Bad Science

I've just finished reading Bad Science by (Dr) Ben Goldacre (and have included the Bad Science Blog List on my Blog List). His main targets are the self-serving mountebanks, selling modern versions of snake oil (and sometimes making millions from this) but lazy journalists, flaky statistics and evil pharma companies are in the frame.

Do read and enjoy.

Speaking these truths hasn't made Dr Goldacre popular - and there are some interesting comments re conformity that partly explain the behaviour of my colleagues over Trump - if you are led to believe that "everyone" thinks something is wonderful, then it's only human to conform. In practise of course, there is almost nothing that "everyone" agrees on ....

So thanks, Ben Goldacre, and I empathaise with you when you describe the intimidation that you have endured for pointing out simple facts.

Gude Cause

GUDE CAUSE was formed to mark the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Suffrage Movement Procession along Princes Street in 1909. The culmination of this celebration will be a re-enactment of this march on 10th October 2009. However we hope that this will be the climax of a series of events in different parts of Scotland, not only to remember that event, but also to mark what has changed in the past century to improve women’s position in society and to draw attention to what still needs to be done.

I remember giving a lift to a delightful lady in my early days as a political worker and as she was struggling with getting out of the house into my car, I suggested she might want a postal vote in future. I was abashed when she told me that the votes for women had been hard fought for - and therefore the effort of going to the poll was well worth it.

So Edinburgh, Saturday 10th October, Bruntsfield Links - gather noon for 1pm start of march.

Anyone fancy joining me?

I have changed my blog colours in honour of Gude Cause to Purple, Green and White.

Making the right choices

As a councillor I am always been asked for decisions.

Some are easy. Some need a lot of thought. Some are basically down to affordability - if we do X then we can't do Y. But occasionally there are issue of fundamental principle.

And the issue of compulsory purchase for some homes on and at the edge of the Menie estate is to me a matter of basic rights. It is one thing for a public authority to take away someones home for a major infrastructure project. But it is another matter entirely for a developer to ask this in the interest of private profit.

The Trump Organisation is quoted as wanting to acquire the homes in question amicably and peacefully. That is the only terms possible - the opposite of amicable and peaceful are not options.

So the Trump Organisation should withdraw their request to use CPOs, even as
a last resort.

I understand from the Sunday Herald that any vote is likely to be against the use of CPOs. I am pleased that it seems that my councillor colleagues feel this way and recent advice from the councils legal team may encourage more to be public in their opposition to the CPOs. Any that support the use of CPOs need to explain in public why they believe it would be just to force people out of their homes. After the Trump Organisation made it perfectly clear at the Public Local Inquiry that they "had all the land they needed" (they said this repeatedly).

In PR terms perhaps 'managed retreat' would be the best (albeit unfamiliar) option for Trump.

More on Newburgh speeding

Aberdeenshire Council have done a speed survey at the north and south of Newburgh. The results are shocking.

Maximum Speed
The Quay :
Inch Rd :

In a
30mph zone, this is totally irresponsible.

Almost worse, it the fact that this is not just a few rogue motorists - almost everyone is exceeding the speed limit. Road engineers talk about the 85 percentile speed - the speed that 85 % drive below - or that 15% exceed. It's a pretty good measure of what is regarded as "normal"

The Quay :
Inch Road :

It is not acceptable to drive at 6mph - or worse 12mph above the speed limit in any of our villages.

The Council is now looking at how to fund measures to reduce speeds in Newburgh and the police have been asked to step up their use of mobile speed camera.

But the responsibility lies with drivers. Drive at 30mph and it's a 50:50 chance of killing a pedestrian if you hit them Drive at 40mph and there is just a 1 in 10 survival rate. Is a life worth the extra minute or two on your journey that obeying the speed limit would mean?

Trump complaints to the Standards Commission

I have today received a letter clearing me of any breach of the Code of Conduct relating to the events of 22th March when Menie estate security detained me while I was visiting constituents who had raised the issue of locked gates on the estate with me.

It seems from the letter that the Trump Organisation had hoped that the English law of trespass woul apply but the Standards Commission quite properly found that "the right to detain ... a vehicle ... may have been inappropriate or, at least, excessive" - I was after all visiting constituents.

The Trump Organisation complained that I made false and defamatory allegations. The Standards Commission have told the Trump Organisation that "Councillor Storr has the right which we all enjoy to freedom of speech. The Code of Conduct takes account of this and while I accept your right to disagree strongly with Councillor Storr's comments, I am satisfied that they were not of a nature or to a degree as to amount to a breach of any part of the Councillor's Code of Conduct."

So far, so good.

But yesterday, the Trump Organisation said that it has moved against Councillors Ford, Coull, Johnston and myself in an attempt to have us debarred from taking part in consideration of planning applications related to the development and the Compulsory Purchase Order issue. No councillor likes such complaints but I am greatly heartened by the Standards Commission finding on the first complaint and trust that this second complaint will be similarly disposed of.

Scottish climate policy is hypocritical, contradictory and counter-productive

George Monbiot has nailed the hypocrisy of the SNP Government (

The truth is that the SNP Government (or should that be all governments?) care more about short term growth than long term commitments - hence the idiotic phrase "sustainable economic growth" that has replaced sustainable development in government speak.

We have to make the transition from growth based on ever increasing resource consumption to development based on making best use of the limited resources we have. It's not easy. But the longer we put it off the harder it will be.

Planning Changes

I'm no great fan of the changes in the planning system that go live today - but we are now stuck with them.

So here is a brief guide to what the changes are and what impact these changes have on members of the public.

Applications are divided into three types - National (usually big infrastructure), Major (50 + houses or over 2 hectares) and Local (anything else. The general media are treating Local as things like neighbours house extensions but Local is still pretty big - most developments here are less than 50 houses now and there may be an incentive for developers to package their applications into blocks of less than 50!

In general, the public will need to be more alert to planning application than before so my first piece of advice is

Check the Planning Register regularly for both newly submitted application and for Pre-application consultations for Major Developments.

In Aberdeenshire, the list of application submitted in the past week can be found at

When I see where the list of pre-application consultations are published, I'll edit this post to update.

Submit your respresentations early. Aberdeenshire will only accept as valid representations those submitted within 21 days of the application being accepted - so from seeing it on the weekly list, you may just have two weeks to object.

If you miss this deadline, do submit your representation anyway - else we won't be able to get a proper picture of how much public comment on planning applications is being disregarded as a result of this change. But you may also wish to ask your community council to submit a represntation on your behalf - as statutory consultees, they get longer.

If the development is Major, then developers will need to undertake pre-application consultation with the local community. Look out for these in the local press and on village notice boards etc but I hope Aberdeenshire will also publish details on one place and if they do I will publich a link here.

Planning officers will have more decisions delegated to them. If they refuse a Local application, the appeal will be to a Local Review Board. Here the Local Review Boards will consist of a small group of councillors drawn from across Aberdeenshire who have the power to ask for further submissions from applicants and objectors, conduct hearings and site visits. They will then make the final decision and will have to give reasons for that decision. We are told that no further appeal (except of legal technicalities) will be possible - but some lawyers think the system is so flawed that tests in court will be inevitable. We will see how these work in practise!

Where there is a substantial body of local objection, applications will still come to Council committees and then these will be subject to appeal to Scottish Ministers.

Good luck - and do refer to the Local Plan to see planning policies and therefore good grounds for objection.