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Readers’ letters: Ideas for Norco House, wind turbines and memories of Christmas past

Norco House, the former John Lewis premises.
Norco House, the former John Lewis premises. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Sir, – Aberdeen City Council planners should be commended for their creative proposals to repurpose the John Lewis building as an alternative to demolition (Press and Journal, December 8).

Using the roof as a public space is an inspired idea as anyone who has parked there and enjoyed the view will remember.

Other promising suggested uses, by Gray’s School of Art and the University of Aberdeen collections, would bring many more people to the south end of George Street, as would a supermarket with housing above.

When Councillor Ian Yuill says Norco House has a negative commercial value he is not accounting for the embodied carbon of its construction, nor the carbon cost of a replacement. The planners are right to point out existing buildings have both an environmental and an intangible social value.

The distinctive concrete facades of Norco House may not look beautiful to everyone, but it is a unique landmark building. Shopping at the Northern Co-operative and John Lewis was an important part of Aberdeen’s cultural life for the last 50 years and finding a productive new use for the building sustains this collective memory.

The last thing the city centre needs is another cleared development site. To be a genuine net-zero leader with an innovative approach to urban regeneration, Aberdeen needs a retrofit-first, demolish-last policy. Council planners are showing the way.

Julia Strickland, Mackie Place, Aberdeen.

McCoist a struggle to understand? Try Corrie or Granite City

Sir, – It appears viewers from certain areas of the UK who are following the World Cup are experiencing difficulties in understanding the comments of Ally McCoist in his role as a broadcaster – most surprising as since Ally retired from playing he has been involved with the likes of Question of Sport and as a pundit at various top football venues with virtually no issues with regard to his accent.

On the other hand, the dialogue of the likes of Coronation Street from certain members of the cast requires subtitles. In that series, who exactly is Willie Eckaslike? He does not appear in the cast list.

Even the late Queen complained about mumbling on certain TV programmes. Jamaica Inn was a classic in that regard. But it was deemed necessary for the producers of the recent series Trawlermen to produce subtitles to allow a considerable amount of the Doric to be presented to viewers residing some distance from the north-east, even though many participants in that series were not of even Scottish descent.

Surprising then that the current crime thriller on BBC, Granite Habour, has not produced, after two episodes, one cast member with an Aberdonian accent. In fact, the two main characters are hard to understand with one appearing to be local. This takes the art of “mumbling” to a new level.

Maybe viewers should invest in a soundbar for their TV sets or to be cynical, as Baldrick would say, “a cunning plan” to have such devices installed.

About time the TV companies upped their game or sound as the case may be.

John Reid, Regent Court, Keith.

More turbines will lead to blackouts

Wind turbines in an on-shore wind farm

Sir, – How utterly bizarre that SNP councillors Karl Rosie and Raymond Bremner think we need more useless wind turbines “crucial to keep the lights on” (Press and Journal, December 8). She who “must be obeyed” at Holyrood springs to mind.

Particularly so as this very week, the National Grid has been forced to issue yet another dire warning about potential blackouts because of what the Germans now ruefully call “Dunkelflaute”, which literally means dark wind stillness, or lull.

The entire country now suffers rolling blackouts, street lights turned off, with swimming pools, libraries, and other civic buildings unable to function.

By the way, turbine manufacturer Siemens Gamesa has been axing hundreds of jobs as the wheels come off the renewable energy gravy train. Now Vestas, Nordex and Enercon are also facing financial ruin and all for the same reasons.

If our own idiotic, deluded politicians continue to follow this dead-end technology any more, the sobering translation we will also face shortly is “net-zero”!

Yours, with candles at the ready.

George Herraghty, Lhanbryde, Elgin.

Slower speeds, not a new bypass

Sir, – The Fort William link road is unaffordable in the present economic climate and for the foreseeable future.

It will, in any case, encourage new long-distance commuting and create congestion problems on adjacent and nearby roads.

The answer to summer traffic in Fort William is to be found in many Borders towns – gradually slow traffic to 20mph as it approaches the congested centre and introduce complete parking bans on the relevant roads to ensure the traffic keeps moving. These must be enforced by significant fines.

The people in those Borders towns (Biggar, Selkirk, etc) have in large part stopped clamouring for bypasses.

Mr Baxter, Carmichael Way, Fort William.

Don’t panic! It’s only winter’s chill

Sir, – It certainly helps if you have a sense of humour at the present day.

Cold weather warning as an Arctic blast hits the UK, say the headlines on the news channels.

Snow up to 12cm in some areas, frost with temps as low as -10c, icy roads. We used to call this phenomenon winter, and it reappeared year after year, only now it seems as though we should be prepared for an unusual, unexplained weather pattern.

Give us a break. It’s a normal occurrence. We should be much more worried if Christmas dinner was being served on the patio to guests in shorts and T-shirts.

Ivan W Reid, Kirkburn, Laurencekirk.

Thinking too big

Sir, – In response to some articles this week, I feel that the council really need to keep in the present and not get too far ahead of themselves.

All good to plan ahead, like at the beach development, but where is the money coming from? And listen to people on the love of driving a car on the beachfront and enjoying view and a wee treat.

On the taking over of bus services, I can’t think off anything more than money thrown out the window as we struggle to run a raffle at the townhouse sometimes.

Lastly, it’s good the council have lots of views on the old John Lewis building, but they’ve forgotten they don’t own it. They wouldn’t like anyone to tell them what to do to their own home.

A Simpson, Bridge of Don, Aberdeen.

Memories of Christmas Past

Aberdeen christmas lights
Image: Aberdeen Journals Library

Sir, – Oh, how I look forward to reading the Mo Simpson page in the Evening Express. As an oldie, I can connect with many of her tales.

So to this week’s page, Norco Hoose. This monstrosity, along with the Lang Stracht Hotel, are equally the ugliest builds in my lifetime.

Aye raise Norco to the grun? My Suntie/Christmas memories? Well, I remember going to the railway station Christmas tree, which had a track laid out under the tree. If you left a pressie for the orphanage/less well-off kids (not that we were flush), the train would do a circuit. What truly caring times we had then.

In the 50/60s, Christmas lights on Union Street were the best – and, note, they were second-hand, from London, in 1964 (pictured right).

On the lead-up to Christmas day, we got the “Suntie Claus book” (really it wiz a clubbie book). We wrote what presents we would like/want if possible. We would write down the page number/brochure number. We asked for lots, but kenning we would not get lots.

In our hoose, we waited for a blue flame in the open fire, when mum would light the Suntie note and let it fly up the lum to get to Suntie’s post office.

Yes, happy, happy times.

On Christmas morning, you would look ootside and see your neighbours’ kids oot playing and showing what Suntie had delivered

Michael North, Lang Stracht, Aberdeen.

Country will remain united

Sir, – What is it about backing nationalism that makes believers think they are entitled to their own “facts”?

Mr Masson (Letters, December 1) seems surprised by the Supreme Court decision that Holyrood cannot set up a referendum without agreement from the UK Parliament. It is odd if he had not foreseen this, as even the lord advocate saw no reason why Holyrood could do something it could not do before the 2014 referendum.

That did not stop SNP politicians from spending our money to push for their divisive aims.

Mr Masson repeats the strange Nat idea that the three-centuries-old UK is an unknown beast called a “voluntary union”. The UK is a country. Do Nats really think Germany or Italy are “voluntary unions”?

The previous countries on this island united to make the UK. The majority of Scots backed staying in the UK in 2014.

We are one great united country. Despite the efforts of nationalists, that will go on.

Donald MacKenzie, Crown Drive, Inverness.

Defence too costly for independence

Sir, – In reply to my letter, Hamish McBain (December 9) says RAF Lossiemouth and Kinloss Barracks will remain open after independence.

Well, I can’t argue with that but the point I put across was that the bases wouldn’t have the same capacity of aircraft as now.

Six squadrons work out of Lossie with four using Typhoons. The new Wedgetail will soon replace the P8 Awacs. There are also American P8s.

Could Mr McBain tell us how the Kinloss Barracks would be staffed as well as the Leuchars Barracks. And after independence would we keep Fort George open?

Would we employ a Scottish army for all three bases and a full contingent of staff at Lossie as it is now?

And what about Faslane? Would it be reduced to a base with a couple of non-nuclear submarines? I don’t think so.

As for joining Nato, if we joined Nato 2% of our GDP has to be spent on defence which is approximately £4 billion. Too much money to be spent on a new independent country that will already be in debt.

As for HS2 and Crossrail, we don’t pay for any of these but we do get a benefit as we received £2 billion in Barnett consequentials for HS2, which would have built two Forth Bridges.

Ian Gray, Mosstowie, Elgin.

Holyrood needs accountability

Sir, – Labour is right, the status quo cannot continue in Scotland but handing the Scottish Parliament additional powers is not the answer.

The Parliament is already one of the most powerful devolved administrations in the world and no amount of additional powers will ever satisfy a Nationalist-run Scottish government.

We already see the Parliament being used by the current administration as a means of promoting independence rather than working together with the UK Government to improve the lives of those who live in Scotland.

What the Scottish Parliament needs is great accountability. At the moment it’s all too easy for the SNP and their Green cohorts to blame the UK Government – we hear it daily in Scotland.

We also have to listen to Nicola Sturgeon justify the failings of the NHS: that there are issues but that’s OK as it’s the best-performing health service in the UK. But where is the evidence of this?

Added to this we see legislation rushed through the Parliament with very little scrutiny, as recently seen with the Gender Reform Bill.

In terms of financials the Parliament was handed the largest settlement grant since devolution began, yet we still hear constant cries of “our budget has been cut” and this is done to justify tax rises and cuts to public services.

What is needed to improve Scotland is an independent auditor free of any Scottish Government influence to show how much revenue and expenditure is incurred in Scotland and also how much of a block grant is received from the UK Government and how this is spent across all departments.

There also needs to be standard independent statistics for the NHS based on the same criteria to actually see if Scotland is the best-performing or not.

Unless these types of improvements are put in place the SNP will continue to escape accountability with the result being an even further decline in Scotland.

Mhairi E Rennie, Finlayson Street, Fraserburgh.