Archive for ‘MSP’

April 10, 2016

Edinburgh’s schools are falling down…PFI

Edinburgh’s schools are falling down

Falling down, falling down.

Edinburgh’s schools are falling down

PFI.

Private Finance Initiative aka Public Private Partnerships aka Milking the Public Purse

Surely someone is responsible – who could it possibly be?

Oxgangs Primary

Let me take you back – if you have a moment – to 2001 when the then Scottish Executive signed a contract worth around £360 million with a private consortium to build and maintain schools in the capital. What could possibly go wrong?

Labour was in power back then – I know – it’s hard to believe. The Scottish Executive proudly announced plans to build or refurbish some 110 schools across Scotland at a cost of £2.3 billion. Many of the schools had stood since Victorian times and it was thought a good idea to modernise the sector but the projected figure of £2.3 billion was queried with fears that, one way or another, we the public would end up paying through the nose for the deal.

McConnell makes investment pledge

Jack McConnell with Helen Liddell

Jack McConnell takes delegates’ applause

By BBC News Online’s Brian PonsonbyJack McConnell has committed the Scottish Labour Party to a programme of investment in public services which uses private finance as well as government cash.

The first minister told delegates at the party’s conference in Perth that he intended to “invest to build public services for the 21st century” with “public capital and sometimes with private capital”.

He also promised to build or modernise 100 schools under Public Private Partnerships (PPP) over the next four years.

We’ll work together to sort out how we give people the maximum return for every one of their pounds we are spending

Jack McConnell
First Minister

His commitment sends out a clear message to the trade unions that he will not be deterred from using PPPs to boost public services.

Mr McConnell’s message was delivered just hours after Scottish Labour narrowly escaped a union-led defeat of a policy document which advocates use of private finance. (Sat 23 Feb 2002)

 

PPP/PFI arrangements tie in both parties for decades and it’s not just a case of paying off the initial investment but interest on the investment was added for all the years of the contract, naturally. PPP also meant oversight of public developments were transferred into private hands including scrutiny of standards of construction and bearing in mind profits and rewards for shareholders are always central to private capital institutions that should have raised concerns.

Of course many criticised the policy at the time, fearing for the quality of these PPP schools, but a spokesman for the Scottish Executive insisted:

“PPP is delivering real results for teachers and pupils and they do represent value for money.”

Who was that spokesman? Please get in touch and explain your definition of value for money.

The savings promised by PPP  schemes were illusionary. Edinburgh’s schools are merely the latest evidence that in the end PPPs cost the public purse dear. As well as hidden expenses buried within contracts companies involved in PPPs have not infrequently  been linked to offshore tax havens – for tax efficiency I think is the appropriate technical term.

Why don’t public bodies just borrow to build? You may well ask. I believe there is a limit on local authority borrowing but PPP has shown it was not a suitable alternative although similar schemes are still being undertaken. 

Introduced into the UK by the Tories in 1992 as Private Finance Initiative the scheme was meant to reduce public borrowing and was enthusiastically seized upon by incoming Labour governments starting under the reign of Tony Blair. Despite outrageous claims promoting their benefits PFI/PPP were soon costing tax payers eye-watering amounts to maintain as budgets took on lives of their own and contracts were shown to be not so much written up as stitched up.

mcconnell - Copy

With many PPP project costs spiralling out of control authorities found it a whole lot harder to get out of them than make them in the first place; they had not noticed they had signed away their souls (our souls) to the devil. Anyone guilty of such misuse of public monies should be instantly sacked or jailed. They were not and will not be, of course.

PPP has been adopted world-wide and produced a legacy of unfulfilled contracts which have drained community resources. This is especially despicable in developing countries where promises of improvements to infrastructure fail to materialise at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable.

As the PPP revolution became tarnished as tawdry profiteering other schemes have been set up in a cash and grab culture affecting public services and cash flows. Look no further than what’s happening with the NHS (in England and Wales at least) whereby this valuable asset is seen as ripe for plucking by businesses with an eye on a quick- and long-lasting buck. Contracting out is a massive con and it only requires a cursory glance at former government ministers who have taken up positions on boards of health-related companies to see how much self-serving and unscrupulous greed is at the heart of the UK government.

sky bridge

Twenty years ago was when many of us in Scotland had our eyes opened to this muddying of the roles separating private and public where public services and assets were concerned. In 1995 the Skye bridge was built through a funding arrangement with a North American company. Under the name Skye Bridge Ltd it financed and controlled the bridge which meant it charged people to cross – huge crippling tolls that hammered locals and local businesses who had little choice once the ferry was removed; the most expensive bridge crossing in Europe it was claimed with charges equivalent to £5.70 a mile. Well organised protests led to frequent attendances before the Dingwall sheriff who imposed fines and a few prison sentences in an attempt to damp down resistance. In 2007 under huge pressure from public opinion the Labour-Liberal administration at Holyrood was forced to end this unfair tax on bridge users and the bridge was purchased from Sky Bridge Ltd for £27 million. Given that the initial cost of its construction was a modest £15 million this amount looks steep but then the private financiers were enjoying a cash bonanza from crossing charges to the tune of £33.3 million – that is £33.3 million plus £27 million – and that’s what we know. Not a bad return given their operating costs were estimated at £3.5 million.

new craigs

New Craigs Hospital .

Former Labour health minister Susan Deacon (partner of BBC’s John Boothman) proudly opened a new psychiatric hospital in Inverness in 2000. It cost £14 million. That is £14 million for starters. In fact you and me and just about everyone in the UK, except the mega rich who salt away their cash, ended up paying an eye-watering £106 million for this modest building and the contract agreed by the Scottish Executive had handed over the land it stood on to the financiers until the 22nd century unless NHS Highland coughed up to buy them out. Who could possibly have agreed a contract like that?

I would love to hear Susan Deacon’s opinion on how this was value-for-money for taxpayers.

In 2008 alarm bells rang out when 3i Infrastructure Ltd, registered in Jersey, became a major shareholder in planned refurbishment of schools in the Highlands. As the Herald explained at the time, before we all became experts on the practice, off-shore registered companies pay no UK tax on profits – so – whatever they earned from this school project they would not be contributing to- er, schools and education in this country in quite the way the rest of us do through being taxed at source. As long as we are all clear on that I’ll carry on.

Inverness Airport was another Highland PPP financed project. Agreed in 1998 as a £9.6 million deal it promised a new terminal at no cost to the public purse initially. In this arrangement the private financiers, Inverness Air Terminal, were paid £3.50 for every passenger travelling through the airport. Within six years the cost of the project had been met BUT the contract was not due to end until 2024 – I’ll leave you to calculate how much the remaining contract could have earned them?

Amidst huge criticism Scottish Executive ministers decided to buy back the lease from IAT for what is thought to have been £36 million – and all for a project that was to cost £9.6 million. It was good news for IAT, however, who recouped their initial investment plus £36 million.

You would have thought someone at Labour HQ might have twigged. Ach well, there’s public money to get them out of a jam so what did it matter?

PPP mcconnell

Which brings me back to Edinburgh’s great schools initiative involving Equion, Miller, Bank of Scotland and Quayle Munro. Step up then Edinburgh Labour Council leader Rev Ewan Aitken:

“We have been on a tremendous journey over the past few years and today marks an important milestone for our Smart Schools initiative…

Over the past three years as I’ve visited our new schools, the one thing that strikes you as soon as you walk through the doors is how the pupils, parents and staff have great pride in their new surroundings.”

Sometimes pride is short-lived, Rev.

“This is not just an investment in bricks and mortar but an investment in the future of Edinburgh’s pupils, both current and in generations to come.” he continued.

I suppose future is a moveable feast.

broon

Gordon Brown backed PPP

In old London town in 2002 there was an internal Labour Party spat going on between Gordon Brown, Alastair Darling and then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone ,who objected to proposed PPP funding of improvements to London transport. It did not take long before the London Underground venture was being described as “one of the great scandals of the decade” – join the queue.

“Dismissing advice from experts and ignoring mounting problems over the contracts Chancellor Gordon Brown insisted they were pushed through because he did not want London Underground to be responsible for the much needed upgrade of the system.” 

darling

“Earlier this month Alistair Darling, the Transport Secretary, effectively blocked a fresh legal challenge from Mr Livingstone by indemnifying the consortia against any effect of any court action.

Under the PPP deal, Mr Darling is due to hand over London Underground to Mr Livingstone’s Transport for London (Tfl) body. But Mr Darling has said he will not do this if any court action was going ahead.

Just before Christmas, Mr Darling told MPs that the start-up costs for PPP, including such items as legal fees, had been around £500 million – a figure that was widely condemned by PPP opponents.

imgres

Mr Darling said today: “I welcome the news that London Underground has completed the deal with Tube Lines.

“This is good news for Londoners, at long last marking the start of the biggest improvement programme the Tube has ever seen.”

Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat transport spokesman, said: “PPP is a monument to the stubbornness of Gordon Brown who is the only supporter of the part-privatisation of the Tube.”

(Telegraph 31 Dec 2002)

Labour MP Margaret Hodge talked to the Independent about her party’s dalliance with PPP.

The Labour MP acknowledged that many of the worst PFI and PPP cases were negotiated by the Labour government under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, saying:

“I’m afraid we got it wrong. I was a supporter at the time but I have completely gone off the whole concept. We got seduced by PFI.” (Margaret Hodge MP 2014)

And of particular interest post-Panama Papers:

She added that it was especially “scandalous” that many of the funds that are buying up the contracts are based in tax havens. One of the early arguments in favour of PFIs was that taxpayers would benefit from contractors’ profits due to the corporation taxes they would pay. “But now the profits are going offshore and to shareholders,” she said.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/exclusive-how-private-firms-make-quick-killing-from-pfi-9488351.html

PFI/PPP was another Tory policy Labour couldn’t adopt quickly enough. Building projects made them look like they were doing something – they were – and soon we were all paying for the madness that allowed private investment companies to name a number and get contractors to agree to add on several 000s to boost guaranteed colossal profits before sailing off into the sunset to we know where – some of them at least.

young

Have lessons been learned? Aberdeen Labour-led administration recently signed up to a misbegotten and hugely unpopular Marischal Square (not a square lest you imagine it is) project. It’s complicated so I have copied this description of the scheme from Aberdeen City Council’s website:

The preferred bid as approved at Council was with Muse Developments Limited and AVIVA Investors Realm Commercial Assets LP (Aviva). The overall agreement is made up of a number of parts and separate contracts between the parties. This is a commercial agreement between the Council and other parties and the full details of the scheme are commercially sensitive. However, the general basis of the agreement can be described as follows:-

ACC sold the site (excluding Provost Skene’s House) to Aviva (December 2014).The council has received £1million up front with the balance of £9million payable at completion in two years time

ACC entered into a lease with Aviva for the site, and will pay a rental from the completion of the development for a 35 year period

The Council’s annual rental payment realises a capital sum to undertake the development

Muse is obliged to build the scheme for Aviva to create a range of development space and in turn an income stream to the council

Muse are contracted to identify and tie in a Hotel operator. This is in place with the Hotel element trading as a Marriot Residence Inn

Muse are contracted to let the office, restaurant and additional space within the development on behalf of the Council

The capital sum above pays for the construction costs to build the development, the purchase price paid for the land, a profit account to be shared between the three parties, and a contingency fund to cover vacant periods and other costs. Further monies are set-aside for upgrading works to Provost Skene’s House and public realm works within and outwith the scheme

After the 35 year lease period the Council can choose to buy the development in its entirety (including the land) for £1

The council is liable for the annual rental and will carry the risk should the hotel and development not realise the income projected. The projected income on a fully let scheme is however significantly above the rental payment £100m Cancellation Fee for the ACC/Muse contract.

7.1 How is the £100m penalty/termination cost of cancellation of the contract, as mentioned by Willie Young, calculated?

7.2 Why have we not seen the contract yet Willie Young is able to tweet and disclose details of the contract. Has ACC/Muse authorised him to disclose?

7.3 Is the £100m penalty contingent upon the ownership of the land resting with ACC (i.e. prior to being transferred to Muse)?

There is no penalty or cancellation clause in the contract however as the council has previously stated there would be a loss in income of approximately £100million if the project were not to proceed. In addition, the Council would almost certainly have to pay damages arising from breach of contract. As is standard practice in the public sector such contracts are commercially sensitive and are not published.

7.4 Under planning legislation, ACC can cancel the contract. What is the cost of contract cancellation and how is it calculated? [Loss of profit should not be included.]
The transaction is a commercial transaction. The Council is not aware of any such planning legislation that could allow the cancellation of the contract.

Calculation of the £100m Profit

8.1 How does ACC calculate the claimed £100m profit? Is this £100m profit contingent on a minimum level of occupancy?

The Council will receive £10 million for the site – £1million now and a further £9 million on completion in two years, an equal share of the development profit, the difference between the lease cost to Aviva and the income generated by the development for 35 years and the value of the development in 35 years’ time. Money is also available for works to upgrade Provost Skene’s House, Broad Street and create the gardens and other public areas within the scheme. In all this benefit could be worth more than £100 million.

8.2 Why has the public not been alerted to the potential liability, rather, only the upside (which is not described as potential)?

The project was fully presented to the committee when a decision was made to appoint Muse as preferred bidder. This is a commercial contract. The council or any other organisation would not normally alert any other parties to the liabilities on any transaction. The council has always stated, since the decision was made to appoint Muse that the commercial agreement would include a head lease over the development site.

8.3 Has ACC assumed any value of the Marischal Square buildings as at 2050 when calculating Jenny Laing’s claim of a £100m profit over 35 years? [1]

In assessing bids of this nature it is normal to account for some degree of value in the site at the end of the lease. This would normally be site value or by comparison the value of other similarly aged buildings.

1 “Not only is it right in terms of bringing a much needed hotel and leisure facilities to our city centre it is right in terms of looking after the public purse by raising £100m over 35 years.” Jenny Laing, Evening Express, 5 February 2015

It’s all been done in the best possible taste and it’s all so out-in-the-open. Maybe.

I hope Edinburgh can patch up its schools quickly. Someone will have to bear that financial burden and I wonder who that someone might be? And those old Victorian schools? well most of them are still standing.

_89153569_councilleader

Councillor Andrew Burns (Labour) Edinburgh City Council

Oh, and here’s a handy wee list of who was behind public spending in the relevant years between 1999 and 2007.

Scottish Executive as it was then:
1999 -2003 Labour under Donald Dewar; Henry McLeish; Jack McConnell.
2003 – 2007 Labour under McConnell.

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/12766277.School_PPP_scheme_a__apos_catastrophe_apos__for_pupils/
http://www.european-services-strategy.org.uk/ppp-database/ppp-equity-database/appendix-4-terminated-uk-ppp-projects.pdf
http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/12767627.Offshore_firm_to_make_tax_free_millions_from_Scottish_schools/

March 10, 2015

The head of woman is man: John Knox is alive and well and speaks for Scottish Labour (sic)

knox

If you believed John Knox long dead you would be wrong. He is dead but his coarse ranting against the unnatural desires of women to assume equality with men live on in the hearts and minds of the Labour Party in Scotland, as was made apparent in the rapturous reception and support for its stark misogynist message to the women of Scotland last weekend.

I came on a passage from John the Resurrected in the Party’s Wee Red, White and Blue book of handy things to say on doorsteps (but don’t mention alcohol at football anymore). I’m summarising for reasons obvious if you’ve seen the actual text.

The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regimen of Women

(Aye there was not a ‘t’ on Regimen – refers to rule or governing)

hamilton

 

The head of woman is man, and she must be commanded and give homage and obedience and appear before him, honouring him with the distinction of his position for man has received a certain glory and dignity above the woman. Scotland has drunk the enchantment and venom of Circe (a sorceress) to its own shame and confusion.

How abominable before the Party, (that was one-time called socialist but that was a long time ago and now we are exceeding right-wing and intolerant [as is our right]) is the empire or rule of a wicked woman (yea, of a traitress and bastard); and what may a people or nation (not Scotland you understand because we don’t believe we are a nation but a fiefdom of brother England wherein are domiciled our imperial masters) carry on destitute of a lawful head, a mere wee lassie in a tin hat.

murphy

I see our country intent on challenging the natural order that Scotland shall remain a region of England and yet there are those who would question this order for a monstrous empire [government] of a cruel woman.

It is more than a monster in nature that a woman shall reign and have empire above man. And yet, with us all there is such silence. I know the natural Scotsman, enemy to the Nats, shall find many causes why we should hold our tongues and ought not to speak out on these things in these dangerous days before a General Election: first, for that it may seem to lose us votes; secondarily, that it may lose us more votes.

But woe be to me, if I preach not the evangel of the doctrine of the Labour Party in Scotland!

If any think that the empire of women is of little importance, that to speak of such is to hazard our MPs their seats I answer, that it is the duty of every true messenger of the Party to let women know their place. For what, I pray you, is more able to cause a woman to forget her own condition, than if she is lifted up in authority above man? It is a very difficult thing to a man (be he never so constant) promoted to honours, not to be tickled somewhat with pride (for the wind of vain glory does easily carry up the dry dust of the earth).

But as for woman, it is no more possible that she, being set aloft in authority above man, shall resist the motions of pride, than it is able to the weak reed, or to the turning weathercock, not to bow or turn at the intensity of the inconstant wind. And therefore I say forbid all women to intermeddle in the office of man.gray

For it is written in de Viginibus Velandis: “It is not permitted to a woman to speak in the parliament, neither to discourse, neither to reason, neither to vindicate to herself any office of man.” For it is written of a place called Scotland where there is a great monster in nature, that women in those parts are not tamed nor abased by consideration of their own sex, but that, all shame laid apart, they make use of their intellect, and question the word of men, and take pleasure in this way that they care not what men think of them and will not be subject to man.

The Labour Party in Scotland abhors all attempts by women to promote themselves as leaders over men for it has been written long ago in smoke clouded rooms that it is the nature of women to be inferior to men.

blair

A vote for Labour is a vote to keep women repressed and bridled at all times.

Is my repast ready? Toot toot.

March 20, 2013

The film they don’t want you to watch

Why did they want to censor this film?
Watch it to find out.

March 17, 2013

Let’s nail the lie about the LibDems

Let’s nail the lie. LibDems tell us how they are a moderating influence over what otherwise would be the excesses of the Conservatives in government.

This is pure fantasy.

The LibDems far from protecting us from merciless Tory policies have enabled them.

Without the LibDems the Tories would not be imposing their austerity measures on us.

Let us not forget how eager the LibDems were at the prospect of getting into government at Westminster in 2010. They couldn’t wait to dump their election promises to park their bums on the ministerial limos’ leather seats and so we are faced with the present programme of callous attacks on the poorest and most vulnerable in this country.

The LibDems want us to see them as the good guys in this relationship. They are not.

The LibDems are responsible for every savage cut to services and every welfare attack on the vulnerable. The LibDems are as culpable for the bedroom tax as any shire Tory; as responsible for the immense pressure imposed on the mentally ill by those Atos assessments for disability benefits.

Far from doing favours for the electorate LibDems have shown themselves to be consummate hypocrites.

The years of the Blair and Brown governments saw an increase in inequality in the UK. In real terms the poor were being pushed further back into poverty while the incomes of the wealthiest rose incrementally. It surprised some that this should occur under Labour governments and the LibDems condemned Labour for its ideological move to the right. You might assume that while in government the LibDems would use their manifesto platform to halt social and economic inequality.

So what happened once the LibDems took over the limousines of power? Inequality has increased still further. Now the UK stands comes in at number 4 in the inequality stakes in the developed world and their tenure is not finished. We can be sure that however bleak things looks now they are going to get a whole lot bleaker.

And this is entirely due to the LibDems. Remember the LibDems are the yes lobby fodder of this coalition government.

9

Could it have been different? It looked for a time after the 2010 election that the LibDems might join Labour in coalition. As we know Alistair Darling promised the country savage cuts to sort out the economy and the LibDems might argue that Labour’s promises to cut harder and deeper than the Tories led to them turning to the Tories as the least Draconian option. Let’s not go there. We are where we are.

We have had three years of LibDem duplicity, denials, excuses, obfuscation.

LibDems the enabler party. LibDems have enabled the Tories to do whatever they like and Clegg and co are happy to take on that role. Manifesto promises. Promises shromises.

Pledge dodger Clegg turned up at the LibDem conference in Dundee where he criticised Salmond for giving out mixed messages on independence.

He should know about mixed messages. That is precisely what you get from LibDems.

But Clegg likes to pontificate. He turns up in Scotland to issue a warning that we should not believe anything the SNP says. Well no – not everything but some things we can and we are able to judge their policies here in Scotland (unlike Clegg we don’t have to rely on briefings to know what is going on.)

We can do the same with the LibDems in power at Westminster.

And what do we discover when we look at the record of Clegg and co in government? Broken promises from a dodgy manifesto which reveals that Clegg and his apparatchiks will go to any lengths to stay in power, to enjoy riding the limos for as long as possible.

It is not Scotland’s oil say the LibDems but it could be Shetland’s and Orkney’s demonstrating that when it comes to pronouncements LibDems will say anything, absolutely anything, because as we know the LibDems don’t join up the dots when it comes to principles or policies.

Clegg also warns the Scottish people that it will be very difficult for a Scottish government to run its offshore oil industry ‘on its own’. This is inane drivel. Just words.

7

It would have been very difficult for the Tories to form a government ‘on its own’. In the event it didn’t need to – it had Tories by another name, LibDems, to do that with them.

Mixed-message Clegg and his mouthpieces promise Scotland will become a land of milk and honey if only we vote No.

They would have us believe Scotland will miraculously flourish if we stay part of the Union. Doesn’t matter that the evidence points otherwise.

Willie Rennie promise us pie in the sky in the sweet by and by but last time this was promised to Scotland – for returning a No vote in the devolution referendum of 1979  -did we get our pie? Did we hell. We got war, the poll tax, greater unemployment, the steady transfer of wealth from the public to the private sector, a sharp decline in industrial output, a reduction of affordable homes, the blatant transfer of wealth to London and the southeast.

When was Scotland ever at the centre of Westminster’s planning for infrastructure, for economic development?

The answer is never. And if you think Thatcher was indifferent to Scotland’s economy and culture wait until a coalition of the Tories or Labour in cahoots with their obliging little helpers the LibDems stop crowing in the event of a No return in the referendum. Prepare to be shocked.

If you are thinking we have devolved government so what’s all this talk about Westminster – remember what LibDem leader in Scotland Willie Rennie said last week, ‘The bedroom tax is tough, but it is central to the welfare reforms.’ That’s right – ‘central to the welfare reforms’ – welfare and reform being key words but if you imagine reform always leads to an improvement in welfare think again. This is reform in terms of restructuring on economic grounds and this is being said by the ‘Scottish’ LibDems so don’t get fooled that a label makes them different from any other brand of LibDem up and down the country.

Remember this when you vote no. You might not be poor. You might not be disabled. Lucky you. Don’t turn your back on those who are.

The LibDems are looking to influence what happens in Scotland if the referendum comes back negative so prepare yourself for a stream of easy promises.

Promises shromises. In 2010 they promised:

“Fair taxes that put money back in your pocket. A fair chance for every child. A fair future, creating jobs by making Britain greener. A fair deal for you from politicians.”

Vroom, vroom – that’s Clegg being chauffeured in his limo into Downing Street. Rip – that’s him tearing up the LibDems’ manifesto promises -taxes, VAT, tuition fees, bankers’ bonuses, cutting rail fares, blah blah only words. They didn’t have to mean what they promised. Well they didn’t.

Where is the UK economy going? Who knows, least of all the organ grinder Chancellor Osborne and his monkey Alexander. Under their guardianship the UK has lost its triple A status. This means we can expect far harsher measures to come, imposed by LibDems and Tories in their desperate attempt to prevent the economy spiralling into freefall. All their bluster that an independent Scotland would suffer because of its inevitable loss of the Triple A has been quietly forgotten by our flexible friends. Now Danny Alexander tells us that credit ratings aren’t ‘the be all and end all’ Just words. They don’t believe them why should we?

3

Despite being hoist by his own petard Alexander insists it will always be worse for an independent Scotland – that Scotland has ‘no track record’ (of major debt) so will find it difficult to borrow to pay back debt. You can’t say that the LibDems don’t have a track record – in not meaning what they say, in promising anything to capture votes, of slithering this way and that to keep in with their coalition colleagues, whoever they are, for the LibDems are not fussy who they share power with – they just love it. Those limos.

Last week with breathtaking hypocrisy Nick Clegg accused Salmond of sending out mixed messages – over independence. Mixed messages are precisely what you get from LibDems who still like to claim the moral high ground. He warned the Scottish people that it will be very difficult for a Scottish government run its offshore oil industry ‘on its own’. You might think, well at least we wouldn’t have Osborne and Alexander. Then again, according to the LibDems, it is not Scotland’s oil at all but it could be Shetland’s and Orkney’s revealing again that they will say anything, absolutely anything because as we know the LibDems don’t join up the dots when it comes to principles or policies.

I don’t think Clegg knows much about Scotland. I doubt it’s high on the agenda ‘back home’. Certainly hasn’t been in the past. That doesn’t stop him from issuing a warning that we can’t believe anything the SNP say. Well no – not everything but some things we can and other things we see with our own eyes. And anyway independence is not just about the SNP. There are nationalists who don’t vote SNP. We know what’s going on in Scotland unlike Clegg. What we can also see is that other track record of the LibDems – broken pledges and their dodgy manifesto.

We should all remember the words of The Times reporter, Louis Heren when referring to politicians, ‘Why is this lying bastard lying to me?’

I suppose some politicians believe the lies they tell us. Doesn’t mean we have to.

The LibDems are a moderating influence? The evidence tells us otherwise. The LibDems are responsible, along with the Tories, for this determined shift in the economic balance so that the greater share of profits goes to capitalists at the expense of Britain’s working families and pensioners. Irrespective of their bluster LibDems are the facilitators of austerity Britain.

February 10, 2013

What have they done to Downies Village?

The coast off Downies near Aberdeen What we do with the past tells us much about our present.   The past can be a place we wish to return, seeing the present as nothing but a moment in a downhill race to mediocrity and degeneration.   In the world of architecture and community, or claimed community, this finds its doleful and reactionary expression in the nostalgia of Prince Charles and his acolytes who wish to return to a world where everyone knows their place and architecture expresses fixity by mimicking forms from the days of pre-modernism.   The dream is of neat and ordered villages and small towns with residents abiding by the moral strictures of those who know best.  DSC02449 However, as much as we might deride the nonsense pedalled by the Prince he does make the valid point that the metaphorical and literal bulldozers of developers should not be allowed untrammelled right to build whatever and wherever they like.  DSC02423 On a recent visit to the village of Downies I was astonished to find that in the midst of this historic fishing township there had appeared a housing development which would not be out of place on the heights of Westhill.   Downies is not a planned village.   It is unlike the “model” villages which were promoted by progressive and paternalistic landowners in the 18th and 19th centuries.   No neat grid or geometric layout sits above these cliffs at Portlethen.   Prince Charles’ dream of order is confounded by the lack of a clear and obvious pattern (at least to this observer).   Cottages go off the road at either side, with asymmetric position and irregular gardens.   Prince Charles’ Poundbury it is not, although one can well imagine the new houses at Downies fitting into a Poundbury landscape with attempts at regularity within the compound of the “scheme” Its break with the feeling of community is emphasised in the developer’s own description: The development is served by a private mono blocked access road with a central court yard area.   Is this the developer attempting to create a closed community around its own square, separate and distinct from the picturesque locals?   Whatever it is the spirit of the enclosure is at odds with the openness of all else around.          DSC02426 It is not that there are many houses going up at Old Portlethen, five are in progress; rather it is the proportions relative to the existing properties and the sympathy for the landscape, the sense of place, and the present householders which is in question.   Where older houses gradually follow the line of the increasingly steep slope towards the cliff- edge the new buildings, in their bulk and their height show little care or appreciation for the historic site.   From what can be seen at the moment, February 2013, the houses seem architecturally unexceptionable.   Dull perhaps, “aspirational” even, well able to be lived in and no doubt will provide comfortable homes for those who can afford them.   The developer says: they are A select development of 5 homes in the picturesque village of Downies with some breathtaking views of the North East coastline.   Of course what it omits to say that the monster 5 bedroomed house called Isla is parked directly in front of an older, but not original, property called Bayview.   I suspect that a bay view is now wishful thinking but the owner has the comfort of knowing that the behemoth Isla has the advantage of being fitted porcelanosa tiles in its striking main bathroom.    DSC02436   But this is not the point.   The point is is there a place for these beached monsters in a village typified by low level housing following the contours of the land, and which crucially gives us some sense of the way our ancestors lived?   Please note I am not saying that Downies of today is and should be the village in which the fishermen and their families lived, not only would such a desire be unattainable it would also be unwanted, imposing as it would poor sanitary conditions and no electricity upon residents.  One of the joys of the older buildings in Downies is that, with additions here and there of kitchens and bathrooms they have managed to improve the living conditions without losing a sense of the old, much improved from the derelict village Peter Anson found in the early 20th century.   This incremental growth and improvement was organic, not keeping the village in locked in timeless aspic yet still maintaining historical continuities. DSC02428   As can be seen from the photographs this is not the case with the present development.   We can hardly criticise the developer for doing what developers do that is making the most of market potential.     There was no practical reason why a developer could not have followed the style of the single storey cottages but financially it presumably makes more sense to go for bigger is better.  We might just as well wail over investment bankers’ lack of probity or cats eating birds.     No, the real problem is that permission was given to the project.   We must ask what were the planners thinking of? – although thinking is perhaps too strong a term here.  DSC02431   The Director of Infrastructure Services at Aberdeenshire Council, wrote that the new properties were quite acceptable as they were no more than, an amendment in design to what has previously been approved.   He also stated there was no conflict between the traditional forms and the developer’s proposals, rather they new builds were said to respect the character of the old and were worthy addition to the village and would, in his words, integrate successfully.   Of course by integration what the planning officer means is the technicalities of building regulations and local plans.   When the Scottish Government Reporter approved the plan he said that the houses would unite the village’s historic core with its outlying elements.     Downies I defy anybody now visiting the site to show how the houses have brought such a unity.   There appears to be a confusion of terms here: there might be similarity with outlying elements but unity?   At the more meaningful level of historic continuities and community feeling planners have little to say.   They deal with bureaucratic regulations not the experienced lives of residents.    DSC02446 Speak to the folk who live in Downies and you come away with the feeling not that they want to remain a closed community rather they tell you that it’s a respect for the history of the area that they want to preserve; a respect for the generations who, perched above the North Sea, carved out a precarious living and managed to establish an identity through the lives they lived and the village they inhabited.   Just as respect is given to structures such as Skara Brae so also should it be allowed villages like Downies.   Sadly, and short of demolition, it looks as if this is another battle for historical integrity which has been lost.   All who put the rubber stamp to this travesty of planning should be ashamed of their actions.    DSC02458           Contribution by Textor

February 17, 2012

The BBC Debate on Union Terrace Gardens V the Granite Web

Union Terrace Gardens debate on 16 February 2012

This BBC debate concerned the proposal to remove Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens and replace them with something called the Granite Web.

As the audience took their seats for the debate concerning the intended destruction of the city’s unique green basin a meeting of minds took place in the shadows of Queen’s Cross church hall between Aberdeen City Councillors, the advocates for the controversial development and BBC staff.

Then it was time to begin. Brothers-in-arms Council Leader, who I had taken for a cub reporter, SNP Councillor Callum McCaig sat next to Ian Wood, the man who stepped in to stop the exciting Peacock development in Union Terrace Gardens with his own scheme and succeeded in changing minds among SNP Councillors and one time supporters of Peacock with his promise of £50million contribution towards his vision. Opposing them were Lewis Macdonald, Labour MSP and Mike Shepherd from Friends of Union Terrace Gardens.

From the start it became clear that while the bulk of the audience was a mix of opinions a couple of rows at the back was packed with a phalanx of Wood cheerleaders. It must have been coincidence they were all together and intent on being the most vocal of elements in the hall. No sooner had proceeding got underway than the packed rows jelled into a veritable beast of astonishing intolerance towards opinions they didn’t share.

The opening point raised from the audience was a silly notion which sprang from original literature on the scheme that the development would be the answer to ‘undesirable elements’ that populate the Gardens. It’s a no-brainer – it won’t. As was countered from the audience, any so-called undesirables will not disappear because Union Terrace Gardens don’t exist, they will be hanging about the Web (granite or more accurately concrete).

There was a snort from the back of the room.

McCaig was asked why he had once supported Peacock’s innovative development then switched support to Wood’s project. He did not answer this. But he underlined his support for the Aberdeen millionaire Wood in his ambition.

From behind came a shake of a Rolex on a hirsute wrist and a black forked tongue dribbled long shards of stringy spit in ecstatic anticipation and released a roar of approval.

Someone asked about the glaring absence of democracy surrounding the project.

The beast heaved with indignation and emitted a belch of sulphur.

Wood ducked the question and mumbled something about preserving heritage: balustrades, statues, Kelly cats, arches but altogether managed to miss the point entirely that the sunken Gardens is the main heritage feature, practically the sole remnant of the medieval town.

The beast shifted: tiny red-infused eyes shiftily sweeping the ranks of dissenting voices from the audience. Its man had spoken.

Wood and his family made its fortune from working out of Aberdeen, in fishing and later in offshore energies. They are not alone. There are many millionaires in Aberdeen. You wouldn’t know it. The money is private money. There is nothing to show in the city for the wealth it helped create for these millionaires. This has been a complaint from the city’s people for decades.

Now money is on offer. With strings attached. No such thing as a free lunch. Not for ordinary citizens of Aberdeen. I’m sure there is for some.

Mike Shepherd talked up the park. He was fed up hearing this unique green basin being denigrated by those determined to get their way to pour in concrete by the hundreds of tons to create shabby walkways above street level.

A glint of Rolex and a shudder of mohair.

Someone in the audience mocked the Gardens. He clearly wasn’t from Aberdeen. He had taken a photograph, he said, so he knew what they looked like. They looked frightful. He gave no sense of realising their significance.

Lewis Macdonald disagreed, saying that this green heart of Aberdeen will be replaced by concrete walkways and that the consultation on the 6 shortlisted designs had not come down in favour of this Web.

A long impatient tail beat out a disturbing rhythm and the head turned on the thick neck sighting someone with the audacity to mention that recent architecture forced on the city had been of poor quality – his inference being this scheme was no different.

It listened as its collaborator McCaig talked up PricewaterhouseCoopers promise of 6500 jobs. He referred Charles Landry who had worked in Bilbao and considered this the best transformation project he’d seen in 20yrs. And still no word of democracy. Andwhat are the views of anyone in Aberdeen compared to those of a man who once worked in Bilbao?

Macdonald countered the jobs claim by revealing that PwC job figures were based on its collective experience and not through looking at Aberdeen as a discrete scheme.

The beast drew back its lips and snarled.

Wood protested that ‘we are going through a democratic process’ – albeit a truncated one Mr Wood, for it was a clique which chose the 6 designs and a clique which short listed and a clique which chose the winning design and you who have said it’s this or nothing – forget the years of the city being run down you’ll get nothing unless you let me get my way. I’m paraphrasing. In all innocence he shrugged, I have only ‘made money available.’

The beast snarled. The tail beat the floor. Again and again. The head pulled back and a cold reptilian stare settled on the little people who dared question the great man and his backers.

This Council is closing schools and cutting services to the disabled and yet there is commitment to spend millions of public money voiced an audience member.

The council leader had nothing to say.

A Prada stiletto scourged deep into the grain on the church hall floor and the beast opened its jaws releasing its sulphurous stench.

McCaig was asked to sell TIF to the audience. TIF is the controversial scheme the council hope will eventually pay back the huge sum of money it will have to borrow to finance Wood’s idea. It will be based on two areas of the city being designated as special areas. Whenever a business sets up it will contribute towards TIF and this money will be ring-fenced to pay back the loans. Of course it is pure speculation that enough money will be raised by TIF. It is a new system of raising funds in Scotland. In fact Aberdeen City Council is not even sure it will get government permission to establish TIF sites. There are many unknowns regarding TIF including a description of it from McCaig. The above is my explanation. It might not be up to much but it was more than we got from McCaig who appeared surprised to be asked to sell this scheme to the people of Aberdeen. Sell it? He couldn’t even describe it. Immediately he jumped to the Ravenscraig example, one of only 2 approved in Scotland. Brownfield site developments which as MacDonald pointed out can only add money, unlike this one being proposed for Aberdeen.

A clearly unsettled McCaig was put out of his misery by the chairman who defined it for him. It’s good to know that Council representatives and the Council leader is so well versed in the detail of the scheme he is happy to put his name to.

The beast shifted uncomfortably on legs of iron and feet of clay.

McCaig did confirm the raising of the funding through TIF would be underwritten by the Council.

Mike Shepherd referred to problems with TIF funding as an untried means of guaranteeing cash. Well so much depends on incoming business that no figure can be guaranteed. Fall back on council funding. Council’s borrowing while in debt and the risks to services if that happened.

Possibly the most stupid question of the evening came from the vicinity of the beast. More a statement than a question that young people wouldn’t come to the city unless there was development in the city. This development.

The Beast roared its approval.

Wood spoke of the need for connections: road and air connections. But it’s bus connections Aberdeen City Council is talking about with this proposal. Connections to the bus station. The bus station so recently erected and so badly designed that there is no room for passengers and no seats provided for them, no dropping off and picking up places for vehicles to drive in, forcing passengers with luggage to walk from several streets away. This bus station where buses have to reverse into the station traffic each time they begin a journey. Would you trust the Council to do any better with such a radical scheme for Union Terrace? The same council which has continued to build shopping malls while Union Street empties. It is empty because of shopping malls. It is empty because the council refuses to reduce rates to keep businesses operating. The council has taken an impressive mile of granite architecture and created a desert.

Mike Shepherd reminded Wood that his company, and every company, would not hesitate to set up anywhere, irrespective of what it looked like if there were profits to be had. He cited Wood’s company in Caracas and Lagos and that he doubted they went there because of how they looked.

Don’t know about them but Wood looked confused.

There was a grunt from the beast, a slash of something golden and an angry sweep of the tail.

McCaig had nothing to say.

Businessman Tom Smith, Chair of ACSEF the anti-democratic body given all the cards in this scheme railed at Macdonald for rejecting this multi-million pound ‘investment’ and yelled at Mike Shepherd to be quiet. He accused Macdonald of trying to stop any development from happening.

The beast peeled back it thick lips and yelped frantically.

Mac Donald insisted the divisions which had emerged over this proposal were because there was only one project, only one ambition and shared arrogance of the people behind this scheme.

The audience breathed in the stench of cashmere soaked in sweat.

The panel was not invited to address where anonymous literature landing through peoples’ letterboxes sprang from. The inference was that city businessmen were behind it. Well only businessmen could afford to do this surely. But why not reveal who you are?

Councillor Kate Dean said Aberdeen was anti development and against attracting young people to come and stay in the city. Well it’s a point of view, fair enough but then she had to spoil it by saying how the city has done very well in the past in attracting people in. Really?? Without a totally transformed city centre? Not following that logic.

When he was asked if Aberdeen City Council would spend any money on improvements to the city centre if this scheme was rejected by the people, McCaig initially said no then suggested there might be something. Then he went back to TIF repeating it was designed to pay for itself. That certainly is the plan Mr McCaig. And the point you are making is? Oh and that ACC is not in a position to splash out. Not a great deal of clarity here.

He was asked about the arrangements for the referendum. What would be the winning line? What had been decided between ACC and the government? A harassed looking McCaig said nothing had been worked out. Hello? Nothing? The papers have gone out. Do you have faith in these people to act in your best interests?

Macdonald interjected with the observation which most of Aberdeen have already made that a major reason for the lack of visits to the Gardens was because the Council had not spent anything on them over the years. Have you seen how the beautiful granite has been allowed to go green for lack of a bit of housekeeping? Why has the Council never even put in a set of swings or a climbing frame to attract children and families into the park? This would cost practically nothing. But they’re not interested.

Mike Shepherd reminded the audience that another city businessman was willing to put money up front to make improvements to the existing Gardens,  including better access and a park-keeper but James Milne has not received anything like the same attention in the local media that Wood has enjoyed.

Wood said he regretted the divisions his scheme had created in Aberdeen to which Macdonald replied that it was because people cared so passionately and Wood’s undemocratic way of handling his proposal had resulted in such ill-feeling.

I guess you don’t become rich by consulting with people. Well, maybe that’s not true as some well-known examples from the US suggest. It is clear this is not the Wood nor ACSEF way.

The prospect of Aberdeen borrowing £92 million might be a risk too far for the more prudent Aberdonians but McCaig would have none of it – risk? What risk? He compared it to a household mortgage. Yes, and we’re seeing what’s happening to many of them at the present time. His parting shot was that people should see Aberdeen as others see it. So much for representing the people who vote for you Mr McCaig.

Mike Shepherd urged people to vote against Wood’s backward-looking 1960s style concrete monstrosity in what is the city’s leafy green heart with its 200yr old elms.

The iron legs strained, the stiletto scraped, the nostrils steamed, the beast screeched and cracked its cleft tail.

Wood was given the final word. He emphasised the huge amount of work which had gone into working out the finances of the scheme and that the comments on TIF were ridiculous. Certainly were Mr Wood. He railed at his opponents for what he described as negativism but which they will say is approbation for the most positive development for Aberdeen that which involves retaining the magnificent Union Terrace Gardens.

The beast is a simple animal. It is excited only by profit yields, retail opportunities and exclusive cabals in its determined drive to take the city forward into the past. It roared its approval. It roared and snarled and beat its swarthy chest and licked the fleshy lips in euphoric rapture.

The referendum result will be known on Fri 2nd March if the Council works out how to read the results by then.

TIF info: https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/a-parcel-of-rogues-aberdeen-city-council-chamber-and-the-lure-of-rich-mens-gold/

Wonder why Ian Wood has SO much money?

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June 10, 2011

Labour’s Policy on Lockerbie and Megrahi – The Silence of Jim Murphy

The following is a transcription of an item on BBC Radio Scotland’s Newsweek Scotland on Saturday 4 June 2011. It is on the subject of the ongoing saga of the Lockerbie bombing, the subsequent release of the man imprisoned for carrying it out, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and the role of the Labour Party in London and Edinburgh especially concerning communication difficulties afflicting Jim Murphy MP.


Back in February we emailed the office of Jim Murphy MP. We’d just had the report by Sir Gus O’Donnell into our relationship with Libya. In it Sir Gus said the UK government had developed a policy of doing everything it could to facilitate any appeal by Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and to facilitate his release. This fact was relayed to every government department. That included first the Foreign Office where he was Europe Minister and then the Scotland Office where Mr Murphy became Secretary of State. We wanted to know why Mr Murphy had not made public this policy when the Labour leadership at Holyrood was outspoken in its criticism of the decision to release Megrahi. The two positions seemed to be at odds. We received no reply from Mr Murphy’s office. We sent a further email some weeks later which we know was received but still have had no answer. Well this week we asked the Labour leadership at Holyrood what they knew of UK policy while they opposed Megrahi’s release. They told us there was never any discussion between the UK government and the Scottish Labour leader. Iain Gray took his decision on his own after consultation with Scottish parliamentary colleagues to oppose Megrahi being sent back to Libya. That indicates that on a key issue of global concern, with a direct impact on foreign policy, not to mention the bereaved families, there was no was no dialogue between the leaders of Labour in Scotland. One wing, Westminster, secretly supported Megrahi’s release while the other, Holyrood, vehemently opposed it and made political capital out of it. You may remember the MSPs were recalled to parliament by the Opposition for an emergency session to force Kenny MacAskill to explain his decision. Iain Gray accused him of a deeply flawed decision that had damaged Scotland’s reputation from start to finish. The Minister had mishandled the whole affair he’d said. Meanwhile Mr Murphy said nothing.

Well I hope that’s cleared up any questions you might have had about Labour’s stance on Lockerbie.

March 10, 2011

X-Gray

Iain Gray’s recognised quality of grayness of personality has come to the fore as the election approaches.

I didn’t believe Ed Miliband was right in his observation that people just haven’t got to know him was true in Scotland until I came upon a Scotsman article in which only 27 people out of 126 in Aberdeen recognised Gray with one believing he was the guy from Midsomer Murders. Okay so Gray hasn’t made an impression on people. Surely this has something to do with his lamentable performance as a political leader and his woeful abilities as a speaker which have been imprinted on the minds of the Scottish electorate. Miliband has no alternative but to back his Scottish leader but Miliband is not without his own critics over his lack-lustre performance as Labour leader in the UK.

For dyed-in-the-wool Labour supporters it is irrelevant who their leader is, their votes are guaranteed. Labour has been showing better in the polls recently and many believe despite the weakness of the Party’s leadership it will win a majority of votes in May.

According to Miliband, Gray will be attacking the ‘massive squeeze’ being applied by the UK coalition government. Well if he does that will be novel. Gray has little to say about anything other than snipe at the SNP. Gray has nothing to say about Labour policies which makes many of us wonder if Labour in Scotland has any policies at all.

It’s rich that UK Labour is now raising the spectre of Thatcher-style political attacks on the people by the current coalition as a reason to vote Labour in Scotland given the past two Labour PMs well-demonstrated admiration for Thatcher. What does this say about Labour and can MiIiband really keep a straight face when describing Gray as a man of integrity, decency and honesty? This is a Party which will say anything, do anything, promise anything to get elected. A Party devoid of decency and integrity. This is the Party of Iain Gray and Ed Miliband, the Party of jailed greedy MPs, the Party long associated with accusations of cronyism within Glasgow City Council, the Party of Steven Purcell, the Party recently led by the political minnow, Jack McConnell and later and bizarrely Wendy Alexander. What can be said is since Donald Dewar, Scottish Labour has failed to find anyone of substance and ability to lead it.

Miliband accuses the coalition government of engaging in the ‘politics of division’. Perhaps Miliband is not familiar with the behaviour of Labour in Holyrood which is precisely that – obstructive, petty and negative to the detriment of Scotland.
What does Labour want for Scotland? I have no idea. Does Labour have any ideas? I cannot decide if the dearth of policies from Labour is due to there being none or the Party is suffering from a severe lack of confidence which prevents it advancing any plans lest they be shot down.
Recently at Holyrood there has been the strange alliance between Labour and the big supermarkets over the SNP’s proposal for minimum pricing for alcohol. What was that about? There’s something pretty unpleasant about the small-mindedness of Labour MSPs.

Labour’s stomping ground is of course Glasgow and the surrounding area. It came as a surprise then when that Scotsman photographic test showed that Gray remained pretty unknown as a face here as well as around Scotland with just 8 from 125 people asked able to identify him. Does that matter when its the Party these same people will automatically vote for in May?

January 12, 2011

Back to the Future? Oiling the Way Forward for Scottish Energy

Aberdeen Press & Journal journalist Jeremy Cresswell is in a reflective mood as he considers the state of Aberdeen, oil and gas capital or Europe with its ambitions to become the Renewables capital in addition, and yet, and yet…

In one of the best pieces to come out of the P & J, Cresswell spares few punches as he lays out Aberdeen’s credentials for retaining its capital status beyond oil and gas into a new era of renewable energy.   He looks ahead towards developments of maritime renewable and carbon capture…

Jeremy Cresswell’s words are in blue.

‘This is a remarkable period in the story of energy, a time of transition as Hydrocarbon Man gradually realises that there has to be a more sustainable way forward.

An opinion formed by apparently dangerous climate change and acknowledged shortages of premium grade resources, though low-grade, dirty hydrocarbons exist in abundance.

Only this time we’re trying to implement massive change in about half the average transition time, with several times the human population than was the case at the start of the 20th century.

Believe it or not, little old Aberdeen has a rather important role to play in the new future that we’re trying to create for ourselves.

It is a place where the current transition is starting to be felt, and we either embrace it or lose out to others.’

Is there a question mark over the commitment of some from traditional energy agencies that the time to act is now?

‘So, when Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond attended last month’s transition summit in Aberdeen, the city was already a decade up the maritime renewables road, not that much credit appeared to be accorded to that effort by co-chairs Messrs Wood and Marchant at said summit, from what I was told.’  

The 17th December 2010 meeting in Aberdeen, as Cresswell said, included Alex Salmond , Sir Ian Wood and Ian Marchant, during which Alex Salmond reiterated his call for the UK government to allow Scotland access to its £191 million of Fossil Fuel Levy funds from energy generated here so it can be invested in renewable schemes.

‘…Sir Ian Wood, founder and chair of the Wood Group and Ian Marchant, chief executive of Scottish and Southern Energy, the UK’s largest renewables generator, will co-chair the summit on Friday December 17 – to be attended by representatives of leading companies from both sectors.’ Newsnet Scotland http://newsnetscotland.com/economy/910-salmond-to-announce-energy-summit-and-demand-fossil-fuel-levy-release

‘The important thing, however, is that the North Sea’s oil & gas supply chain has now clocked the maritime renewables opportunity and is gradually starting to engage directly, including Technip becoming involved in the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre project, which has successfully attracted 40million euros of EU grant aid.

That same supply chain is also sniffing the carbon capture opportunity which, in a sense, is closer to home, as the petroleum industry per se is already well-practised, albeit for production enhancement reasons rather than anything to do with climate change.

But what a pity it is that the actual carbon dioxide scrubbing systems required for fossil fuel power stations such as Longannet are fundamentally foreign imports, which makes a lie out of government claims that the UK is a global leader in carbon capture when it quite clearly is not. Norway is. The Americans are. We are not.

The past couple of years have also been good for the UK oil & gas international supply chain, especially the Aberdeen-based capability and big-brand engineering houses in London.

The trick is to keep building on that and the London Government had better understand how strategically important it is to back such success, not solely with politicians’ endless prattle, but with tangible support and by putting its money where its mouth is, knowing that the return to UK PLC will be a handsome one. I’ve said this before: it really is time to act.’

According to Scottish Renewables own website, the Scottish renewable sector is exceeding expectations with a rise in all electricity generated from renewable in Scotland from 20.9% in 2009 to over 25% last year.  http://www.scottishrenewables.com

Jeremy Cresswell expresses views widely held across the north-east concerning the troubling state of Aberdeen and its administration.

‘As for Aberdeen and its shire, let us be clear, we must not compromise or squander our energy advantage, wittingly or otherwise.

It disturbs me that swingeing local authority budget cuts could cause immense damage, if they are not already doing so, by impacting on simple things such as thousands of potholes, cancelling infrastructure improvements and not according sufficient priority to economic development.

It disturbs me that the heart of Europe’s energy capital remains so scruffy: where is that sense of real civic pride? Don’t we love Aberdeen?’

I think we all know the answer to that, Jeremy – misplaced priorities from an administration that talks the talk but stumbles over the walk.

‘It disturbs me that if the controversial and very expensive Union Terrace Gardens project goes ahead, Aberdeen will be accused of profligacy at a time when prudence should be the watchword. And rightly so.’

Interesting how Aberdeen has had 40 years as the energy hub of Europe without a piazza but now apparently everything about its future is dependent on it having one. Complete nonsense.

‘It disturbs me that anything to do with educating our young should be compromised any more than has already been the case.

It disturbs me that neither Holyrood nor London appear to understand the need to truly nurture what remains perhaps the most successful economic powerhouse in Britain today; or at least reward that success in some tangible manner on the basis that success begets success.’

Aberdeen’s strength lies in its geographic situation but therein also lies its weakness. Two hundred miles north of the Central Belt and five hundred from London, dependent on an accident-ridden dual carriageway south and unreliable rail links.

‘It disturbs me that, locally, we still don’t seem to understand that, globally, Aberdeen is the brand that the rest of the world recognises.

It disturbs me that, when it snows and freezes, our transport links fall over and chaos ensues.

In my view the railways especially need sorting out – big time.

If we keep on getting things wrong the way we are doing, you can bet your bottom dollar that oil & gas supply chain main and mid-brands which are overseas owned will declare enough is enough, up sticks and leave.’

http://energy.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/2065941/?UserKey=#ixzz1Al5HS5qm


There is the promise of a rich future for Scotland in the creation of energy through renewable and its associated jobs.  But success is not guaranteed and is dependent on the swift action of the Scottish government, the London government, business leaders and local authorities to recognise the parts they must play. For Aberdeen City Council that means getting the basics established.  Clearly and disturbingly it has no clue as to what these might be.

January 11, 2011

Gray’s Anatomy – Iain Gray Orator Extraordinaire