Oct 312012

By Graeme Milne.

There is something about schools, particularly old Victorian schools, that are a breeding ground for urban myths and tall tales of ‘ghosts’.

I personally know of at least three in Aberdeen that are ‘supposed to be haunted’.

Older kids take great delight in recounting these stories to the more sensitive, exaggerating them to the point where to set foot in the spirits’ domain is asking for trouble.

Usually thought to be haunting the attic, a place associated with all manner of spookiness, the restless spirit would appear to be doomed to a life among the cobwebs and dusty books of these forbidden areas. That being said schools can be mildly spooky; places where imaginations run riot after the noise of the school day has dwindled.

Despite being a breeding ground for the fevered imaginations of the young, many of these buildings can, after closer scrutiny, be legitimately described as being haunted – as in the case of Victoria Road School.

It was with much sadness to pupils and parents that in 2008 Victoria Road School was deemed surplus to requirement and despite a campaign to keep it open, the building was closed. Today it lies empty, its future open to speculation.

Victoria Road School was essentially a school of two halves, the first part being built in 1878 after the Fisherman’s Association of old Torry voted to pay £1400 towards the costs. On May 2nd 1878, Torry Public School, as it was once known, opened. The first headmaster Mr. William Yunnie had according to records the unenviable task of teaching 100 pupils in the ‘main room’.

As the population increased, so did the need for space and by 1904 Victoria Road School, as it was renamed, was opened with the original part of the building being delegated as a base for teaching children of nursery age, a tradition which continued until its closure.

During my research I was told that a number of head teachers lived in the older part of the building, upstairs in a series of small rooms, a rumour that perhaps bears out as Miss Nesbit, head teacher, is listed in the 1905 Post Office Directory as being at that address.

During World War Two, the main body of the school was hit by a shell during a bombing raid causing massive damage. I am glad to say however that in true Dunkirk spirit it was quickly rebuilt despite the austerity of wartime. The school has always held an interest for me, not least because my daughter Geraldine once attended there.

However there are many other reasons why this building remains a point of fascination for me and as you will have guessed it is due in no small part to the persistent rumours about it being haunted.

Since its closure I have made a point of speaking to as many former staff members and pupils as I can about the alleged activity and in particular about the sightings of a lady seen in what has been described as Victorian dress who was named  ’Lizzie’ by staff.

It must be said that during my research I have come to the conclusion that cleaners, apart from having to work long unsociable hours, have the added disadvantage or advantage, depending on your point of view, of usually being in the right place and right time to experience otherworldly phenomena.

Judging by what I have been told though, many do not consider it a perk of the job for which they should be grateful. Usually the first in a building or the last out at night, cleaners have to contend not only with overflowing bins but also the chance of bumping into someone, quite literally, that should no longer be there. Victoria Road School is no different in that respect as you will hear.

I first became aware of the rumours concerning the school while in conversation with my partner. Having spent many years working there she had obviously heard stories concerning the building, particularly the older part of the school which has a central gym hall with rooms running off it. The woodwork in this part of the building is Victorian and really quite grand with large dark coloured doors leading to the dining hall and class rooms.

  She looked very real, so much so I began to speak to her but she just went on through the gym door

Upstairs was the old school nurse’s office which at that time was used for a variety of different purposes. Carol described how on one occasion she was in the room moving some boxes when she had an overpowering feeling that someone was also there, standing behind her. So tangible was the feeling that she left the area promptly.

She found the experience unnerving and after mentioning this to colleagues found out that others had experienced the same sense of being watched. I asked if she would mention my research to interested parties and was soon in receipt of a number of interesting tales, one of which described an actual full-bodied apparition that had been seen at close quarters.

But before we look at this example, the school administrator, Maureen, furnished me with the following account which has a great similarity to Carol’s experience.

She stated,

“As a former pupil of the school I cannot remember any mention at that time of a ‘ghost’ while I was there so I cannot believe that what happened three years ago was in any way influenced by my childhood memories.

“As the school administrator I was spending the first week of the summer holidays working in the office. I had of course heard from other staff members of their experiences in the building but can honestly say that I took it all as nonsense, being quite a sceptical person myself.

“That day I was entirely alone in the building but was in no way bothered as I had worked alone in the holidays for many years. I was packing up and getting ready to go for the day. 

“I picked up my handbag and had just started to put my jacket on when I had the most uneasy feeling. I saw nothing and heard nothing but had the most overwhelming sensation that there was a presence outside the large office window. Needless to say I got out of the building as quickly as possible and felt extremely uneasy for a few days after.”

When I asked if she had heard of any similar occurrences she stated that the school cleaners had always claimed to be aware of something but this had always occurred in the old school. This, as I have mentioned, was the original Torry Public school before it was renamed and extended.

With my interest piqued I was soon given an account by one of the long serving school cleaners who told me the following:

“The first time I felt anything was at the bottom of the school, the old part. It was an intense cold feeling that went away as quickly as it arrived. This happened several times. I just got used to it until one day while cleaning the gym my ‘hoover’ was switched off at the wall.

“I immediately thought it was one of my colleagues trying to get my attention but on turning round to speak was shocked to see a woman who was dressed in what I thought was 1900-1920’s clothing. She looked very real, so much so I began to speak to her but she just went on through the gym door going towards the bottom part of the school. She literally vanished before my eyes.

“After that I began to hear footsteps quite regularly, always around 5.30 in the morning. Although I sometimes felt apprehensive I just carried on as normal until one day I was buffing the back corridor at around 6.30 in the morning when the buffer went what I can only describe as “funny”, turning by itself and pinning me against the wall.

“At the same time the temperature went very cold. I got it shifted and then I shouted out to whoever was doing this to stop it! At other times doors would open and close. It didn’t bother me though as you got used to it. Another strange thing is that you would also hear a lot of footsteps coming from certain areas as though children were walking through the corridors.”

When I asked if she had any other experiences she would like to share she described an incident that happened during the ‘big clean’, which was a thorough top to bottom clean of the building once term had finished.

“I was late one year with the big clean and had to go back to the school gym area again to put on polish. I took two of my dogs with me. I got as far as the top area which leads to the gym when they both stopped and started to pull back and shake. One darted up to the top of the stairs while the other just lay down frozen to the spot and shook.

“I had to just get on with the polishing and leave them there till I had finished. It was very cold at that point and needless to say my dogs wouldn’t come back into the school. I would often feel someone was watching me and used to say “hello Lizzie” when it got cold, however I didn’t feel threatened apart from that time with the buffer. 

“A funny thing happened in the main corridor about a week before the school closed. The grandfather clock started to tick quite loudly but as you got nearer to it, it stopped. 

“Also in the last week there were more noises than usual heard all over the school, footsteps, doors banging and certain areas seemed to be abnormally cold. These cold spots seemed to appear all over the school and were very random. It was worse at the bottom end where the head teacher would have stayed. This used to be the old medical room.”

I found the above accounts fascinating and when asked if she remembered anything else particularly relating to the time the figure was seen, she stated the following.

“The lady I saw looked like a teacher and I would say she was approximately five foot 3 to five foot five inches in height. She was very slim and had black hair all tied up on the top of her head. She wore lace up boots and a long skirt to her ankles. She also had on a white shirt and long black cardigan coat and seemed to be carrying something in her hands, which I could not make out. It was so vivid”.

Intrigued, I began asking around if there were any other people in the area that had heard of these events but drew a blank. This, however was to change soon after when I attended a local community fair, and as luck would have it,  I had a chance meeting with Mary, a former worker at the school. She was tasked on occasion with locking up the building and told me the following which occurred at the end of her shift.

“Everyone knew about ‘Lizzie’ and she was seen a number of times over the years. This never happened in the newer part of the school but always in the original part.

“As you know there is a long flight of stairs that connects the two buildings and staff would always notice a difference in atmosphere and temperature between the two. I remember my friend having her ‘hoover’ switched off at the wall while cleaning and after switching it back on turned round only to see a figure of a woman in old fashioned clothes standing behind her. The building definitely had cold spots which would sometimes follow staff around.

“The main thing that happened to me was when I saw the figure of a man in the building which gave me quite a start. I was about to switch the lights off at the top of the stairs when I noticed a figure standing at the bottom. Thinking it was the janitor I shouted down and asked what he was doing.

“The figure never moved and so I shouted again and started to walk towards it. I got part way down when I noticed it wasn’t the janitor at all. The figure instead, was that of a small skinny man wearing a flat cap. As I approached him he just vanished before my eyes. I was scared and I turned and ran from the building.

“The first thing I did when I got outside was to phone the supervisor who took the whole thing in her stride. The thing I remember most afterwards, was that I was perplexed as to who he was as most of the stories I had heard connected to the building seemed to relate to a female figure. I still wonder who he was.”

I asked if she had any further information to impart and she continued:

“The funny thing is that we all knew about the sightings of ‘Lizzie’ but were told not to speak to the kids about her even though many parents asked questions. Apparently they did not want the kids finding out too much as they did not want to scare them. Now that the buildings are closed I have often wonder if she is still in there.

“I would have loved it if we could have got a medium in to help solve the mystery but I would imagine that would never have been allowed. The building definitely had an atmosphere and we knew who was responsible for this though I might add there was never a bad feeling.”

So for now, Victoria Road School lies sadly empty and although I visited it frequently in the past, its secrets now lie dormant. Despite this my aim is to continue to gather evidence about this building as I have been told there are many other people out there who have experienced similar sightings.

The question is, who is or was ‘Lizzie’? It would appear that many ‘ghosts’ are named as a means of humanising them and most alleged haunted houses seem to have a cheerfully named spirit or two, the school being no exception.

Interestingly if staff had looked through one of Aberdeen’s old Post Office directories from early last century they would have noticed an entry stating the person residing at Torry Public School was a lady by the name of Miss E. Nisbet, occupation Headmistress.

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Oct 112012

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s event’s in the ‘Deen and beyond and finds some bizarre and downright ugly situations worthy of  protest. By Suzanne Kelly.

It’s been a pretty wild week here in the Granite Web City, and wilder still in the wider world.  A man was killed in Torry; a man and two women are being held on suspicion of murder.  Plans for thousands of homes will soon go on display for the Bridge of Don area.

The existing residents want to get rid of any remaining ‘underused’ green areas, and they cite the excellent road network and public transportation in support of this brilliant idea, one which won’t add to pollution, traffic congestion, urban sprawl or over-crowding at all.  Result!

As I listen to Eels and enjoy a few half pints of Punk in BrewDog, I sadly realise the honeymoon is well and truly over between Donald and Alex.  The Donald’s revelations in the news this week caused bafflement, amusement and anger. 

Inexplicably, the facts seem to indicate Trump is telling the truth when he claims Salmond sought the bewigged New Yorker’s approval over the Megrahi affair.  The shock of Trump implicated in telling the truth (however belatedly) is proving difficult for the public to deal with; coupled with the fact Trump actually kept quiet about anything (well, until now) the story is quite surreal.  Alex is said to have turned salmond pink at the news.

Whether or not you think Megrahi was guilty or not (and there is evidence pointing to CIA involvement and evidence tampering), clearly the most important thing was to get the American public onside with the decision to repatriate him.  And what better way to curry favour with the US than to show that their beloved leader and greatest political thinker, Donald Trump, was on message?

At the time of writing it is unclear whether or not Trump’s blessing for Scottish independence is being sought.  I understand that the UN are appealing to him to end the Syria/Turkey crisis, and that NASA are asking him to back further space exploration.  Rumours that Obama is asking Sir Alan Sugar to back health care reforms are unconfirmed.  Alex Salmond is understood to be applying for slots on ‘The Apprentice’, ‘Ex-First Minister Factor’ and ‘It’ll be all right on the night (or not)’.

Here in the UK, the ConDems are pulling out all the stops to help workers.  Thanks guys.  They’re also  pulling out all the employment rights too (more on that later).

Aside from asking workers to give up rights to fair treatment at work in exchange for company shares, a mandatory pension scheme for the lower waged is being phased in.  You and your employer will pay into a mandatory pension scheme – unless you opt out.  Sounds wonderful!  However, looking this gift horse in the mouth would be my suggestion.

A little boy of 5 was treated like Bin Laden as he tried to get on a flight in a wheelchair with his leg in a cast

Of course, it should not concern you at all that this pension is linked to the stock market – what could possibly go wrong with your mandatory investment?  It’s not as if markets can be unpredictable, or perish the thought, stocks can ever be manipulated (except perhaps allegedly by Piers Morgan).

Remember, the Government has your best interests at heart.

Across the pond, the Americans are gearing up for presidential elections.  Debates are being held, flags being waved, and Homeland Security continues in its unchecked bid to reduce the country to a police state.  A little boy of 5 was treated like Bin Laden as he tried to get on a flight in a wheelchair with his leg in a cast.  Fair enough, he could have just been back from months in a terrorist training camp.

On the other hand, intrepid homeland security people managed to arrest someone after using clever deductive logic.

A US citizen flew in from Japan with slightly unusual luggage.  According to the BBC, he wore a bullet proof vest, had knives, handcuffs, body bags, a smoke bomb, collapsible batons, leg irons, hatchet and a bio-hazard suit and mask.  And flame-retardant trousers.

Old Susannah thinks there are at least three possibilities. One – he could have been intending on getting a rental car and driving out of the airport without getting mugged or carjacked.  Two – he could have been about to visit his in-laws.  By the way, when he boarded his flight in Japan, no one batted an eyelid at his personal effects.

Or possibility three – he was in Japan as part of the corralling, starvation, traumatising, and air-freighting dolphins and whales in Japan’s notorious Taji Cove.

For over 10 days a variety of marine mammals have been herded into a tiny area, and are being air-freighted all over the world to perform in aquariums.

Observers saw a young dolphin crammed into a sling, hoisted in the air and as it was chucked into a shipping container, it was crying (yes they do cry – they are social animals with feelings).  Still, what could be more fun for the whole family than to watch an intelligent creature used to roaming the oceans confined instead to a 50 foot tank being forced to perform for your entertainment or be starved?

 They were embarrassed, and took 45 minutes before giving me some propaganda on a CD

A San Diego Sea World Orca has a massive chunk taken out of its face; this they claim is just a little accident, and not the vicious bite it appears to be.

A dolphin in Japan similarly has a massive wound and appears ill.

You could be forgiven for thinking that these wild, beautiful creatures deserve to live in peace in the oceans, not being trapped in an unspeakably small Japanese cove in nets, waiting to be bought, starved or killed.  But that’s what Japan’s up to.  I guess we should be grateful Japan is not doing its famous ‘scientific’ experiments on these creatures (yet) – i.e. cooking them up.

The Taji Cove animals are often herded up and slaughtered – we’ll see if the slaughter is still to come.  Please do feel free to protest to the Japanese embassy.  (In fact some years ago I stopped into the London Japanese Embassy, and asked for information on their ‘scientific’ whaling project.

They were embarrassed, and took 45 minutes before giving me some propaganda on a CD.  They were polite – but they seemed to not believe their own hype.  It was like being at a  LibDem convention).  Here’s the embassy email:  info@ld.mofa.go.jp,

Old Susannah has many Japanese friends and since childhood has been interested in Japanese culture and history.  But if this situation isn’t resolved now and the animals released, there won’t be any more aid from me going to Japan the next time it’s decimated by say a nuclear accident of its own making. Like many others, I donated over the Fukushima disaster.

I’m not amused by Japan’s failure to listen to the rest of the world begging it to release the animals, and I’m less amused to find out that the real root cause of Fukushima seems to have been corporate greed and mismanagement.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18751374

Go on Japan – release these animals, and stop perpetuating the idea of these highly intelligent animals being harmed for entertainment in aquariums.

A German observer was arrested; there is an international protest and presence in the area.  In fact it’s been quite a fortnight for protests around the world.  Some small, some large, some effectual, some laughable (but not the great pro Granite Web protest of course), and some resulting in shootings.

A few definitions are in order to try and deal with all this chaos.

Peaceful Protest: (compound noun, Eng.)  An event or campaign conducted in a non-violent manner to bring about justice or social change.

A Pakistani girl of 14 is in hospital in a coma; she was shot by the Taliban for ‘promoting secularism’.  To you and me, that means she wanted women to be able to get an education, possibly even choose their own husbands.  Ah, these young people today.

No doubt she’ll grow out of it – if the Taliban don’t kill her.  Young Yousafzai has been a peaceful protestor since the age of 11 – I guess that’s what happens when you let girls learn to read.  Down with this sort of thing.  I think she just needs a good husband.  Probably true of those Pussy Riot girls too.

Pussy Riot have endured maltreatment, isolation and human rights denial.  Serves them right – the protested against Putin – what’s not to like about Vlad?

As per usual, we have Annie Lennox siding with the Riot girls in support of their right to protest.  If you remember, some pro Granite Web people wrote to the papers that Lennox had no right to have an opinion on the web as she no longer lived in Aberdeen.  Therefore, Lennox and anyone else who’s not living in Russia or Pakistan has any right to champion the human rights of people living there.  I’m happy to have cleared that up.

Keep in mind that our very own Gordon McIntosh (perhaps one of those unnamed city admin officials who the councillors are being mean to) wanted to curtail our right to protest in Aberdeen.  Sadly, the council voted him down.  No wonder he feels hard done by.

Putting these trouble-making teens and women to shame, there are far wiser, older, richer people with far greater human rights taking a stand in the UK for our freedoms.  Let’s have a look at two of the higher-profile UK freedom warriors.

Yellowism: (noun) Belief shared by one person, Vladimir Umanets, that er, yellow is important.  Or something.

While this upstart Pakistani girl was wasting her time on human rights campaigning in the face of a violent male-dominated terrorist organisation, brave Vladimir strode into the Tate Britain, and wrote some important words (which no one understands) on a multi-million pound Mark Rothko painting.  Hero!

Rothko is only worth about $80 million, so no wonder the guards did nothing at the time.  Umanets claims while he wrote on the valuable artwork, he didn’t ‘deface’ it.  No doubt the principles of Yellowism, the cause he says he’s fighting for, are worth it, and Rothko would be  happy.  However, I’m not sure the gallery owners and the law will necessarily agree with Umanets.

Umanets follows in the courageous footsteps, well breaststrokes, of the brave Aussie who swam into the Thames last summer, ruining the annual boat race between Oxford and Cambridge.

Did he want to save whales, protest the banking crisis, stop Trident, champion Yellowism?  No, he was combatting ‘elitism’, which came as a happy surprise to some of the less wealthy members of each team’s crew.  Some of these people had to work their way through OxBridge, and had dedicated months to training for this event, but never mind.  Elitism has been defeated!

To the less enlightened, these two protestors might look like self-centered, self-serving, neurotic, attention-seeking sad cases, but I’m sure history will show them for the heroes they are.  Eventually.

Worker’s Rights: (compound noun) Basic principles protecting the rights of the employee from exploitation.  (Price £2,000 plus).

Returning to the theme of all the great things the ConDems have done to us – sorry, for us – George Osborne’s great plans just keep on coming.  Perhaps the best one yet is this new plan for workers to surrender their rights in exchange for company shares or a bit of cash.  This scheme will unite the workers, unite political parties, end the economic crisis, ensure permanent prosperity, and probably guarantee a tree for every citizen.

You will sell any rights at work which took centuries to gain, and in return you’ll own a piece of the company you’re working for (however small or however lacking in real value).  Rumours that employees will also be encouraged to sell their souls to Old Nick Clegg are as yet unconfirmed.

Have you discovered that your company is manipulating the LIBOR rates?  Is your hospital board cutting corners?  Are you working for a deranged man who brings a gun to work in Torry and shoots gulls out of his window (any resemblance to Mervyn New is purely coincidental)?  Are you a long-suffering senior admin on ACC with councillors being mean and asking you to explain your actions?

Well, you’ll not be able to do anything about it.

For one thing, you’ll be a shareholder, and if you do anything to make your company look bad, you’ll be devaluing your own shares.  This is what the ConDems are calling a ‘win-win’ situation.  Old Susannah may well have to re-examine what ‘win-win’ means, because either the LibDems or I am confused.  Must be me.

Next week:  a closer look at the ‘independent’ report saying mean councillors must be nice to the saintly city council officials – and perhaps a bit of financial news, too.

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Oct 042012

By Suzanne Kelly. 

Crime involving animals of all kinds, domestic, farm and wild, is on the increase throughout the UK.  There are a wide range of illegal, violent acts taking place up and down the country.  But there are things we can do to help stem the tide.
The details are upsetting.  Horses have been attacked in Cornwall recently, and wildlife crime has been reported in the Scottish Borders.

A golden eagle was killed recently in our own area. It probably suffered for days in an illegal trap.

Conviction is almost always a difficult business.  Thankfully, in Aberdeenshire, the successful prosecution of the Reid Brothers led to the exposure and end of a violent, vicious dog-fighting ring.  These people tortured the unfortunate animals, and for their pleasure filmed the dogfights.

Money is the main motivator. Bets on dogs, though highly illegal, are still making money for those involved.  The dogs are treated inhumanely from birth, usually born to a mother who is kept perpetually pregnant then simply disposed of when worn out.

Even worse, the enjoyment of cruelty is why some people get involved in this crime.

Here is a link to the September 2011 STV story on the Reid Brothers’ conviction. It is distressing.

But it is also an encouraging story.  The Courts took this case very seriously and imposed custodial sentences on the Reids, who had 6 dogs being trained for fighting.  The ring was exposed, the dogs which the Reids had were rescued, and awareness was raised.

The Scottish SPCA’s undercover work helped bring about this conviction. It believes that there are others in our area involved in dog-fighting, and that it is still going on. There are reports that fighting might be taking place in Torry and Kincorth.

How to help

If a dog fight is about to take place or is going on:  it is very rare that the authorities get a lead like this, but it happens. Call the police emergency number – 999, or call the Scottish SPCA hotline – 0800 999 4000.

John Robins of the Animal Concern Advice Line said;

“People involved in dog fighting can be extremely dangerous. Dog fighting is a very serious crime and anyone who stumbles across a dog fight or has possible evidence of dog fighting should not try to intervene but immediately dial 999 and alert the police.”

If you know anything about dog fighting: please get in touch anonymously with the police, the Scottish SPCA, and/or Crimestoppers.  You can help save innocent animals from torture.  Dogs do not naturally wish to fight each other, and if you knew the barbaric things done to these animals to make them into fighters, you would want it ended.

Many people involved in acts of animal cruelty have gone on to harm people when the thrill from animal cruelty is no longer enough. This interest in hurting animals escalating to violence against people is not uncommon in killers and serial killers.

If you have seen any animals mistreated:  please get in touch with the authorities as above, anonymously if you wish.  The people who can help need as much information as they can get.

If you have any suspicions. Dogs that have obvious signs of injuries, either bodily or facial may be involved in dog fighting.  If you have any suspicions it is important that you bring them to the Scottish SPCA’s attention.  Either they can rule out cruelty and dog fighting, or they can start to build a pattern, and hopefully rescue animals from further cruelty.

There will be a leafleting campaign taking place shortly in the south of the city.  If you wish to get involved, get in touch.

Anyone who is not comfortable calling the Scottish SPCA, the police, or Crimestoppers can send an email , for non-urgent matters such as suspected dog fighting, to stop.dogfights@yahoo.co.ukYou can also write to that email address to go on an anonymous mailing list. No one else will get your details.

PS:  it is also Staffie Awareness  Week.  Staffordshire terriers are lovely animals, and deserve the same treatment and kindness as any other dog breed.


Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Hotline 0800 999 4000; website  http://www.scottishspca.org/

Animal Concern Advice Line (ACAL)
John F. Robins, Secretary, c/o Animal Concern,
Post Office Box 5178, Dumbarton G82 5YJ.
Tel 01389-841111.,
Mobile: 07721-605521. Fax: 0870-7060327.
Website http://adviceaboutanimals.info

Grampian Police
Emergencies:  999.  Non-emergency number:  0845 600 5700.

Tel.  0800 555 111

Email for any leads

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Apr 242012

A mock funeral protest will take place this Saturday, 28 April, on Tullos Hill, timed to coincide with Aberdeen City Council’s tree-planting day. Campaigners want to raise awareness of the cull, damage to the existing meadow, and the absence of public support for City’s Tree for Every Citizen scheme. With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

The contentious decision to plant a tree for every citizen with the majority of the phase 2 trees to be planted on Tullos Hill has caused thousands to sign petitions and four Aberdeen community councils to protest formally against the scheme.

Protestors want to keep the herd of deer and have the trees planted elsewhere. Pleas have been ignored and the Council says that new legislation means they have to cull the deer.

Opponents point out that the deer population moves from site to site in the area, and that other deer will simply move on to the hill. The SSPCA called the plans to kill deer to protect trees which don’t even exist yet, ‘abhorrent and absurd’.

Councillor Neil Cooney, a campaigner to keep the hill as meadowland said,

“My stance is a simple one – Tullos Hill is the wrong place for a mass planting. It could be a great meadow with stunning views across the city. My constituents have no stomach for a cull. A cull is only necessary if you drive through a daft tree-planting scheme in terrain unfit for planting. 

“Why create an unnatural habitat when Nature has done so well to reclaim a tip site?  A typical response I am getting is, “Don’t plant a tree for me if you have to kill a deer in the process.” A cull will hurt a lot of people and do a lot of damage to the reputation of this city.”

Campaigner Suzanne Kelly is standing for election to the Council in the Torry/Ferryhill ward on May 3. The deer cull is an issue which has largely prompted her candidature. Kelly says,

“We have proof the cull was planned and deliberately kept from the public, as there is a letter from Scottish Natural Heritage of November 2010 advising on how to ‘manage’ the public over the cull. We should have been made aware of what the ‘tree for every citizen’ scheme meant for the future of this herd of deer and the existing eco-system of Tullos Hill.

“Many of us want to retain the hill as the meadowland it already is. In fact, meadows are the fastest-disappearing type of habitat in the UK. Furthermore, many of us, and experts, are convinced the trees will not grow. The previous attempt failed due largely to weeds and poor soil quality. 

“The topsoil is scant, and a soil report says any trees will be vulnerable to destruction from wind. It should be enough for the city that thousands of citizens don’t want the trees if it means culling the deer and transforming the hill – but our opinions are nothing to the existing regime.” 

Campaigners will attend a mock funeral for the deer which may have already been culled, or which will be culled, and will come dressed in black or suitable mourning dress.

The events planned for the day so far include

  • Meet by 09:30 at Loirston entrance
  • 09.30 – march on to the hill
  • 10:30 – brief speech on the hill at a planting site
  • 11:00 – mock funeral for the deer

Lush Aberdeen is offering a gift to all protestors and will hold an in-store petition signing after the protest. A Lush spokesperson said,

“’We at Lush Aberdeen believe that there are more ethical alternatives to culling the deer on Tullos Hill. We are not against a tree-planting scheme in its own right, but we don’t want trees planted in our name if an entire eco-system, including both flora and fauna, is destroyed in the process.

“How is this for the betterment of anyone? We urge the Council to listen to its voting public and come up with a more responsible compromise that includes the entirely reasonable requests of its constituents.”

Supporters feel that to plant a single tree on Tullos Hill is to legitimise the culling of a hitherto-stable deer population for the next five to ten years and want to ensure that anyone who plans to help plant a tree on the day knows this.

A speech paraphrasing Mark Antony’s in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar has been written as political satire and it will be read out by Kelly during the funeral.

Additional Information:

  • Suzanne Kelly, email sgvk27@aol.com  tel. 07752 356 455
  • The scheme has been costly so far for one which was originally said to be ‘cost neutral.’  The previous failure cost £43,800 in the form of a payment to the Forestry Commission.
  • A forestry industry company has so far been paid at least £44,000 that campaigners know of.
  • The removal of debris (industrial and household waste) has been costing the taxpayer c. £400 per day for weeks
  • Dumping was endemic for decades all over the hill as well as the nearby rubbish tip.  This tip has signs warning of explosion risk, and was known to contain radioactive material
  • Aileen Malone, now head of the Liberal Democrats, was the main proponent of the scheme, quoted in earlier press releases.

A report prepared by Suzanne Kelly can be found at http://suzannekelly.yolasite.com/ – it contains many government documents concerning the evolution of the cull, how the public should be ‘managed’, and a soil report casting doubt on the viability of the scheme

Animal Concern Action Line has been opposing this scheme for over a year.  Further information from:

John F. Robins, Secretary,
Animal Concern Advice Line (ACAL), ~
c/o Animal Concern, Post Office Box 5178,
Dumbarton G82 5YJ.
Tel 01389-841111.,
Mobile: 07721-605521.
Fax: 0870-7060327.

Animal Concern Advice Line (ACAL) is a recognised Scottish charity: No. SC030982.
E-MAIL: acal@jfrobins.force9.co.uk
Website: http://adviceaboutanimals.info

Apr 062012

Suzanne Kelly, Independent candidate for Torry/Ferryhill in Aberdeen City’s Council elections, speaks out against the Green Party for its apathy over the controversial Tullos Hill roe deer cull, in light of the Greens fielding a candidate in Torry/Ferryhill.

When I was with the Green Party, I explained clearly on several occasions what was wrong with this cull and Aberdeen City’s ‘tree for every citizen’ scheme.

However, the Greens decided that the party was not going to take a stand on this, one of the most controversial environmental and democratic issues in the city.

Some of the longer-serving Green party members sympathised with me, but there were newer members who didn’t see what the big deal was with the city shooting these deer.

I couldn’t believe it, as I’d previously explained and written in detail that the trees are unlikely to grow and the cull is flawed. People wrote to the Greens to ask for their stance on the matter, but still the party didn’t want to stand up against this cull.

I have been campaigning actively to stop this specific roe deer cull for over a year. The Scottish SPCA branded the Tullos cull ‘abhorrent and absurd’ for killing deer to protect trees which don’t even exist yet. Many other animal welfare groups oppose this cull, and thousands of people have signed petitions against it.

Three community councils condemned the consultation and cull last year, and more recently these councils sent an open letter to the city, asking for the scheme to be halted. I don’t believe the trees will grow, as the hill’s soil is very scant and the ground cleared for the planting is extremely rocky, and is covered in industrial and domestic waste (there is a soil report by government officials which confirms this).

Three community councils object to the cull and the city’s so-called ‘consultation’ on the tree scheme. The consultation did not mention deer at all (but it did cover rabbits and rabbit fencing). The consultation also failed to say that a massive 89,000 trees would be put on the hill. No one in the area wants it – and even though the city has started, the opposition will continue.

I’d been writing about this issue for some time, and The Green Party knew that the cull was specifically to plant trees and not for deer welfare issues. I am so very disappointed in the Green Party over this issue.

The Aberdeen Green Party is running a candidate against me in the May elections. I have a chain of emails between members of the Green Party and me from this time last year. Some of the Greens’ comments include:

“I don’t think the party as such should have a position. I certainly don’t want to get involved in this”

“I don’t understand why these 30 deer (or whatever number it actually is) are so different and attracting so much attention.”

“Also within a relatively few miles of Tullos are large numbers of cattle and sheep that will be killed so people can eat them. We do not have a policy of enforced vegetarianism.”

This last statement was particularly, amazingly patronising, and the remark is completely off the point of why these deer are to be killed.

There was no way I was going to stay in the Green Party after this. For a party calling itself ‘green’ to stand idly by while a meadow and its wildlife was destroyed was beyond the pale. How they can possibly stand for election in Torry and expect me to stay silent about their stance is something I can’t understand either.

I have previously explained to a local member and a national member that I would have to publicise how the Greens view Tullos Hill. I did give fair warning that I would go public about how they decided to look the other way concerning Tullos.

I’m happy to have competition in this election, but people need to know the Greens could have helped when it mattered – and didn’t. If I stay quiet, some people will simply think the Greens must care about the hill and the deer – I have to let them know the truth.

The elections are to be held on 3rd May. Torry and Ferryhill will be represented by four city councillors.

I served on the Torry Community Council for three years, and I have always been involved in helping people in my area and further afield whether it be fighting school closures, charity work, or helping some of our older people. One of the newer local Green Party ‘higher-ups’ apparently said ‘Suzanne doesn’t stand a chance of winning.’ Well, I am determined to prove them wrong.

Apr 062012

In response to Suzanne Kelly’s article in this week’s issue The Scottish Green Party, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Branch have issued the following statement.

Suzanne Kelly’s article is factually inaccurate and misleading.

For the record, while Ms Kelly has now decided she wants to be an independent candidate, in 2010 it was her wish to stand as the Green Party’s candidate for the Torry/Ferryhill ward.
The local Green Party branch agreed to support her candidature.

In June 2011, Ms Kelly advised the Green Party branch that she was resigning as candidate, with great regret, due to a change in personal circumstances. In her resignation e-mail, she expressed great admiration for the help and support she had received as a candidate and offered to help distribute another Green candidate’s leaflets.

She remained a party member. Early this year, it became known Ms Kelly now again wished to stand in the Torry/Ferryhill ward, but as an independent. She was advised that Green Party rules meant she would need the Party’s consent to stand as an independent and this would not be given to stand against a duly selected Green Party candidate. Ms Kelly then wrote to say ‘sadly’ she had decided to resign from the Scottish Green Party.

Ms Kelly is now campaigning for her own election. In her article for Aberdeen Voice, referring to events in the early part of 2011, Ms Kelly claims,

“There was no way I was going to stay in the Green Party after this.”

Not true. She did stay in the Green Party after that, for nearly a year. She offered to help with Green Party campaigning. She resigned from the Party, expressing regret at doing so, in January 2012. The claims Ms Kelly is making now about the Green Party cannot be reconciled with her statements at the time.

We do not know why Ms Kelly took her successive decisions about standing and not standing for the Council. We do know her claims in respect of her dealings with the Green Party are not consistent with the facts.

Mar 222012

Old Susannah takes a humanoid angle on the Provost’s exit, the who’s who of deer cull councillors, alledged  cybercrime, the police box/granite web, and the Cameron and Clegg creatures.  By Suzanne Kelly 


Happy Friday everyone!  So much has been happening in our Vibrant ‘Deen it is hard to know where to start.

Bad news first I suppose:  with a heavy heart I must inform you that our Lord Provost will not be joining the council next year.  Soon his clothing allowance and civic car privileges will pass to another.

But which young pretender will take the crown, chain of office and supply of carriage clocks?

HoMalone, if she manages to get re-elected may stand some chance; she was  deemed the worthiest LibDem in the land.  And now that she leads the LibDems, I’m sure there’s no stopping her.

At least we’ll all get to go to Provost Stephen’s portrait unveiling party before the end comes. . .  guess his LibDem pals will have to find someone else to hitch rides with other than in the civic car at our expense.  Steve Delaney, who will contest the Lord Provost’s seat in the May, got a ride from the obliging taxpayer in the civic car as he was late for something or other.  We are too kind. I’d have given him a carriage clock as well, so he wouldn’t be late next time.  Perhaps he already has one?

A very silly rumour reaches Old Susannah; it can’t be true.  I hear that the virtuous ex-Councillor Richard Robertson, who quit the city council over the 3rd Don Crossing, wants to run in Torry/Ferryhill.  Now, as a Torry resident who’s been going to the community council meetings recently, I am not sure that someone who voted in favour of shooting our deer and against letting me and the Cove Community Chairman speak to the Housing & Environment Committee to try and save the deer is going to find many votes in this part of town.

In fact, if the people who we spoke to last Saturday in town while handing out flyers about the cull are anything to go by, then I doubt any of the following deer killers are going to get great receptions at the ballot box.

 One ambitious girl seems to have grown up with the Dalek as a role model.  Step forward Aileen Malone.

Remember these people; they are the ones to thank over the affairs on Tullos Hill:   John Corall, Jackie Dunbar, Neil ‘Fletch’ Fletcher (who sadly is leaving us anyway), Jim Noble, Richard Robertson, Wendy Stuart, Ian Yuill, and new LibDem Darling, HoMalone.  The deer’s friends?  Neil Cooney, Yvonne Allan, Norman Collie,  James Hunter,  Alan Milne and Willie Young.

Dr Who has another new companion this week;  I’ve been recalling all the frightening monsters, world-destroying creatures, and evil masterminds we’ve seen over the decades.  But never mind the city council and its advisors – on with some definitions….

Dalek   (noun) part human creature created by Davros, a Dalek is a single-minded creature, repeating the same phrases over and over again, in a robotic voice; most notably ‘Exterminate!’.  Daleks are not known for their ability to negotiate, only to destroy.

We all remember being terrified and trembling behind our sofas and forts made of cushions and blankets as the Daleks rolled across our TV screens crying ‘Exterminate!  Exterminate!’.   Most of us were afraid of these creatures, but one ambitious girl seems to have grown up with the Dalek as a role model.  Step forward Aileen Malone.

She will not negotiate a peaceful settlement with thousands of people who want to keep Tullos Hill as a meadow.  She operates a scorched earth policy (well, mostly scorched rock policy – I’ve been up there and seen where the trees are going to be planted before they die), and she is going to EXTERMINATE the deer which live there.

Can no one stop the march (well, glide) of this Dalek in its quest for world domination?   Like the Daleks in Dr Who, she is aided by one or two humanoids who should know better,  but don’t.


 The Cybermen likewise terrified generations of children; they were humans which had been ‘upgraded’ – or rather turned into humanoid machines powered by remnants of human brains.  But the question for Aberdeen is:  has there or has there not been any Cyber-crime?

Just as time was running out for the referendum vote, along came Tom Smith (connected to the private Aberdeen City Gardens Trust entity – amongst other hats worn) with allegations of illegal cyber crime.  Had Cybermen hacked into his emails?  Were they intimidating him?

Well, we still don’t know.  He’s said nothing, and we wait patiently for the police’s statement on the matter.  Until we know otherwise, be on the lookout for cyber-crime – and cybermen.  If it turns out to be a case of ‘the boy who cried cybercrime’, Old Susannah will tell you all about it.


The Doctor occasionally sacrificed one of his several incarnations; usually to save others or for a noble cause.  Councillor Robertson, having lost a life when he threw himself out of office over the Don crossing, is going to try to regenerate as a Torry/Ferryhill councillor.  Like the doctor, it will be best if he has amnesia, for his support of the deer-cull-for-tree-scheme will not add to his appeal in this (or indeed any other) part of town.

TARDIS:  (noun) acronym standing for Time And Relative Dimension In Space – Dr Who’s time-travelling apparatus – normally taking the outward form of an old-fashioned police box; much bigger on the inside than on the outside.

Well, the TARDIS doesn’t have to be a police box, in fact other time lords used different kinds of TARDIS machines.  I think I have possibly located one.

Where in Aberdeen will we soon have something that is bigger on the inside than it is outside?  Why in the Granite Web, of course.

The architects have promised that we will magically have twice the green space we currently have in the garden now!  Surely this is Timelord technology.  Despite the potato-crisp shaped concrete web over the concrete indoor/outdoor theatre/skating rink, despite the required ventilation units and means of holding the granite web up, the new improved gardens will be double the size of the existing ones.

There will be all sorts of weird and (allegedly) wonderful underground areas which will be far bigger than the outer structure.  I think the plans have space for a lair for the Master, and some Silurians.  Yes, I see the Granite Web as a time-travelling icon – it is taking us back to the ‘60s and/or ‘70s –  and yet promises to take us proudly into the future.  This is time travel at its best – and possibly at its most expensive.

Dr Who and The State of Decay:  (noun, television show) Part of the Dr Who Saga in which a planet is dominated by bloodsucking vampires who have caused society to regress.

Old Susannah can’t think why this series (featuring the inimitable Tom Baker) has sprung to mind, but in this story, a small amount of greedy powerful  bloodsuckers have taken so much away from the existing society, that it has regressed to  a more primitive, poverty-stricken state than it had been in before power was seized by these vampires.

The blood-sucking creatures, Cameron and Clegg, have reduced the NHS to rubble, impoverished the old, got rid of any decent schools, and use the young as fodder for their own selfish ends.  One of the scariest parts of the Dr Who story so far.  Thankfully, the Doctor and Ramana eventually find a way to rid the planet of its tyrannical despots.

Next week:  (Hopefully) deer update, Milne update, Referendum update – and a cheerful look at Aberdeen City Council’s happiest publication – ‘Our Green Times’.

Mar 202012

With thanks to John F. Robins, Secretary, Animal Concern Advice Line (ACAL).


Three Community Councils representing neighbourhoods close to Tullos Hill have issued a last minute appeal asking Aberdeen City Council to call off the deer cull planned for Tullos Hill.
In a strongly worded open letter the Community Councils, which represent over 25,000 Aberdonians, accuse the City Council of using underhand tactics to get backing to plant trees on Tullos Hill as part of their Tree for Every Citizen initiative.

They claim that,

“the public consultation was seriously flawed and made no mention of a deer cull. Community Councils and the general public were given incomplete information, allowing ACC’s intention to cull to remain unchallenged”. 

When the intention to kill the resident roe deer eventually became public knowledge there was an outcry with many Aberdonians telling the City Council that if the Tree for Every Citizen project meant killing the deer they did not want any trees planted for them. The Community Councils say the City Council dismissed local public opinion and have pleaded with the Council to change their mind at the eleventh hour and to,

“Listen to the voices of the people who elected you, cancel the cull and let the Tullos Hill deer live”.

For over a year Animal Concern Advice Line (ACAL) has been supporting local campaigners in the battle to save the Tullos Hill roe deer. John Robins of ACAL welcomed the intervention of the Community Councils. He states;

“This is a severe embarrassment to Aberdeen City Council.

“They can no longer claim that opposition to the deer cull is coming from outwith Aberdeen. Three Community Councils representing over 25,000 Aberdonians have made it perfectly clear that they want this cull stopped. On Sunday of this week the CEO of the National Trust for Scotland admitted on national television that they had made a mistake by undertaking a mass cull of deer on the Mar Lodge Estate. 

“The very same advisors who were behind that cull are the people advising Aberdeen City Council to kill the deer on Tullos Hill. There is still time for Aberdeen City Council to avoid making that same mistake. All they have to do is respect the wishes of the people who elected them and call off the cull.”

  •  The Open Letter signed by Nigg, Torry and, Kincorth & Leggart Community Councils can be viewed here.
Nov 252011

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look at the week that was in Aberdeen and beyond and concludes that this is no country for old men (nor for old women, people with special abilities, school children and infants or animals either).

Old Susannah has been busy this past week.  There was an excellent two-day conference at Fyvie Castle.  The speakers seemed to believe our heritage, buildings, archaeology and environment are being affected by something they called ‘climate change’. Hard to believe, but some of these speakers think that our weather and climate are changing.

I’ve no idea why they would come to such a conclusion.  There was some person from the Met Office (whatever that is), who seems to think a case can be made for climate change because he has statistics that show it’s happening now.

Stranger still, he thinks this climate change might be somehow linked to people burning lots of ‘fossil fuel’.  If anyone hears any news about this unlikely story, please let me know.

The general thrust of the conference was that our ancient buildings are under moisture and temperature stresses they’ve not faced before, and many are at risk of actually crumbling.  Something called ‘Skara Brae’ in the Orkneys might get washed out to sea before long.

This would not be a huge loss. As far as I can see, it just a bunch of old stones.  The site is crying out for a nice high rise building, holiday homes, shops and parking – if not a monolith and a giant glass worm.  As to our wildlife, seasons are getting wetter and warmer, affecting growth and breeding cycles.  This is no time to be a bird of prey (or any other type of wild creature either.  Just don’t mention deer).

Despite the fact these animals are protected, we still have people who poison, shoot, and loot eggs.  Mixed with the changing seasons and related change in availability of food, things look rather bad for these creatures.

This two-day course was run at Fyvie Castle by the Scottish Traditional Building Skills Centre, an organisation which trains people (of all abilities) in the skills needed to maintain our historic built heritage.  The Traditional Skills people seem to think preserving Scotland’s historic buildings and monuments is a worthwhile thing to do.  (If certain local developers have their way, this centre won’t be needed much longer).

Further information is available on their website:

We must have skilled craftspeople in future who can ensure the glass worm/teletubbieland, concrete ramps, etc.  will remain beautiful, as I’m sure they will be when they are built.

I couldn’t help going away from the conference thinking what I’d do if I had £50 million burning a hole in my pocket.  It might involve a little bit of BrewDog, but it would not involve getting rid of listed trees to build a carpark with decorative worm.

It would have been very hard for staff to figure out that this frail woman had a wound so deep you could see her bone

I was glad of the two-day course and its speakers, if for no other reason than there’s not much else going on in the wider world for me to write about this week.  I think I heard something about an American policeman offering some protesters a peppery snack treat, and there may be one or two minor problems in Europe and the Middle East.

I also get the feeling that there might be some financial issues concerning our European economic paradise.  Other than that, I’ve not much to say just now.

Close to home, news these past few weeks has been short on happy endings.  For one thing, the Monolith was not shortlisted as a Union Terrace Garden design.  But looking through recent news items, I conclude this is no country for old men.  Or old women, women, people with special abilities, school children and infants.  And this is definitely no country for animals.

For example take the case of 87 year-old Jamesina Mackenzie who died from a bedsore which became so exposed you could see the bone.  This didn’t happen in the ‘dark’ or middle ages; it’s just happened.

So let’s move on to a definition or two.

Bedsore: (compound noun, English) A type of pressure sore caused by the sufferer lying prone in one position without movement over time.  A wholly avoidable type of ailment.

The owner of the Highland ‘care home’ where Ms Mackenzie suffered with the sore that killed her told an inquiry into the death that his staff ‘did the best they could’.   According to this  manager, the problem was that ‘…there had been some errors in staff’s record keeping’.  What would have been the result if they were negligent or slacked off, Old Susannah wonders.

I was glad to hear the staff did the best they could.  After all, paperwork can be pretty heavy going.  It would have been very hard for staff to figure out that this frail woman, who must have been in excruciating pain, had a wound so deep you could see her bone.  You would have to have some kind of medical background to work that out.

Older people are always happy to sell up their own homes

My granny had been head nurse of a hospital in Massachusetts.  The old-fashioned, primitive way to prevent bedsores was to encourage movement and if necessary, actually help people to move.

This hospital was very inefficient in that it had more nurses and doctors than managers.  Far too much money was spent on patients’ food, and far too much time was spent on actually caring for people.  I’ll bet the place didn’t even have a good profit margin.

Care Home(compound noun, English) a residential institution dedicated to long-term care offering rest and re-cooperation of infirm people, usually elderly.

‘Care home’ – the word even sounds warm, safe and snug.  The problem is running these homes costs money which could be put to other use.  Older people are always happy to sell up their own homes so they will be able to afford a care home of the type which looked after Ms Mackenzie so well.

Saving money and keeping a home in order to have something to leave to your children is so passe.  Sure you might get one or two dozen stories a month about older, frail people being abused in care homes, but who are you going to believe – them and their relatives, or the highly-paid (sorry – highly-trained) caring staff who run these places for profit.

Since most regional authorities and councils decided to ‘outsource’ their care responsibilities, there may have been a few minor hiccups or injuries and deaths.  But outsourcing is here to stay.

Still our City council knows best, and despite the collapse of a major private care home operator, Aberdeen is still looking into privatising more of its homes.  Which leads me to a definition I might have already done, but seems to need updating.

Outsourcing: (noun; modern English) To take a service or operation away from its parent/owner and have it run by a third party.

We are desperate to save money in Aberdeen (those portraits and jeans for the Lord Provost don’t pay for themselves, you know) and in order to do so, we are giving our money to consultants.  The totally impartial consultants come in and look at your business.  They decide which services should be outsourced, and then the money saving starts instantly.

clearly they just want to give the best care possible to your grandparents or children.

Coincidentally, they often want to outsource the same services that they are able to provide.  Old Susannah has yet to hear of a consultancy saying ‘let’s hire more people so we can run things better and have nicer schools and care homes’.

This just proves that the consultancies are impartial businesses which have to make tough choices.  It must be very hard for them indeed.

After the consultants have been paid a modest sum for their expertise, the city fires/lets go/lays off its existing staff who initially performed the services.  That’s a saving right there in salary expense.  In the case of childcare or nursing homes, this may upset the clients initially (the word ‘client’ as used by the City is an old, infirm or young human being to the rest of us).

The ‘clients’ may lose any relationship they’ve built up with their previous carers, but never mind.  If you play your cards right, you might even fire enough people to pay part of the consultant’s bill.

The economics of outsourcing get greater for the city involved.  Now that they are no longer providing a non-profit service with taxpayer money, they turn the taxpayer money over to people who exist to make a profit.  It might seem as if these private operators would cut a corner or two to make money, but clearly they just want to give the best care possible to your grandparents or children.

In the old days you might have thought the purpose of paying tax was so that the government could provide you the services you needed, but which were not designed to be money-making businesses.  If we read the odd case of an older person abused (or given a salt shaker instead of an asthma inhaler as happened recently), then that’s the breaks.  The other breaks often involve bones.

Thankfully in these modern, enlightened times, we realise that making money is more important than anything else.  Including poor Mrs Mackenzie and the other stories that don’t make the paper.

Stop Press!  Aberdeen City Council has approved its budget! Read all about it here in this unbiased City Council report:  

It’s all central government’s fault for not giving us lots more dosh.  This might be in part because we waste so much of the stuff on monolith research, portraits and so on, but hey.  You will I’m sure be happy to know that only a few hundred posts will either go unfilled (keeps the existing staff busy covering lots of jobs – they enjoy it) or will go altogether.

Re-roofing an unfit building makes as much sense as anything else going on here

We’re holding on to teaching assistants, which is interesting because we’ll be cutting expensive, boring music and art lessons for children.  If you don’t have time to visit the city’s website, then just rest assured of one thing:  the 50 metre swimming pool is still very much in the cards.  Result!

We may pay for it from the Common Good Fund (remember the good old days when this was c. £35 million? Things have changed).  To help balance the books, it looks as if Tullos Swimming Pool will stay shut.

Old Susannah is told that it recently had brand new lights installed, and its roof is brand new.  Which is odd, because the city now say the building is unstable.  Re-roofing an unfit building makes as much sense as anything else going on here.

Consultants have also produced a brilliant 10 page report (took about a year to do, as you can imagine), showing that Aberdeen has many more swimming pools per population than other parts of Scotland.  Of course these consultants counted in all the pools we’ve got:  Ardoe, Palm Court, etc. etc.  I guess the families of Torry will just have to hop into their BMWs and pay to swim for a day at a hotel pool once Tullos is gone.

Still, we’ll have saved money, and we may eventually produce a swimmer who may win a shiny medal.  If Aberdeen wins an Olympic medal in a few decades, we’ll all agree it’s been worth it.

Nov 142011

Controversial plans to plant 89,000 trees on Tullos Hill backed by Aberdeen City Council are under fire from the public, community councils, animal charities and experts. A new initiative to preserve this crucial wildlife habitat as meadowland was launched today by Councillor Neil Cooney and campaigner Suzanne Kelly.

The Tullos Hill Roe Deer, approximately 30 in number, have survived on the Hill for over 30 years but will face years of culling if the tree scheme goes ahead.  The deer normally live for 6 to 7 years.

This cull would cost the taxpayer approximately £8,000 over 2010-11, £14,000 over the following 4 years, according to Aberdeen City Council.

The scheme has already seen the City hand back £43,800 of grant money, as the previous planting failed for a number of reasons.

Reports show that the wrong size tree guards were used (120cm size had been recommended; 90cm had been used instead) and that soil issues and weeds were to blame in part for the failure.  The deer were not the only factor in the tree failure, but the council stresses the need to use the ‘most economical’ means to plant the trees. 

Vandalism has hit planting sites as well.

Some members of the Council now claim that  culling is a normal part of land management and is required – this claim had not been made prior to the tree planting scheme as far as any research can demonstrate.  The deer are not starving or suffering, and with 30 deer on the hill and 89,000 saplings proposed, humane methods of having tree and deer are possible, according to experts.

The council omitted mention of the deer cull from its public consultation which closed in January 2011, although this document went into detail about managing rabbits by means of fences.  The council also omitted to say the planting would require 2-3 years of weed killer being sprayed on the hill.

The cost of this spraying, the effects on the existing wildflowers, animals and the public (housing, a school and factories are nearby) has never been fully explained.  Tullos Hill also has soil issues  and there are dozens of small archaeological remains which would be threatened or could even be destroyed by the tree planting.

After the cull plan was discovered and made public, the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals branded the move ‘abhorrent and absurd’, although the Society recognises the needs for deer culls for reasons of animal welfare.

However, the idea to kill deer for this scheme was strongly condemned by the Scottish SPCA and other animal welfare organisations including Animal Concern.

A move was made to ask the public for money to avoid the cull by the City’s Housing & Environment Committee.
This move was called ‘blackmail’ by citizens and animal charities.  Dame Anne Begg, MP, wrote at the time of the move saying that to ask the public for £225,000 to avoid the cull was “an appalling attempt to fudge their (the Housing Committee cull proponents’) responsibility.”

Suzanne Kelly, campaigner against the tree planting and the cull said,

“We have a beautiful meadow filled with plants and animals – it is a biodiversity haven.  Nearby meadowlands at Cove are being given over for housing and development, and lands at Loirston which are grass and meadow will be turned into a football stadium. Aberdeen stands to lose a huge portion of its meadows south of the city centre, and yet wants to turn this meadow ecosystem into a forest. 

“Thousands of concerned residents objected to the tree scheme by letter and petition once the cull was made public – and that was before we knew about the returned grant money and the weed killer.  Four community councils are on record as opposing the scheme representing thousands more people.  (Torry Community Council voted unanimously to condemn the cull and the scheme – but their letter somehow never reached the City). 

“Yet the City refuses to listen.  The City has been saying the scheme is ‘cost neutral.’  It now emerges that the application is not even finalised, and £43,800 in grant money had to be paid back for a previous failed planting on Tullos.  This is hardly ‘cost neutral’ – in fact, calling this scheme ‘cost neutral’ seems positively misleading 

“We hope this alternative – a meadowland – will capture the public’s imagination. In fact, the idea has come up again and again from the many people getting in touch – it is really a public initiative.   The hill can be left as it is or perhaps enhanced with more wildflowers and the future of the deer and other animals can be ensured. 

“The deer are most certainly not starving as some in the City would claim.  In fact, some nearby residents tell me the deer are nearly tame.  Meddling in the Hill’s ecology has not worked in the past, and our cash-strapped Council should just end their planting scheme forthwith.”

Councillor Neil Cooney asked crucial questions and presented facts previously omitted at the most recent Aberdeen City Housing & Environment Committee meeting held this month.  Councillor Cooney said :

“Tullos Hill offers some of the finest views over the city. You don’t block out viewpoints by planting trees to hide the view. Nature created Tullos Hill. It is an area rich in wildlife, it is an important archaeological site and there are 4 important cairns there that were designed to be seen from each other and to dominate the landscape.

“It would make a lovely meadowland. Meadows are our most threatened habitats. Tullos Hill already supports fragile wild flower species, the Dames Violets are particularly spectacular when in bloom. Meadows also play a key role in carbon capture. We have a precious natural asset at Tullos Hill, if we destroy in now we can never reclaim it again. We have a duty to the next generation to preserve for them the environmental treasures that we enjoyed.

We can save money, save the deer, preserve the viewpoint, leave the archaeology open to enjoyment, and enhance Tullos Hill. This is far preferable to a dodgy tree planting project stained in blood.”

The value of this meadowlands scheme is supported by Saving our Magnificent Meadows, a campaign backed by Natural England, Countryside Council for Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage, and Northern Ireland Environment Agency, and by Plantlife, as project host.

Ms Susan Kerry Bedell of Saving Our Magnificent Meadows had this to say:

“Wildflower meadows are the UK’s most threatened habitat. Since the 1930s, we have lost 98% (over three million hectares) of them across England and Wales and intense pressures continue to impact on remaining sites. There has been a similar scale of loss across the Scottish lowlands.

“These beautiful meadows are central to our national heritage. They are rich in wildlife, including many rare and threatened species, landscape character, folklore and archaeology, and they offer a range of ‘services’ to society, such as reducing flood risk. They are seen as vital to the long-term survival of bees, through whose pollination of crops much of our food production depends.

“Unless we act now to build a greater appreciation of remaining sites and promote sympathetic management, these ‘magnificent meadows’ and the rare plants and animals associated with them, will be lost forever”.

The Tullos Hill Meadowlands petition will launch online and by paper copy early the week commencing 14 November 2011.  Suzanne Kelly is confident that the tree planting scheme would be put aside for the more economical, beneficial meadowlands scheme.

“There is pressure on Government budgets right now, and throwing good money after bad – particularly on such an unpopular and destructive scheme – is simply illogical. 

“I await detailed budget information from the City, and a further press release will go into detail about how the City has handled this affair from start to finish.  With an election looming, I would urge those councillors who have supported this scheme to ask themselves if they really are doing the right thing by Tullos Hill and the electorate.”

Petition can be accessed here: http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/tullos-hill-meadowlands-deer-park.html 

Further information on Saving Our Magnificent Meadows can be found at:

Further information and updates on Tullos Hill can be obtained by writing to:

Contact Suzanne Kelly:
Email sgvk27@aol.com
Tel. 07752 356 455