ABERDEEN CITY COUNCIL

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See also the COUNCILLORS page ►  

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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) is as strong as ever !

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 next year's Council elections, the nine recalcitrant councillors were reinstated by the Scottish Labour executive on September 11.  As they had apparently shown "contrition" for their enthusiastic coalition with the Tories, they will be free to seek election next May -- 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."

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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 "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%).

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The most EMPTY HOUSES

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.

There were around 6,300 on the waiting list for a council house in the city.  The Council says it processes around 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. A number of properties are deemed to be "hard-to-let" for various reasons.

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City Centre MASTERPLAN

The Labour-Tory Aberdeen City Council finally came up with a "masterplan" for the city centre 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%. 

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ABERDEEN is Scotland's 3rd largest city, and the regional capital of the North-East.

The current population is 228,670  (mid-2019 est.)  It is known as the Granite City, the Silver City and the Oil Capital of Europe.

               

 

 

 

All three of the city's Scottish Parliamentary constituencies are represented by SNP MSPs. 

See the regular updates on the Aberdeen CENTRAL, Aberdeen DONSIDE and Aberdeen SOUTH (& North Kincardine) pages.

In addition, the ABERDEEN NORTH, ABERDEEN SOUTH and GORDON Westminster seats are held by the SNP.  For regular updates, go to the UK PARLIAMENT page.