Free Speech – It Always Costs.

Nothing to say. Free speech is an illusion.


Bus Woe!

When my last car packed in, I decided against getting another. I also decided I’d leave the family car at home, as Jane would likely need it more often than I would, so I decided to start taking the bus into town then walking the last 2 miles to work. While it gets me over an hour of exercise every day, it also leaves me at the mercies of public transport!

We live in a small town about 5 miles from Aberdeen. But its far enough that the bus company that covers Aberdeen (First Bus) doesn’t cover out here, so we’re left with Stagecoach. Its a damning indictment of the deregulation of public transport that instead of the promised competition, what we’re left with is monopolies that are bad for the consumer. I find it hard to believe that First Bus wouldn’t consider coming the additional couple of miles from Cove – between us and Aberdeen City Centre. Its almost like they and Stagecoach came to a cosy little agreement to not step on each other’s toes too much. Not that I’d ever say they run a cartel of course!

But despite a considerable number of people using the bus between Stonehaven, Portlethen & Aberdeen, we are so poorly serviced. Year-on-year, the service has deteriorated. For example, I used to get the bus home at Holburn Street – about a mile maybe from the bus station – when there was a bus servicing Portlethen every 15 minutes or so. Back then, you could guarantee getting on a bus. Then the service slowly changed. First of all, one of the buses that serviced Portlethen via the new houses at Hillside (109/8) had its route changed so it didn’t come up to Holburn. Then one of the buses was changed to an express bus for Stonehaven/Dundee where local passengers (Aberdeen City, Cove, Portlethen) are “discouraged” from using to save seats for those travelling further on. I’ve been refused entry to this bus a couple of times, despite having already paid for my four-weekly ticket, and the bus passing the stop I get off at. So, we were left with 2 buses at hour that are often full by the time they reach Holburn. After a few times having to wait for another bus because one is full, I ended up going right down to the bus station.

Even then though, there seems no guarantee when a bus will show – if it does at all. A few times a scheduled bus has been a no-show. Then there is the idea that the timetable is indicative – not even that sometimes. Lateness is often an issue. I get the bus at 610am to work. Now, that time has been brought forward a few times thanks to endless timetable changes. But even with the time now being before 610am, I still make it to the stop on time…only for the bus to be late on a daily basis. 10 minute delays – sometimes more – are common. This is despite the bus only starting off a few miles away in Stonehaven with virtually no traffic on the road.

Then there are the constant route changes. The bus now goes round Cove – I could count the number of passengers who have got on to the bus in Cove on the fingers of 2 hands since the route changed months ago. This is all the contempt that Stagecoach have for current paying passengers. Constant route changes, changes to the timetable, wanton tardiness, dropping the service without warning or explanation. To be fair, most of the drivers are reasonable people, but they’ve got the odd few who couldn’t care less that they’re the public face of their company. Have had a few who would refuse entry to their bus without feeling the need to be polite about it.

I’m trying to do my bit by using public transport when I could easily take the car (although it would be a nuisance for Jane) but I’m afraid bus deregulation has failed the passengers utterly. We’ve got an unreliable service that we’re paying ever increasing fares for, and that the taxpayer is also subsidising. Is it too much to ask for a decent service? It would seem so.

Wishful Thinking

I wish I could trust the people going to Germany!


As I type this a party from Scottish football are travelling to Germany. They have identified the German model as the one that Scottish football needs to base its future on. The group consists of Neil Doncaster the SPL Chief Executive, Shona Robison the Sports Minister, Stewart Regan, CEO of the SFA, David Longmuir CEO of the Scottish Football League, Stewart Milne, Chairman of Aberdeen Football Club, Stewart Gilmour Chairman of St Mirren and Dermot Desmond the Non-Executive Director of Celtic.

The group are going to meet with various parties. First on the list is a meeting with Borussia Dortmund president Reinhard Rauball. He will outline how the relationship between the club and the fans works, how it benefits the team and the local economy. He will explain where the club were a few years ago, struggling mid table, to where they are now, on the cusp of a…

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Here Come the Germans

Many of us have been aware of the quality of the Bundesliga for a number of years. The German football model is a good one. Clubs aren’t over-reliant of wealthy owners, but have a good enough product on the pitch to make it an easy sell to TV and most importantly the fans. But following Bayern & Dortmund’s demolition of Barcelona & Real Madrid respectively, it seems TV pundits were blissfully unaware of the quality of their league.

You watch German league games, and invariably you’ll see nearly full stadia alongside electric atmospheres. Last night’s action was at the fantastic Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund. Although Bayern’s Allianz Arena, and the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen are state of the art stadia, Dortmund’s stadium must rank as Germany’s best venue for football. Its 80,700 capacity makes in a cathedral to the beautiful game. But that’s not all for fans. In Germany, fans are treated as fans, not SPL “customers” to be exploited. £23 for an SPL game? Dortmund’s prices start at £5.50 ( for children and £13 for adults in the amazing standing Sud Terrace. 24,000 fans can stand behind the goals. For £13 to see a top league? I’ll take that. Not only that, season tickets start at £160 for the standing terrace, which includes all 17 Bundesliga games, and the 3 Champions League group games. Given that the big games (Bayern, Schalke, Bremen, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Monchengladbach) attract a 20% surcharge (still great value) that’s over £100 of free football!

Its the ownership model that’s a winner though. All clubs (excepting “Works” teams like Wolfsburg & Bayer Leverkusen) must be 51% member owned, preventing shady owners that seem to dominate British football. That generally means that the fans come first. Inexpensive ticketing, transport to games (public transport to Signal Iduna Park on game days is free) results in fans feeling valued, and ready to back their clubs. The atmosphere at German grounds is fantastic as a result. Results on the pitch suggest its a positive model. Although a Bundesliga side hasn’t won Europe’s top prize in years, that wait looks to be over with a Bayern/Dortmund final being on the horizon. Given the competitive nature of the Bundesliga, although Bayern look dominant, Dortmund are a good side, and it promises to be a cracking game.

The league also is helping their national side. 49% of players are non-german. This compares to a staggering 66% at EPL clubs. It’s little wonder that the German national side regularly makes the latter stages of major tournaments. The emphasis is on developing german player to play at german clubs. Foreign players must be better to make it in Germany. It doesn’t seem to be harming the product on the pitch either. That’s not to say fans will not want foreign players at their clubs but their policy seems a success.

TV pundits shouldn’t be surprised at the quality of german football though. Its a model that’s been in place for years generating top players and a top league. It could be argued that the Bundesliga, thanks to its quality and competitiveness has been Europe’s top league for a while. But after this week, there is little doubt the balance of power is slowly shifting from Spain to Germany. Here come the Germans!