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Aberdeen in the Abyss

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Let Us Make the Granite City Shine Again

By Tomás Pizarro-Escuti

marischal college bathed in a red light

As a student who embarked on my academic journey in 2017, I have had the bittersweet privilege of witnessing the gradual decline of Aberdeen. Reflecting on those earlier days, I recall a city that, although already reeling from the oil crisis, managed to maintain an air of resilience and dynamism. Aberdeen now grapples with the harrowing consequences of its gradual descent.

Walking down Union Street used to be enjoyable.

Shops thrived, and an optimistic energy permeated the air. However, today, the very essence of Aberdeen is fading away. The city, once hailed as the “Oil Capital of Europe,” now harbours a troubling statistic— a fifth of its children live in poverty. Unemployment and persistently low wages lie at the heart of this issue, as the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation has alarmingly revealed.

The disappearance of iconic public services further exemplifies the erosion of the city’s spirit.

Cherished symbols of Aberdeen; the Belmont cinema, and libraries in Cornhill, Cults, Ferryhill, Kaimhill, Northfield, and Woodside have vanished. The closure of Bucksburn Swimming Pool and Aberdeen’s Beach Leisure Centre furthering the city’s state of deprivation.

One only needs to take a walk around Aberdeen to witness the visible impact of drug and alcohol abuse. It is a grim reality that at any time of day, one is likely to encounter at least three individuals under the influence of alcohol and one high on drugs.

Disturbingly, between October and December 2022, the region witnessed a rise in drug-related deaths, marking the highest quarterly figure since 2020. This dreadful reality not only poses a serious public health concern but also drives away potential tourists and investors.

However, amidst this bleak scenario, there lies a glimmer of hope—an opportunity to initiate positive change.

The UK government should seize the moment by investing more in the green energy revolution taking shape in Aberdeen. This strategic move would not only create job opportunities but also alleviate the city’s economic distress.

Similarly, the Scottish government must channel additional funds into initiatives aimed at improving the welfare of Aberdeen’s residents.

By addressing the root causes of deprivation and poverty, they can lay the foundation for a prosperous future. Additionally, the local council should play a more proactive role in enhancing the city’s deteriorating state through comprehensive plans and targeted interventions.

Nonetheless, it is unrealistic to expect substantial change solely from the central, regional, and local governments.

Aberdeen’s revival demands the mobilisation of civil society—an organic grassroots movement that can reinvigorate the city and restore its former glory. The University of Aberdeen, as a hub of knowledge and innovation, possesses the potential to ignite this transformation.

Students, often confined to the boundaries of Old Aberdeen, must step out and become acquainted with the social issues plaguing the city. They can spearhead change by organising groups or societies dedicated to reimagining Aberdeen’s future and establishing volunteering initiatives to help the poor; such group could perhaps be named “The Society of Equity”. Simultaneously, the University of Aberdeen could open an interdisciplinary research institute focused on finding effective solutions to the city’s deprivation.

The time to act is now; procrastination would prove detrimental. In a few years, the city may reach a point of no return.

By embracing a collective vision for change, drawing on the strengths of government, civil society, and the University of Aberdeen, we can make the Granite City shine again.


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