Also on the panel were Elly Rothnie and Edgar Gonzalez representing Peacock Visual Arts, David McClean, Head of the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and the Built Environment and Allan Garvie, former head of planning, policy and environment at Aberdeenshire Council.
ACSEF's resistance to commit to attendance was apparently due to a fear that it would be "hi-jacked by vociferous objectors". How objectors to a scheme which the public debate is focused on can "hijack" the meeting is a little confusing, surely only groups with issues which do not relate to the future of Union Terrace Gardens could effectively hi-jack the meeting to divert from the agenda. Sir Ian was quick to point this out in the meeting by describing the audience as "one of the most hostile" that he had faced, presumably as it was his first open contact with residents of Aberdeen rather than the closed-door invite only presentations which has formed the backbone of the supposed "public" consultation.
Countering Colin Crosbie's ascertions that the £3m funding gap would be a struggle for Peacock to gain (without making mention of the £90m+ required for the City Square), the aftermath of the public debate saw Peacock recieve another pledge to further their funding gap. Local Musician and Council Worker, Alasdair Johnston, made a donation of £10,000, which was part of inheritance left to him by his late mother, towards the Peacock-led project. While a drop in the ocean compared to Sir Ian's pledge, Mr Johnston commented "This £10,000 is probably a bigger part of my disposable income than all Sir Ian’s millions, so it’s just as meaningful to me." This is the second confirmation of an interest in investing in Peacock's scheme which has emerged during the course of the consultation, Jim Milne of the Balmoral group had previously stated that "he would consider investing in" the Centre.
The only support ACSEF have garnered of any significant note are an engineering firm expressing an interest in being paid to build the structure, not even any high powered business leaders from ACSEF have offered to stump up for the project, not even Stewart Milne, who this week joined the group of ACSEF interests emailing their staff encouraging them to get involved in the consultation and sign a "Support the City Square Project" petiton, and believes "If we blow that this time, it will be disastrous for the city and region" and who owns property as-yet undeveloped on the corner of the proposed site which may benefit from foundation improvements which would be brought about as a result of the Square.
The outcome of the public meeting only highlighted the extreme flaws and uncertainty surrounding the City Square Project, providing no evidence of how the square is "essential for future prosperity", in fact Tom Smith described the project as both "a leap of faith" and comparative to "The Dons signing Ronaldo" rather than provide any tangible proof. ACSEF and Sir Ian's reluctance to demonstrate any of this evidence other than to continue making absurd statements and employing scare tactics about the end of North-Sea Oil in the three hours of the debate led to his closing statements to be interrupted by a chorus of "How?" from a large portion of the audience, backed up by his marginalising the entire audience as being from the "arts and heritage communities." Paradoxically, given the supposed nature of the project as a "civic" space where "the cultural component has to be large" then surely the arts and heritage communities would have to be the ones who the project would need to win over.
As we enter the penultimate week of the consultation process ACSEF are no closer to answering any of the questions posed, or providing case study, proof or president for how the Square can single handedly secure jobs and economic prosperity in the future, or secure Aberdeen as an International Energy City. As opposition grows towards the project, from the rising signatures on the petition to Save the Gardens, and from experts in urban realm planning time will only tell if Sir Ian will relent on the strict conditions of his "gift" and the project can move forward in a more constructive, realistic way. As Elly Rothnie, Campaign Director for PVA, pointed out during the debate “Our aims are so aligned that we have to find some way of making sure the city benefits and both projects can be achieved.”