Dec 312015

howwesupportWith thanks to Esther Green, Tricker PR

A new project to support childhood rape and abuse survivors has got off the ground in Aberdeen – with a helping hand from Aberdeen Asset Management.
The firm’s Charitable Foundation has given a donation that has enabled the city’s Rape and Abuse Support (RAS) to set up a new programme providing assistance and relief to young people and adults who have suffered abuse.

Trained volunteers offer direct and tailored support through a 12-step programme, providing a listening ear in a safe and comfortable environment where issues and coping mechanisms can be discussed.

RAS offers support and information to anyone over 13 years old who has been raped or sexually abused at any time in their life. It works in the main with the survivors of rape and abuse who may have issues around self harm, alcoholism, self esteem and post-traumatic stress disorder. It also provides information and support to families, friends and partners to enable them to support the survivor in the long term.

The charity works with partners in the community to address rape and sexual violence, has a prevention programme and receives referrals from a wide range of organisations. In January 2014, RAS expanded its service to support men and boys.

Lorraine Dobson, the charity’s support services co-ordinator said:

“We are very grateful for this donation from Aberdeen Asset Management that has allowed us to roll out this new support project for young girls and women in the North East. This project enables survivors to discuss issues relating to abuse, and the impact it has had on their lives and to explore issues including developing coping mechanises to address this in everyday life.

“Childhood survivors can share their stories with trained volunteers who can offer direct and unique support to them. This will be an ongoing project as we aim to help as many people as we can.”

Dominic Kite of Aberdeen Asset Management’s Charitable Foundation said:

“Rape and Abuse Support Aberdeen carries out vital work in the city and surrounding area and this new support group will build and develop the service it is able to offer.”

The Aberdeen Asset Charitable Foundation was established in 2012 to formalise and develop the Group’s charitable giving globally. The Foundation seeks partnerships with smaller charities around the world, where funds can be seen to have a meaningful and measurable impact and the firm encourages its employees to use their time and skills to support its charitable projects. The donation to RAS which has enabled the setting up of the new support project totals £4,000.

For more information visit

Nov 122015

Neil Hanna Photography 07702 246823With thanks to Jennifer Kelly, Tricker PR.

A cosier winter is in sight for homeless people across Scotland this winter, thanks to the Scottish Women’s Institutes (SWI) picking up their knitting needles and casting on in support of a national campaign to help make a difference to the lives of Big Issue vendors.

As Scotland’s largest women’s organisation, and with many members talented sewers and knitters, the SWI is throwing its weight behind The Big Issue Foundation’s Big Knitathon to ensure that this year’s effort is the biggest and best to date.

Throughout November, the women will gather to knit garments, raise funds and hold events, all of which will benefit homeless people in Scotland. And, in a powerful message to get others involved, they are providing two Big Knitters – expert knitters who will help promote the Big Knitathon by attending events, posting tips online and answering knitting queries.

Although the SWI is no stranger to supporting important issues and worthy causes, it’s the first time that the 17,000 member organisation has been involved in the Big Knitathon – and members are determined that their backing will make a big difference to the lives of people who have become homeless. The SWI will be working alongside Hobbycraft, another key supporter of the campaign, with all 83 stores taking part nationwide.

As the leading ladies and resident ‘Big Knitters’ for the campaign, mother and daughter Anne (73) and Jane Muirhead (47) are determined to encourage all members – from novice to seasoned professional – to keep their knitting needles by their side for the month of November.

Gargunnock SWI member and Stirling Federation chairman Anne says,

“For as long as I can remember we, as an organisation, have gone above and beyond to support local and national causes. We’re passionate about making a difference and helping others in need.

“I’ve been a member for 40 years and I still love the fact that when we work together, we achieve extraordinary results. I, and many of my fellow members, were taught how to knit in primary one and so have had the best part of 70 years to perfect the skill – and practice we do!

“This is a fantastic cause with very worthy recipients so between our scarfs, gloves, blankets and hats, we’ll make sure The Big Issue vendors don’t feel a chill this winter.”

The Big Knitathon is an annual campaign to encourage knitters across the country to create clothing for the vendors, sell the finished articles to raise funds, or hold events with all proceeds going to The Big Issue Foundation. Over the last three years over 2000 knitters have got their needles out for the Big Knitathon and raised over £22,500 for the campaign.

For The Big Knitathon, SWI members are being encouraged to teach novice knitters, share skills, donate knitted goods organise fundraising events and document their knitting journey online through social media.

They are also encouraged to attend the nationwide Hobbycraft event on Saturday 14th November. Held in all 83 stores across the UK, the event will give members a chance to knit together, share skills, share patterns and enjoy a cake or two – all in aid of Scotland’s Big Issue vendors.

Stephen Robertson, CEO of The Big Issue Foundation, says,

“Winter is an especially difficult time for our sellers, especially when the end of the working day doesn’t provide any respite from the harsh conditions. The Big Knitathon enables everyone to help make our sellers’ days and nights easier by buying, selling or donating hand knitted items. This year we’re delighted to have support from the SWI, and know that the warmth of their fundraising and knitting support will be felt by our sellers through the winter’s chill.”

Working outdoors in the freezing winter months, vendors will be protected from the chilling Scottish winds and cold temperatures with cosy knitted hats, scarves and fingerless gloves. Knitters can also donate individual squares that will then be made into patchwork blankets providing some extra warmth during the coldest months of the year.

Joining in with the Big Knitathon is easy. SWI members can submit knitted goods or raised funds to their nearest Hobbycraft store throughout November. Simply register for free online and you will be sent a fundraisers pack. To find out more about the Scottish Women’s Institute visit

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Sep 252015

With thanks to Jessica Murphy, Senior Account Executive, Cirtus Mix.

NessNess Clothing and Accessories, an established independent Scottish retailer, is set to inject a Scottish twist into Bon Accord & St Nicholas.

Ness will open its first dedicated north-east store in the St Nicholas mall later this month (September) – and will offer a range of womenswear and iconic lifestyle staples.

The popular store was founded in Edinburgh in 1996 and takes inspiration from the contemporary feel and flavour of its birthplace.

Ness’s collection of tailored tweed blazers, vibrant knitwear, iconic bags and simple, smart accessories makes it a beacon for fashionistas and it will be the latest addition to Bon Accord & St Nicholas which is marking its 25th birthday this year.

Craig Stevenson, manager of Bon Accord & St Nicholas, said:

“Ness will be a fantastic addition to our retail offering at Bon Accord & St Nicholas, and we are delighted to be welcoming them into the centre at the end of this month.

“The store will be located within a unit of St Nicholas which will really enhance the mall’s fashion presence. The outlet will stock a full range of stylish womenswear and lifestyle must-haves and I’m sure there will be a lot of anticipation building between now and its opening day. This is Ness’s first store in the north-east and we are delighted to be playing such an important part in its expansion plans.”

Adrienne Macaulay of Ness, added:

“We are very excited to be opening in Aberdeen, where we already have a wonderful customer base.”

Bon Accord & St Nicholas are at the heart of Aberdeen city centre’s retail sector, offering 840,000 sq ft of prime space and home to around 100 stores. Scotland’s largest Next, Aberdeen’s only Topshop and Topman standalone store as well as the City’s largest New Look and River Island are among the key retailers.

The centres, which attract an average of 270,000 visitors a week, are owned by BMO Real Estate Partners and managed by specialist retail agency Savills. For further information on the centres visit

Aug 282015

With thanks to Esther Green, Tricker PR.

Scottish Women's InstitutesIn cities, towns and rural areas of Scotland, a new generation of women is discovering for the first time the appeal of the Scottish Women’s Institute.

They are trying activities like speed crafting, going on brewery trips, making cocktails and learning to play the ukulele at new branches that have popped in Leith, Shawlands, Aberdeen and Dervaig on the Isle of Mull.

Moves to introduce the SWI to a broader reach of women have led to the birth of pilot meetings which are being trialled in different parts of Scotland.

These less formal gatherings have been encouraging women to meet with other like-minded women to make friendships and learn new skills and interests at times of the day and week that best suit their lifestyles.

The latest pilot to get off the ground is in Aberdeen which held its first meeting on Wednesday, August 19, inspired by the new style groups that are taking root elsewhere in Scotland.

Ann Milne, the driving force behind the Granite City’s Deen Divas says:

“There has been tremendous interest in an informal group of women getting together to socialise, enjoy shared interests and above all have fun.  About 40 people attend our first meeting and we’re looking forward to developing and growing in the coming months.”

Leith SWI is part of the new generation SWI with Facebook taking the place of committee meetings and cocktail making and ukulele lessons among its meeting themes.

Member Dawn Endean says:

“It’s about people getting together because they want to make friends. We do whatever people fancy doing.”

Dervaig Divas held its first meeting in a pub in the north of the island of Mull and has been the brainchild of the SWI’s Sheelagh Still who finds it refreshing to go forward with younger people’s ideas, input and enthusiasm.

Says Sheelagh:

“We recognise that women want flexibility and may wish to dip in and out of meetings as their other commitments allow. It’s great to see new interest being generated in the SWI.”

Shawlands in Glasgow launched its new-style SWI on Sunday, 23rd August with plans to focus on women’s safety, alongside crafts and baking.

Angela Tamburrini of Shawlands sought out a local SWI to learn more about homecrafts and baking, but with none near her home decided to do something about it by forming a new group.

“That was at the beginning of June and I’ve had 80 women register their interest,” explains Angela.

“Activities will be whatever the majority want but will include speakers to talk about topics such as women’s safety.

“Some of the talent out there is gobsmacking and some of the ladies are happy to do demonstrations like make jewellery, quiltmaking, baking, decoupage, paper crafts. 

“I’d also like to help women improve their employment prospects and am thinking about getting someone from a recruitment background to give their CVs a health check – for free of course!”

SWI national chairwoman Christine Hutton is encouraged to see new members coming on board and taking an interest in the organisation and says it bodes well for the future.

Christine adds:

“The SWI will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2017 and to see fresh blood coming in, and new institutes being formed, is a positive step in the right direction.”

The new style meetings have come about as part of the rebranding of the movement introduced earlier this year to address the organisation’s ageing membership and to inspire women to join an organisation more reflective of modern lives where women work, have family and busy lifestyles.

The word ‘Rural’ has been dropped from the name, to reflect the growing membership in urban areas, while a new logo has been designed to give a fresh look along with the strapline ‘Women Together’. A new website has also been launched making it easier to search for Institutes.

Flexible meetings at different times of the day and in different venues are being trialled with new Institutes encouraged to take up themes and activities that reflect their own interests, lifestyles and communities, alongside existing SWI groups where education and training in home skills, family welfare, citizenship and friendship remain the key aims.

The new groups complement the existing network of traditional meetings that have been held all over Scotland since the organisation’s foundations in 1917.

The SWI remains one of Scotland’s most loved institutions with a membership of around 17,700 women.

For more details of how to find your nearest institute, or advice on how to set up a new one, visit or go to its Facebook pages at

Aug 132015
Richard Lochhead MSP, Gillian Martin and Alex Salmond MP MSP - (Credit-SNP Aberdeenshire)

Richard Lochhead MSP, Gillian Martin and Alex Salmond MP MSP – (Credit-SNP Aberdeenshire)

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP

Gillian Martin has been nominated for approval by Aberdeenshire East SNP in an endorsement meeting today (Fri Aug 14) in Ellon.
If supported by the local membership, Gillian from Newmachar will become the SNP candidate to succeed Alex Salmond as the local MSP.

Commenting on her nomination, Gillian said:

“I am delighted to be nominated for candidacy in the place where I grew up and where I am bringing up my own family. 

“For the last 15 years I have worked as a lecturer and I also run my own business producing training and information materials for the energy sector.

“As a founder for Women for Independence in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, I have seen first-hand how people have become more politically active all over this region.

“Our political landscape was transformed during the referendum and the entire Scottish electorate is now one of the most engaged in Western Europe with so many people finding their political voice.

“I hope to add my own voice to our group in Holyrood and do justice to the area which has been so well served by Alex Salmond for so many years.

“Luckily I will have the benefit of his experience close by as he serves the Gordon constituency for Westminster, as well as that of my other SNP colleagues in the North East.”

Alex Salmond commented:

“Gillian’s nomination now goes forward to a full constituency meeting this Friday.

“I am looking forward to seeing her confirmed as the candidate. She played a key part in my local campaign team in winning the Gordon constituency for the SNP and was a leading light in the Women for Independence movement nationally.

“It is great to have the chance to select such a highly talented and local woman candidate for Aberdeenshire East.”

Gillian (46) lives with her husband, John, a teacher at Turriff Academy, and two children, Louis and Eve.

She grew up in Newburgh and attended Ellon Academy before going on to study at the University of Glasgow.

She has been a lecturer at North East Scotland College for 15 years and runs her own production company making videos for the community and the oil and gas sector. She is also the executive and founder of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Women for Independence.

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Jun 112015

The presence of the nude in art: a tradition from prehistory to the present. The Venus of Willendorf (c. 25,000 bc); the Classical Laocoon and his Sons marble; Michelangelo’s David; Manet’s Le Dejeunner sur l’herbe – all instantly recognisable artwork featuring nude figures, male and female. Most higher art institutions offer life drawing classes and understand and encourage the use of the nude in contemporary art practice. But, alas, Bibo Keeley is studying ART AND DESIGN in Aberdeen IN THE ART AND DESIGN DEPARTMENT of North East Scotland College – where the female nipple will not be tolerated. By Suzanne Kelly

Bibo Keeley FREE AS A BIRD poster VERBOTEN by Rob Wallen Principal and Chief Executive of NESCOL A starlet’s nipple ‘accidentally’ spills out of their ball gown on the red carpet spells headline news in print and online. A singer flashes onstage; no one bats an eyeball.

A singer uses her sex to swing into the top twenty astride a wrecking ball, nude – some might call that clever marketing. Others might call it exploitation.

When visual artist Bibo Keeley chose to use the female chest to draw attention to sexual discrimination, hypocrisy, inequality, and sexual choice issues, initially her art college instructor was supportive.

When her work was put forward for the END-OF-YEAR exhibition, it was rejected, and she was told to ‘HANG something else’. No further explanation was given.

Was it hand gestures used by some of the models, whose faces were obscured by bird-like masks? Was it the nipples? Apparently the nipples proved to be too much, BUT EVEN a suggested alternative with nipples marked out by CENSOR STRIPS was suggested – BUT THIS OPTION WAS REJECTED ALSO.

Although the banning order came from HIGH UP IN THE COLLEGE, two women MEMBERS OF STAFF delivered the censorship decree to her, AND WHEN ASKED refused to back her right to show the female torso. Bibo says:

“I could not believe that anyone would consider banning this artwork because the work is very clearly designed to promote gender equality.

“However, somebody obviously decided that my artwork could be offensive to somebody somewhere. The same one-man-censorship-committee completely failed to see how offensive this ban is to me as an artist and to the participants who collaborated with me on the piece; and it is surely deeply offensive to every woman who believes in equal rights.

“I think banning artwork with such an empowering message shows a total lack of respect for the college’s own students and it also undermines the teaching staff in the Art and Design department who support their students’ creativity.”

The college operates under the Scottish Government’s ‘Curriculum For Excellence’ which aims to produce Successful Learners, Confident Individuals, Responsible Citizens and Effective Contributors. It does not aim to produce artists who avoid anything which upsets people who promote gender discrimination.

“I am an artist. I take inspiration from issues which are important to me. And I have no interest in presenting work just to please other people.”

The last time that I saw an attempt at banning the nude in an art context was in 1996. Edinburgh College of Art had a book of Robert Mapplethorpe male nudes.

Bibo Keeley FREE AS A BIRD censored version VERBOTEN by Rob Wallen NESCOL Principal and Chief ExecutiveJPGFor reasons known only to themselves, the police decided the book should be confiscated and banned.

The students banded together; the staff were supportive, and the clumsy attempt at supressing one of the great photographers of the human form was roundly and resolutely seen off.

If those responsible for arts education have taken on censorship roles in Aberdeen in defiance of free expression, and millennium-spanning  artistic tradition, especially in light of contemporary media practice, then are they fit guardians for arts education? Arguably not.

If Aberdeen didn’t get shortlisted as a city of culture candidate in the last round of the cultural beauty contest, perhaps it is these myopic, conservative, ill-informed, repressed, sexist and prudish sensibilities that are at least in part to blame.

On finding out the work is to be banned by the COLLEGE, several arts practitioners, education professionals, and venues have expressed support and solidarity.  A show of Bibo’s work locally is under discussion.   One acclaimed local figurative artist said of the decision:

“The bare naked truth Suzanne, is the powers that be, who took this decision are protecting their own bare arses. They don’t want to be associated with a possible Daily Mail style backlash. So much for free expression.”

More on the COLLEGE, the artist and the banned nipples will follow.

About Bibo Keeley:

 I am a HNC (Higher National Certificate) mature student of Art and Design at NESCOL, starting at Gray’s School of Art in September.

I am also an Artist in my own right:

In recent years I have contributed to numerous exhibitions, including Aberdeen Artists Society (2014), Paisley Art Institute 124th Annual Exhibition (2012), Fabric of the Land Aberdeen (2014), Perth Museum and Art Gallery (2013), and Clydebank Art Gallery & Museum (2014 + 2015).

This year (2015) I have also had a two-artists-show at Art Village in Glasgow as part of the Glasgow Southside Fringe festival, a solo exhibition at Macduff Town Hall as part of the COAST festival, and I had some of my artwork displayed (as part of a two-artists-show) at the Scottish Parliament at MSP Anne McTaggart’s launch of the organ-donation-opt-out-bill. 

My next two-artists-exhibition will be later this month (June 2015) at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank.

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Feb 202015

Scottish Women's InstitutesthmWith thanks to Eoin Smith, Tricker PR.

In a drive to attract a new generation of members, The Scottish Women’s Institute (SWI) will introduce a pilot project adopting new-style flexible meetings at different times of the day and in different venues to fit in with the lifestyles of prospective new members.

Meetings taking place in informal settings like coffee shops in the daytime or straight after work  will be trialled, to help the organisation become accessible to more women who work, have family commitments and busy lifestyles.

New Institutes will be encouraged to take up the themes and activities that reflect their own interests, lifestyles and communities.

The existing key aims of the SWI will remain as education and training in home skills, family welfare, citizenship and friendship and to promote the preservation and development of Scotland’s traditions, rural heritage and culture. However, there will be less formal minute taking and members being required to take on formal roles, with new institutes communicating perhaps instead by blogs and social media.

These pilots will run alongside the network of traditional meetings held all over Scotland by members since the organisation began in 1917.

In tandem with the pilot project of new style meetings, the organisation will in future be known as the Scottish Women’s Institutes rather than the Scottish Women’s Rural Institutes, to show that women from urban as well as rural locations are welcome.

A new logo has been designed to replace the Luckenbooth logo first introduced in 1918 and the motto ‘For Home and Country’ will be replaced by the strapline ‘Women Together.’ A new website is under construction and will make finding out how to join a local institute easier through a simple postcode search, and online payment option for the joining fee will also be introduced. (launch planned for March 2015).

Membership has fallen from 30,000 in the 1980s to under 18,500 today and it is seen as crucial that changes are implemented to attract a younger generation of women to continue the legacy of one of Scotland’s most loved institutions.

Chairman Christine Hutton explains:

“We are the guardians of our organisation and it’s our duty to leave a legacy for Scottish women of the future. Although they may not seem to be pioneers by today’s standards, the women who started the SWRI during the First World War were forging a new path for women learning and socialising together. It’s very important for us to retain and build on our aims, but we have to do this by attracting new members.

It has been estimated that if we continue a membership decline similar to that which we have experienced in recent years, our organisation may simply cease to exist. I am excited that we are pioneering new ways of reaching out to different generations of Scottish women while we retain our structure of traditional meetings which are so valued by many of our current members.”

Christine continues:

“We are aware that many non-members who live in cities and towns feel we are not open to them; just to rural, country people and this could not be further from the truth. We may be dropping the word ‘rural’ from our name, but I am sure generations of women will continue to refer to us as The Rural and we welcome this. Whether we are known as the SWI or the ‘Rural’ our aims remain the same – to bring Scottish women together to enjoy learning and extending their crafts and skills.

There has been a UK wide revival in baking and crafts thanks to the popularity of television shows such as ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’, there is a clear interest from women of all ages, in learning and sharing knowledge in skills including cooking, the arts and crafts, as well as leisure activities. We aim to move forward as a relevant, appealing membership organisation for women of all ages.”

One of the youngest institutes in the SWI is Garnethill  in Glasgow, where the programme of recent events has included an ecstatic dance workshop, life drawing; talks on drug law reform and working in child psychiatry; and members joining  a ‘Reclaim the Night’ march in Glasgow. The new pilot projects may adopt similar styles of meetings and activities.

Chair Lindsay Finnie and her fellow Garnethill members are excited about the refocus of the national organisation and she says:

“We are more of an ‘ideas and brainfood’ group than some of the more traditional institutes but we became affiliated to the SWI as we see how members get so much out of meeting with others, having fun and also taking part in stimulating activities that are relevant to them and the communities which they live.

“I would encourage more women to be part of the move to make the SWI increasingly relevant to women of all ages.”

Long standing SWI member Isabell Montgomerie of the Ochiltree Institute in Ayrshire says:

“This evolution of the SWI is an exciting and interesting time for us as current members. Being relevant and inclusive for women across Scotland has always been at the core of the SWI and while I am sure we’ll all still be calling it ‘the rural’ for many years, it is time for us to reach out to many more women in Scotland’s urban and rural areas to join us.

“It will be great to be able to choose between our traditional meetings and a more informal get together while still having the chance to meet like-minded women and to improve our skills.”

With a membership drawn from Shetland to Wigtown, the SWI remains one of the largest women’s organisations in Scotland. It offers women of all ages the opportunity to learn new skills, take part in a wide variety of activities from art, crafts and cookery to choral singing, debating and dancing, all of which offer friendship and fun and the chance to get to know your neighbours.

Christine Hutton adds:

“We celebrates our centenary in 2017 and we hope to reach this important milestone with an increased membership and a choice of meeting structures for institutes which will be enjoyed by members old and new.”

For more details of how to find your nearest institute, or advice on how to set up a new one, visit or go to its Facebook pages at

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Nov 142014

“They didn’t value my mum’s life and they certainly didn’t value my sister’s life. Ultimately, they’re dead. I will never, ever heal. Ever.”
– Stacey Banner to the BBC, on murders committed by John Lowe. Police returned guns to him despite his threat to ‘blow off’ Stacey Banner’s head.

The police certainly have problems. Previous articles in this series have looked at the issues of institutionalised racism, guns and how our rights are being chipped away, little by little. With all the powers of surveillance at their disposal, police surely are able to determine when people are in potential danger. How are the 21st century UK police treating women? Suzanne Kelly reports.

Police line pic2Christine Lee and her daughter Lucy are dead. Like so many murdered women, they knew their killer. It was 82-year-old puppy farmer John Lowe, who was husband and stepfather to them.

Surrey Police had confiscated guns from 82-year-old John Lowe when he threatened to kill his stepdaughter and his wife.

The guns were returned some eight weeks later. The women are dead. The police are sorry.

There will be the usual inquiry; the usual wrists have been slapped. The women could still be alive, like so many other women who turn to the police, only to be let down again and again.

Domestic Violence:

Women who come forward to report abuse, or the threat of violence, are still being dismissed by the police. The old, outdated notion of dismissing marital violence as ‘just a domestic’ seems to be alive and well, as the murders committed by John Lowe attest.

The police launched a visible offensive against domestic abusers in February this year. One has to hope that the partners were warned in advance; but if so, surely that would have caused anxiety. If the victims of abuse were not warned in advance of their partner’s arrests, the consequences could be very serious: in domestic abuse the pattern is to blame the wife/partner for everything that goes wrong.

One can only hope the women were and are being given all the help and support they need. Otherwise, this particular exercise seems like a headline grabber with potentially lethal consequences.

Sexual Assault and Rape:

One in five women aged 16-59 has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16 according to Rape Crisis.

This is a statistic which should shock the government and police into action. Victims of rape and other violence are often afraid to come forward, and the way they are sometimes treated when they do leaves much to be desired.

In a famous interview Ken Clark in 2011 spoke with an extremely brave woman who reported an attempted rape, endured examinations, court battles, hours spent with police and legal teams. Her attacker, a repeat offender, spent about a year and a half in custody.

More recently, UKIP member and donor Demetri Marchessini said women cannot be raped by their husbands.

It’s sometimes hard to believe that it’s 2014 when we look at how rape victims are treated. The news last week carried the story of Eleanor de Frietas. This vulnerable woman went to the police with a tale of being drug raped. What happened subsequently led to her suicide.

The police had no grounds for thinking she was lying, but when the alleged rapist took her to court in a private action for £200,000, the Crown Prosecution Service decided to go after her as well. Unable to stand the ordeal, she took her own life.

When the Police are the Perpetrators:

Women are being abused by serving officers. An online resource lists various police officers in the UK and the vast array of charges levelled against them, which include rape, sex with a vulnerable woman, and child abuse.

Then there is the case of Ryan Reid, 27, a special constable who used his position to illegally search police files for information about women he was veritably stalking; he sent naked photos and sexual messages to half a dozen women. According to the Daily Mail:

“Reid, of Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire, who was stationed at Carluke Police Office, pleaded guilty to seven charges involving five women … one of his victims was just 15 when he began contacting her…. He admitted two charges of stalking women, three under the Communications Act and one under the Sexual Offenses Act…he also pleaded guilty to an offence under the Data Protection Act that he did ‘knowingly or recklessly and without the consent of the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland obtain and disclose personal data by repeatedly accessing various police systems with no operational reason for doing so.’”

Reid apparently made a social media comment that when men in the forces drop their trousers they are in trouble, when women do so, it is promotion. Is sexism as rife as racism is within the forces? Is this case the tip of the iceberg, indicating institutionalised misogyny? You could be forgiven for thinking so.

This may well explain the number of women who, despite making numerous pleas to the police, are attacked, sometimes fatally, by persistent stalkers. Three years ago a Guardian article pointed out the dismal failure of the police and courts to protect vulnerable women:

“Two-thirds of victims said the police and Crown Prosecution Service did not take their complaints seriously enough, with offenders not being charged in nearly nine out of ten alleged cases.

“The survey of 140 victims was conducted by the charity Protection Against Stalking (PAS), which found “low level” stalking offences were dealt with too leniently and could escalate into more serious offences, including murder.

“The majority of victims are women. One told how the criminal justice system had failed her:

“The police told me to switch my phone off and ignore him. They said nothing could be done. I showed them dozens of texts and they were not really interested. They said nothing could be done unless he actually tried to hurt me.”

“Another victim said:

“Being abandoned by the police while being stalked only adds to the fear and distress of what is already a terrifying situation.””

Ryan Reid may have been found guilty of data access and sexual crimes. But what can a Police Scotland officer expect if accused of illegally accessing data on an ex-partner? As reported in the Evening Express, Police Scotland’s DC Duthie has astonishingly been cleared of any wrong doing when his ex’s personal data was accessed by someone within the police.

“DC Duthie, whose address was given in court papers as care of Police Scotland [note – I doubt a member of the public would be allowed to give their work address to the court – SK], had denied accessing the secure information himself.

“He accepted that the files were viewed on February 27 and April 2, 2012 using his unique username and password but said someone else must have used a computer he was logged on to. But today he was found not guilty of the charges.”

Who else would have wanted to look at the data in question? If someone other than Duthie had an interest in this matter, how did they manage to get Duthie’s personal login information? Why hasn’t the person who accessed this information come forward? Have the police identified who it was, and if so, why is no prosecution forthcoming?

This may seem like a case of one man snooping into his ex-partner’s affairs without due cause. What the court decision has done however has set an extremely dangerous precedent: police officers can now access any data they want, and claim that the unique password and login must have been used by an unknown police operative, who will not be sought.

This tiny decision gives the police legal sanction to do whatever they want with our data. It may have passed unnoticed by the mainstream news, but this is a potentially dangerous legal precedent.


It should be noted that women don’t always fare well inside the police forces, either. Unequal pay, discrimination and sexual harassment are all realities. The Scotsman reported in April this year that women in the force are not getting equal promotion opportunities.

Being a domestic abuser is not a barrier to re-joining the force, either.

However, there are a growing number of women in the force. Perhaps positive, real change is within reach.

But as a Guardian investigation found, there is sexism and bias against women making claims of sexual assault against police officers.

Summing up:

Women are being ignored at best, and attacked at worst, by the people paid to protect them. Rape victims are victimised, domestic violence is often downplayed, and stalking victims are routinely brushed off. The recent cases mentioned are only the tip of the iceberg, and the kinds of problems women face also include trafficking and forced marriage, among other issues.

No doubt there will be some kind of investigations into the senseless deaths of Christine and Lucy Lee, and the farcical CPS attack on Eleanor de Frietas which led to her suicide, as her note indicated.

But the system has gone down these routes before without reforming, and reform is possibly farther away than ever before. Change is long overdue, but with comments like those coming from UKIP donor Marchessini, that a husband can’t be guilty of raping his wife, coupled with the scale of abuse either ignored by or perpetrated by the UK’s police forces, it’s hard to see things improving any time soon.

If the situation for grown women is brutal, then it is a far worse reality for children dependent on the state for protection. The next piece in this series will look at issues such as Rotherham, child abuse and how the state and in particular the police, are involved in the neglect and sometimes abuse of children.

Support Services:

Samaritans Aberdeen

60 Dee Street Aberdeen AB11 6DS
Tel: 01224 574488
Usual hours open to receive callers at the door: 9am – 10pm

Rape and Abuse Support

88 John Street Aberdeen, AB25 1LE
Office Tel: 01224 639 347
Helpline: 01224 620 772

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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.]

Oct 032014

dreamstimefree_246872 mother childBy Bob Smith.

A mither’s love is eynless
A mither’s love nivver tires
A mither’s love kens nae bounds
A mither’s love inspires

A mither gied ye a bosie
Fin ye fell an skin’t yer knee
A mither syne telt ye aff
Fer climmin up aat tree

A mither’s maist affa wise
An telt ye wrang fae richt
A mither jist shook her heid
Fin thocht ye nae aat bricht

A mither she aye listen’t
As ye hit een o yer lows
A mither gied ye spunk
Ti tackle aa life’s woes

Ay myn o aat gweed wumman
Be she mither, mum or mam
Fowk aa ower the warld
Should toast mithers wi a dram

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie”2013
Image: © Melissa M. Morris | Dreamstime Stock Photos
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Sep 262014

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


Tally Ho! For a city with no beating heart and collapsed lungs awaiting a granite web transplant, Aberdeen is somehow managing to hold its own on the cultural front. The Techfest 2014 events are very impressive and are still ongoing. Aberdeen gets ready to welcome Billy Connolly next week; if the city isn’t rolling out the red carpets, it should be.

The Big Yin will be at the music hall; tickets sold out instantly. Post referendum, this will be quite a show. That underused shady green garden is going to have an Oktoberfest. It’s all happening.

Referendum fallout is everywhere, and shows no signs of abating. Both Yes and No camps still cry foul; queens are accused of purring; political parties are accused of breaking their promises, something I can assure worried readers will never happen.

Two years on, and Aberdeen’s own referendum on Union Terrace Gardens show no sign of abating, either. The P&J, Tom Smith, ACSEF and Sir Ian Wood are still banging on about how a granite web is the city’s only salvation and how it must be built over our only existing city centre green space (coincidentally owned by you and I, and worth tens of millions).

The canals of Venice. The Eiffel Tower.The Taj Mahal. The granite web to nowhere. Yes, that would have worked. These tenacious people of course have no selfish interests as they campaign on and on and on.

In the news this week are various movements – various ‘isms’. Women are bleating on about wanting rights. Campaigning journalists closer to home are drumming up support for their advertisers’ projects – sorry – important local causes. Time for a look at some of these ‘isms’.

Feminism: (Modern English movement) – belief that women and men should have equal opportunities, equal rights and equal pay.

Well, I am just a weak, helpless female, so I got one of my male colleagues to explain to me what’s wrong with this feminism business. Apparently, it’s all about unshaven women who want to look like men, or something like that. It’s just too complex for me.

On the other hand, I did some research. You will be surprised to learn that there may indeed be instances where there is a small amount of discrimination.

For reasons known only to herself, actress Emma Watson – actress and academic scholar is trying to tell us that feminism isn’t a dirty word. For some reason, she thinks that women are not treated as well as men. I wonder why she’d come to such a wild conclusion; she’s probably just looking for headlines.

Of course Watson may object to a few inconsequential facts. Women around the world do not earn as much money as male contemporaries for the same work. Women are being forced into marriage around the globe including here in the UK. There is also the small matter that in the western world, a mere one in 4 women can expect to experience some form of sexual abuse or violence.

Women are being trafficked against their will to be used as prostitutes. Police routinely ignore women’s pleas for help with domestic violence, and yet another woman in the UK was killed by a stalker the police had been warned about many, many times before.

That ought to prove that women aren’t subject to exploitation

In short, I’ve no idea why Emma thinks that campaigning for equal treatment of women in society is something we need to do. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if she turned her efforts to something worthwhile, like backing the Aberdeen City Garden Project?

To disprove Watson’s case, some charming, anonymous people have started a countdown online as to when they plan to release nude photos of her. That ought to prove that women aren’t subject to exploitation to everyone’s satisfaction. Releasing any photos will also put her back in her place, intimidate her, and then we girls can forget all this silly feminist stuff.

For further examples of the fair treatment the fair sex gets, the 25/9 P&J carries a tale we can all have a good laugh along with.

Offshore worker Andrew Thomas has unfairly been put on the sex offenders’ register for a whole year, and will have to do some community service. He was just being a lad after all when he snuck into his female offshore co-worker’s room, set up a phone to spy on her, and saved photos of her changing and washing. It’s even funnier because he pretended to be her pal.

Any red-blooded offshore worker would have done the same. Spoilsport Kerry McKnockiter doesn’t get that this was just good fun, and somehow feels she’s been violated. Go figure. At the same time, a man who grew something called ‘marijuana’ at his home has rightly been locked up for 12 months, a splendidly fair sentence, and a great use of taxpayer money. Good on us.

As to this equal pay business that feminists want resolved, what do you need money for once you’ve got a husband, hopefully the richest one you could snare? I’d recommend pretty young girls enter beauty contests – look at the great catch Sarah ‘Face Of Aberdeen’ Malone landed when Damian Bates married the lucky girl?

Still, some women insist on working, taking jobs away from our boys. It’s only right that girls don’t get the same money as men do; after all, they’re not as strong or as smart as men are. All public sector pay was meant to be levelled out years back; this is still in progress. In fact, Torry was once asked to sell huge tracts of land it controlled to help Aberdeen City level out its pay issues.

If Old Susannah recalls correctly (remember, I’m just an old woman) – the city made a fine job of equalising pay – by lowering the salaries of some men, rather than raising women’s pay. Sounds pretty reasonable to me. More on all this here. Of course pay and pension are still wee problems (well, if you’re a girl anyway) today. All I can say is ‘calm down dear, it’s only your living wage.

We’ve had wimmin academics heckled, threatened with rape and other forms of violence.

It couldn’t be that the ‘writers’ are slavishly regurgitating whatever press releases it gets

I guess when you have extremist feminists like Caroline Criado-Perez (a foreigner, note) who wanted Jane Austin put on a bank note, then trying to frighten the weaker sex is a good strategy to get them in line.Perhaps a nice cup of tea and a pat on the head is all that these feminist type ladies and Emma Watson need.

That, and perhaps a box of chocolates and a new hat.

Yellow Journalism: The use of sensationalism, bias, and exaggeration in order to attract and/or influence readers.

“There are no concrete plans to breathe new life into the heart of Aberdeen – two years after the city Garden Project was controversially scrapped.”

– So wrote the P&J’s Dawn Morrison this week for the P&J’s Wednesday cover story, dramatically illustrated with an ornate gold picture frame with nothing inside of it. I’m sure this factual, un-emotive opening sentence will have us girls weeping into our ice-cream tubs.

I’m equally sure that, coincidentally of course, some of the P&J’s biggest advertisers do indeed have concrete plans for Union Terrace Gardens.

Well, perhaps granite-clad concrete is what they want, but there are some people who just want that green space taken over, which will magically put the business rates in the area within the reach of local shopkeepers, will reduce the unfair advantages multinational competitors have over homegrown businesses (buying power, advertising, brand recognition, and of course the use of cheap if not slave labour abroad to create projects).

It’s also very reassuring that all P&J writers, off their own bats of course, use the exact same description for Aberdeen – breathing new life into it, its beating heart, etc. etc.

It couldn’t be that the ‘writers’ are slavishly regurgitating whatever press releases or directives they get. It wouldn’t be like helmsman Damian Bates to dictate to his minions what to write, what not to write about (Anthony Baxter and his Trump-related documentaries for instance) or how to write it.

A google search on ‘breath new life’, ‘heart’, ‘Aberdeen’ and ‘Ian Wood’ will give you all the breathing, beating and throbbing you could ever hope for. It’s just amazing everyone uses the same metaphors – not that these stirring words and phrases are getting at all tedious or worn out, mind you. This whole business may have started with Sir Ian himself; and a regular breath of fresh air he is, too.

The P&J is a bastion for free thinking, freely-writing intrepid investigative journalists whose high ideals lead to balanced articles such as this empty picture frame one. Some might think that such a blatant piece of editorial belongs tucked away inside the issue, but that’s another matter. Some also think that the press shouldn’t exist to serve its advertisers’ interests or indeed the financial interests of the people who edit the news. But that is, I suppose, nit-picking.

Alas, that’s all there is time for this week; I feel the need to shop coming on, and my weakly female constitution can’t possibly continue without a new pair of shoes to cheer me up. More next week.

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