IT'S NOT ROCKET SALAD………in the Land o' cakes and brither Scots
Glenbuchat is stunning. More rolling countryside than majestic mountains it sweeps and dips and is a tonic to the eye. But behind the magnificence lurks a darker tale.
Raptor Persecution UK mentioned in a blog in 2014 that the Convenor of the Cairngorm National Park Authority (CPNA), Duncan Bryden, wrote to the Environment Minister about incidents of raptor persecution and “disappeared birds” – notably the first fledged sea-eagle for 200 years in Scotland had disappeared over the eastern area of the Park and such incidents he said, “threatens to undermine the reputation of the National Park as a high quality wildlife tourism destination.” Perhaps this is the point it should be pointed out North Glenbuchat Estate operates a grouse moor within the National Park.
The “disappeared” young sea eagle, hatched miles away on the northeast coast, is not the only victim to fall prey to Strathdon’s equivalent of the Bermuda triangle. Other satellite-tagged eagles have also perished here, in a National Park of all places, just vanished – well, not just vanished. The remains of one eagle was discovered, poisoned, in 2011.
Eagles are not its only victims. Various species have suffered a similar fate including the protected short-eared owl whose numbers are at risk – one was found shot dead here, its corpse hidden beneath a boulder. Another way of disappearing. Courts are still unwilling to curb the behaviour of rural criminals who wilfully destroy the nation’s wildlife.
Land reformer and now Green MSP, Andy Wightman, investigated the North Glenbuchat Estate, also in 2014, “one of a number of notorious hotspots of wildlife crime”. Andy has worked tirelessly to throw light on the shady world of land ownership in Scotland and delving into the murky world of who owns Scotland – precious few it seems – he found that in 2008 the Estate was purchased by the 4th Marquess of Milford Haven, George Ivar Louis Mountbatten. Take a few minutes to read Andy’s work on this area: From Glenbuchat to the Turks & Caico Islands.
It is odd to think, perhaps not odd in post-Panama Paper times, that Scottish glens can be owned by companies registered in far-away places with exotic names – such as the case with North Glen Estate Ltd. There is a deceptively similarly named company North Glen Estates Ltd which is registered in the UK.
Tracking down who owns what in Scotland would put a le Carré novel to shame. It is high time land ownership in this country was simplified and out in the open. Andy’s well-researched informative articles are illuminating which is more than can be said for our current land registration. Also please read the comments that follow his blog on Glenbuchat.
The North Glenbuchat Estate takes up part of the glen. In the 1960s death duties forced the break-up of Glenbuchat Estate and this is when the North Glenbuchat Estate was created and bought by a Major Michael Smiley of Castle Fraser who was connected by marriage to the Cowdrays of Dunecht, also into buying up properties in the area. Part of the original estate was retained by the Sole family, whose most prominent member is possibly David Sole, former Scottish rugby captain. In 2015 the Soles sold off their holding and so, too, did the Dunecht estate.
Z-plan Glenbuchat Castle rubble-built with beautiful stone
Glenbuchat lies between the River Don and the Ladder Hills, 6 miles west of Kildrummy and just over 30 miles west of Aberdeen and was once a Gaelic-speaking area. At the end of the 16th century the estate incorporated Glen Nochty in Strathdon and at the end of that century John Gordon of Cairnborrow had a Z-plan tower house or castle built on a magnificent site over the Don whose crumbling remains are now in the hands of Historic Scotland, Alba Aosmhor.
Gordon was implicated in the murder of the Bonny Earl o’ Moray (Murray as in Andy not as in the eel) that gave rise to the popular ballad.
Ye Hielands and ye Lawlands
Oh whar hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray
An’ layd him on the green
He took part in the Battle o’ Glenlivet at which Catholic clans resisted attempts to curb Catholicism during the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Huntly Gordons, Hays, Comyns, Camerons and Cummings though greatly outnumbered by troops led by Protestant forces under the Campbells of Argyll along with Murrays, Stewarts, Forbes, Macgillivrays, Macleans, Grants and Chattans appear to have been the victors.
The last Gordon to own the castle was the famous Jacobite general, “Old Glenbucket” the mispronunciation coming from the German prince who became King George II of Great Britain and the monarch Jacobites hoped to throw out in favour of the Catholic James Francis Edward Stuart. Apparently “Old Glenbucket” gave the Elector of Hanover nightmares from which he woke up screaming “De great Glenbucket be coming” although I have to say that sounds like German via a Holywood interpretation of a house maid from Alabama.
Glenbuchat then became Glenbucket. It has since recovered its softer pronunciation with a “ch” as in loch not as in lock. Take your time to pronounce it and keep the throat open, don’t close it and you too can say it as it without sounding like some cranky old monarch.
William Duff aka Lord Braco aka Earl Fife bought the estate in 1737. Duff was on the opposite side from Old Glenbucket, and an enthusiastic supporter of George II’s son the notorious Butcher Cumberland whose troops tirelessly hunted down and savagely killed men, women and bairns following the Battle of Culloden – for decades. The flowers known as Sweet Williams were named after him, a name hugely offensive to many Scots, but here in Scotland, they are still sometimes referred to as Stinking Willies.
Angle turrets contained turnpike stairs and turrets were supported by flying arches
The Duffs built up a fortune through acquiring land across Scotland; a quarter of a million acres in and around Aberdeen, Banff and Moray. They were not alone. By the end of the 18th century land ownership was concentrated in the hands of a few families. Though the Duffs acquired Glenbuchat Castle their seat of power was Duff House at Banff, to the east, not in Glenbuchat.
The isolated glen was opened up when a military road was pushed through early in the 19th century. Previous to this there were only tracks and drove roads used to walk cattle over the hills to markets, across to Speyside and farther down country to the south. Agriculture was, of course, the main occupation of glen folk. Their isolation from markets forced them into self-sufficiency which restricted the population the glen could support and delayed its adoption of modern agricultural practices when most other areas were responding to innovations of the Agricultural Revolution. In the glen animals continued to roam freely and improved crops were slow to replace traditional bear and oats.
While cattle were raised in the glen they were rarely eaten by its tenant farmers whose diet was mainly restricted to cereals and vegetables. Animals were reared to sell to those who had the money to afford meat and went to markets in the south for their flesh as well as for their leather hides and the sheep’s wool. Limestone quarrying was also carried out in the glen and remains of old lime kilns still exist.
It was possible to earn money while living in the glen but as incomes improved so their lairds realised an opportunity to squeeze more from their tenants and rents were increased. Of course during economic depressions rents did not go down but inflicted greater hardship on the poorest of communities scraping a living in Glenbuchat.
Glenbuchat Castle was protected by a heavy wooden door and a yett and set at an angle in the building to secure the house from enemies. Over the door was inscribed Nocht on Earth Remain Bot Fame. Its ground floor housed the kitchen and cellars while the laird’s accommodation was on the upper floors.
The nature of their existence forced people to co-operate with one another and farming in the glen was organised as self-sustaining communities – sharing tasks, equipment and animals in their ferm touns or clachans.
Late in the 17th century the glen had one shoemaker, a miller, one walking mill (a process in cloth-making – here it was woollen cloth from their sheep and linen from locally grown flax or lint), and three weavers. There were four weavers working in the 1840s as well as three wrights, three masons, three blacksmiths, two shoemakers, tailors and two wood manufacturers (perhaps carpenters?). Three meal mills operated early in that century and two waulk mills. The last of the mills finally closed in 1927.
It was into the 1960s before mains electricity made it into the glen. Up till then heating and cooking was by open fire – peat, timber and presumably later coal once roads permitted the transportation of imported supplies from Aberdeen harbour.
Lighting at one time when no wax candles were available was by burning roots, sliced into strips and dried. As with every impoverished and isolated community the people of the glen were dependent on their immediate environment for all their needs, certainly in the days before roads. Apart from the castle and homes of wealthier individuals, buildings were constructed from dug-up turf, divots, piled on top of each other and so too were roofs covered with divots over a timber framework. Tiny homes of two rooms, the but and ben with earth floors and an open fire where smoke eventually found its own way out through the opening in the roof, the lum. No luxury and certainly no privacy and horribly smoky.
When wine became taxed beyond the pockets of all but the wealthy in towns and cities so a taste for whisky grew and here lay opportunities for glen-dwellers to enhance their paltry incomes. Or would have done but then the potential of taxing whisky meant the government went to great lengths to ensure no ordinary spirit producer in the glen made anything from it. In 1821 a raiding party searching for illicit stills charged and took away 39 Glenbuchat men – some to jail. Imagine the impact this would have had not just on individual families but on the work of the glen. Not everyone was prosecuted for producing whisky locally, only the poor and vulnerable folk – ’twas ever thus.
Of the 138 people who lived in the glen in the 1960s only 91 remained ten years later. Making a living was more difficult than ever in a world of changed consumer habits.
But one person’s problem is another’s opportunity. What was big in the glen? -apart from its hills and they aren’t that big. Wildlife. Which brings us back to where we started.
Some people value our wildlife and others say they do but what they really mean is they value it for the buzz they get from destroying it. Hunting stirs the blood of some. They lust after the brutal pastime. Birds and animals in their gun sights are not, well birds and animals, but game. Game was not/is not for ordinary people to take and eat, no matter how destitute they may be, game is property – of the laird and for entertainment or sport.
By 1820 Glenbuchat had become a shooting and hunting paradise – and co-incidentally a good earner for the laird – better than impoverished tenant farmer rents.
With property comes laws and regulations to limit who can get access to wildlife – and to preserve these laws and regulations gamekeepers were hired to look after the interests of the laird’s nice little earner.
Go into Glenbuchat and admire the scenery, the little old kirk and churchyard and the remains of Gordon’s castle but leave the wildlife alone, please.
Finally, let us push for major land reform that is in keeping with the 21st century and stop tugging the forelock as though we still exist in the 19thC.
The local Rev. Robert Scott was a collector of local ballads – see The Glenbuchat Ballads – https://folkloreforum.net/2008/11/05/david-buchan-and-james-moreira-eds-the-glenbuchat-ballads/
Private Finance Initiative aka Public Private Partnerships aka Milking the Public Purse
Surely someone is responsible – who could it possibly be?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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? 
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.
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.
Well, well we have scarcely seen the back of scaremongering stories in the press, along with all those patronising noises about Scotland an equal partner in the Union, when a TV debate among party leaders fuels a further onslaught of dirty tricks.
Cheering from the sidelines is the Labour Party – see how its desperate members attach themselves to their new-found allies in the conservative Telegraph and Daily Mail, quashing any doubts that they are Red Tories.
It hasn’t escaped the notice of historians among us that the Labour Party has been the victim of similar political smears not least when they were damned by association of being too socialist and likely to open the door to communism in Great Britain. Oh how times have changed.
Labour had formed a minority government in 1923 under Ramsay MacDonald despite polling far fewer votes than the Tories (take note Murphy). It attempted to govern with support of the Liberals but they would not back its socialist measures, other than a council housing programme, and in 1924 another election was called.
With exquisite timing up popped a letter shortly before polling day. Not any letter but one said to have been written by Grigory Zinoviev, the Soviet head of the communist international. It urged close ties between the Soviet Union and Britain; this was shortly after the Russian Revolution and the political right used it prove their case that the Red hoards were about to invade or get their comrades in this country to do their dirty work for them and spread their foreign ideologies of communism and socialism through the shires and cities of Britain, or England as it was known then.
It was leaked to The Mail which did its duty and published it. The clear intention of its publication was to damage support for the Labour Party in the election, for MacDonald when in power had recognised the Soviet government and was negotiating repayment of Tsarist debt from it and the release of a fresh loan which horrified the British establishment.
Zinoviev immediately denied the letter came from him. He pointed out basic errors which backed his claim and soon suspicion fell on agents and officers from MI5. Later inquiries seemed to indicate involvement of White Russians, monarchists living in Berlin in collusion with the Intelligence services. Any doubts there might have been over the letter’s authenticity was secondary to the desire of the innately conservative civil servants of Whitehall and the foreign office from where it was leaked to its value as black propaganda to damage the Labour Party and influence the election outcome.
The spectre of another socialist government, one that might actually begin to shift the social certainties in Britain went down like a lead balloon with the ultra-conservative British establishment.
MacDonald was in no doubt the letter was a political conspiracy. Subsequent investigations led to involvement of Stewart Menzies, later head of MI6, and fellow Etonian Desmond Morton, also involved in Intelligence and arch enemy of the Soviets.
The Labour Party was then still fairly new and very different from its current rightwing persona. It was regarded as a threat to the stability of the United Kingdom and the establishment’s megaphone of the press was happy to collude with publishing hysterical headlines, similar to those that now define the British press’ attacks on Scotland, the SNP and its leftwing agenda for it believed then the Labour Party was a danger to the stability of Britain, or rather the establishment’s narrow, self-interests.
Down the decades there is a similar reaction from the press and the corridors of Whitehall and the security services to any form of social and political upheaval and it sees plenty social and political upheaval it sees emerging from an SNP government. Shock that the independence referendum was merely the opening round and not the end of Scottish ambitions and the realisation that major changes to the political landscape of Scotland are just beginning -with a huge wave of support for the SNP and the Scottish Greens and the SSP has had a laxative effect on the establishment and their lackeys.
By the way the Zinoviev forgery did not lose the Labour Party votes though it did lose it the election when a whopping number of Liberals shifted their votes to their natural allies the Tories from Red-dread thereby wiping out the Liberals for decades until they crawled back into bed with their pals in 2010.
The attacks on Nicola Sturgeon so hot on the heels of her acclaimed success in the leaders’ debate is no coincidence and only the start of a combined strategy by the forces of conservatism – Tory, Labour and Libdem, to demonise her, ‘the most dangerous woman in Britain’.
The gloves are off and as in 1924 the truth is irrelevant and only headlines and their impact matter in this fight. We have just seen how quick the British press is to repeat lies meant to damage a reputation and oh, so reluctant to check the authenticity of outrageous claims making them no better today than they were in 1924.
As for Miliband his unseemly rush to add credibility to this obvious forgery in an effort to shift attention from his ineffectual and unpopular leadership confirms the general opinion of him as a pathetic and unprincipled man.
In the week of International Women’s Day we got a stark reminder that women have not yet won the battle to be judged the equals of men in the minds of too many men, and shamefully a number of women. Few had heard of the bullish Labour MP David Hamilton before he took to the stage at a special one day conference of the Labour Party in Scotland on Saturday. This swaggering individual is pretty well known now not to say notorious. I don’t know what else he said other than that outrageous sexist jibe at the First Minister because I wasn’t watching but I couldn’t avoid the firestorm his words caused on social media and there was Youtube to catch up on his moment. (I understand the Labour Party in Scotland pulled the video in an attempt to bury bad news but life on social media and with the wonders of modern science concealing what’s been said is no longer as simple as that.) Now I don’t have problems with political attacks on fellow politicians, and Nicola Sturgeon must be scrutinised in her role as First Minister but that was not what Hamilton was up to. He was out to win over his audience, to ingratiate himself with his comrades who were lapping up his rhetoric as he sought to take the First Minister down a peg or two. Oh yes, they were up for that. And he did it in the way that came most naturally to him – he condemned her for being a woman doing a man’s job. His audience of Labour Party members loved it. Oh how they laughed – he’d got to the essence of Nicola Sturgeon’s weakness – she was a wummin – wait – wait – not even a wummin but – what’s even less regarded than a woman – a wee lassie. Nicola Sturgeon was a nothing but a wee lassie dressing up – hence the tin hat (worn by men, real men – usually ‘heroes’) to act out a role that should have been done by a bloke. Oh how his audience lapped it up. What’s not to like? The First Minister was being ATTACKED – put down, sneered at not for her political beliefs or record but the sheer basis of her gender. Nicola Sturgeon too photogenic, too friendly, too popular was getting her character – for thinking she could make it in a big man’s world. It is the easiest thing in the world to label men such as the bluff Hamilton as Neanderthals. It’s not really appropriate for Neanderthals were of their time – Hamilton and his type are relics, or should be, of a past age. Their ability to offer a coherent political analysis of opponents is negligible and so they try to conceal their lack of intellect with humour. Well Hamilton succeeded. We know where he stands on women in politics, and we can surmise from that, women in other ‘male’ spheres of influence. If there was anything even more depressing than the sexist display on stage at the Labour conference it was the reaction of many of its top Scottish political figures who couldn’t get to twitter quick enough to share with the world the ecstasy of the moment as they ejaculated excitedly in praise of Hamilton and his misogynist outburst. That rush of adrenalin was only matched by the later stampede to their twitter pages to delete their support for Hamilton’s mysoginist outburst. That only happened when it was pointed out by their political opponents how outrageous his remarks were. Until then these guys, the same ones who approved the thick wee woman political broadcast during the referendum debate and the pink lady bus, were unaware there was anything amiss with demeaning women – och, can’t you take a joke? Remember that? You will if you were part of the women’s movements from, well – as far back as you like but let’s stick with the 1970s. Picture the scene – Aberdeen during the miners’ strike and a group of miners went around the country looking for help when the Tory government was intent on starving them back to work. In Aberdeen there was a strong Women’s Liberation group and members, all just getting by themselves, bought groceries and donated cash to help the miners’ families. When handing it over the all-male contingent looked at each other and laughed conspiratorially – they didn’t believe in women’s lib they said. A bit non-plussed the food and money were, nevertheless, handed over and accepted, albeit with a few sniggers, but it was perplexing how anyone in a struggle during the 1970s could still think in that way – that women anywhere were a subclass of human. Hamilton, a former miner, was expressing this same bankrupt view of woman over 30 years later. It is ignorance and stupidity and prejudice all rolled into one unedifying performance. And yet even more disturbing was the reaction of women in the audience. Labour Party women laughing their silly heads off at this man’s comments. Reminds me of the Eric Bogle song about the silly women who stay on with abusive drunken husbands – who but a silly woman – he returns home, tanked up – slap – where’s my tea? – kick – the boys didn’t win the day so I’ll take out my frustration on you – punch. (Dovetails nicely with Jim Murphy’s demand that alcohol be allowed to be drunk again at football matches. I’ll bet quite a few women were terrified by that announcement.) Disappointingly there are women who are complicit with the demeaning behaviour of sexist dinosaurs. We saw that in the audience on Saturday. The trades union movement was steeped in sexism. Attitudes and practice that prevented women getting equal pay and conditions with men for over a century. Hamilton proved they are still very much with us now and his audience of Labour Party men and women exposed themselves as a hindrance to the efforts of women to be taken seriously in work, any type of work. I suspect International Women’s Day will have given rise to quite a number of winked asides based on the idea of women getting above themselves. Now we know this is the official position of the Labour Party in Scotland. Lassies get back into the kitchen and get my tea on the table and you can forget about International Women’s Day.
PS Brother Hamilton has just been elevated or whatever the term is – by the Queen. Another man of the people happy to join the elite of the British Establishment by accepting a knighthood – and what has he done to deserve one? You may well ask.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Contribution by Textor
The results are fairly meaningless but you are welcome to click on the link to see what they are.
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.
Es gab erhebliche Unzufriedenheit über BBC Scotland Entscheidung, das beliebte wöchentliche Politik zeigen, Newsweek Schottland Axt und ersetzen Sie diese Samstagmorgen-Programm mit einer zusätzlichen Auflage von Guten Morgen Schottland.
Die Gründe, die von der BBC gegeben sind:
1. Radio Scotland verfolgt eine Strategie mit Schwerpunkt auf Speech-Programme während des Tages und Musik spät in die Nacht.
An sich sollte dies keine negativen Auswirkungen auf Newsweek wie beim letzten Mal hörte ich hatte es 100% Musik freien Inhalten.
2. Sie sagt, sie ist darauf ausgerichtet, alle seine Anstrengungen in ‘dem derzeitigen Klima “, um seine Ressourcen wo unsere Zielgruppen sind anzusprechen.
Was bedeutet dies zusätzlichen Fokus summieren sich zu? Der Verweis auf die aktuelle Klima sicherlich eine Anspielung auf die Vorfeld des Referendums über die Unabhängigkeit 2014. Genau, also warum ausziehen Newsweek Schottland? Dies ist ein intelligentes Programm mit einem Ruf für seine raffinierte Handhabung der schottische Themen. Ist es vielleicht auch in der Lage für einige Bürokraten bei der BBC? Und was mit “, wo unsere Zielgruppen sind” zu verstehen? Ist es, dass Newsweek Schottland zieht nicht genügend Zuhörer? Wenn ja, dann sollte die BBC kommen und es sagen. Dann wieder die BBC ist für immer sagen uns die Gründe für so viele Programmänderungen sind, um neue Zielgruppen zu gewinnen, damit ich nicht in der Lage, die Logik folgen hier bin.
3. Sie schlägt vor, Nachrichtensendungen und aktuellen Ausgabe am Samstagmorgen zu stärken und wird zur Stärkung des Publikums verpflichtet.
Da haben wir es. Ein weiterer Hinweis, dass Newsweek Schottland zieht nicht genügend Zuhörer. Wie ist das Verhältnis zwischen Qualität und Zuhörer Zahlen? Welchen Wert hat die BBC an Qualität nicht mehr? Und was ist das um die Stärkung Nachrichtensendungen und aktuellen Ausgabe? Was kann es vielleicht sein, der Planung bis zur NS mit verdrängen? Ich komme darauf.
4. Es beabsichtigt Substitution der 1 Stunden-Programm mit einer Dauer von zwei Stunden.
Große das sollte bedeuten, den ernsthaften Studenten der Politik in Schottland könnte zweimal so viel Erleuchtung zu finden aus einer doppelten Dosis des NS als von seinem wöchentlichen Ausgabe 1 Stunde. Aber das ist nicht das, was die Bürokraten hinauswollen.
5. Ziel ist es, Guten Morgen Schottland bis Samstag verlängern mit den besten Elemente der aktuellen Newsweek Programm.
So dort haben Sie es. Die BBC will ersetzen diese wichtige politische Programm mit einem Magazin zeigen. So viel zur Einnahme der wichtigen Business-of Scotland die Zukunft ernst. Und die Show wird genannt Guten Morgen Samstag Schottland werden. Ist das verdient ein Bürokrat das Gehalt? Und was bedeutet die Aussage, dass die besten Elemente der aktuellen Newsweek Programm aufgenommen werden sollen bedeuten? Derek Bateman? Wird er sie in GMS rekrutiert? Er ist der sehr fähigen und kompetenten Stimme des NS und ein willkommenes Gegenmittel zu den oft erstaunlich ungeschickt und oft peinlichen Interviews mit GMS-Moderatoren offenbar überfordert und unzureichend informiert. Die beiden Programme sind Meilen auseinander in Bezug auf Qualität, Zinsen, intellektuelle Strenge und den Umgang mit abwechslungsreichen und interessanten Themen. Eines wird durch eine ordnungsgemäße Journalist, der seinen Stoff auswendig kennt, während die anderen Features Moderatoren unterschiedlicher Fähigkeit fehlt aber gravitas bei der Bewältigung wichtiger politischer Interviews geführt.
Wenn die BBC ist ernst, dass sie ihren Nachrichtensendungen und aktuellen stärken will, dann sollte es bringen GMS aus der Misere mit ihrer inkohärenten Interviews durch übererregt Moderatoren und die konstante Ulkereien mit Kollegen und wie viele sich wiederholende Reisen und Wetter Unterbrechungen kann eine Programm, bevor es total albern wird? Ich würde vorschlagen, dass die GMS ist seit langem Ziel zu treffen.
Ich vermute, es hat schon ein paar Zehen getreten von Newsweek Schottland und das ist der eigentliche Grund für die prospektive Verdummung von der BBC was eine Schande ist, weil wir die Leute, die diese Bürokraten, sorry Führungskräfte, ihre Gehälter zu zahlen sind und wir sind die diejenigen, die sie einfach nicht weniger wichtig sind. Und wann haben Sie zuletzt ein BBC hören Exekutive für jede Entscheidung entschuldigen?
Schottland hat etwas Besseres verdient als eine weitere Auflage des Guten Morgen Scotland, die derzeit auf das Wochenende gebunden zu sein, noch mehr banal als es ohnehin schon ist. Es braucht Newsweek Schottland.
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