Aberdeen bus gates: 'Abuse of power' claims as SNP and Lib Dems avoid vote despite 9,000 backing campaign for change (2024)

The future of the much-protested Aberdeen bus gates has been “kicked into the long grass” amid claims leaders are “abusing their power” by delaying any decision.

All eyes were on today’s full council meeting as traders, business chiefs, thousands of residents and The Press and Journal called for a Common Sense Compromise on the controversial roads overhaul in the city centre.

Bus gates were installed on Market Street, Guild Street and Bridge Street using an experimental traffic regulation order (Etro) last August.

And today – on the eve of the general election – they could have been made permanent, scrapped or tweaked as we had campaigned for.

The Lord Provost tried to delay the vote until August, until Labour councillors demanded it be held within a fortnight.

The discussion was pushed from first on the packed agenda to second last, with a definite clocking off time for councillors and staff at 4.30pm.

Labour group leader M Tauqeer Malik branded it a “dreadful day for democracy”.

“The administration wilfully deceived the people of Aberdeen by not taking the report on the city centre because they were frightened of public opinion,” he said after the meeting.

“I am afraid the SNP has let the whole city down by their actions today.”

Calls for common sense on the Aberdeen bus gate decision

Over the last week, The Press and Journal and Evening Express have been bringing the struggles they are facing to light, alongside Aberdeen Inspired and Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce.

Aberdeen bus gates: 'Abuse of power' claims as SNP and Lib Dems avoid vote despite 9,000 backing campaign for change (1)

Around 9,200 people had backed calls for change in the city centre as part of our Common Sense Compromise campaign before the council meeting got under way today.

The council also used the controversial Etro, which bypassed public consultation until the measures were in place, to ban right turns out of Union Terrace onto Rosemount Viaduct and formalise the one-way and pedestrian zones in Schoolhill.

But the havoc they have wrought has been felt far across the city, well beyond their immediate surrounding area.

Last month the SNP and Lib Dem coalition running the city voted to make nearly all of the Etro permanent.

Despite having more than six months of the experimental order’s lifespan, city officials have urged the shake up to be set in stone.

Lord Provost: ‘It’s my right’ to bump bus gate debate

But no decision was made at a second time of asking, after the SNP and Lib Dem administration shuffled the order of business.

Aberdeen bus gates: 'Abuse of power' claims as SNP and Lib Dems avoid vote despite 9,000 backing campaign for change (2)

“Who would have thought we would be sitting here on the third of July with a general election tomorrow?” Lord Provost David Cameron quietly began the storm.

“As a direct result of that, and passing no comment on the fact this is happening, it’s my intention to reorder the agenda… slightly.

“The committee referrals will be moved to the end of the agenda.”

Independent, former lord provost, councillor Barney Crockett boomed: “OUTRAGEOUS!”

Labour group leader M Tauqeer Malik added: “(What about) the public interest you’re moving to the end of the agenda?

“What about The P&J and Aberdeen Inspired?”

Referee, and rule-maker, Mr Cameron interjected: “Excuse, excuse, excuse, excuse, excuse me, excuse me. It is my right to rearrange it.”

The opposition would have needed a two-thirds majority to overturn the decision, with the SNP and Lib Dems accounting for more than half of councillors.

Aberdeen bus gates: 'Abuse of power' claims as SNP and Lib Dems avoid vote despite 9,000 backing campaign for change (3)

In full knowledge of the voting arithmetic, he challenged: “If anybody is unhappy about that then they can have a procedural motion to change my decision.”

Seeking to minimise the protest, the lord provost told his predecessor: “Councillor Crockett, you are over using the word outrageous.

“It seems to come out of your mouth every couple of times.”

Then he begged against another interruption – “please, please, please” – as Mr Crockett zinged back:“That’s because there’s so much outrageous behaviour to complain about.”

Is it an ‘abuse of power’?

Mr Cameron confirmed his approach had “of course” been discussed with council co-leaders Christian Allard, of the SNP, and Lib Dem Ian Yuill.

Aberdeen bus gates: 'Abuse of power' claims as SNP and Lib Dems avoid vote despite 9,000 backing campaign for change (4)

When attempts to undo the agenda shuffle were defeated, he faced a barrage of dissent.

Councillor Mrs Jennifer Stewart was first.

“I would like to record my dissent, speaking under article 10 for my own protection. And thinking it’s a very bad decision that you have taken. It’s an abuse of the situation.”

Grappling for control, Mr Cameron said: “Councillor, COUNCILLOR, COUNCILLOR, COUNCILLOR STEWART, COUNCILLOR STEWART, COUNCILLOR STEWART, your dissent has been noted.”

Aberdeen bus gates: 'Abuse of power' claims as SNP and Lib Dems avoid vote despite 9,000 backing campaign for change (5)

He later apologised for not addressing the Hazlehead, Queen’s Cross, Countesswells member by her preferred prefixes.

Councillors Crockett, Boulton and Tissera followed, with the latter adding: “It almost feels like a sense of abuse of power…

“It means the people of Aberdeen are going to be staying in limbo in regards to the bus gates,” Labour member Ms Tissera added.

She was warned to be “very careful how far you go with that” by civic head Mr Cameron.

‘Kicked into the long grass’

Council legal officer Alan Thomson admitted, when asked if the bus gate decision was “in limbo”: “The decisions have not been formally made so there’s no decision made as it stands.”

Labour councillor Sandra Macdonald: “For my clarity, this will all then be kicked into the long grass until August, is that correct?”

Testily, the lord provost answered: “If there is anything left undealt with today, that would be the case. But that’s not to say anything will go to (August’s full council meeting).”

But Labour councillors stepped in, demanding a full meeting within 14 days.

And after the meeting, independent Mrs Stewart slammed the lord provost’s “dereliction of duty”.

“I think it was planned that this was how the day would be run,” she told The P&J.

“The most important thing today was to deal with the bus gates. This is crucifying the city.

“They are stifling debate under a camouflage of ‘we want to work with you’. They want to work with you, but on their terms.”

Lord Provost: ‘This has nothing to do with the outcome of the election’

Suggestions the lord provost was folding to political pressure were swiftly denied.

It comes after The Press and Journal asked every candidate standing for Westminster election in Aberdeen North and Aberdeen South what they thought of our Common Sense Compromise.

Aberdeen bus gates: 'Abuse of power' claims as SNP and Lib Dems avoid vote despite 9,000 backing campaign for change (6)

With the vote tomorrow, campaign sources have told us of their clear unhappiness at the timing of the bus gate decision, on General Election Eve.

Mr Cameron told councillors: “My reference to tomorrow’s election is the effect it has on all of us in terms of time constraints.”

He later laughed off the suggestion to The P&J: “I am absolutely not scared of the general election – if you had listened I wanted to make clear that tomorrow is nothing to do with anything we’re doing today.

“I’m absolutely not politicising the role of lord provost… Were you there at the end of the meeting when I wished all the candidates well? That was genuine.”

Aberdeen bus gates: Proposed change not enough for struggling firms

Back in June, the SNP and Lib Dems on the council’s transport committee voted to suspend the Adelphi bus gate to allow access onto Market Street from Union Street.

Aberdeen bus gates: 'Abuse of power' claims as SNP and Lib Dems avoid vote despite 9,000 backing campaign for change (7)

Traffic would only have been allowed to turn left onto Trinity Quay.

The vote passed but opposition Labour and Conservative councillors pushed for the matter to be debated again by all members today.

The fallow weeks have allowed businesses, Aberdeen Inspired, Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, Our Union Street and The Press and Journal to come up with our Common Sense Compromise.

And that has made council leaders think again.

In among it all we’ve told you about:

  • Aberdeen bus gates: Shire towns ‘boom’ as people stay away from city centre that ‘doesn’t want them’
  • ‘I’ve stopped going into Aberdeen’: Why THOUSANDS are already backing ‘business-saving’ campaign for bus gates compromise
  • Annie Mo’s boss: ‘I’m having nightmares about bus gates as I fight to keep family furniture shop alive’
  • ‘I’ve raided savings and cancelled expansion to keep Schoolhill clothes shop alive in face of Aberdeen bus gates and traffic bans’
  • Aberdeen bus gates are ‘complete idiocy’ that risk ‘disenfranchising’ disabled
  • ‘Please listen to us’: Finnie’s the Jeweller manager ‘worn down’ as bus gates keep people away from Aberdeen
  • Aberdeen hotel boss ‘losing loyal customers’ built up over 20 years in bus gate blow

Our Common Sense Compromise campaign

The Press and Journal is standing side by side with Aberdeen businesses and business organisations in an appeal to reach a Common Sense Compromise.

But we can’t do it alone – we need your help.

If you would like to back our Aberdeen bus gate campaign, add your name to the petition launched by Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce HERE.

Other ways to show your support and have your voice heard can be found HERE.

Aberdeen bus gates: 'Abuse of power' claims as SNP and Lib Dems avoid vote despite 9,000 backing campaign for change (2024)

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