Around 80 people, with a strong contingent from Aberdeen, rallied at the Scottish Parliament yesterday to demand that the Scottish Government stops developments in Torry, Aberdeen that would see the end of St Fitticks park, a hugely important green space in a heavily built up area. The message from the protestors was that there’s no justice if ‘transition’ is driven by the Oil Industry seeking new sources of profit at the expense of working people and the environment.
The protestors called for supporters to text, tweet and use every available means to tell Minister Tom Arthur and your local MSP to order the removal of the rezoning of St Fittick’s Park from Aberdeen’s new Local Development Plan.
This post is a report of the Scot.E3 public meeting held on 24th October 2022. It includes videos from the meeting and links to resources and further information about the St Fitticks Campaign. Please share widely.
The meeting began with a contribution from Ishbel Shand from the Save St Fitticks Campaign
You can read a written version of Ishbel’s contribution here
Pete Cannell followed up with a short contribution on the North Sea oil and gas industry
The two speakers were followed by a wide ranging discussion which is summarised in the following account:
At the ScotE3 public meeting on 24th October “St.Fittick’s Park – Defeat the Oilogarchy” Ishbel Shand, on behalf of the Save St.Fittick’s Park campaign in Aberdeen, reminded us that nearly a century ago Antonio Gramsci, writing from a fascist prison cell, said “The old world is dying, the new is struggling to be born. We live in a time of monsters.” You can watch the whole of Ishbel’s speech about the history and current significance of St.Fittick’s Park on the YouTube link above. It’s a compelling story not to be missed.
Pete Cannell spoke next, on behalf of ScotE3. He emphasised in particular the catastrophic nature of the North Sea Transition Deal, agreed in March last year and flouted as the first agreement “between the government of a G7 country and its oil and gas production community”. Almost unbelievably this Deal has been signed up to by the Scottish Government and by the Unions which represent the oil and gas workers. More oil and gas, nuclear, and hydrogen for heating. This is a disaster for the climate – particularly in terms of investment. It’s what underpins the Cost of Living Crisis because energy prices would inevitably remain high – much higher than would be the case with renewable sources of energy. It would also be a disaster for jobs – preserving the status quo for jobs is the worst-case scenario, defying any chance of a just transition. You can watch Pete’s presentation on the second YouTube link.
We had hoped for a speaker from Climate Camp, who sited their annual camp this year in St.Fittick’s Park and illegally occupied the site of the old fishing and boat-building village of Torry, destroyed to make way for oil and gas industrialisation. Unfortunately no-one from Climate Campaign was available for this meeting, but their name was on the lips of many participants as a model of how to respect local communities rather than impose on them.
The bulk of the meeting was given to general discussion. Many good points were made, including:
The oil and gas industry has never brought anything positive to the Torry community
There is a parallel between the threatened industrialisation of St.Fittick’s with the Bo’ness road in Grangemouth, which physically divides the local community and threatens the health of that community with air pollution from traffic congestion.
There is also a parallel with the Buckie community’s fight to save the Slochy Wloods
The potential power of communities is huge when they come together to fight – for example the success last year, at enormous personal costs, of the Ujaama indigenous communities in securing land rights in Tanznia.
There is a fundamental democratic deficit which in general communities face.
There’s not just one unaccountable Goliath faced by the David of the Torry community but four – One North East, oil tycoon Ian Wood’s company which will control the development of an “Energy Transition Zone”; Aberdeen Harbour; Ironside Farrar, the environmental consultants tasked with drawing up a “master plan”; and Aberdeen City Council and its Local Development Plan.
Artists/musicians recently performed 45 minutes of songs and poetry at the new Arts Centre in Banchory
Films, short and long, have been made about St. Fittick’s.
University students are giving St. Fittick’s magnificent support
Those of us who don’t live in Aberdeen need to extend the Local actions of the Torry Community to National actions and solidarity across Scotland, through spreading the word far and wide about the threat to St. Fittick’s.
We all need too to take opportunities to spread the St. Fittick’s story internationally.
There’s a need for more radical change than just fighting for “renewables” – a term which can conceal negative elements – for example the jackets for off-shore turbines are plastic and the blades are steel.
The Cost of Living Crisis is fundamental in that it has the potential to mobilize nearly everyone.
The Scotland-wide COP 27 mobilisation is at 12noon on Saturday 12th November in Edinburgh. People from Aberdeen wanting to join this rally were encouraged to accept hospitality from those members of ScotE3 based in Edinburgh.
Yes, this is a time of monsters, but it’s also a time of jewels. St. Fittick’s Park itself is a jewel, as is the current response of the campaign to the threat of industrialising the Park.
The chair ended the meeting with this quote from Ishbel, which emphasises the often-neglected but fundamental significance of the Nature Crisis in all our current struggles:
We can choose to continue with the old dying world of exploitation of people and nature for short-term financial gain. Or we can choose to repair and nurture our damaged environment and learn to live within the constraints that nature imposes.
The film about Old Torry is particularly moving. The Aberdeen Social Centre have a complete collection of issues of the “Aberdeen People’s Press” from the period.. One Old Torry resident, with a compulsory purchase order on her home, laments that the same Council that wouldn’t allow her to put in new windows because of the historic importance of her house are now going to bull-doze it, because Shell want the land.
A link to Mike Downham’s post on St Fitticks on this site
Thanks to Friends of the Earth Scotland for sharing this call to action from a working class community in Aberdeen. Residents in Torry, just south of Aberdeen, are having their only green space threatened by an oil industry land grab in the name of ‘energy transition’. The group has been campaigning to protect their local park and for a just transition that meaningfully includes local communities.
The oil industry and Aberdeen City Council are planning to destroy a much-loved greenspace called St Fitticks Park, which lies in the heart of Torry, a community in the south of Aberdeen. The council, together with a consortium of oil companies and Aberdeen Harbour want to dig up the park and build an ‘Energy Transition Zone’. This project now also has funding from the Scottish Government.
St Fitticks Park is the main greenspace in Torry and is enjoyed by generations of Torry residents, as well as attracting people from outside the community due to its thriving wetland, which is a home to a variety wildlife.
A community group has formed to resist the proposals (The Friends of St Fitticks) and they have various plans to safeguard the future of the park. They support the idea of an energy transition zone in response to the climate emergency, but argue this should be located on vacant industrial land to the south and west of Torry, not on their beloved greenspace.
Unwanted industrial development has been imposed on the people of Torry down the years. In the 1970’s homes were demolished to make way for a harbour expansion to accommodate the new oil industry, but many people living in Torry have seen little economic benefit from an industry that dominates the city. So once again they are fighting one of the most powerful industries in the world.
On Saturday 28th August, local people will gather in the park for St Fitticks day. We need to show that the community has wider support and help them to get their message heard. Please show your solidarity with the people of Torry, by either:
A) Taking a photo with ’Save Saint Fitticks Park’ placards (on your own or with your group) in your local green space and posting on social media with #HandsOffStFitticks
B) Share the graphic on social media with #HandsOffStFitticks