*SCOTTISH LOCAL ELECTIONS : 5 May 2022 *
1. Dyce, Bucksburn & Danestone (4 cllrs.)
2. Bridge of Don (4 cllrs.)
3. Kingswells, Sheddocksley & Summerhill (3 cllrs.)
4. Northfield & Mastrick North (3 cllrs.)
5. Hilton, Woodside & Stockethill (3 cllrs.)
6. Tillydrone, Seaton & Old Aberdeen (3 cllrs.)
7. Midstocket & Rosemount (3 cllrs.)
8. George Street & Harbour (4 cllrs.)
9. Lower Deeside (3 cllrs.)
10. Hazlehead, Ashley & Queens Cross (4 cllrs.)
11. Airyhall, Broomhill & Garthdee (3 cllrs.)
12. Torry & Ferryhill (4 cllrs.)
13. Kincorth, Nigg & Cove (4 cllrs.)
Are you REGISTERED to vote ?
Voters will go to the polls on Thursday, May 5, to elect councillors to Scotland’s 32 local authorities. Every vote will count, and it’s absolutely vital that your name is on the electoral register.
To vote in these elections you must be 14 or over to register, and you can vote if you’re 16 or over on May 5. You must live at an address in Scotland, and you must also be one of the following:– a UK national, an Irish or EU national, or any other foreign national with leave to remain in the UK, including refugees.
The deadline to register to vote for this election is APRIL 18. Make sure you’re registered so you don’t lose your voice You normally only need to register once – not for every election — but you’ll need to register again if you’ve changed your name, address or nationality.
If you live in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire or Moray, please contact the Grampian Assessor & Electoral Registration Office, Woodhill House, Westburn Road, Aberdeen, AB16 5GE. Tel. 01224 068400. Their website is at:– https://www.grampian-vjb.gov.uk/
The BALLOT paper
Scottish Local Government Elections are conducted under the Single Transferable Vote (STV) electoral system. This means you are able to rank one or more of the candidates in order of your preference. You don’t put a cross next to any candidate’s name.
You put the number 1 in the box next to the name of the candidate who is your first choice, 2 in the box next to your second choice, 3 in the box next to your third choice, and so on. You can make as many — or as few — choices as you wish. You are not required to rank all of the candidates.
See also the COUNCILLORS page ►
Council abandons DEMOCRACY !
In its determination to push on with its controversial city centre “Masterplan”, the current Aberdeen City Council has seemingly abandoned any semblance of democracy.
The city now appears to be ruled over by a virtual dictatorship, with no regard or interest in the opinions of anyone else. At the crucial meeting of the City Growth & Resources Committee on 12 November 2021, it only required the votes of four Councillors — two Labour and two Tories — for their plans to be rubber-stamped.
In his summing-up, SNP Group Leader Alex Nicoll was scathing in his criticism of the ruling Labour-Tory cabal for not putting the matter before the full Council. He said: “The vitriol, as ever, from our Council Leader, who obviously doesn’t recall the comments in the Best Value Audit that she quotes — so wisely commenting on the inability of the administration to work in harmony with other parties. Clearly, that didn’t ring with her. Also not aware that in our last meeting in fact it was actually something that we suggested then: that this has huge long-term implications for the city and will have a lasting impact. But, once again, casually stepped over. And we spent little time obviously looking at the key issue that’s before us: of whether or not to pedestrianise the central part of Union Street at this time, or whether we should do it in subsequent time-scales.”
“We clearly have a situation where the city centre is in dire need of footfall. We need people in our city centre. We gave our word, as a Council, that this would not be ‘back-door’ pedestrianisation when we introduced Spaces For People. We have an opportunity to sweep it aside and allow public service access back in. That’s what people are filling up my mailbox with. That is what they are saying to us that we need to do. So what we do have is an unwillingness to allow whole sections of our society to return to Union Street. I think that’s a very poor day for Aberdeen City Council. We need to allow these people back to the city centre. I’m listening to my constituents who have difficulty getting to the main thoroughfare, in our once proud city to have the famous Granite Mile.”
“And I really do see where they’re coming from when they say that they need to get there. I don’t think — in any shape or form — we can say that the measures that are being proposed are going to be happening overnight. We’re looking at many months, and I think if there was a political will from the administration, we could allow buses and taxis back to the central section of Union Street. And we could work collegiately to actually move forward with some of the proposals that we appear to be sticking on. Unfortunately, that hasn’t proved possible, but not because of people on this side of the Chamber. It hasn’t proved possible because of the administration not wanting to listen to the Opposition, and not wanting to listen to the people of Aberdeen who have been quite clear on this. This is what they want. We are here as elected members to represent them and deliver for them, and we have an opportunity to do that today.”
Councillors BLOCKED from making decisions
The SNP’s Cllr. MICHAEL HUTCHISON sought to put the following Motion to the full Council meeting of Aberdeen City Council on 13 December 2021:–
That Council — (a) notes that the Aberdeen City Centre Masterplan was agreed unanimously by Council in 2015. The Masterplan is a 25-year project which seeks to address the challenges facing the city centre of Aberdeen;
(b) notes that Aberdeen City Council comprises 45 Councillors representing 5 political groups. Notes that the current Aberdeen City Council is a minority administration of 22 elected members that has a political majority on all the Committees of the Council, including the City Growth & Resources Committee. This Committee comprises 5 elected members from the administration and 4 from the opposition parties;
(c) notes that the proposals envisage capital investment of several hundreds of millions of pounds, and that the legacy of these projects will shape the future of our city for decades to come; and
(d) agrees that all future papers relating to the City Centre Masterplan, the Beach Masterplan, Aberdeen International Market and the Queen Street Redevelopment are reported to full Council meetings until decided otherwise by a decision of full Council.
The SNP Group also wanted to allow buses, taxis and disabled persons’ vehicles back onto the pedestrianised section of Union Street for a trial period. However, in a further act of suppression by the Labour-Tory partnership, the motion was ruled as “incompetent” and was denied. Cllr. Hutchison commented: “It’s a democratic outrage that this debate has been shut down for political expedience, and councillors blocked from making decisions on how our city is run. If the minority administration are confident in their position, they should be able to stand by it in the Council Chamber, rather than trying to manipulate standing orders to hide behind. We hope to see Union Street opened up to buses in the short term, at least until the Council has been able to carry out the engagement they have planned. Given the concerns that there have been about accessibility of Union Street under the current arrangements, I think that is a reasonable step to take.”
► On January 12 — despite losing a vote by 24 to 21 — Labour and Tory Councillors again blocked an SNP motion for the full Council to debate the controversial closure of part of Union Street.
► On February 28 — this was the first part of a Motion by SNP Cllr. Alex McLellan to the meeting of the full Council:–
That Council:- (a) cease the interim design works for public realm improvements on the mid section of Union Street (from Market Street to Bridge Street);
(b) instructs the Chief Officer (Operations and Protective Services) to reopen Union Street between its junctions with Union Terrace and Market Street to service buses, taxis, private hire vehicles and pedal cycles only, all as soon as is practicably possible, but not before any necessary investigatory or other required works are completed and not before any necessary statutory processes are completed: such work shall include the reopening of the temporarily closed bus stops and pedestrian crossings on this section of Union Street, where practicable.
There was a 23 to 22 vote in favour of removing the pedestrianisation measures put in place during the pandemic. This time the decision was accepted, and the city’s main street will eventually be reopened for buses, taxis and other vehicles mentioned in the motion.
The Red & Blue TORIES — still partners until the next election
After winning 19 of the 45 seats in Aberdeen City Council in 2017, the SNP became easily the largest party in the city. However, it was blocked from assuming control by an unholy alliance of the two major British unionist parties — now popularly known as the Red and Blue Tories.
Not for nothing has the Labour Party in Scotland earned its “Red Tories” sobriquet. The party has swung so far to the right that it is now virtually indistinguishable from the “blue” variety. The colour of their rosettes may be different, but the basic aims of these London-based parties are the same! For the last ten years — whether in the Scottish Parliament or in the country’s Council chambers — Labour and the Conservatives have sung from the same hymn sheet and co-operated willingly on most subjects — particularly in their manic opposition to the SNP, and a mutual desperation to prevent Scotland from progressing to independent statehood by any means possible.
Given that the outgoing Labour administration had been propped up by a handful of Blue Tories, it was no real surprise when the enlarged Conservative group chose to team up again with their depleted unionist pals. Anxious to somehow disassociate themselves from the sinking ship which is the “Scottish” Labour Party, their Granite City hopefuls opted to re-brand themselves as “Aberdeen Labour” in the election. Although they were hoping to continue using the label, all of their nine councillors were technically Independents. On 17 May 2017, their regional HQ ordered them not to go into alliance with the Conservative group — then suspended their party membership when they went ahead anyway. For over a year, the status of the Numpty Nine was “under review” by their Scottish Branch office. Apparently unable or unwilling to make any decision, the councillors’ fate was placed in the hands of the party’s National Constitutional Committee in London, on 2 July 2018. There was a deafening silence until 31 Oct. 2020, when the Committee eventually ruled that the nine would be suspended from party membership until the next local elections in May 2022. Seemingly undeterred, the cosy double-act between Labour’s Jenny Laing and the Tory Douglas Lumsden (pictured) appeared to be as strong as ever. However, Mrs. Laing has announced that she will not be seeking re-election.
On 1 Nov. 2020, Alex Nicoll, the SNP Group leader, said: “With the political careers of these nine Councillors now looking all but over, you have to wonder if the current administration is doomed, as they seek to jump ship to save their own skins. Although I doubt many would be shocked to see some of these Councillors now looking to join their chums in the Tory Party. Their membership forms may already be in the post.” Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, commented: “”Right now, the people of Aberdeen are being served by a coalition sustained by Labour deserters, an alleged Holocaust denier and a convicted sex offender. These nine power-hungry Councillors were suspended for ditching their principles in order to team up with the Tories. Labour might talk a good game on democracy and fighting Tory austerity, but they can’t be taken seriously when their party bosses lend their support to Councillors who have propped up this right-wing Tory administration. They should be sacked, not backed!”
With a firm eye on May’s Council elections, the nine recalcitrant councillors were reinstated by the Scottish Labour executive on 11 September 2021. As they had apparently shown “contrition” for their enthusiastic coalition with the Tories, they will be free to contest seats — if any of them have any confidence in being re-elected. Kevin Stewart commented: “It seems the message from Labour is that they now sanction going into coalition with the Tories. Next year, voters should not fall into the trap of again letting Tories into power by the back door.”
No unionist PACTS !
JACKIE DUNBAR, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Donside, has called on Labour to categorically rule out any pacts with the Tories, before or after May’s council election.
She highlighted cases where Labour were hell-bent on locking the SNP out of power in 2017, by willingly going into partnership with the Conservatives — most notably in Aberdeen and North Lanarkshire. On January 1, Ms. Dunbar, who is remaining as a councillor until the election, said: “This year, Labour has a duty to lock the Tories out of power in Scotland’s councils. It’s time for their actions to match their rhetoric. Anas Sarwar thinks he talks a good game when it comes to tackling Westminster austerity, but he can’t be taken seriously if Labour props up the Tories in Council chambers across the country. He should be committing his party to work with progressives –- not stitching up backroom deals with the Tories. The SNP, which will set out its prospectus for the Council elections in the coming weeks, has a strong record of fair funding to enable the lowest Council Tax of any nation in the UK. The people of Scotland have resoundingly rejected the Conservatives since the 1950s, and the SNP will definitely not be supporting any Tory administration in any of our 32 local authorities. It’s time the days of Unionist pacts were consigned to the dustbin of history.”
The “MARISCHAL SQUARE” farce
After the demolition of St. Nicholas House, Aberdonians were able to enjoy the uninterrupted view of two of the city’s most iconic buildings. Alas, this was short-lived, as the historical ambience of Broad Street has now been completely destroyed.
The grossly over-developed (and likely to be underused) “leisure and retail” scheme consists of several large, ill-conceived concrete-and-glass blocks, which grotesquely dwarf, envelop and hide the 16th century Provost Skene’s House (pictured). Broad Street has also not been widened to justify its grandiose renaming as “Marischal Square”. A public hearing amounted to little more than a PR exercise, as it would not determine whether work on the project went ahead. Apparently, Finance Convener Willie Young had already clinched the £107million deal with the Muse developers! Astonishingly, ex-councillor Young is reported to have said that Provost Skene’s House “looks stunning” and “blends nicely” with the surrounding buildings — which are just feet away from the ancient monument!
Upwards of 7,000 people signed a petition to have the ludicrous development halted. However, in a re-affirmation of its now familiar anti-democratic stance, the Labour-controlled Council’s Petition Committee refused to accept it. Several hundred Aberdonians had earlier gathered in Broad Street to register their total opposition to the plans for the former St. Nicholas House site. The demonstrators were joined by Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, who said: “Aberdonians are angry and perplexed that this eyesore development has been allowed to proceed, and I have yet to find anyone — apart from the councillors who voted for it — who is in favour of it being built.”
“People are aghast that the architectural jewels of Marischal College and Provost Skene’s House are to be completely dominated or hidden by four architectural monstrosities. People are also annoyed that the ‘civic square’, which was a sop to allow this horrendous development to go ahead, was dropped by the Council at the last minute.” This latest project could land up being the worst in a series of planning disasters that Aberdeen Labour councils have blighted the city with over the last 60 years. Aberdeen has lost a number of iconic or historical buildings, which have been pulled down in the name of “progress”– or with the subtle aim of making our city look like “other British towns.” Perhaps the worst example was removing the irreplaceable Wallace Tower to make way for an extension to a Marks & Spencer store! A poll conducted by the Evening Express revealed the level of opposition to the Council’s plans for Broad Street. The result was: For – 462 (13%). Against – 3,092 (87%).
HOUSING commitment falls short
There are currently around 6,300 applicants wishing to be housed by Aberdeen City Council, with 4,388 on its waiting list, and a further 1,633 who are current tenants.
The Council processes about 350 new housing applications each month. In most areas of the city, it is suggested that there is a mismatch between the demand for council houses and the number of applicants requesting the type and size of dwelling available. 1,250 properties are also deemed to be uninhabitable or “hard-to-let” for various reasons and remain empty. On 21 Dec. 2021, Cllr. Audrey Nicoll MSP said: “Regrettably, the administration’s commitment to build 2,000 new homes has fallen short, with only 900 completed to date — adding to an already significant shortage of affordable housing in the city.”
“We continue to host poor-quality rented properties in Aberdeen. Typically, dated council housing stock, now impacted by damp and mould, has largely gone unactioned. 59% of homes in the city are not energy-efficient, resulting in high fuel bills, high carbon emissions and residents unable to heat their homes to a comfortable level. Indeed, I currently have a local consultation under way with residents living in some of the poorest quality housing in my constituency, to identify the housing issues most impacting on them. And responses to date have been stark.”
Conversely, Aberdeen has more long-term empty homes than anywhere else in Scotland, with a total value of almost half a billion pounds. In Sept. 2021 it was estimated that around 3,000 properties in the city had been empty for two or more years. The Granite City topped the rankings for the number of homes unoccupied for between two and five years (2,037), and between five and nine years (813). The majority of the homes were privately-owned, which was in part due to the death of the owner, or a legacy of the perceived decline of the oil and gas industry, resulting in a fall in demand for property. The total value of the long-term vacant housing stock in the city was £456million.
City Centre MASTERPLAN
The Labour-Tory Aberdeen City Council finally came up with a “masterplan” for the city centre over six years ago.
On 24 June 2015, the full Council approved a £750,000, 95-page blueprint produced by the Manchester-based planning consultants Building Design Partnership Ltd. Although the SNP Group was broadly in favour of its implementation, it warned that a huge effort and political will would be required to bring all of the plans to fruition in the scheduled 20 years. As had been pointed out before: the practicality of closing off part of Union Street to all vehicular traffic was still obviously open to question.
Among the main recommendations were:– to pedestrianise half of Union Street and most of Upperkirkgate; to turn Castlegate into “the city’s main civic square”; to build two new footbridges — between Belmont Street and Union Terrace, and over the River Dee to Torry; to eventually demolish the Trinity Centre, and provide a new “gateway” between Union Street and the railway station; to “revamp” the St. Nicholas Centre; to “redevelop” the Town House extension and the Police HQ, and convert Queen Street into “Queen’s Square”. Other schemes put forward in the masterplan included a “global energy hub”, a new “urban relief road” around the city centre, the creation of an airport rail link and new train stations in the city’s suburbs.
Doubts have been cast over Aberdeen City Council’s ability to push through its masterplan. On 10 July 2015, the economic analyst Tony Mackay said there was no evidence to back up the report’s claims that 5,000 jobs would be created, and that Aberdeen’s gross annual income would increase by £280million. There was “no publicly available explanation” for these figures, and the large number of projects proposed would likely lead to a “pick and mix” approach rather than an integrated strategy.
The results of a public opinion poll on the masterplan, carried out by the Press & Journal in June, were as follows: “Can’t see it happening in my lifetime” — 59.1%. “May happen. Something has to be done eventually” — 25.3%. “The Council will deliver it this time” — 15.6%.