic than any attempts I could make to take the p*ss out of him.”

I think Kyle is just jealous, but there you go. More on the wonderful work the Lib Dems did at their conference shortly, especially the important news that Clegg wore a suit on Wednesday – how dynamic is that?  He can be both cool/casual and businesslike and strong. I may yet swoon.

With all the excitement – party conferences, glass office buildings and so on, a few timely definitions seem called for.

Tax Evasion: (modern English compound noun) – the use of legal or illegal means to avoid paying duty on income.

I can’t possibly express how happy I am that poll tax dodgers may yet be called to account for their crimes against humanity. Some had the temerity to register to vote in the referendum. Thankfully, this might lead to these hardened criminals being found and forced to pay their just dues to society.

Perhaps these unwashed lawbreakers could learn a thing or two by looking to our betters for a good example and moral guidance.

Sir Ian Wood is a prime example of a man who pays his fair share. The Wood Group may be saving a few million by paying some of its workers via offshore companies, but that’s just good business senses.

SIW has £50 million sitting in a charity bank account free, but that’s going to eventually help Africans, who as we know need to grow more tea (perhaps he can help clear some of that pesky rain forest in the process). We’ll wait and see what he does.

Stewart Milne still has contracts worth some £10 million with the city

Good thing there aren’t any pressing issues in the African continent that could use any of his ‘venture capital (ist)’ brand of assistance. There’s little glamour in disease or starvation, and if you feed people, you probably won’t get much of a return on your venture capital investment. – if there’s no eventual return, why donate money?

Another shining example of paying one’s fair share can be found in Stewart Milne. No word yet on whether he’s paid the city back the money he owes. Like me you’re probably thinking it’s we who should be giving Milne money, but in fact he owes us some £1.7 million.

I’m sure he had a great reason for this transfer, even if to us less wealthy people it seems like a transparent ploy to avoid paying what he owed the city. Actually, after he appealed all the way to the highest court in the land, even the law couldn’t see why he needed to do that transfer, and he was ordered to pay the city some profit and interest.

I’m sure that with this newly-found enthusiasm for cracking down on tax avoiders, the police and local government mandarins they’ll be straight onto the rich who owe us a few million pounds eventually. But let’s go for the poll tax dodgers first; there’s no sense in upsetting of our wealthy worthies.

Since we’re on the subject of how cleverly the police can find the poll tax avoiders, I thought I’d let you know that alas!  They are unable to find any trace of the investigation they were meant to do when the Kate Dean administration sold parcels of land for peppercorn prices. Audit Scotland couldn’t decide if it was incompetence or fraud at work; the value was c. £5 million pounds, and the police were going to investigate.

Doubtless there were excellent reasons why our cash poor city was slashing services while doling out real estate parcels like sweeties; I’m sure it all made great commercial sense. To someone. Note: Stewart Milne still has contracts worth some £10 million with the city, awarded just around the time he was given that valuable land. Something about ‘leveraging’ comes to Old Susannah’s mind, but that can’t be right.

The courts are so stretched that we’re considering lopping off a few human rights and old legal rights that are way out of date (corroboration, evidence, little things like that).

The police claim to be so stretched they couldn’t possibly implement any form of control over air rifles, wildlife crime, burglaries and so on. Still, there is time to spy on private people’s emails and calls, and to infiltrate protest groups. I guess you have to figure out your priorities. But we’ll find time and money to go after the poll tax avoiding rabble.

of course nuclear energy is a big part of the solution

So let’s name and shame the people who didn’t chip in all those years ago. We had a fair taxation system, based on everyone paying a tax based on the value of the place they lived in.

This was also a great way to get those pesky older people out of valuable houses that they’d saved up for and bought; if they had been silly enough to buy a great home then the poll tax was going to make them pay for it.

Perhaps we should bring this tax back? Our council tax is great as far as it goes, funding all the great schemes we’ve paid for over the years – but I think that extra few drops of blood could be extracted if we went back to the poll tax. No tax payment, no vote. Now that’s democratic.

Clean Energy: (Modern English compound noun) Forms of energy which have little or no elements of waste, pollution health risk or environmental damage from their extraction through to their end products and waste materials.

One thing we can all be proud of is how we’re tackling our energy problems, and of course nuclear energy is a big part of the solution. We have had great successes around the world in Russia and Japan for instance, and if the odd trace of radiation from Chernobyl wound up in the Scottish Highlands, that’s no big deal.

Here in Scotland we have our own Dounreay plant a shining example of clean energy at its finest.

Granted, at present, a ship carrying ‘intermediate level’ radioactive waste from Dounreay caught fire, and is drifting around. An oil rig has been evacuated. But no fear: Police Scotland are monitoring the situation. (I particularly like the energy efficiency in sending these concrete-encased blocks of radioactivity sailing round the world, down road networks, and over rail lines. I’m sure this is all quite green).

Some detractors might have a criticism or two of this great plant; for instance the MOD was accused of covering up information on radioactive leaks. I’m sure they’d never do such a thing; here’s an article that I find very reassuring.

And here are some further articles that are nothing to worry about from Rob Edwards. So a few trucks were carrying radioactive waste when they were meant to be decommissioned, no harm done. And if further information is being kept secret, why worry. If we needed to know, they’ll tell us.

Remember, nothing can go wrong with nuclear power. Neither the police nor the MOD would lie to you; there’s no reason to think they would. But just in case something does ever go wrong, we can always ‘duck and cover’.

A Man For All Seasons: (English Idiom) a person who is very successful in a variety of activities / situations. See also Nick Clegg.

Nick Clegg is surely our man for all seasons. This week he’s been leading his party’s conference with stirring speeches and setting the tone. He’s been making pledges for people with health problems to be seen more quickly – if only he had some power and could implement changes like that now.

But not only is he going to buy more with less tax money, he’s shown a few attractive sides to his personality that we’d not seen before.

Earlier this week, he shown us that despite his talents and position, he’s really one of us. He’s not just the unshakable, constant tough and attractive guy we all think he is. As mentioned earlier, he actually appeared wearing jeans. Some of the buttons on his casual but smart top were unbuttoned as well; he really knows how to let his hair down, and is just like us.

Then just when you think you know the man, he comes back to speak wearing a suit!  It was as if he was taking control; it was a very masterful moment, and I’m glad I’ve taped his performance to watch again and again. It’s amazing someone can have such diametrically opposed sides.

Then again, it was the same Mr Clegg who promised there would be no tuition fees when he got voted in as part of the LibDem/Conservative coalition that’s steered the nation to the great place it’s in today. I guess he doesn’t like to brag too much about his past successes. Either that, or there were too many to mention.

He told his party conference in Glasgow he would not “seek to distance” the Lib Dems from the coalition’s record. Well, he wouldn’t, would he?

And then, just as you think Nick is happy to be associated with the coalition which he is in, he makes a wee remark  that make you wonder if that’s true. Case in point comes courtesy of the guardian:

“Nick Clegg has instructed his leading ministers to “brutalise” the Tories …In a sign of how coalition relations have descended into trench warfare in the run-up to the election, the deputy prime minister has told senior Liberal Democrats to reach out to “soft Tories” by saying that the chancellor is taking Conservatives back a decade to the era of the nasty party.

“The instructions from Clegg, who accused the Tories of “beating up on the poor”, came as the opening of the Liberal Democrat conference was dominated by speculation about future coalition partners if voters elect another hung parliament in May’s general election.”

I’d be the last person to say that Clegg changes his positions as often as he changes his clothing, particularly as he looked so cool in those denims. Still, I sometimes wonder if the Lib Dems are every bit as consistent as they seem to be.

But all this talk of Nick is making me overheated. I’ll be off to BrewDog for some liquid refreshment to cool down a bit. But happy birthday to the Aberdeen BrewDog bar, and many more.

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Nov 212013

turra Coo duncan harley2One hundred years on, Duncan Harley examines the story of the Fite Coo.

Almost a hundred years ago Lloyd George’s National Insurance Act came into force. The legislation was intended to improve the lot of farm labourers, fisher folk and factory workers who were often employed for a contractual period of six months or less.

The Act of Parliament (The National Insurance Act 1913) provided for medical and unemployment benefits for workers and their families who were in need of state support through either ill health or lack of employment.

The tax received a mixed reception. Suspicion and prejudice against government interference fuelled discontent in many minds and the bare fact that both workers and employers were required to contribute hard cash caused many to consider direct action.

The Scottish Farm Servants’ Union welcomed the measure since it offered some improvement for those workers who simply became worn out and too ill to continue working and who would otherwise have to rely on the mercy and support of former employers.

Many Scottish farmers, however, remained unconvinced of the merits of state support for those in need.

Protest movements arose in various parts of Scotland and in a somewhat strange alliance for the times, the Liberal government of the time found itself in sympathy with the Marxists over the issue of both land reform and workers social security.

The farmers around the Aberdeenshire market town of Turriff in Aberdeenshire were particularly incensed, partly because of the now increased costs of employing farm labourers and also because many genuinely felt that they already took good care of the workforce upon which they relied.

There were riots, demonstrations and protests.

In the end a farmer by the name Robert Paterson of Lendrum near Turriff became the focus of Sheriff’s Officers when he refused to pay what he called the “unfair and unjust tax”. He had previously been convicted and fined in court for 20 such offences against the 1911 National Insurance Act and had paid the accumulated £15 fine, however he refused to pay the arrears of National Insurance.

the authorities reacted by seizing one of his milk cows

A Unionist by nature, he publicly stated that “because it was a service that farmers and farm labourer would rarely use” he would not pay the tax imposed by a Welsh led government. Lendrum to Leeks became the campaign slogan.

Paterson quickly became a cause célèbre in the North East and indeed beyond. Following court action for the unpaid debt to the National Insurance Fund, the authorities reacted by seizing one of his milk cows, intending to auction it to re-coup the debt he owed to the government for unpaid National Insurance Contributions.

Things got from bad to worse. There were further riots and much civil disobedience. The seized cow then became the cause célèbre and the press had a field day.

The immediate events following the seizing of the Turra Coo by Sherriff Officers are well known.

No local auctioneer could be found to sell the beast and the “Fite Coo”, now emblazoned with the painted slogan “Breath Bad – Gummy Leeks” as a reference to the Welsh born Lloyd George, seemingly ran off home to Lendrum where after a few days it was again seized by the authorities and taken by train to Aberdeen’s Denburn Auction Market where it was sold for seven pounds on 16th December 1913 to a Mr Alex Craig.

Mr Craig then sold the animal on to a Mr Davidson for £14 thus making a tidy profit on the deal.

turra Coo duncan harley4

Mr Davidson then transported the now famous cow back to Turriff where crowds of townsfolk and farm workers gathered to witness the event. The local pipe band played “See the Conquering Hero Comes” and the poor cow sported more painted slogans on her sides including “Free! Divn’t ye wish ye were me.”

The war to end all wars was looming. Indeed many of the participants in this sometimes hilarious series of events would soon be dead. Sacrificed on the battlefronts of the 1914-18 war.

The cow however survived and was returned to Lendrum Farm, where it died of bovine tuberculosis in 1920.

Depending on which account is read, it was either stuffed and displayed at Lendrum Farm for a while before being sent by train to Aberdeen’s Marischal College for display or simply buried in a field at Lendrum to remain undisturbed for many years until excavations for a new water supply uncovered her bones.

The myth of the Turra Coo perpetuates to this day however.

The West Aberdeenshire MP of the time, Mr J.M. Henderson MP, had a take on it. He toured the North East in the January of 1914 speaking to meetings of constituents who were mainly opposed to the idea of state care for the elderly and infirm.

At a meeting in Culsalmond he was heckled after saying that  farmers did not seem to grasp the idea that the Insurance Act was designed to provide for those workers who having attained the age of 50 and upwards who were unable to work due to illness or disability.

“Insurance follows the servant” said Henderson and he told the heckling audiences that although he knew that a good many masters were good to there servants the facts showed that farm workers rarely stayed in one position for long. The Insurance Act was he said, designed to combat this problem by providing a fundamental right to healthcare and assistance in times of financial hardship.

Not only Culsamond but Tarland, Turriff and indeed seemingly the entire Garioch seemed to agree that the Act of Parliament was both unfair and unnecessary.

Effigies of Lloyd George and the local MP WH Cowan were publicly burned in Inverurie town square.

a crowd of around 1500 packed Turriff’s main square

It does seem ironic nowadays that in many cases those workers whose interests the National Insurance Act was designed to protect were often the most vehement in their opposition.

Cynics of the time suggested that the workforce was being manipulated by the land owners and bullied or perhaps being encouraged into opposition. For example a crowd of around 1500 packed Turriff’s main square on the day of the proposed sale of Mr Paterson’s cow to meet the Insurance arrears due by him.

Many were local farmers and many more were farm workers who had been given a half day holiday at a time when the Scottish Farm Servants’ Union had been unsuccessfully campaigning for regular holidays for farm workers.

The more sympathetic amongst us would perhaps understand that the spectre of state interference in rural affairs loomed large in the minds of both employers and employees.

In a court judgement of the time, Sheriff Stewart of Banff convicted and fined two farmers from Gamrie and Fordyce following representations by the defendant’s legal representatives that they had been “misguided” and “stupid” in failing to pay to stamp the National Insurance cards of their employees.

In his summing up, the good Sheriff said that if there were further examples of resistance to the act of parliament then he would seriously consider whether the penalty should not be materially increased.

Strong sentiments indeed.

The Poetry Mannie – Bob Smith has a take on it.


A bronze statue o the Turra Coo
Noo staans proodly in the toon
Ti commemorate a gweed story
A’ve kent since a wis a loon

The fite coo fae Lendrum
Wis the celebrity o it’s day
Fin fairmer Robert Paterson
Thocht NI wisna fair play

Sheriff Geordie Keith set oot
Tae seize property as a fine
Bit the locals widna help him
An refused tae tae the line

The coo wis pit up fer auction
Fegs iss nearly caused a riot
Syne up steps Alexander Craig
As the bodie faa wid buy it

Noo iss is nae the eyn o the story
Fowk  an injustice they hid seen
A fair pucklie did rally roon
Wi fairmer Craig a deal wis deen

The coo wis noo back at Lendrum
Tae see oot the rest o her days
Nae doot neen the wiser o
The stooshie she did raise

At a junction in the bonnie toon
Iss a sculture o the beast
Faa brocht a fair bit o fame
Tae Turra an the haill north-east

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013

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Aug 122013

By Renee Margaret Slater.

The ‘In-Tent On Action Against the Bedroom Tax in Aberdeen’ at Union Terrace Gardens event is to highlight the plight of those faced with paying the Bedroom Tax in our city. We want the event to emphasize what may happen to public parks when tenants are faced with eviction due to housing debts.

The Bedroom Tax has been brought in by statute to charge people who have spare bedrooms, who are on Housing Benefit and reside in social housing.

Those people in such properties will have money deducted from their benefits – 14% for one bedroom and 25% for more than one.

This legislation discriminates against those disadvantaged through low wage and those who are unemployed. ‘In-Tent on Action Against the Bedroom Tax in Aberdeen’ will highlight what could happen when those who cannot afford to pay the Bedroom Tax are evicted from their homes.

This government wants tenants in Housing Associations & Council Housing (i.e. not private) who are on Housing Benefit to downsize to smaller properties. There aren’t the smaller properties for families to move into. This situation is common throughout the UK. One of our members in Aberdeen Against The Bedroom Tax has acquired information from ACC on the actual waiting figures regarding one bedroom properties in the city.

The number of people on the waiting list for one bedroom properties is 3,855. The number of one bedroom properties available to rent is 89.

Something is definitely not adding up here. This situation is repeated throughout the UK.

In-Tent on Action Against the Bedroom Tax in Aberdeen is supported by a large group of people directly affected by the consequences of the legislation, plus Aberdonians not affected but disgusted by the effects of a government that has no concern about the outcome of its benefit cuts on the poorest sections of our community.

Unlike the poll tax that affected everyone – this Bedroom Tax legislation only affects those on housing benefit residing in Social Housing.

Moving To Other Premises:  One of our members who has an autistic son – has been told by Aberdeen City Council that she must leave her 3 bedroom house in Torry to move into 3 bedroom premises in Manor Avenue. There is no logic here. Apart from the massive upheaval it will bring for her and her child, she still has to pay the bedroom tax, only it will be without family and friends’ support.

We have one major obstacle to overcome. We are faced with government propaganda machine that brands ordinary people on benefits as scroungers. They have a ‘Jeremy Kyle’ attitude to claimants that assumes that ‘everyone is on the take’.

Discretionary Housing Payment is to help those who have paid for the Bedroom Tax from their general benefits – money that is used for food, clothing, travel etc. Discretionary housing payments are worth only a small fraction of the total cut in housing benefit and are often only temporary, meaning problems can go unresolved. In Aberdeen, the City Council has decided not to repay the money to people affected but to add the cash to their Council Tax.

Many people who have to pay the Bedroom Tax are now in arrears with their rent. Once tenants are in arrears they are excluded from the exchange list and therefore cannot move to smaller properties. A vicious cycle ensues, forcing tenants into making painful choices.

This legislation has forced people to juggle paying rent and buying food for their children. Many have resorted to food banks.

We wish to ensure that ordinary citizens in Aberdeen are not fooled by a Coalition Government which accuses friends and families of ‘ripping off the taxpayer’. For every so-called scrounger there are 9 others suffering from this insidious Bedroom Tax. The In-Tent on ‘Action Against the Bedroom Tax in Aberdeen’ – in UTG’ is an opportunity for Aberdonians to see for themselves what may happen when we begin to see our parks occupied by ordinary people who have been evicted due to arrears.

Our protest is a message to both Aberdeen City Council and the UK Torry LibDem Coalition – Do not be complacent – your legislation WILL force families onto the streets!

Those expected to turn up on Saturday 24th August are people already paying Bedroom Tax, Those In arrears due to Bedroom Tax and supporters who see their friends and neighbours suffering from this insidious legislation.

This will be a peaceful and symbolic gesture from the people of Aberdeen in support of those affected by the Bedroom Tax. Similar actions are happening in over 30 cities throughout the UK.

We request that people be peaceful & to keep the park clean. We expect tents, gazebos, food parcels soup kitchen & some musicians. There should be speakers explaining the effects of the Bedroom Tax on the population. There will also be stalls with information..

 ‘In-Tent on Action Against the Bedroom Tax in Aberdeen’

 Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen

 24th August 2013

 12 noon – 8.00pm

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Jan 112013

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

An eventful and warm week has passed in the Granite City; many people settled back into their routine after the holiday break. Children were back at school, councillors were back at Marischal, people were back at work. Industry is booming.  BrewDog have lots of crafts beer on at their eponymous bar just now, and their shiny new factory opens on 19 January with the unusual fanfare you’d expect.

The car theft industry is thriving, too.  Career car thieves have been back at the coal face, and Grampian’s finest have likewise been busy, protecting us all from the likes of… Lesley Ross.

Ms Ross is considered dangerous – with a keyboard. After her Audi was stolen, she’d made posts on Facebook, according to the Daily Record, which were… offensive.

Apparently bad language was used! Off the top of my head I’m not sure if that has a mandatory custodial sentence or not.

She also wished that something bad would happen to the thieves!

The penalty for wishing ill on someone else was done away with after the last witch trials ended a few hundred years back, but with the ConDems in power and political incorrectness gone mad, expect witches to be hung in public sometime soon, along with ‘Lone Parents’ who have just seen their child benefits cut – that’ll teach them (but only the poor ones, mind).  The ConDems have released a document of their many triumphs; more on that later.

You might think that with thieves stealing in broad daylight and posting photos on Facebook there would be more arrests and convictions than we’ve seen.  Still, at least our finest men and women in uniform do have an interest in crime: they’ve racked up about three dozen past crimes between them.

They have convictions ranging from auto-related incidents to assault to (my favourite) perverting the course of justice.  I always think a little on-the-job training helps you do your job better, don’t you?

Finally, our guardians have managed to keep some 300 DNA samples taken from children.  Some committed crimes; some were completely innocent, yet the samples remain on file for all.  Never throw anything away they say; you never know when you might need it.  Good bye civil liberties and rights.

DNA samples don’t always do what they’re supposed to of course.  I recall a serious trial in Ireland.  The DNA found at the scene was cross-matched – and was found to belong to a young person who had absolutely no connection whatever to the crime or the crime scene; he just had a DNA profile similar to whoever was responsible.

there is some bad language on it in spots, and they’ll want to speak to people about it

Make sure you don’t accidentally leave your strands of hair on any public transport or in the street – you’ll be put at the scene of a crime before you know it.  Still, the innocent have nothing to fear; when was an innocent person ever convicted of a crime in the UK?

I hope Ms Ross has learnt her lesson. In the meantime, if the police have any free time from arresting journalists (like they did to Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney at Balmedie) or from keeping our streets the safe places they are, they might want to check out some Aberdeen Facebook pages.

There is one which tells you how to hotwire a car, and several which show stolen vehicles of all sorts. What will interest the police about this long-running site is that there is some bad language on it in spots, and they’ll want to speak to people about it. I guess Grand Theft Auto wasn’t a computer game after all, but training software.

Politicians and their changes of heart and mind have very much made the news; here in Aberdeen Willie  Young’s apparent U-turn over a new Bridge of Don crossing has eclipsed any national U-turns or reports on the coalition’s successes.  More on that later.

Here is a selection of relevant definitions in the news this week:

Coalition Audit Document: (compound Eng. noun) a report issued by David Cameron and Nick Clegg appraising their promise on their election pledges.   Found in libraries in the Fiction section.

As I mentioned earlier, the ConDems have put out a dossier of all their election pledges and how they’ve performed.  It has a lovely cover showing our happy, working multicultural Big Society in all its glory, and at only 122 pages is a snip to read.

If we needed any further stimulus to vote for them next time ‘round, here comes a little reminder of the great things they’ve done to us – sorry, that should be ‘done for us’.  You don’t even need to go further than the first page to see how they’ve succeeded:-

“We will reform the banking system to avoid a repeat of the financial crisis, to promote a competitive economy, to sustain the recovery and to protect and sustain jobs.”

Result!  Job Done!  I think we’ve all noticed how well the recovery is going and just how competitive our economy is.

But mainstream media can be cruel – the BBC website points out an example of a pledge which was not fulfilled.  I’m sure it was probably the only such pledge and that this is just the liberal, left, biased media taking a pot-shot at our Big Society bigwigs, but here it is:

  • Coalition Agreement 2010: “We will replace Air Passenger Duty with a per-flight duty.”
  • Coalition Audit 2013: “We announced in Budget 2011 that we would not introduce a per-plane duty, given concerns over the legality and feasibility of this approach.”

It’s not as if they broke any promises that were important (or more accurately haven’t had a chance to fulfil promises yet, as I’m sure all will be honoured).

U-turn: (Eng. verb) To change direction 180 degrees, particularly in a car (probably a stolen Audi in this part of the world)

Perhaps this term is best illustrated with a few examples:

  • ConDems in U-turn over Bookstart – free book programme for children which was to be axed before outcry from writers and the public
  • ConDems in U-turn over the ‘Cornish Pasty’ tax – a genius scheme to get revenue out of people who want hot food.
  • ConDems in U-turn over plans to scrap a ceiling on donations to charity
  • ConDems in U-turn over secret courts, killing birds of prey, selling off our forests, caravan tax…

It’s almost as if to save money for bankers and defence spending they were trying to squeeze the people at the less rich sector of the Big Society, but I can’t believe that is their intention, can you?

If you want further information, see the Guardian’s list of circa 30 other ConDem U-turns at http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/may/31/coalition-u-turns-full-list .  It should be noted that just because the Government’s done a few U-turns doesn’t mean it’s not going to honour its election pledges.  Eventually.

Third Don Crossing: (Proper compound Eng. noun) an Aberdeen City scheme to build a further bridge over the River Don.

Everyone’s favourite bastion of truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, our own Press and Journal have pointed out that Willie Young seems to have changed his mind.  Over the course of five years.  I wonder what could have caused this amazingly-swift U-turn on his part?

Well, we’re told he promised to prevent the Third Don crossing to be built when he wrote to a constituent back in 2008.

If you read the P&J story, it seems Willie also told said constituent that he couldn’t make any definite promise because he took the Labour whip (Grampian police are said to be investigating this case of whip-stealing).

Old Susannah is unsure whether or not this crossing is a good idea.  However, the previous government of Aberdeen was hell-bent on building on any green space we had in the city centre, or any patch of land they could flog for housing and offices, particularly if they could sell it at bargain-basement rates .

I’m sure they knew just what they were doing, such as when they approved 800 or so new houses at the Haudagain roundabout.  I can’t see any added traffic problems there, can you?

So here we are in 2013, with housing and offices springing up around empty offices and disused brown space.  Traffic is even worse than it was in 2008, and that’s saying something.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the brains (aka Kate Dean) in charge of planning in the previous administration ensured that there would be sufficient road infrastructure to deal with all the new builds or not approve them.  You could also be forgiven for thinking we’d have an affordable, reliable, frequent public transport system by now.  But we don’t.

I don’t have any idea why Young’s changed his position; but the intervening five years’ worth of development could play a tiny factor.

Perhaps Cllr Young should take a page from the ConDems’ book – or more specifically the Coalition Audit Document and not do any further U-turns.

That’s all there is time for, as I’m keen to get back to reading the Coalition’s little report.  You are too, I can tell, so here is a link to it courtesy of the BBC. 

In the meantime, don’t use any swear words, don’t wish ill on anyone, don’t let any of your goods get stolen, or the police will come calling.

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Dec 142012

By Bob Smith.

Amazon, Google an Starbucks
Hiv avoided pyein some tax
Throwe a loophole in the law
Fit’s bin mair than a bittie lax

Multinationals they div employ
Accoontants tae fin sic wyes
Thae chiels are up tae scratch
An in tax laws are richt wise

You an me we pye oor dues
We micht hae a girn an sweir
An fit the tax mannie tells us
Is nae aye sae bliddy clear

It seems its nae agin the law
Fer firms tae use sic ploys
Bit morally it’s jist nae richt
If the law faavour’s “ big boys”

Time fowk pit a stop tae iss
Mak the slippery buggers think
Jist boycott the likes o Starbucks
Fin ye buy yer next coffee drink

Pye yer dues shud be the cry
Yer bunk balance micht tak a hit
Fit wye shud the rest o us suffer
Cos ye employ a tax swerving git

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012

Jul 262012

Aberdeen Voice’s Old Susannah can barely contain her excitement over the Olympics and Tartan Day, and reviews the week’s past local events. By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho!  I guess we’ve all had an exciting week, and with the Olympics upon us and Tartan Day around the corner, you can practically feel the excitement.

I am not sure whether we will need to deploy surface-to-air missiles on top of St Nicholas House to ensure Tartan Day goes without a hitch like they’re doing with the Olympic games (what could go wrong?).  I am not clear as to whether there will be a special ‘Tartan Day’ lane on our main roads for VIPs, either.

But in all seriousness, it should be fun.

There has been so much in the news these last few weeks about morals – people wanting to marry people of the same sex just because they’re in love; people committing moral crimes (like paying in cash for services) and so on; who’s to know what’s moral and what’s not any more?

As well as looking to our community leaders, movie stars and elected officials for guidance through the murky waters of morality, Old Susannah has some advice and of course definitions.

Moral Superiority: (Eng. phrase) – claim of holding a higher set of values and ethics than another person or group (not to be confused with smug, self-righteous, conceited, or small-minded).

Firstly, we are all shocked, angered and saddened by the main news, I’m sure.  Kirsten Stewart, Twilight and Snow White star is not snow-white like the rest of us after all.   Stewart has had a brief encounter with a married film director.

No doubt armies of Twilight fans in thrall to her Twilight co-star, Robert Pattison, will be baying for Stewart to be burned at the stake.  After all, Hollywood is no place for people to have affairs, and a star in a quick fling with a director is without precedent.

I’m sure all of us remember what it was like to be in our late teens and early twenties, and we all remember how responsible we were then, never making any mistakes, never experimenting, and of course always being faithful.

Being as good as we were is just as easy if you’re trying to fit into Hollywood and make your way in life in front of a lens.  Otherwise, there would be one or two examples of child stars who had unhappy, stormy lives.  It is important to remember that what goes on between the people involved is the world’s business, because they are famous.

let’s not forget either that it is OK for a man to cheat, but for a girl to do so is unacceptable

It must be Kristen’s fault, mustn’t it?  Helpless Hollywood director, all on his own, and a worldly twenty-something woman, and all that.  We owe a huge debt of gratitude to US Weekly’s campaigning, morally-superior investigative journalists and the editors who put them on the scent of this crucial news story.

Will Stewart and Pattison get together again?  Will they be happily married and never divorce?  I can barely sleep nights for thinking about it.

Other than that, there is something in the news about a bank scandal, and civilians including children being tortured and killed in a place called Syria.  Will get back to you on that boring stuff some other time, but for now best keep your money in your mattress.  (I have deliberately spared you any lame puns in the ‘Twilight’ vampire vein.  I didn’t think I’d earn your fangs if I wrote anything about what was at stake for Stewart and Pattison, and I didn’t want any hilarious jokes giving anyone a coffin fit.  Bad vampire puns suck).

Now that we’ve established we are all morally superior to Ms Stewart and her director, let’s not forget either that it is OK for a man to cheat, but for a girl to do so is unacceptable.  I hope Ms Stewart will look to other famous role models in Hollywood and Government for clues as how to be as morally acceptable, faithful and upright as they are in the future.

One last observation, courtesy of the Facebook page of George Takei (something popular with the young people I’m told).  In the Harry Potter saga, when the heroine’s boyfriend leaves her, Hermione goes on a quest to save the world.  In the Twilight saga, when the heroine’s boyfriend leaves her, Bella sits in a chair for three months, doing nothing but crying.  Hmm.

Morally Wrong: (Eng phrase) behaviour or opinions which go against prevailing standards.

Hooray!  The Coalition government is going after those who are ‘morally wrong’ – and they should know all about morals, shouldn’t they?

Exchequer Secretary David Gauke has publicly accused homeowners who give workers cash of helping them avoid tax.  Tax avoidance!  NO!  Our tax system is totally fair, and anyone who is doing jobs for cash is always a morally bankrupt criminal. And the government have more than a little experience with tax avoidance.

  The Government practices what it preaches, and no MPs are guilty of any tax evasion, book-fiddling, or expense padding at all

The Revenue has, after a few expensive meals and hospitality events, waived goodbye to tax which was owed to you and I by Vodaphone, to name but one multinational that hasn’t paid what it owed.  These few settlements made by the government to multinationals of a billion here and a few hundred million there can eventually add up to significant amounts, but nothing like the man who wants £50 for painting your hallway.

Rumour has it that even here in the respectable North East of Scotland, one of our very own billionaires changed some of his employment schemes to keep money offshore and out of the taxman’s pocket.  Wood that I could tell you who I was thinking of.

The Government practices what it preaches, and no MPs are guilty of any tax evasion, book-fiddling, or expense padding at all.  The government needs all the money it can get for worthwhile causes like buying more weaponry.  After we’ve taken care of the defence budget, we can throw a few scraps to the poor (but only the ‘undeserving’ poor of course).

Hopefully, we’ve got all the lazy MS, cancer-stricken, paralysed layabouts back into meaningful work (whether paid or not), so we should probably consider cutting back on social welfare programmes.    It might seem that there is one rule for the rich and powerful, and another for the rest of us, but I’m sure this is just illusory.

I admit that there are people who make a career out of avoiding tax who are involved in the building trade; they should be brought to book, and made to behave like MPs, bankers  and company directors.

Once Scotland is independent, it will all be different, I’m sure.   But remember, if you hire someone to paint your front steps or fix your garden, don’t pay in cash.  Try to pay them with a service in kind instead – let’s see how that would work.

Moral High Ground: (Eng. phrase) The position of superiority of those with codes and values above the prevailing standards in society.

Well, thank heavens for the Westboro Baptist Church!  Where would we be without them.  These followers of Christ (who once apparently had something to do with ‘love one another’ and ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’ and other outdated nonsense) are showing us the way.

  These people occupy the moral high ground, because they know what god would have wanted

They nearly came to Aberdeen once to spread the word against immoral behaviour like homosexuality, but they changed their minds.  Old Susannah was so looking forward to greeting them appropriately as well; so were several hundred others.  Perhaps they still will.

These people occupy the moral high ground, because they know what god would have wanted.  They helpfully show up at funerals for servicemen and women who were gay, and create delightful, enlightening events for the mourners, in the true spirit of Christianity of course.

Strangely no mainstream churches seem brave enough to join Westboro on its crusades against gays, blacks, Jewish people and others.  I wonder why.  When I have a chance, I think I’ll ask Westboro about some of its positions; I am starting to wonder if they are a bit racist and homophobic – and I’m not quite able to find the bits in the bible telling me God wants it that way.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little update on what is and isn’t moral, and if you have any questions, just get in touch with Westboro.

Next week:  a romp through Aberdeen’s draft financial accounts – which everyone has the chance to examine until 18 August.

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May 312012

Voice’s Old Susannah comments on current events and enlightens us with definitions of some tricky terms with a locally topical taste. By Suzanne Kelly.

Result!  I am sure we have all been dancing in the streets as our benevolent UK coalition Government has decided NOT to introduce a tax on heated Cornish Pasties!  What a relief!  I feel much better now about the Government writing off millions of pounds in tax owed by Vodaphone (and others).  You can’t say the ConDems didn’t look after us.

And here in Aberdeen, the P&J have launched a fantastic survey proving beyond any doubt that people still want the web at all costs (well, £140 million at a minimum).

We were blitzed by hugely expensive print and radio advertising saying the web will improve our lives, make us rich, and give us thousands of permanent jobs.

We were asked to pity poor Tom Smith (of ACSEF, City Gardens Trust, etc. etc.) who the press said had been the victim of harassment and illegal spying in the run-up to the referendum.  We were not allowed to examine the voting records for evidence of potential fraud (even after people joked/boasted about selling votes) – but the referendum should be obeyed at all costs.

We don’t have the actual visuals showing what the web will look like when the ramps’ security features are up – but don’t let that worry you.  We don’t have either a business plan, or architectural plans, and we can’t afford it – but let’s just go ahead anyway, as that will make Sir Ian happy.

Of course Labour always said they did not want a referendum and they pointed out it is not legally binding.  Labour also said that if elected they would scrap the CGP – and miraculously they got elected.

Old Susannah would like to end any ambiguity regarding issues on which public opinion matters:

Public opinion does not matter on: Loirston Loch, cuts to services for the elderly or specially abled, school closures, policing, street cleaning, community centre management, programmes for young people; Tullos Hill and its deer; common good land; Redmoss green spaces; grounds of Cove Bay FC; Don Crossings and Union Terrace Gardens improvement.

Public opinion matters on:  Putting a granite web over Union Terrace Gardens and chopping down its trees

I hope that helps.

Aside from Poor Mr Milne having problems with his fans revolting and Portlethen trash accumulation, the sun shone, and people in their hundreds flocked to the FUN Beach, in order to leave litter, barbeque grilles, paddling pools and rubbish in the sand.

Old Susannah asked a guy to dispose of his empty redbull can the other day; all I can say is at least he didn’t curse me out and just ignored me instead.  Here’s to the people who join the organised beach cleans, and to the people who keep places like Torrymelinos clean on their own.

Now that we’re back to our usual weather, it’s time to get on with a look at Aberdeen City Council’s internet pages and its A-Z list of services.  Visiting the Aberdeen City Council website and trying to find a service?  You can easily look up any information you want alphabetically.

Old Susannah takes a romp through the city’s website listings and brings you highlights :-

A is for ‘3Rs’  – (NB: I make ‘3’ starting with a ‘T’. But let’s not split hairs). This great 3R scheme sees the city doing yet more PPI-type deals in which private companies perform a service or build something (like a school) and lease it back to the City for massive sums of money.  It’s as if I sold you my flat for a fraction of its value, paid you to fix it up for me, and then paid you to rent it back to me for 10 times its value.  Bargain!

Most of the rest of the UK has moved away from this disastrous concept (invented in part by our dear ex-Treasurer, ex-PM Gordon Brown in order to keep debts off the books and make the financial picture look rosy).  But here in the Deen, we’re still embracing it, with our ex-Lord Provost seemingly quite proud of his services to the 3Rs (3Rs stands for Readin’ Ritin’ and ‘Rhithmatic – to use the spelling taught in the new PPI outsourced schools).

B is for Bats – Normally you might expect a city council proud of its environment to tell you that bats are a unique and endangered species it is proud to have within its city limits, and that bats are protected by EU as well as national laws.  But the A-Z tells you nothing of the kind.  It tells you about pest control, and how much the city wants for getting rid of all sorts of critters:-

  • Insects £56 + VAT
  • Rodents [Domestic] £78.50 + VAT per course of treatment
  • Rodents [Commercial] £56 + VAT per visit
  • Bed bugs £74.50 + VAT per visit.

I suppose the difference between domestic and commercial rodents are whether or not they have ACSEF membership.

Of all the city’s money-making, nickel-and dime schemes, this one seems to be both expensive and extensively recommended, as you will see.

Aberdeen seems happy enough to scare and scatter bats in Union Terrace Gardens by allowing HMT to throw massive fireworks displays at Hogmanay.  (What was wrong with the beach as a venue one wonders?)  Doubtless the rangers were consulted and saw nothing wrong with lighting fireworks over UTG.

Then again they are happy to plunk a 21,000 seat stadium in an SAC at Loirston, and happily arranged for the eradication of our pesky deer.  So what if bats, the peregrines,now ‘discouraged’ from their usual roost at Triple Kirks by Mr Milne, and other animals living in the park were exposed to fireworks?

We might be about the only town centre with this mix of animals anywhere in Europe, but we’ve got webs and offices to build, so let’s use subtle tactics like fireworks to get rid of our annoying wildlife. Again, using any of the tons of empty offices buildings isn’t nearly as important as ensuring construction companies can make lots of dosh.  So – mind the bedbugs.

Sadly, the council omitted to say how much it charges to kill your deer.

C is for Civic Receptions – like the one we just held for the outgoing Provost.  I never did get my invitation to this £4,000 tradition, which could not possibly have been cut back on.  Then again, me and another independent candidate never got our passes for the vote count.

C is also for Cat – the link on the City’s website will for some strange reason take you back to the page where you can get pest control to get rid of your rodents.  Hopefully our more bloodthirstier council personnel haven’t started exterminating cats just yet.  (I can’t wait to get to ‘R’ to see if there is a ‘rats’ listing – but it looks so far like it is politically correct to say ‘rodent’, not ‘rat’).  Note ‘C’ is also for ‘complaint’ – but doubtless no one needs to complain to the city about anything.

D is for Debt Counselling – Old Susannah is not sure she’d take financial advice from a city which hadn’t known it was over £50,000,000 in debt some years back, which had written off £11 million in bad debts in the recent past, and was cutting back on essentials but buying portraits and sending Lord Provosts off to Japan.

However, if you are a football club owner and builder who needs to know how to stop losing money when your team plays or needs help shifting ‘luxury’ flats – do feel free to use this service.  D is also for ‘dog’ and ‘dog fouling’ – at least the ‘dog’ link didn’t take me to the pest control site again.  As to dog fouling – as I stay in Torry, I really have no idea what this means.

E is for Earwig – yes you guessed it – which takes you back to the vermin control pricelist.  Quite frankly, I would probably look in the yellow pages before I went to the City’s site for info on earwigs.  Speaking of earwigging, Old Susannah is hearing some very interesting stories emerging from LibDem HQ.  Can the Liberals lose any more members?  Maybe it can.

E is also for Environment – Were you expecting info on air pollution, the polluted burn at East Tullos (more on that next week), EU environmental projects and protection placed on animals?  Well, the link for ‘environment’ takes you to:

And what does it say about conservation areas?  “Conservation areas are designated by the planning authority as being areas of special architectural or historical interest.” – so it’s only the build environment we seem to be concerned with at the council.  That would explain quite a lot.

F is for Freedom of Information – yes, the council are proud to explain what your rights are, and what the law says.  I cannot tell you how swiftly, accurately, completely and transparently all of my FOI requests have been answered.  But do watch this space.  I am expecting some more info soon – hopefully sooner than my request about property sold to Milne-related companies and contracts these companies also won from the city.

That only took a  year and the Information Commissioner’s involvement.  Sadly, the FOI team at the city were found to be in the wrong on five different counts on that one.  Yes, F is also for five.  F is also for ‘feral cats’.  Yes, you have guessed correctly – the council’s website  for ‘feral cats’ takes you back to the pest & vermin control site.

There must be an awful lot of killing planned for this town.  Yes, F is also for fleas, flies and foxes – all of course linking to the vermin control page.

G is for ‘Green Space Audit – believe it or not, green spaces are open, usually green (! really!) spaces  in and around city centres.  We have a strategy.  One which is supposed to …

“…  provide attractive and appealing places throughout the city, particularly in those areas identified by the open space audit as low in quality. However within a context of serious financial constraint, it promotes innovative and radical ways of maintaining and managing these open spaces.”

Presumably within our serious financial constraint to manage our green heritage there is a fair amount of room for turning meadows into barren rocky hills,but no doubt Tullos will be tree-covered soon, even if it is a few months since the gorse was largely destroyed, shooting deer (and lots of other things too by the sounds of it), and especially borrowing 90 million pounds to put a granite web over a valley, and turn its earth into a stadium, with seating from the destruction of ancient trees.  Yes, that’s quite a strategy.

Well, that’s enough alphabet for now.  I’m going to go celebrate with a Cornish pasty, heated as hot as I can make it.  Oh, and a new BrewDog prototype beer:  American Saison.  This delicious offering is made from leaves and berries (like the Cair No Mohr wines I adore).

Next week:  more of the city’s website alphabet – and some head-scratching over the city’s wiping £26 million of debt off for the AECC.  Hmmm.

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