Monday 28 November 2022

Support the Friends of St Fitticks and defend against a gross injustice

In her speech to the St Andrew's Day rally, Ishbel Shand of Friends of St Fitticks slams the threat to the last green space accessible to the poorest in the North East.

"I am here today to ask for your help in defending your fellow citizens from a gross injustice.  An unelected cabal made up of the Harbour Board, unelected officers at City Council, Scottish Enterprise and Sir Ian Wood’s ONE/ETZ company are planning to steal the last green space accessible to the poorest people in the North East.  This collusion of private interests and the political system is crony capitalism at its most sordid. 

Folk in Torry are already disadvantaged.  Their industries, fishing, ship building and repair, were lost to the oil industry.  Homes were destroyed when Shell replaced a picturesque fishing village with a major accident hazard site.  They were surrounded by landfill sites and industrial estates.  Edged by Wellington Road.  Home to two large harbours, a sewage treatment works, a gas turbine testing plant, a fishmeal factory. A 150,000 tonnes per annum incinerator is being built 500 metres from the Primary School. 

They were promised extensive environmental improvements by the Harbour Board and Aberdeen City Council in exchange for giving up Bay of Nigg.  That was in 2016.  Fast forward a few years and these two bodies were conspiring to remove Torry’s last green spaces and leave a settlement of ten and a half thousand people completely surrounded by industry.  The pandemic has shown us we need green-spaces for health and well-being.  Local health professionals have spelled out clearly what the loss of St Fittick’s Park will mean to the local community, where life expectancy is 13 years lower than in the leafier suburbs of Aberdeen, and healthy life twenty years lower.  The media has condemned the plan.  The list of organisations backing our campaign to save the park grows by the week. 

So why is this happening? 

Explanation A – Sir Ian Wood’s ONE company got control of economic development via the City Region Deal, and splurged the money on an Oil and Gas Technology Centre.  They backed the wrong horse, and are desperate for a way out of the fix.   At the same time the Harbour Board borrowed a heap of dosh to build in a pristine bay across from St Fittick’s Bay.  Last year they had to renegotiate their deal with European Investment Bank because they were at risk of “breaching their banking covenant”.

Naw – I don’t know what “breaching their banking covenant” means either.  Are there any good socialist accountants here?  Is socialist accountant an oxymoron? 

A few weeks later they had to borrow another £30 million from the Scottish National Investment Bank, so it sounds as though they’re having financial problems.  What better way of retrofitting a couple of cock-ups than spinning the politicians a line that getting carte blanche to destroy the green belt will make Aberdeen great again? 

Explanation B is that stealing Torry’s public land for private profit was the plan all along and that Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeen Harbour Board just lied through their teeth.  A or B – take your pick, the outcome is the same.  The land grab – or as the collection of spivs, misinformation pedlars and artistes of the untruth call it “the energy transition zone”, is a right wee public money magnet.  £27m from Rishi, £26m from ScotGov and – wait for this, comrades £14.7m from the “Just Transition Fund”.   Either this is a fine example of irony, or the Government thinks George Orwell’s 1984 was an instruction manual. 

There was a man once who believed in superior and inferior humans.  In fairness, he used quicker, more innovative methods of ridding the state of the poor, the sick, the foreign and the different.  We march every year to remind ourselves that the concentration camps and the gas chambers didn’t appear out of thin air.  Times are beginning to look a lot like the 1930s.  And as Brecht puts it -

Don't yet rejoice in his defeat, you men! Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard, The bitch that bore him is in heat again”

We humans are hard wired for empathy.  It takes years of conditioning, years of propaganda to get us to the point where we no longer care about our brither man.  Where we think that might is right.  Where we accept millions of pounds of public money being given to a speculative business venture is acceptable.  Where we accept that folk can’t afford to heat their homes or feed themselves is acceptable.  When the destruction of the last green space in Torry gets only a shrug, an acceptance that it’s a done deal because the rich and powerful will it so.  If you tolerate this, then your children will be next. 

Comrades – I’m leaving this rally to go over to a consultation on Sir Ian Wood’s Energy Transition Zone.  Sir Ian Wood’s ONE company has effectively privatised economic development in this City.  Sir Ian formed another private company “ETZ ltd” from the energy wing of ONE.  ETZ ltd hired a consultant, Ironside Farrar, for a quarter of a million to “Masterplan” an industrial park in Torry that includes St Fittick’s Park.  So both planning and economic development been outsourced to the private sector. 

Join me.  Let’s take our banners over to Torry, and tell Ironside Farrar what we think of their sham consultation.