Here are the letters sent to us this week that can be seen on page 10. If you have a letter you can e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail it to 12 Ann Street, AB39 2ER.
Old Mill - Development concerns
Sir - Plans have been unveiled by Digs2Go to install 132 accommodation units at the former Old Mill Inn at Maryculter, for use by workers involved in the construction of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route. I am very alarmed by the developers proposals to use a field on the opposite side of the busy South Deeside Road as a car park to accommodate 270 vehicles.
Locating this across the main road from the hotel and accommodation sounds extremely hazardous, both for pedestrians and motorists, regardless of whether speed restrictions are going to be set at 30 mph – which the developers wish to see happen.
There is a huge volume of traffic uses the South Deeside Road, there is a steep and narrow brae coming down right opposite the hotel which serves the many homes in Kirkton of Maryculter and the increasingly popular Storybook Glen. There is obviously the Old Mill Inn entrance/exit, which doesn’t give the best visibility anyway, and which also serves as access for the private homes located behind the Old Mill Inn, and for accessing Corbie Hall, where up to 100 vehicles can be attending events at any one time. Yards away there is also the entrance/exit of the Maryculter caravan site, which is hazardous enough for those towing caravans to negotiate, and alarmingly, it is not unusual to see motorists heading west on the South Deeside Road start to overtake before the entrance, thus putting them on the wrong side of the road right where drivers may be exiting.
And if these are not enough reasons that a car park for 270 vehicles should not be located across the main road from the accommodation, the very busy T junction of the South Deeside Road and Milltimber Brae is only yards away, and motorists often frustrated in queues there, frequently put their foot down the moment they turn out on to the South Deeside Road.
With all these very obvious dangers, I cannot see how our planners in Aberdeenshire Council can possible permit what will be an accident waiting to happen in this location, by allowing such parking provision.
Alex Johnstone - Counter argument
Sir - I consider that the distorted and myopic view of the world purported by local Conservative & Unionist MSP Mr Johnstone in last week’s Mearns Leader really warrants some counter argument, backed by informed use of available data.
Mr Johnstone suggests “Since 2010, net employment has gone up by 1.75 million and 2.2 million new private sector jobs have been created, three quarters of which are full-time.” The Office of National Statistics shows that, in Scotland, the number of economically active adults has declined by 0.5% or 14,000 jobs in the last reported quarter to October 2014.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation notes that two-thirds of people who have moved from unemployment into work in the last year are paid below the living wage, the average self-employed person earns 13% less than they did five years ago and there are around 1.4m contracts not guaranteeing minimum hours.
As James Meadway of the New Economics Foundation puts it, “this is definitely not the recovery the coalition wanted or forecast”.
The breakdown of the latest growth figures showed that business investment – critical for rebuilding a new-style, more productive economy – is down by more than six per cent year on year and exports are all but flat, in spite of the 20% fall in the value of the pound since the crisis.
Despite repeated boasts that his plan is working, the chancellor has not kept his promises.
The budget deficit will be almost £100bn this year and is rising. It was predicted to be below £40bn reflecting continued quantitative easing by the government. Is the chancellor’s plan working, Mr Johnstone, when, in fact, he has had to revise up the amount we are borrowing by £12.5bn this year and next?
In the chancellor’s words, “very substantial savings in public spending” or, in the words of tax and spending experts at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, “colossal” cuts are still required: welfare will be cut further and, according to the IFS, some government departments (not NHS or Education) will be forced to lop an additional 40% off their budgets, which have already been heavily slashed over the course of the last parliament.
Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat business secretary, described the scale of the cuts that would be required as “implausible.” Economists who took part in a survey conducted by the Centre for Macroeconomics said the scale of cuts required to reach the predicted surplus in 2019 was simply not credible.
In a week where Oxfam highlighted wealth inequality as the major challenge, I return to the wave of civil service job cuts after the Con-Dem coalition took power, in HMRC a further response was, in 2014, to further target 250-300 jobs in the specialist tax unit which targets complex cases and close the high net worth unit in Edinburgh.
The Association of Revenue and Customs has estimated that reducing benefit fraud is likely to harvest £3 for every £1 it spends while money invested in HMRC to deal with tax avoidance and evasion brings in £60 for every £1 spent, yet corporate tax investigators have been lost in favour of targeting benefit cheats.
Oxfam highlighted this week that a fair tax system should shift taxation from labour and consumption towards capital and wealth. Estimates in 2010 were that UK tax avoidance amounted to £25bn a year, evasion to £70bn, and outstanding debts to the tax service to £28bn: a total of more than £120bn which was approximately 2/3rd’s of the deficit.
Fundamentally, Mr Johnstone, the tax system needs to be applied more equitably across all sectors and incomes focusing on capital and wealth. It is absurd that highly profitable international businesses operating in the UK can effectively pay the same or less than the basic rate of personal tax of those at the edge of the living wage. I am personally appalled that you feel the ConDem coalition has delivered success when the wealth inequality gap has risen.
Next week, the ConDem support of TTIP (Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership) will, in my opinipn, be “another way of cow-towing to international corporations to the detriment of GB PLC”.
Searching - Can you help?
Sir - I received a Christmas greeting from a friend in Australia who is wondering if anyone knows the whereabouts of an old friend of hers who used to live in Stonehaven.
The lady who is searching is called Kheng Lau and she is looking to be re-acquainted with a lady called Rena Cunningham with whom she used to work at the Dundee Volunteer Bureau in the early 80s. Many thanks for your assistance,
An Apology - Wrong terminology
Sir - Please accept my apology for an error in last week’s issue. In my letter I have written ‘Stonehaven Town Planners’ when it should have read ‘Stonehaven Town Partnership’ After reading the Planning for Real report, I have accidentally used the wrong terminology. I would not like to cause confusion or misdirect my comments.