Dec 162016
 

By Anne Foy.

Aberdeen police have issued an appeal to the public to disclose any information they may have regarding the drugs trade in the city.

This follows an interesting year for drugs in Aberdeen, with high-profile busts combining with a general rise in drug use to form a chequered pattern for the police drugs squads.

At a meeting with Torry Community Council, Police Scotland Sergeant Garry Garrow warned of a marked increase in drug dealing in the area, and issued an appeal for Torry residents to come forward with any information they have on drug use or drug dealing within Aberdeen (in general) and Torry (in particular) [1].

The police describe this as “not a high priority issue”, but note nonetheless that Aberdeen’s drug problems are on the rise – speaking of a potential trafficking link with Liverpool.

Aberdeen Committed To Tackling Drugs:

This has been an interesting year for those working with drugs issues in Aberdeen. On the one hand, as mentioned above, we’ve seen a steady rise in drug dealing and the antisocial behaviour associated with it. On the other, measures designed to tackle the causes of drug use and provide solid support [2] to those trying to get clean have responded magnificently to the challenge.

A project within Aberdeen Sheriff Court, which aims to identify the reasons behind an offender’s drug use and eliminate them had its first anniversary last month, and has been hailed as ‘pioneering’ [3]. The project will be expanded next year, and already has several new cases on its books. Law enforcement has been similarly hot on the issue, with hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of drugs seized in Aberdeen raids over the last few years.

However, authorities are concerned that a strong and coherent trafficking ring are at work, pumping drugs into the city through insidious routes, possibly stemming from Liverpool or thereabouts. Getting more information on drug-related activity seen by the public could help the police to shut down these routes – hence the appeal.

Aberdeen Drug Busts:

Aberdeen’s law enforcement services have a strong track record in beating drug problems. In 2016 alone, they seized hundreds of thousands of pounds [4] worth of Class A drugs in a series of raids, building upon the general success of Operation Maple (Aberdeen Police’s anti-drugs operation) in the past [5].

They also helped to bring to fruition the biggest drugs bust ever to take place in British history.

Back in April last year, authorities from Aberdeen helped to bring a vessel in the North Sea suspected of carrying drugs into Aberdeen harbour. Upon a deep and intense search of the vessel, she was found to be transporting £500 million worth of cocaine [6] – roughly the same amount in a single bust that is found in an average year’s worth of drug seizures. Impressive stuff.

Liverpool – Aberdeen Drugs Route:

However, the scale and expense of the drugs recovered in the raids does tend to indicate that there is a sustained effort to get drugs into Aberdeen, and a reasonably steady, reasonably heavy flow running down the trafficking routes. Past successes perhaps indicates that relevant information may well lead to a successful raid, which could make a meaningful difference to the problem.

It is thought that drugs may be coming into the city on a route from Liverpool. Merseyside currently has a drug-related crime rate higher than anywhere else in the UK, a reasonably recent development (crime rates had, until about 2014, been falling in Merseyside). Anyone who knows anything about this, or who has any kind of information regarding drug dealing in Aberdeen or the surrounding area, is asked to contact the police.

All information will be treated with discretion, and kept in the utmost confidence.

Sources:

[1] Evening Express, “Police Issue Appeal To Crack Down On Drug Dealing After Rise In Aberdeen Community” , Nov 2016

[2] Detox.net, “Withdrawal: Standing By Them Through It All”, Jul 2016

[3] Scottish Legal News, “Justice Secretary visits Aberdeen problem solving court”, Dec 2016

[4] BBC News, “Seven charged over £100,000 of drugs in Aberdeen”, Apr 2016

[5] Police Scotland, “Operation Maple: £2m worth of drugs seized, Aberdeen”, Apr 2014

[6] Aileen Clarke, Christopher Sleight, “How the UK’s biggest drugs bust was made”, BBC News, Jul 2016

Images courtesy of Pixabay. Copyright owner: Sammisreachers – used under creative commons licence. 

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Oct 152016
 

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

DictionaryGreetings belatedly; sorry for the late-running of this service; I’ve been busy. For one thing – Result! TV Smith played Krakatoa on 8 October with Fred Wilkinson opening. Fred, or ‘Wilkinson’ as beloved LibDem Aileen HoMalone refers to him, played a lovely song about fashion called The Ghosts of Cable Street. I’m not really sure what it was about, but I think it had to do cable-knit jumpers and something about black shirts not being very popular at one time.

Fashions do have a way of coming around again, and I think there are more than a few blackshirt-lovers out there right now.

Smith played some old-fashioned, quaint ‘protest music’ – although heaven knows, we really have nothing to protest about, except maybe all those foreigners Amber Herd wanted named and shamed for taking British Jobs.

I wonder why she changed her mind? Could there be any link between the pound plunging to a new 31 year low, Brexit, and Amber’s anti-foreigner stance? I doubt it.

I am guilty of not being born in the UK. I am taking the unpaid job of some poor satirical British columnist who otherwise could be labouring for free. Yes, naming and shaming the companies that hire people from other countries seemed like the way forward. But I digress. Smith sang about modern poverty (no doubt caused by foreigners), state surveillance, and other such lefty concerns. Just as well we’ve nothing to protest about here in the Deen.

I understand Torry residents are planning a parade to celebrate all the jobs creation coming our way. We’re getting an incinerator – sorry – waste to energy plant! Result!

We’re going to get rid of the under-used Bay of Nigg so that cruise ships filled with rich visitors can stop by for a bet at Ladbroke’s and some Spar shopping. Result! Of course we’ll have to make a few sacrifices for creating these jobs.

A few protected wildlife species in the Bay, clean air (which we enjoy so greatly now thanks to the sewerage plant) and the wishes of local people – many of whom are foreign! – should not stand in the way of making the Harbour Board richer or getting a good old-fashioned British firm busy burning rubbish next to the school in Tullos. While the house prices here will plummet, a clear message is sent: Scotland is Open For Business.

We are open to taking American fracked gas; a great tanker sailed to Scotland filled with fracked gas, while some Americans in Pennsylvania begged Scotland not to take it.

If it will make us money, at least the considerable pollution will be happening far away – foreigners do have their uses. (The energy efficiency of creating fuel in the US leaving pollution in its wake and shipping resultant gas to Scotland is a little hard for me to understand, especially with gas here having been at considerably low prices for years. Still, if there’s money to be made, we can’t be seen to be closed can we?)

We’re also open for business at Marischal Square, where in keeping with the look of the city, Granite will be the main cladding material. That The Granite City is importing granite from China, where there are a few equal pay and workers’ rights issues is not an issue. We are Open For Business. The council says it’s not their business where the granite comes from – a huge comfort to the veritable slave labour that will be quarrying it.

John Forbes of Bon Accord Granite said:

“What people don’t understand is we haven’t built a major building out of north-east granite for the last 30 years, at least. It’s down to price. If I don’t supply Chinese granite, others will.” 

Thanks John for helping the project’s carbon footprint, Chinese workers’ rights, the government’s push to use UK labour forces – all while making a tidy profit. Nice one.

I get it – the position seems to be ‘if I don’t exploit unfair labour practices in China to supply material cheaply, someone else will’. Good code of ethics there then. So – foreigners = good source of labour to exploit as cheaply as possible – as long as the blighters don’t actually come to Old Blighty.

When the much-loved Marischal Square building is clad in Chinese granite, the much-loved Press & Journal is set to take a year’s free rent to grace us with its presence.

In order to figure out how this equates to being ‘Open for Business’ as opposed to, shall we say, giving the paper a bone so that it won’t unleash its investigative new hounds (if any left) onto juicy city council stories (not that there are any unless you count the cremation scandal, the Torry carve-up, Marischal Square..), Old Susannah lodged a freedom of information request.

We do know the key players at the Town House in this genius free rent scheme are the Head of Finance, Head of Land and Property Assets, Asset Management Manager. The city refuses to comment on these ‘commercial negotiations’ because:

“Release of the information at this stage would influence the negotiating position of parties wishing to occupy space in the development, to the obvious detriment of the Council’s commercial interests.

“Furthermore, disclosure of the requested information at this stage is likely to weaken ACC’s position in a competitive environment by revealing sensitive information of potential usefulness to competitors. ACC must maintain good working relationships with reputable companies to enable it to obtain value for money and so releasing commercially sensitive information could potentially damage ACC’s reputation with such third parties, dissuading the third parties from engaging with ACC.”

“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.” 

So if I understand correctly, the competition would get wind of us giving a years’ rent free in a new building to the press (normally expected to investigate just this kind of eventuality in some cities anyway), and they would give a better deal, or other people would want free rent like the P&J too.

Perhaps we should pay the P&J to grace the city centre, and breathing new life into the beating heart of the civic centre in a vibrant and dynamic manner.

The phrase ‘Value for Money’ worked its way into the FOI response. Older readers might remember when the previous administration sold property owned by the taxpayer for millions of pounds less than market value, and was investigated by Audit Scotland (the report was meant to be investigated by the police – but they didn’t do anything. When I asked for an update, it was explained the paperwork could not be found, and as it was only a few million pounds’ worth of potential fraud, it wasn’t really a big deal).

We also gifted Stewart Milne lots of land, at the same time he won a few sweet contracts totalling £10 million – he’d underbid the competition – possibly a feat made a bit easier by having a nice parcel of land as a handy asset. But again – I digress. Just as well though that the taxpayer isn’t propping up a hugely biased, outmoded pseudo-newspaper.

Not that there are any juicy city council stories of course, but in light of how the city’s officers are involved in a few slightly questionable activities, I set out to take a look at the register of officers’ interests. I was to meet someone from Legal and democratic services to take a look at the register. A few hours before the meeting, the legal team from the city decided that a FOI request was required.

Now in theory FOI requests should not have to be made to see information that is held – but they were apparently fearful that there might be ‘personal data’ in the register.

This register should be parallel to the register held on all the councillor’s interests and hospitality – which you can view right now on the website. It’s almost as if the officers had more power and influence than coucillors but surely not. The FOI service complains from time to time that it has too many requests to handle (which might be why it is late with a huge portion of responses).

If the other departments had this ‘transparency’ we’ve heard so much about, the FOI team wouldn’t have to suffer so greatly doing its job.

Democratic services? Transparency? Freedom of Information? Clearly not as important as being open for business. More on this soon.

While waiting for any of this information to ever get to me, liquid refreshment at BrewDog helps sustain me and pass the time. Old Dog (as I now call the Gallowgate bar, the first ever BrewDog bar) has been doing some wildly popular craft courses and a once-monthly fun event, Drink and Draw.

I have learned so very much from BrewDog. Did you know that it’s Robert Plant’s son Logan is behind the remarkable Beavertown Brewery? I hadn’t any idea. One of my favourite non-BD libations is Beavertown’s flavour packed Gamma Ray (American Pale Ale). And yes, I’m one of the 10,000 BrewDog shareholders, and still proud of it.

Finally, Anthony Baxter is making another film about ladies’ man Trump, although I can’t think of any recent news developments these past 12 months that would warrant any such documentary. However, the details are here for those who would like to chip in. Expected Aberdeen release 3 November at the Belmont. (And by way of disclosure, there is every chance I’ll be in it).

At this rate there won’t be time for definitions, so with no further hesitation, here are some career-related definitions for the wonderful people who bring so much to Aberdeen.

Spokeswoman: (Modern English noun) a female who undertakes public relations duties.

Sarah Malone has been enjoying a Trump salary these many years; this and husband Damian’s salary will no doubt be helping the Jimmy Choo purchase fund.

In order to get a paid gig dealing with the media as a spokeswoman for a multinational property developer, aspiring spokespersons would have to have style, flair, the ability to think quickly, analyse information and respond swiftly with tact and intelligence. This no doubt is why I toil for free. As a recent example illustrating the calibre of response such a professional spokeswoman would be expected to come up with, I offer the following recently issued by Sarah Malone-Bates, aka from now as Sarah Baloney:

“We have not seen the so-called film and have no interest in it.

“Anthony Baxter is not a credible journalist or filmmaker. He has no interest in the facts or the people of north east Scotland.

“He has propagated lies and nonsense about the company for years in an attempt to make a name for himself off the back of Trump.

“We operate a highly acclaimed, five-star golf resort and enjoy a great relationship with the local community and all of our neighbours with the exception of a few who have fought the project since its inception.”

Old Susannah can’t – however hard I try – write like this. For instance, if I had to use the compound-adjective ‘so-called’, I might have said ‘so-called journalist’. That would have opened up a debate on whether or not award-winning, acclaimed journalist Baxter is credible or not. Obviously we trust a Trump spokesperson’s word for what is and isn’t credible. However, ‘so-called film’ opens up the debate as to whether or not the film is a … film. I think even I could win that battle of wits with Sarah.

She is calling Baxter a liar – a daring PR move which of course could have legal consequences should Baxter want to sue Trump. I hope she’ll share the specific list of these lies with us; I promise I’ll ask for it.

As to that ‘great relationship with the local community’ – well, obviously that’s as true as anything else this professional, well-paid spokesperson said. Just because protestors raise Mexican flags, 580,000 people sign a petition against her boss coming here, the local university rescinded his honorary degree and he’s no longer a global Scot is no reason to think Mr Drumpf is in any way unpopular. And no doubt the relationship with this community is unshakeable…

Star: (modern English term) someone of celebrity status, admired and well-known.

Donald Trump is a star. How do I know? He said so in a conversation about the perks of stardom.

To attain star status, having superior genes is important; modestly Drumpf admits what we already know – that he has superior genes. Somewhere, in some obscure history lesson, I almost remember some other political figure being interested in genetic superiority. Perhaps it’s fashionable to talk about this again?

Perks of stardom include ‘just start kissing’ beautiful women ‘doing anything (to women)’ and ‘grabbing them by the pussy’. Oh those lucky, beautiful young women. Something in the nature of 1 in 5 American women can expect to be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

And with that, I find the last satirical inclinations leaving me, and so I will sign off. Let’s hope nothing will dent that community appreciation Drumpf enjoys here in our little corner of Scotland.

Next week – more on other FOI requests, a look at the rosy future of Torry – and a DIY Investigating kit

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Jul 082016
 

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

DictionaryHurrah! Result! We’re to leave Europe. Or maybe not – no one knows for certain what Scotland’s future looks like at this point, but isn’t it fun and a bit exciting?
And we might get either Michael Gove or Teresa May as the new PM! The Brexiteers Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson as so magnanimous in victory that they’ve scarpered.

You might compare their running away from the result they pushed for to insects running to hide when you turn over a stone, but I know that they’re just getting ready for some further selfless acts of heroism.

Another hero who shuns the limelight is former PM Tony Blair. With the Chilcot report released this week, you’d expect Tony to take the credit for the Iraq war. After all, he saved us from those Weapons of Mass Destruction. Thanks TB.

Looking at this week’s news, here are a few little facts you might enjoy:

When the dust settles a bit on Brexit, Old Susannah will revert with more facts – that’s if anyone’s saying anything factual at all. While Scotland voted to stay, the Brexiteers said that the EU was costing us £350 million a week which could be better spent on the NHS. Clearly that in no way meant that any money saved would be spent on the NHS, which of course is in fine shape anyway.

In far more important news, it was the Portsoy Traditional Boat Festival last weekend, and the weather was largely fine. The Black Isle Brewery was on hand, as was Dyce’s new brewer, Fierce. They have some delicious gear, I bought a lovely wheat beer and a coffee and vanilla concoction. In the meantime BrewDog’s launched a few Jackhammer Variants; Jackhammer being my favourite brew with off-the-scale bitterness.

Blackhammer is my favourite; I hope to see it around for a long, long time. BrewDog is also doing its bit for up-and-coming music and comedy talent; comedy troupe Wildly Unprepared have been doing their improve thing on Thursday nights in Underdog (the venue beneath BrewDog Castlegate). Hope to see you there.

One person though has managed to end years of The Malt Mill’s and Downstairs’ nurturing of fledgling bands. Someone moved to a flat near to the venue – a venue with ‘LIVE MUSIC’ in giant letters proclaiming that the Malt Mill, which looked like a bar with live music to the rest of us – and you’d never guess it – there was live music going on at night!

If only there had been some clue that a flat on a busy commercial road close to a long-running music venue and bar might not be quiet at night! Now Old Susannah understands that people need to play music for whatever reason, and I suppose there should be some allowance in society for that kind of thing in small doses.

It was always going to be the event of the year

Perhaps the venue should have just spent £100,000 from their petty cash and soundproofed the place. After all, if you put on live bands, that means you’re rolling in money.

Hopefully we’ll get something useful in place of The Malt Mill – like a mobile phone shop or Estate Agent. And from now on, let’s all be very, very quiet when we are out on the streets late at night.

Perhaps the hero who forced this closure could let us know when it’s convenient for the rest of us to make any noise on Holburn? I’d absolutely love to hear from you. My words of congratulations for your fighting for your individual right to quiet (rather than using ear plugs, moving, or just getting used to it) and successfully closing down a place for the rest of us to hear new bands are ready any time you want to hear them. I salute you.

Finally, we will all remember where we were when celebrity misogynist Donald J Trump flew into Menie this past week. It was always going to be glamorous with Sarah Malone in attendance. It was always going to be the event of the year with the Press & Journal present. But when Rupert Murdoch AND Jerry Hall flew in as well – what can Old Susannah say? Words cannot convey how exciting this was; it was like being a part of history in the making.

How unfortunate then that a few spoilsports decided – I can’t imagine why – to hang up Mexican Flags near the course. It’s bad enough these people live close to the course in houses The Donald finds unattractive, but to add to the visual pollution – well, that was unforgiveable.

Perhaps not as unforgiveable as Trump’s people: cutting off residents’ water and electricity supplies, calling the police to arrest lawbiding journalists, blocking access for the disabled at various points on the estate, threatening a grandmother with eviction, stopping Michael Forbes from salmon fishing, or threatening to use compulsory purchase orders to steal homes – but it’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

(NB – the residents decided not to stage a personal protest, but to just have the flags reminding the world of Trump’s bigotry towards Mexico and everyone who isn’t a white male billionaire. The massive amounts of news cover the flag protest generated in advance of the visit was remarkable. The brief, chaotic, rambling words of Trump to a few score of journos just didn’t cut it. With all of her professional qualifications i.e. being a former beauty queen, the polished, finely-tuned press call on the day was what I expected.).

But at this rate there won’t be any definitions, and I very much want to get back to that part of this column. By the way, this column will finish with No. 200. That will be quite enough for this format, but it doesn’t mean that I’ll take my eyes off The Granite City. Anyway, a few words – about trees and consultations in Aberdeen.

Consultation: (English noun) An exercise in which various experts and/or stakeholders are asked for their opinions and facts on a particular subject.

Peterculter Tree Cull consultation: (Aberdonian noun) An exercise in which various experts and/or stakeholders are asked for their opinions and facts on a particular subject, and the majority of people involved don’t get a look in. and facts are overlooked.

DSCN1516Secondly, the trees were old, and we’ve got enough old stuff around here anyway.

Then there was the fact that the trees were cutting down the amount of sunshine reaching one or two people in adjacent housing.

I for one know that if the sun’s not streaming in my Scottish windows 24/7 365/365, it can only mean the trees (not clouds, storms, snow, hailstones) are blocking the light.

Of course, some of the more intrepid people actually go outside when it’s sunny – but you can hardly do that if you’re living somewhere as dangerous as Peterculter.

So the city got back some responses from people who hated the trees, and cut them down.

Some councillors were very quick to defend this action too. Some councillors said that the trees were diseased and posed a hazard. That must have been a hell of a tree disease. On the one hand, it must have come up very quickly – or surely the city would have taken action before now.

On the other hand, it’s a pretty interesting kind of tree disease when instead of getting rid of the trees (or heaven forbid trying to treat it), you can decide what to do about the trees not by saying their diseased and cutting them, but by asking residents what they want done with the trees.

DSCN1513

One person at least tried unsuccessfully to get through to the relevant people at the city, but as we know, the city responds instantly to any and all queries.

Another funny thing is the city’s existing tree management policy. It seems to say that if it owns trees that are not close to a dwelling, they aren’t going to cut them down.

It’s not that I’m cynical, but I’d love to find out what the disease was that was so bad the trees had to come down but not bad enough that the residents’ opinions could have stopped it. For more info, see here.

Some people claim their responses to the consultation were unanswered. Would the city ever do that?

Tree for Every Citizen scheme: (Aberdonian noun) An exercise in which various experts and/or stakeholders are asked for their opinions only if they are from the SNH or stand to make lots of £££ from killing deer on the hill, or wear shoulder pads (Aileen ‘Ho’Malone), in which consultation existing plans to kill deer are deliberately left out, stopping the public from taking much interest, so their opinions can be ‘managed’ in the words of the SNH. 

No one objected to the proposal – until it was too late. Funny that they didn’t announce the cull when they mentioned the other operational details (rabbit fences).

Even funnier; they refused to listen to free advice from experts on how to have trees and deer. And now we have no deer and no trees. We do have a consultant who’s at least £100,000 better off. And ranger Ian Tallboys got an award from Princess Anne. Result!

The award-winning, manicured Tullos Hill forest will provide a cost-neutral lovely recreation area for city residents. Only that it’s cost a packet, cost the lives of 38 deer (give or take – the city’s record-keeping is so bad we don’t know), and the trees are in such poor shape we’ve been warned that we might have to give the government its grant money back.

That would be nothing new, the previous attempt to plant trees on this former garbage tip with very poor soil didn’t work, either – I wonder why – and cost us £43,800.

Sometimes there is no need to bother even with a token consultation, as the people of Bedford Road can tell you. If they didn’t read page 47 of the Evening Express, read community council notes and city papers – and magically deduce that a ‘bus gate’ meant they would not be allowed to drive on their street again, then it’s their tough luck.

No one thought it necessary to write to them to ask for opinions; although funnily enough, the Peterculter residents were written to about cutting down the trees (apparently 2 people said to cut them – and that was good enough for ACC).

You don’t have to consult the public over minor details like the Marischal Square project either. Just tell them an iconic, smart, forward looking building will breath new life, etc. etc. into the area, but the architects will respect the importance of Provost Skene’s house: then hope they won’t notice when the reality is nothing like the original promise.

In fact, the reality is so much better! We can barely see the provost’s house now, and I hear we might get a hamburger joint. AND – the Press & Journal are going to move in! The best loved, most cutting edge newspaper in the best-loved, most cutting edge building! Result! as they say.

Next week: Blair, Brexit, Boris

PS – An observation

I was walking through Torry one early evening, past where a small green space off Victoria Road has a small but pretty collection of flowers. A couple were there, possibly Eastern European. We said hello as I passed. They had a little girl. She was smiling from ear to ear, pointing at the flowers, and jumping up and down.

Completely devoid of any prejudice, mindless hatred, greed, or ill-will, she was just delighted to be with two obviously adoring parents, looking at beautiful flowers.

I wondered whether it was too much to ask that we stop hurting our kids by pouring our prejudices and poisons into them. Will this girl be one of the 5 who will eventually be sexually assaulted? Will she encounter kids at school who are mean to her – because their parents taught them to hate people who are ‘foreign’ or ‘different’?

Will she be encouraged to study whatever she wants to study – science, art, languages, history – or will the system channel her into ‘girlish’ activities or will well-meaning people make her study things which lead to well-paying jobs while forsaking arts and philosophy? If she were a Muslim/black/Native American/Asian child, what kinds of barriers, doors and hatred would she be experiencing before long.

I wondered, is it too much to ask that with all the problems we’ve left for the next generation that we can at the very least manage not to fill these little people with hatred and just be nice to them instead? The answer, sadly, is that it probably will be too much to ask. I hope she remembers how happy, free and innocent she was that night. I wish she could live like that always – if she and her peers could, then there’s a chance we could have another world and a far better one.

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Dec 172015
 

By The Battle for the Bay of Nigg Committee

A group of dedicated volunteers have been out and about in Torry for the past few days delivering leaflets about the proposed Bay of Nigg development. We want to ensure that everyone in the area is aware of the impact that this project could have on their everyday lives. We hope to deliver leaflets to every house in Torry in the coming days.

If we, as a group of ordinary folk with limited resources can do this to get our message out to the local community, why hasn’t the harbour board done the same?

The Bay of Nigg project is estimated to cost £320 million – surely some of that huge amount of money could have funded a leaflet drop to fully inform our local community of this major infrastructure project that is deemed to be of national importance?

For all those outwith the Torry area, here is our leaflet for you to view.

Leaflet scan 3

The Battle for the Bay of Nigg Committee is a group of Torry residents trying to save our Bay from this disproportionate development. We have no specialised knowledge or qualifications. We are ordinary citizens trying to make our voices heard by Aberdeen Harbour Board, Marine Scotland, Transport Scotland, Aberdeen City Council and the Scottish Government.

Our Facebook pages have already attracted a following of almost 700 people, predominantly residents of Torry. For further information, please contact us at bay.of.nigg@gmail.com

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Dec 112015
 

Bay of Nigg Mark MairThe Battle for the Bay of Nigg Committee have issued the following statement.

We would like to respond to the following paragraph from Page 46 in Aberdeen Harbour Board’s Pre Application Consultation Report (as submitted with their application to Marine Scotland):

“It is also clear that there is a small but reasonably well organised campaign who oppose the AHEP in principle. This campaign is relatively recent, having been silent during the many years of previous engagement.”

We presume that the “reasonably well organised campaign” refers to us, the Battle for the Bay of Nigg Committee. We were silent as the true scale and nature of this development was not fully apparent to us until the summer of 2015.

The widely-circulated illustrations of the harbour development are unrealistic according not only to ourselves but also to Aberdeen City Council planning officials (see recent article in Aberdeen Evening Express). Many members of the Bay of Nigg Group have attended the public consultation events, such as harbour board presentations at Community Council meetings, but there was a noticeable lack of detail in the plans which appeared rather fluid and “high level”.

For example at the Torry Community Council meeting in August 2015, when the Harbour Board was present, it seemed to surprise many Community Councillors that Greyhope Road was to be closed (temporarily for 18 months) during construction. We did not have ready access to the full facts and figures of this development until early November 2015 when the statutory 42-day consultation window opened.

Only then was the full Environmental Impact Assessment and planning documentation released to the public and we realised the extent of the harbour board’s plans.

The harbour board were invited to a debate on SHMU FM Current Affairs Show on 4 December, but declined, sending a brief statement instead. At the October 2015 Torry Community Council meeting, it was recommended by the Chair that a public meeting be held so that a full debate on the development could be discussed in depth, and the harbour board appeared to agree with this at first, however they have now decided to withdraw.

All we want is for the people of Torry to be fully informed of the scale and impact of this proposal so that they can make an educated choice. Surely for a development valued at £320 million that’s not too much to ask?

The Battle for the Bay of Nigg Committee is a group of Torry residents trying to save our Bay from this disproportionate development. We have no specialised knowledge or qualifications.

We are ordinary citizens trying to make our voices heard by Aberdeen Harbour Board, Marine Scotland, Transport Scotland, Aberdeen City Council and the Scottish Government. Our Facebook pages have already attracted a following of almost 700 people, predominantly residents of Torry. For further information, please contact us at bay.of.nigg@gmail.com

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Dec 032015
 

Bay of Nigg Mark MairWith thanks to The Battle for the Bay of Nigg Committee. 

As newcomers to the planning system, we are surprised at the lack of meaningful public consultation required for major infrastructure projects of national importance.

We have been advised that as the new harbour proposed for the Bay of Nigg appeared in the National Planning Framework (NPF), the community will have an uphill battle to stop it – even though the planning application hadn’t even been submitted at that point.

We would like to know what public consultation is required before projects are accepted into the NPF as no locals we know of were involved.

Also, for a £320 million project, why are the required methods of public engagement so dated/limited – a few newspaper adverts, occasional mention on local commercial radio, but no use of social media or even a local leaflet drop. The developers have not yet arranged a public meeting (as suggested by us) so that the risks, benefits and impacts could at least be fully debated, now that we finally have access to all the planning submissions and the full detail of the development.

In our opinion, the standard of consultation has been poor – for example asking people to comment on a project when they do not have facts to hand or do not have access to an unbiased, trustworthy source that they can rely on.

The Environmental Impact Assessment alone consists of 4 volumes and weighs 25kg. Yet locals are expected to read this and make informed comments within 42 days without any support from independent experts (the consultation also coincides with the run up to Christmas – very poor public engagement practice).

To us, something with this process feels broken – however we hope that there is a robust solution so the local community feels truly involved with this major planning decision that will have a permanent impact on all our lives rather than a consultation being viewed as a ‘tick box’ exercise.

We feel that public engagement in all planning processes should be in the true spirit of the recently-passed Community Empowerment Act.

More Info: The Battle for the Bay of Nigg Committee is a group of Torry residents trying to save our Bay from this disproportionate development. We have no specialised knowledge or qualifications. We are ordinary citizens trying to make our voices heard by Aberdeen Harbour Board, Marine Scotland, Transport Scotland, Aberdeen City Council and the Scottish Government.

Our Facebook pages have already attracted a following of almost 700 people, predominantly residents of Torry. For further information, please contact us at bay.of.nigg@gmail.com

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Nov 122015
 
A young musician plays an instrument made from recycled garbage, in Landfill Harmonic.

A young musician plays an instrument made from recycled garbage, in Landfill Harmonic.

With thanks to Barbara Holligan.

Take One Action! will open its first ever Aberdeen Film Festival on Fri 13 November with an exclusive screening of Landfill Harmonic, the inspiring story of a youth orchestra from the slums of Paraguay whose choice of instrument – recycled garbage – blazes with hope.
The festival will close with The Price We Pay, Harold Crooks’ acclaimed new documentary about international tax avoidance, it was announced today.

Landfill Harmonic, which won the audience award at Take One Action’s film festival in Edinburgh and Glasgow this September, follows the journey of the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, a youth music group from the slums of Paraguay who build classical instruments out of garbage from the giant landfill site that towers over their homes – a story that captured the world’s imagination and featured in Time magazine and on Fox News.

The Take One Action! Film Festival sees thousands of Scots each year experiencing cinema with a difference, actively engaging with filmmakers, activists, politicians, journalists, and other audience members to explore new ways to create a fairer, more sustainable world – and to take action themselves.

Other festival highlights include a preview of The Divide, based on Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson’s bestselling book about social inequality, The Spirit Level and The Price We Pay, which has won rave reviews in Canada.

The Price We Pay examines the dark history and shocking present-­day reality of big business tax avoidance, which has seen multinational companies depriving governments of trillions of dollars in tax revenues by harbouring profits in offshore havens – originally created by London bankers in the 1950s. As well as tackling big issues, the festival tells fascinating human stories from across the world.

Stories of Our Lives is a series of moving vignettes about LGBTI people from Kenya, while Casablanca Calling introduces us to the women leading a spiritual revolution in Morocco by becoming Muslim leaders in a country where 60% of women have never been to school – part of a national response to a series of suicide bombings in 2003.

Festival screenings will take place at Belmont Filmhouse.

A special, free screening of Ivory Tower, an examination of the rising cost of higher education will be presented at the University of Aberdeen on Thursday 12 November. Every screening at the festival is accompanied by discussions with campaigners, artists and activists. Guests include representatives from Big Noise Torry (Sistema Scotland), Aberdeen Climate Action and SHMU Radio. Audience members are encouraged to get involved in the issues raised by the films.

“We want people to feel empowered to help make the world a fairer, more sustainable place by taking practical action alongside others in Scotland,” says festival director Tamara Van Strijthem.

“This programme was put together with the direct involvement and support of a great group of Aberdeen residents. We also want to encourage audiences in Aberdeenshire and beyond to organise their own Take One Action film seasons in their own communities.”

Tickets can be booked in advance via Belmont Filmhouse (01224 343 500) Some of the films are available to view in advance of the festival. For information, and to request interviews and images, please contact Tamara Van Strijthem, Executive Director on 07876 612 334 or tamara@takeoneaction.org.uk.

You can watch trailers for festival films on our YouTube channel.

FESTIVAL PROGRAMME IN FULL – Click Here

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Nov 122015
 

Bay of Nigg Mark MairWith thanks to Renee Slater.

The Battle for the Bay of Nigg Committee have welcomed the publication of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and associated planning application documentation by Aberdeen Harbour Board (AHB).

It will be a difficult task for us to assimilate and analyse the content of these documents in the statutory 42 days.

At the August Torry Community Council meeting, the representatives of Aberdeen Harbour Board stated that they hoped to have the EIA report ready for the October Community Council meeting (on 15 October) which would have given us invaluable extra time to read this vital document.

The EIA comprises four volumes with Volume 2 consisting of a total of 26 chapters. We appreciate that a non-technical summary has been provided, however we feel that we owe it to our community to read this report in full.

We have previously found that the most illuminating details are often not included in the summary versions. For a major infrastructure project of such national importance, a 42-day period to examine all the associated, lengthy documents seems woefully inadequate.

The Battle for the Bay of Nigg Committee is a group of Torry residents who are trying to save our Bay from this disproportionate development.

We have no specialised knowledge or qualifications. We are ordinary citizens trying to make our voices heard by the corporate machinery of Aberdeen Harbour Board, Marine Scotland, Transport Scotland, Aberdeen City Council and the Scottish Government. Our Facebook pages have already attracted a following of almost 700 people, predominantly residents of Torry.

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Oct 172014
 

Old Susannah aka Suzanne Kelly gets to grips with grippy politicians and businessmen both sides of the pond.

cultural hubIt was an interesting week as ever in Aberdeen, as this photo from our trendy, hip, happening cultural hub shows. Yes, it sensibly closes by 6pm, after all, culture shouldn’t overlap regular working hours. In the door of the former 1-up record shop, a blackboard helpfully tells people what is on in Aberdeen. With cutting edge technology like that, it really is a wonder that we didn’t win City of Culture.

I’m told that some of you  young folk use something called ‘the internet’ when you want information as opposed to going to the exterior of a closed shop to look at a blackboard – is this true?

In other news, Spear of Destiny came to the Moorings last Saturday; and all was largely marvellous. You never know who you’ll bump into in the Moorings, or who’ll bump into you. Very hard.

A bespectacled baldy man made a spectacle of himself as he stumbled into my friend and I not long after we arrived.

This was no mean feat as we were standing well out of the way of the crowd against the wall by the pinball machine, and he had to cross the floor to get to us before he careened off in the other direction towards the loos. I thought he must be tripping (or at least that seemed his intention); if it had been accidental, I’ll avoid whatever he’d been drinking.

For that matter, an ‘excuse me’ was a bridge too far for our man as well, but then again he looked so very cool that he probably didn’t want to spoil his manly style by an admission of fallability. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought it was a deliberate attempt to recapture playground (or prison) glory days on his part, but surely not. Obviously it wouldn’t have been someone with a grudge.

Whatever the poor lad’s problem was, perhaps it will peter out. But nothing was going to spoil that evening, and nothing did. The little stumble was reported later, well after a most enjoyable night.

Elsewhere in the Granite Deen, our councillors are considerably more sure-footed, keeping us right. These well-balanced people have voted to tear down Victoria Road School, which otherwise would have been doomed to some community-buy out scheme or other, and the building re-used for the benefit of the locals. Not a good way to make as much profit as possible, I’m sure you’ll agree.

In truth, I can’t say the councillors all voted to tear the school down. Some such as Jim Kiddie, voted to keep the building. Clearly he’s not as quick on his feet as Torry Tory councillor Alan Donnelly, who voted to demolish. I’m sure the grateful public will thank Alan appropriately.

Not all the councillors voted to demolish it’s true – one managed to not vote at all. Labour’s Yvonne Allan decided it was best to represent her local constituents by – not voting at all.

This must have been a hard decision to stand up for the people who have nothing to say on the issue. Torry locals who wanted the site saved signed petitions in the thousands. And we all know what a petition gets you these days in Aberdeen. More on all this after the next Torry Community Council meeting, which promises to be quite a love-in as the harbour board’s plans for Torry domination – sorry improvement – will also get an airing.

For some reason, David Cameron seemed eager to distance himself from Lord Freud’s rational ideas

Things are equally as cheerful on the national scene, where well heeled Lord Freud bravely spoke out against the money-wasting benefits system. We’re actually still supporting people who have different abilities, physical and mental challenges as if they were worth paying a full day’s wage to.

For some reason, Lord Fraud is softening his stance at present, but he had this to say initially:

“Now, there is a small… there is a group, and I know exactly who you mean, where actually as you say they’re not worth the full wage and actually I’m going to go and think about that particular issue, whether there is something we can do nationally, and without distorting the whole thing, which actually if someone wants to work for £2 an hour, and it’s working can we actually…”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-29628557

If you haven’t guessed, with this sympathetic approach to giving people a living wage, Freud is our Welfare minister. And let’s face it – we have to admire his way with words.

I am trying to think hard if there are any other groups of people who don’t deserve a full day’s wage because they don’t do any proper work. If I do come up with any suggestions, I’ll lay them at Freud’s door.

For some reason, David Cameron seemed eager to distance himself from Lord Freud’s rational ideas.  I believe this is the same David Cameron who has done so much good for the disabled and ill with his ATOS assessment schemes.  I wonder why Cameron is against Freud – given Cameron’s track record, maybe Dave thinks £2 an hour is far too much salary.

But at this rate there will be as little room for definitions as there is for wildlife in the schemes being hatched. Therefore, on with a few timely terms.

Transatlantic Trade And Investment Partnership (TTIP): (Modern English collective noun) a suite of trade deals between the EU and America beneficial to business.

It’s such a shame that in the 21st century people are still so resistant to change. There were actually people protesting against these schemes last weekend in several capital cities.

People are always afraid of what they don’t understand, it’s a human weakness. Therefore, it’s best we allow the EU and US governments to just keep the details of these schemes under wraps; no sense upsetting people. Just because the governments involved won’t let you vote on these agreements or let you know exactly what’s in them is no reason to think there’s anything undemocratic going on.

The Independent, a left-leaning, anti-capitalist UK publication, has printed some hurtful claims about these agreements.

I just hope that no company’s profit margins suffer because of the piece.  Sure a few minor changes to the NHS, taxes, corporate domination over soverign governments, increased spying on private communications will take some getting used to, but I’m sure something good will be on telly to take our minds off of it.

Child Poverty Map: (Modern English compound noun) An interactive map created by End Child Poverty, showing the UK’s disadvantaged children by geographic area.

I think it’s very helpful that this interactive map has been created; now we know what horrible, dreary areas we should be avoiding. Here are a few stats for Aberdeen areas, which for all our oil wealth clearly demonstrate we still have child poverty issues.

Perhaps workhouses would help, coupled with Lord Freud’s helpful suggestion that a £2 per hour wage is too good for some of them.

Westminster Parliamentary Constituency: Aberdeen North
Number of children in In-work poverty 2013: 2,287
Number of children in Out of work poverty 2013: 1,402
% of children in low income families AHC, 2013: 23.89%

Westminster Parliamentary Constituency: Aberdeen South
Number of children in In-work poverty 2013: 1,410
Number of children in Out of work poverty 2013: 618
% of children in low income families AHC, 2013: 14.39%

Map DataMap data ©2014 Google
http://www.endchildpoverty.org.uk/why-end-child-poverty/poverty-in-your-area

If only there were some wealthy people around here who had some money to donate; Wood I could think of anyone who cared about the less fortunate.

I’m sure our council does the best it can with its finances, but you have to prioritise things. We’ve got hungry consultants to pay for (isn’t that right Chris Piper?), after all, those deer aren’t going to shoot themselves, and nothing is more important than trying to grow trees on a windswept garbage tip.   PricewaterhouseCoopers has to put food on the table as well, and we didn’t even give them a million pounds last year.

There was always for instance the chance that Victoria Road school could have been given, as requested, to the locals to run as a community centre; people old and young could have used it as a resource. Not that I’m suggesting we should have done anything radical or trendy like having a food bank. Not in good old Torry, where the money flows like the effluent from the sewerage works we were gifted with a few years back.

Now the city, the harbour board and Scottish Enterprise want to gift us with a much larger industrial scale harbour, and all it will cost us is the remaining open free public spaces Torry has. But it will create jobs, so we’re told (never mind the air quality, house prices and quality of living). Then perhaps some of these little urchins can start earning their keep.

It’s not as if we are planning to school them for anything other than vocational work in the energy sector (that’s if they’re lucky).

So please do have a look at the child poverty map.  Another thought comes to mind – if we’re to keep having Primark priced clothes at our disposal, then we may want to start getting some of these poor kids into factory work over here, that would be more jobs creation. Happily, I’m sure we have people already looking into this.

Next week (perhaps) a further look at NHS Grampian, The latest in Union Terrace Gardens, etc. Or perhaps a word on UKIP hopeful, who starved over 200 sheep to death – possibly while testing out one of UKIP’s future plans for us.

PS – for some reason, people are saying the distance from Haymarket to Waverly stations in Edinburgh is the same distance as Aberdeen’s train station to the inaccessible, dank, under-used Union Terrace Gardens.

The distance is just under a mile and a half between the two Edinburgh destinations, some 2,400 metres. Here, the distance is between 700 metres (from the closest point) ranging to 1,000 metres to the gentle, sloping entrance by the theatre, filled with druggies, drunks and other undesirables. The Edinburgh train journey between the two stations takes 5 minutes.

A journey from Aberdeen station to a proposed new station in UTG (which would be the thin edge of the wedge to building in our gardens) would be less than 45 seconds. But you’ve got to have your connectivity, don’t you – otherwise we’d have people walking around. Some might say Edinburgh is a city that requires a bit of walking, but we don’t want that sort of thing here.

There seem to be some groups wanting a train station in the gardens: I can promise any councillors reading this, there are many people and a group or two who definitely won’t sit by for such a nonsense, even if NESTRANS were to want to spend millions on a station so close to an existing one. Do keep that in mind, won’t you?

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Sep 192014
 

By Bob Smith.
Nigg2lo

Torry fowk they can tak nae mair
Hairbour extenshuns are hard ti bear
Bey o Nigg gyaan doon the spoot
Quality o life’ll be grim nae doot
.
Fer ‘ears an ‘ears at Nigg Bay
Fowk enjoyed thersels at play
Watchin the dolphins oot at sea
Or hittin gowf bas aff the tee
.
Marine an wild life on the brink
Fae sewage warks ye hiv a stink
Hooses they wull lose their price
Yet Torry fowk they are nae mice
They’ll fecht agin the hairbour new
An wint aabody tae pit  their view
“It’s only Torry” ye hear fowk say
Like donkeys- idiots like tae bray
.
The Torry fowk they hiv a richt
Ti live in peace, nae hemm’t in ticht
Wi industrial hairbours or shitie smell
Their lives becomin a livin hell
.
So jist stuff the new hairbour plan
Time ti derail the “developmint van”
Afore it blights the hail o Torry
Time its fowk nae mair need worry.

© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014

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