Two years ago, our family joined one of the largest demonstrations ever to be held in the City of Aberdeen. We and thousands of others demonstrated against the many cuts threatened for education, social care, sports centres, parks and so forth. The Dafter made up her own slogan and chanted it the entire length of Union Street: “Cut the cuts! Cut the cuts!” It was sleeting and snowing, and we saw loads of other people we knew, including the Dafter’s headmaster and teachers, and many of our neighbours. Despite our protests, teachers and classroom assistants lost their jobs, secondary subjects have been cut in high schools across the city, and many worthy charities that help the vulnerable have had their funding axed. Arts organisations are similarly suffering. But hey, this is Austerity Britain – or is it?
One of my first blog posts, in May 2010, recorded our sadness and shock that despite a public referendum voting against the project, Aberdeen City Council had voted to spend £70 million on “improving” Union Terrace Gardens. This project came about because local businessman Sir Ian Wood had offered £50 million to revamp the gardens. More recently, I shared some of the design entries for the “City Square” project. The winning design is “The Granite Web”. How an unelected consortium of businesspeople is allowed to shape the fate of a public park has never been explained, but clearly Aberdeen City Council is allowing it to happen.
Now, with ongoing public outcry, Sir Ian has agreed to finance another referendum to ask the citizens of Aberdeen if we want to keep Union Terrace Gardens, or go with the business community’s dream of The Granite Web. Here is a newsletter we received urging us to vote for their scheme.
Meanwhile those who love the Victorian gardens and think the Granite Web would be an act of vandalism, are also campaigning:
The signs below ask a few pertinent questions (in rather unidiomatic English): “You want our taxes to pay for more shops? You want to take our garden? And you build on it? And we pay for it?”
And this morning I read that First Minister Alex Salmond – whose government overturned the Site of Special Scientific Interest status of the moving dunes so that Donald Trump could build his golf course north of Aberdeen – has now backed “The Granite Web”. Apparently people across the city are changing their minds about the scheme, and you hear people saying, “Everyone knows you need to spend money to make money”.
Curiously, this is not the stance of the local government in any other respect. Well, you know how we used our referendum votes. Sigh!