Sep 222017

Suzanne Kelly asked the Cock and Bull about its current stance on Donald Trump, given that it had proudly supported the tycoon years ago. With all the incontrovertible evidence Trump was a bigot, let alone how the environment and Menie residents were treated, surely the restaurant would have had second thoughts? Not quite. By Suzanne Kelly

A long time ago, Donald J Trump showed up in Aberdeenshire with a host of empty promises, a bad reputation, and more than a whiff of racism and sexism.

Despite how Menie Estate residents were treated by his team (water cut off for months for the Forbes family, who he called pigs; journalists arrested; a respected photojournalist threatened, etc. etc), a selection of businesses were keen to get in bed with him.

Many local businesses did and do trade with him (even though the Trump organisation fired a chef for having a photograph on his private Facebook page that they didn’t like – a story well-known in the catering trade), and fair enough, everyone has to make a living.

Some local restaurateurs supported the Menie Estate residents, and their support is steadfast and appreciated to this day. BrewDog attended an event there to sell beer and it got a good deal of criticism at the time. However, they decided subsequently to make a video poking fun at the bouffanted racist (what do you call someone who prevents black people from owning dwellings in his apartment buildings but a racist?).

While plenty of local businesses understandably did business with Trump, some went out of their way to take a pro-Trump stand.

The Marcliffe fawned over the tycoon, and invented the phrase ‘The Trump effect’ to say how much money was flowing into the area because of Trump’s presence.

Only that’s not what happened. The Marcliffe has been in sell-off talks from time to time, and its profit margin probably cannot have been helped by the homophobic comments of proprietor Stewart Spence. The Trump club posts year-on-year losses, and observers rarely see even a half-full parking lot. The environment has been changed and residents badly treated: this is the real Trump effect.

Few businesses went as far as the Cock and Bull. They hung a pro-Trump banner which many say also ridiculed an elected councillor.

They won’t take a stand on Trump now, but they tell me that it was a former employee who hung the banner – ie a big boy did it and ran away. The venue had all the intervening years to say they did not stand with Trump if they wanted to. They didn’t do so then and they refuse to distance themselves from him now.

The restaurant was approached, in polite terms, on Facebook to find out its current position. The chance to take a stand against Trump and all he stands for was turned down.

Instead of supplying an answer – and any sensible business that cared about racism, sexism, the welfare of residents across the road from them, and of the rights of people in the catering industry to have whatever they want on their personal Facebook pages – they decided to suggest I was asking for the opinions of their employees.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

We are talking about a president who has the endorsement of the Klu Klux Klan

Whether or not you like the restaurant or what you think of Trump, readers are invited to compare the initial conversation with what the Cock posted subsequently. Ask yourself if they are misrepresenting what the initial conversation was.

Ask yourself why they didn’t name me, which both made me look cowardly, and prevented me having a say early on to derail the misconceptions they offered up. The restaurant uses the scales of justice as an image; readers might want to use those scales to measure the two threads.

It is up to the individual whether it’s more important to have a good steak dinner from a venue that will not condemn racism or not. It is up to a business that has literally flown the flag for Trump in the past (even though there was more than enough evidence that he was as bigoted as the entire world can now see) whether they will either change their opinion, stick to their support, or instead start a hysterical campaign against the person who asked them if they still have the courage of their past convictions.

This is not a witch hunt as the restaurant suggests; it was giving them the chance to say no to bigotry and sexism (let alone the current Trump threat to use nuclear weapons against 24 million people suffering under the N Korean dictatorship).

Political differences are one thing and are to be celebrated. We are talking about a president who has the endorsement of the Klu Klux Klan, who has denigrated women and is implicated in rapes, and who is being investigated for collusion with Russia contrary to US law.

Contrast what the Cock and Bull posted with the initial questions, and ask yourself who is being dishonest and manipulative – me or them.

Why boycott dictators and those who support dictatorships in the first place? Because every business, charity, and high-profile person (let alone newspapers such as the P&J) which is friendly to the corrupt adds respectability to the dictators in question. The despot needs the veneer of respectability, and those who go along with bigotry are complicit. This is not a political point. This is a question of ethics: do you support racism and sexism or not.

People who have formed opinions based solely on what the Cock posted after my initial approach should have both sides of the story: not just the Cock and Bull cock and bull side of things – which is far from the real, complete picture. For instance, this sentence they wrote is a complete fabrication and huge distortion:

“I was contacted by said journalist and asked to publicly renounce any support for Donald Trump I may have (the man, not the course) in order for us to be excluded from the boycott list.”

This statement by the Cock is untrue; it is a gross exaggeration.

“…had it not been for your inflammatory comments regarding the restaurant elsewhere I would not have felt the need to reply.” The Cock writes; I will be interested to have them show proof of these inflammatory remarks I am meant to have made, as I am unaware of any at all.

The original post:

SK: “Just a quick question; yes or no will be fine: does the Cock and Bull support Trump? Thank you”

The Cock and Bull Balmedie: 

“Not sure I’m understanding your point here Suzanne, are you asking all businesses in the area to poll the political affiliations of their staff?”

Suzanne Kelly:

“It seems pretty simple to me. I’m aware of the position of many area businesses such as the Marcliffe, and a number of restaurants. Why do you add 2+2 and get 5? I am not asking anything about political private affiliations of your staff. Did the Cock and Bull ever hang a pro-Trump banner? I was told the restaurant had gone public with its support for Trump – in which case my question is even more valid than it already was.

“In case you don’t know, there is a major anti-Trump backlash, an international boycott of his businesses and their supporters (and even an app), and I’d be delighted to tell my contacts re. the boycott that the Cock and Bull has not, and does not, side with Trump’s racist, sexist ideas.”

Third party:

“They did have a ‘We Welcome Trump to Menie’ (paraphrasing here) banner. I saw it but it was some years ago. It wasn’t there last week.”

The Cock and Bull Balmedie:

“Sorry for the late reply – business to run, wages and bills to pay and all that. Personally I have no clue as to what you are going on about but given the tone of your posts you obviously have an axe to grind and have chosen a local business page to do so (not cool).

“However if you are alluding to the fact that Donald Trump dined at this restaurant many years ago when planning his course then yes he did. If you or your contacts choose to boycott us and all other shops, restaurants, hotels etc he has frequented and add us to your “blacklist” for that reason then it is your prerogative to do so and I respect your decision.

“We also have many guests staying and dining with us who play on his course so if that is classed as support then you may want to add that to your reason to boycott also.”

Suzanne Kelly:

“Thank you. Now returning to the question, and in the intervening hours people such as (Third party) have mentioned the banner your restaurant hung, are you pro-Trump as the Marcliffe for instance, or do you oppose racism and bigotry? I just want to let people know if your welcome to Trump still stands. Thank you.”

The Cock and Bull Balmedie:

“I’ve seen your witch-hunt on the Tripping up Trump page – you’ll get nothing further here. You want to up the boycotting of local businesses because you “think” you know their views then you be my guest.”

Suzanne Kelly:

“I gave you a chance to disavow your previous pro Trump stance in light of a mountain of evidence the man your banners supported is a bigot who has been caught in numerous lies; as you don’t wish to distance yourself from the man, I know all I need to. Many thanks.”

(Third party suggested I stay out of this issue)

Suzanne Kelly to third party: 

“Lol. You don’t seem to be aware the cock n bull story – or to be logical. They put up a sign welcoming Trump; they made a public declaration, which is their right. I have the right to ask them if it still applies even though it is evident to the world Trump is a racist and sexist. All the best”

The Cock and Bull Balmedie:

“A mountain of evidence? A banner that was hung some ten odd years ago by a member of staff no longer here that supported a golf course (golf course!) being built by a man who was at the time a business man and not president-elect?

“Due to this we are meant to support racism, sexism and bigotry as you have implied? A disgusting implication and had it not been for your inflammatory comments regarding the restaurant elsewhere I would not have felt the need to reply.

“Enough time wasted, I’ll get back to running a restaurant where thankfully the good vibes from lovely customers outweighs the frankly awful “boycott local businesses” campaign being run by yourself.”

Here is what the Cock and Bull posted on Facebook on the 20th September:

“I was made aware this week that due to us voicing our support for a new golf course in the area a decade ago, a journalist and anti-Trump activist was looking to include us in a “blacklist” to encourage customers to boycott the Cock and Bull, her words were “time to up the boycotting of pro-Trump businesses”.

We will not deny that we were advocates of the course when the plans were submitted ten years ago as we knew that the oil would not sustain the city forever and and know first-hand how important golf tourism is to Aberdeen. I was contacted by said journalist and asked to publicly renounce any support for Donald Trump I may have (the man, not the course) in order for us to be excluded from the boycott list. I refused. I did this not because I endorse Trump’s policies (I do not) and not because the political affiliations of anyone connected with the Cock and Bull are any of her business (they are not) but because her hatred for the man had overshadowed any other contributions that we make to our community and I wanted no part of it. She was not asking me the important questions of why you should choose to shop/dine/stay in my (or any) establishment – do we run our business ethically and sustainably, do we treat our staff fairly and morally, do we source our supplies responsibly, do we treat our customers hospitably and equally and we do we connect with our local community charitably. None of this was relevant to her and in my silence I was then branded a supporter of racism, sexism and bigotry. I find it incredibly sad that someone would want to tear down what another has built up due to an ill-conceived, ill-judged difference of opinion. Ours was not the only local business named that may be added to the list so by sharing this I hope that customers will make up their own minds about where they want to take their business using the points raised above and not be swayed by another person’s agenda. Our diversity of opinion is what makes us interesting but it is our humanity that allows us to understand why another’s opinion may differ from our own and our empathy that allows us to live together despite these differences.”

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Aug 232013

Aberdeen Voice contributors and concerned local residents visited the public exhibition at the Menie Estate; the Trump Organisation launched a consultation for the proposed new MacLeod course – a course that will border the public Balmedie Park. A series of tall posters stood in a Stonehenge-esque semicircle; the first one announced that Trump International Golf Links Scotland welcomed us, that one of the goals was stakeholder engagement and that a team was on hand to answer any questions.  Suzanne Kelly gives her account of the visit.

Detail of display banner inviting visitors to ask questions of the TIGLS team.

Detail of display banner inviting visitors to ask questions of the TIGLS team.

If you had access to a car you might have made it to the Menie Estate for the public consultation on the 20th.  If not, and you didn’t want to walk 20 minutes each way to the exhibition, you were out of luck.

You would have driven by the overly large entrance sign, past the overly large looming clock, past the outsized (and garish it is nearly universally agreed) concrete fountain plunked in front of Menie House.

Driving past large bunds topped with turf squares (held in place by plastic pegs), you would not have seen Susan Munro’s home, which  hasn’t seen much light or any of the land and seascape since Trump had the bund erected. 

The turf squares on your side of the bund  while driving to the temporary(?) clubhouse  are matched by weeds and sand on her side.

Entering the large parking lot (which differs from the original approved plan), topped with strong, high lights (apparently higher and brighter than initially permitted) with more of those oversized clocks nearby, you would have walked past the temporary clubhouse to a temporary marquee, manned by a very oversized bouncer (who towered over me and I’m 5’11”) where the Trump organisation’s documents say they  wish to  ‘welcome’ you to the public consultation, and that they will answer questions.

How are the public treated when it comes to Trump planning applications ?  This video among others gives an idea.   That video was back in 2010 – but had anyone in the Trump camp gone to charm school in the interim?  Not so much.

The room’s occupants included our little party, a few others, a waitress, Sarah Malone, Martin Hawtree, the designer of the previous and proposed courses. Tables were adorned with golf magazines, pens and paper, and coffee in a far corner.  The centre was given over to the displays; some 12 or so panels approximately 2’ wide by 7’ tall.

The promised welcome didn’t exactly seem on offer to any of us. We must have missed some form of joke when we got in, for Sarah Malone Bates, VP at Trump, and a woman who refused to identify herself were by the door sharing an intimate laugh while coincidentally looking in our direction.

This anonymous woman was a spitting image of Anne Faulds, legal consultant from Dundas Wilson in Edinburgh, to Trump.

Bund obscuring Susan Munro's home from view.

Bund obscuring Susan Munro’s home from view.

Faulds was famously discovered  to be feeding a willing Christine Gore of Aberdeenshire Council Planning advice before the initial plan was approved – not exactly how things are meant to be done by a planning applicant.

Faulds was helping  Gore ‘manage public expectations’ – and many found this cozy relationship inappropriate http://www.probe-into-top-planners-collusion.


Faulds is also mentioned in conjunction with an attempt to ‘gag’ unsympathetic councillors –

After reviewing the dozen or so posters set up for the public to view, a number of questions arose based on their content.  At first it was not clear where  the proposed MacLeod course would end and the Balmedie County Park begin.  in order to read the printed ‘Balmedie County  Park’ label, I had to crouch down, for it was about 2-3” off the ground.

The font size was miniscule; the text was in faint grey.  Perhaps this has something to do with the Trump plan to build the course right up to the boundary of the Park. Future park users may well be advised to wear hard hats if they wish to avoid golf ball-related concussions.

One of the posters carries a statement that outdoor access rights don’t apply on golf courses; this is contrary to what I believe to be right.

Despite the early day promises that the courses and complex will mean millions to the local economy; only an additional 32 cars per hour are envisaged; there will not be any need for more road infrastructure it seems.

An additional environmental statement will be created.  The presence of otters and badgers is questioned (David and Moira Milne have a badger set on their property which the Trump organisation knows about from its tree planting activities), yet “A survey will confirm whether badgers are present on the Menie Estate.” appears on one of the posters.

The championship (first) course is mentioned frequently – but the Blairton Burn area collapse is omitted, as is MEMAG, the environmental group which is now in limbo.  These and other issues give me a few questions – questions which the final panel assures me the Trump organisation “hope you have taken the opportunity to discuss any issues.” and that I will use the comment form.  Question time it is, then.

This is my recollection of the ensuing question and (no) answer session.

As nature intended. Temporary marquee 230413

I poured myself a coffee (no one was going to offer us or invite us to help ourselves). Sarah Malone Bates was nearby; I asked her if someone is free to answer my questions.

I walked over to the round table next to the one the Trump team were seated at. Hawtree sits on my left; Fred Wilkinson stands over my right shoulder; Anne Faulds stands behind and to the left of Hawtree; Sarah Malone stands further to their left.

I ask how close the course is going to be to the public park.  “It’s on the map”, Faulds answers.

I say that no figures for proximity are shown, and the team confirms the course will go right up to the park  border.

I comment that some of the holes look very close to the water, and ask if there are concerns that there might be another course collapse like at the Blairton Burn.  Hawtree doesn’t know if this is possible or likely.  I get the distinct feeling this question has displeased them.

I asked about the claim of increased biodiversity.  Hawtree says there will be more wetlands; he adds:  “The pond has migrated”.

I ask about chemicals used on the estate / course.  Hawtree’s answer starts by discussing agricultural chemicals.  I ask about chemicals that would be used on the course not agricultural chemicals; he doesn’t know.  I ask what chemicals are currently being used on the first course.

“That is not  relevant”, is Faulds’ reply.

I ask the woman (Faulds) who has now interrupted Hawtree twice what her name is “so that I know who I’m talking to”.

“I’m not going to tell you”, Faulds replies; she is (in my opinion) incredulous that as a member of a team at a public planning her identity is being asked.  I recognise her anyway, and my belief in her identity is confirmed by others later.

“We don’t know who you are”, Sarah Malone says.

“I’m Suzanne Kelly from AV” (they all start talking at once) “I thought you knew that Sarah”, I add.

Malone says I can put my comments and questions on the form (NB there are only 7 days to comment)

access rights do not apply to golf courses

I reply: “Ok, but part of this [consultation] is that you will be available to answer questions”.  I explain that in the past my emails and questions haven’t been answered [I wrote directly to Hawtree in February of this year, and to the Trump Menie email address several times; I had also written to Sorial on occasion; he did reply].

I want to ask questions based on the displays.  “There is something interesting on one of the boards”,  I say; I ask Hawtree to come and have a look at this . The boards are about 8 paces from where we sit.

[I walk over.  I find I have not been followed; they are talking among themselves.  I go back over and ask Hawtree to come see what I am talking about]

Malone says, [something like you’re dragging people around…] “it’s not respectful to members of our team.  We know that you have a negative impression. Yes you do”.

I respond, “OK, I am not in favour of the course”.

Malone says, “You can be respectful.”

“I am being respectful”, I reply.  I explain that in order to ask my next questions I need to show Hawtree what  passages from their boards I wish to discuss.

One board has a sentence “The Scottish Outdoor Access Code states that access rights do not apply to golf courses”.  Having read a few versions of the code, this sentence is not familiar to me. Indeed, I am told that some Scottish courses openly welcome hikers and bicycle riders. I ask where the comment about access comes from.

“Page 7”, Faulds replies.  (I have since looked at the code, and done an internet search on the sentence to no avail.  If anyone from Trump is reading this, please do send me the Page 7 link you told me about, thank you).

no mention of the MEMAG collapse or what the implications are

I move further on towards the environmental boards.  Text indicates they will determine if there are badgers in the area.

Hawtree replies that they, “haven’t had the report back”.

Which leads me to MEMAG, the environmental group mandated to oversee the championship course and its environmental issues.  It fizzled out, and its status remains unclear.  I can’t say it did a bang up job.

I ask about MEMAG.  “I’m not party to that”, Hawtree replies

Faulds comes closer and asks, “What question is that?” I am fairly certain I heard Faulds say, “Don’t answer that”.

I ask “what environmental body will be the watchdog”. I mention MEMAG.

Hawtree replies “Aberdeenshire Council.”

There are lots of pictures of bird species; text about badgers and otters – and no mention of the MEMAG collapse or what the implications are for a second course.  I had been told that some area residents believe burrowing animals had been destroyed/gassed to create the first course.  I have still not found anyone to explain what did or did not happen.

Again, if anyone from the Trump organisation would like to set the record straight, please do get in touch.

Things were less than welcoming.  I indicated I’d put the rest of my questions in writing.

The P&J is already quoting its editor’s wife’s company as saying the “response so far has been favourable”. This is a quick turnaround indeed, with 6 days left to go, and the consultation not ending until 8pm last night.  Sadly, the P&J didn’t find space to record its relationship to Malone-Bates or to tell us how many forms had been submitted.

Thankfully, there is still time for those who could not make it to feed into the consultation. Those who wish to read the boards will not find them posted on the Internet by the Trump team, but Aberdeen Voice has captured the text and made a form available to you.

Visit this link; the form needs to be submitted to the Trump organisation (by post or email) within 7 days of the consultation.  It is vital that anyone with opinions, for or against the second course, writes to the Trump organisation as soon as they can.  A small sample may well be presented to the Shire as meaning ‘no one cares’, or that ‘no one has objections’.

Whatever your take on this, don’t be left out of this stage of the process just because you couldn’t get a lift to the exhibition.  Championship-hosting, environmentally sound, biodiversity increasing, employment creating MacLeod course?  My grandmother.

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Aug 212013

Residents, supporters, and Aberdeen Voice contributors attended the Trump International Golf Links Scotland exhibition of its proposed Macleod Course on the evening of 20 August, 2013.  For now, let’s just say the red carpet wasn’t exactly rolled out to welcome them. The most important issue is that you now have a chance, whatever side of the bund you sit on, to voice your opinion on the proposed second course – a course that apparently will be directly adjacent to Balmedie County Park. Suzanne Kelly reports.

Suzanne Kelly fights her way through the hordes.

Suzanne Kelly fights her way through the hordes.

The venue for the exhibition of the proposed second course was the temporary marquee adjacent to the temporary clubhouse in the
not-to-original-spec Trump parking lot, bordered by the high bunds, which were never approved in their current form, and are now
higher than before, near Leyton Farm Road.

Trump’s parking lot wasn’t exactly filled with visitors when we arrived around 1900.

The most shocking feature is that this course is apparently going to border Balmedie Country Park. How this will work in practice environmentally, or take into account the safety of park users who don’t wish to be knocked unconscious by flying golf balls, seems to still need some consideration.

Local residents I spoke to were shocked, and believe their neighbours will be too.

In a forthcoming article we will cover the treatment meted out by those who were on hand to answer questions, but right now, Voice readers are encouraged to examine the contents of the presentation and submit their comments as soon as possible. ‘The deadline for responses is 27 August 2013’ reads the two-page Exhibition Feedback Form.

Whether this means by midnight on 26 August, by the close of business on 27August, or by midnight that day, is not clearly stated. Those who wish to make a submission, therefore,  should do so as soon as they can.

The room had a number of round tables, adorned with golf magazines, Trump writing paper, pens, and the feedback forms. Sarah Malone was there, as was a bouncer who towered over my 5’11” height, and a dirty-blonde woman who emphatically refused to identify herself.

She did, however, look strikingly similar to Ann Faulds to some visitors, best known perhaps, for apparently feeding Dr Christine Gore of the council with advice and opinion when planning permission for the complex was initially sought. Details of this are in past issues of Voice and in other news sources. Also present was a man, presumably Hawtree, the course designer.

Comment forms and photos of the presentation boards can be found at

Proposed layout of the new course

Proposed layout of the new course

There will be a wider consultation in due course, the Shire council taking comments and objections when these plans are submitted, but putting your thoughts on record now with the Trump Organisation is strongly advised for those who have an interest.

No comment will, in all probability, be counted as ‘no objection’. I urge everyone to make themselves heard.

Anyone wishing to see the exhibition for themselves should take note. It is not accessible via public transport, unless you are willing to walk from the bus stop for at least 20 minutes to get there.

There is no good reason for the consultation to be there; you can’t even see the site from where the consultation exercise is situated.

Is this deliberate? The low key publicity and the low budget nature of this exhibition and consultation exercise suggests to me they would prefer if people did not visit and ask questions.

Why was it not held in town?  The public could have seen what happens when you ask questions, like the sniggering when we were there between Malone and Faulds (if it was Faulds), the Faulds-lookalike shutting down any answers, and Malone’s behaviour; the public also may have wondered why a huge security guard was required.

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Jul 122013

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

With the warmer weather, all sorts of undesirables are on the move in our area.  Recently these dodgy types somehow infiltrated the otherwise inaccessible Union Terrace Gardens, and havoc reigns.  Some of these people are so out of their heads on Ribena and Cola (‘coke’ to give it its slang term), that they have taken to lying down on blankets for hours, enjoying what they call ‘grass’ and ‘sun’.

Some of them are barely dressed, wearing shorts and sleeveless tops.  The sooner we get a web under construction, the sooner these miscreants will leave.

Thankfully, just as King Arthur will return to the people one day, Kate Dean has resurfaced.  Her triumphant return to the public eye surely presages her return to public life. 

The Press & Journal gave her a cover photo, and several pages to admonish us for not having the web of granite.  She is quite right in saying we will remember where we were on the day the web died.

As to me, I was in the city council chambers, listening to the likes of Jennifer Craw baying like wounded banshees when the web was kicked into the long grass.  Then I accompanied several other granite web refusnik  nimby-types, and celebrated with a few beers.  Where were you when Kennedy, Elvis and the City Gardens Project died?  If it’s not too emotionally distressing to share your Web memories, please do write in.

There was also a striking photo of Kate petting a cat, which in no way put me in mind of Ian Fleming’s Blofeld character.  Kate tells us she is now working for/with Remploy.  Many Remploy factories are set to close across the country; perhaps this is the time for her to campaign to help those with special needs and abilities to fight for their support services…

After months of research and interviews covering all sides of the Menie Estate saga, the BBC’s Panorama aired on Monday this week.  I joined a dozen or so people in a local pub to watch the programme’s first airing together.

Personally, I was very disappointed.  I’ve spent most of the past 5 months waiting for this programme, wondering what Sarah Malone Bates would be wearing on camera, and how her rapier-like wit would deal with reporter John Sweeney’s questions.  Alas!  I don’t think we got to see her at all!

What’s the point of being the Vice President if you don’t get to be on telly?  I wonder if the catch phrase ‘You’re Fired!’ ever enter her mind when she thinks of her TV star boss?

We can all learn a few public relations tips from his Panorama performance

First, it was awfully good of The Donald and his Mini Me to find time to talk to the Beeb, in between trips to Africa to kill leopards and dangerous elephants, hacking bits off  the carcases for lovely trophies.  I’m not the only girl to have swooned at the footage of the Trump clan braving the jungle to kill critters.  A woman sitting next to me turned very pale at the images of the dead things and severed tails in the Panorama clip; it must have been because the guys were so macho.

We can all learn a few public relations tips from his Panorama performance.  In case you missed it on Monday, here’s a handy link for future viewing:-  Inevitably, this week’s definitions are connected to the show.

Bromance: (modern English) Term used to describe a close friendship between two men.

Alex and Donald; Donald and Alex.  They met, they started a transatlantic bromance over lobster, oysters, champagne and planning permission.

North East Scotland was going to get 7,000 jobs (Trump says in the interview with John Sweeney) and a billion pound golf and housing complex.  In exchange Salmond was going to over-ride environmental protection and protocol.  Hand in hand they romped over The Great Dunes of Scotland (aka the Menie coastline).

It was all too good to last.  They broke up, and the dirty linen hit the headlines.

The bromance between Don and Alex has died; and no love is lost between Local Hero and Top Scot Michael Forbes and the Donald, either.  in the recent past Trump has called Forbes ‘a porker’ – heaven knows what precisely that means.  Let’s assume it means Forbes is not as physically pleasing as Trump – but then again, who is?  When John Sweeney asked Michael Forbes how he felt at being called a porker, Forbes responded:

 “that was pretty good coming from a clown.”

Sadly, I see no bromance brewing there, either.

Don’t look for a budding romance between Anthony Baxter and Donald Jr either.  Baxter was accused of being a criminal by Junior, quite understandably.  Film maker Baxter went (as directed) to Trump’s site office to discuss the loss of water to the properties; the Trump people accidentally broke a crucial water pipe and accidentally left the residents without water for 7 days.

Junior says Baxter went into a house uninvited with a camera over his shoulder.  That house was the site office, and Baxter was told to go there by Trump staff, all captured on film.

Quite rightly the police then busted Baxter and his pal on the Trump site manager’s say-so.  Now Junior says Baxter is a criminal; Baxter for some reason seems to think Don Jun is a liar. ( No valentines this year then).

To Read: (English – infinitive verb) to look at printed words and digest their contents.

The arguments between Salmond and Trump were at the height of acrimony on two topics:-

Did Salmond ask Trump’s support over the release of the Lockerbie bomber?  Did Salmond promise there would be no offshore wind farms?  The answers seem to be yes and no respectively.

Donald seems to have proof that Alex wanted a letter of support from Trump.  Trump tells us this would have hurt his popularity (as if such a thing were possible).

But what of Trump’s continued cries of foul over the offshore wind farm?

Trump states in his unabridged copy of the Panorama interview that George Sorial was present when Salmond promised not to allow offshore wind farms.  As unbiased a witness as one could wish for, it is a pity Sorial or someone in his office didn’t read the part of the 2008 Scottish Government Reporters’ planning report that referred to the wind farms.  For alas!  If our First Minister did make such a promise, it didn’t register with the government reporters; their report which gave approval for the golf complex reads in part:-

“21.106 “No particular concerns are raised about the coastal path network, landscape impact, links to the airport or the proposed offshore wind development. It was agreed that the only particular issue for the city council was whether the proposed housing would have an effect on the traffic in the city,  such as at the Bridge of Don…”

Colour me over-cautious, but if a government report on my multi-million pound project came out, I’d have one of my legal guys read it.

If such a report made reference to ‘the proposed offshore wind development’ when I thought my pal had promised there was not going to be an offshore wind development, I’d probably look into it before building bunds, bulldozing the place and locking the gates shut.

I’m no lawyer, I’m no town planner, I’m no Donald Trump – but to me a report referring to a proposed offshore wind development would make me wonder if there were a proposed offshore wind development.

Easy mistake.  Perhaps the Trump people should hire some experts going forward to look at documents and legalities.  But clearly Team Trump wasn’t going to make any further mistakes, and so he decided to film the film makers.

Media Bias: (modern English) a condition of television/print media/radio to have a particular stance on issue or issues, demonstrated in the contents of its publications/broadcasts favouring one side of an issue. (Aberdeen residents won’t know much about media bias, but thankfully that left-wing, biased, socialist bastion which is the BBC provides one).

The Trump Organisation had a brilliant idea – Trump made his own video tape of John Sweeney interviewing him, and posted the ‘uncut’ interview footage on YouTube.  This would let the world see how biased the BBC is.

It may be a hard concept for Press & Journal / Evening Express readers to grasp – but sometimes news reports can be slightly skewed to play up or play down particular stories at the whims of owners, or even editors of media companies.  The Donald wanted, per usual, to make sure he captured the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

The Trump videotape begins by explaining that John Sweeney has a ‘lousy reputation’.  I’m sure the BBC are really sweating it now.  I’m sure if someone posted on a public website that Trump had a lousy reputation, Donald would just forgive and forget, and not launch any nasty lawsuits.  I guess we’ll see if Sweeney is as magnanimous as Trump.

No doubt the BBC created a wholly one-sided Panorama programme.  This is evidenced by the extensive interviews Panorama held with father and son.  Obviously, the only reason these gun-toting, slightly aggressive gentlemen look bad is because of how the BBC edited them.

So what does this video show?  What devious  Machiavellian twists of the BBC are laid bare?

The tape begins with Donald explaining how his mom / grand mom loved Scotland (aww), and how the only logical tribute to this love was to put up a few hundred homes and a golf course or two on The Great Dunes Of Scotland.  The interview was going swimmingly; I was starting to warm towards Trump myself, then bang!  The aggressive interviewer had the temerity to ask about a massive lawsuit and possible mafia entanglement.  Oh dear.

Unfortunately the Trump team’s camera failed to record this mafia/Ft Lauderdale section of the interview; the screen went black.  Mr Trump then had to leave immediately to go see a group of people, quite understandably.  The Trump-recorded tape ends with a black screen with text inviting the viewer to ‘notice the reaction of the producer in the back ground who expressed her disgust with Mr Sweeney’s unfair and biased interview.  Quite right.

As if Mr Trump having leased his name to a now-failed Ft Lauderdale development with over 40 people now filing lawsuits has any bearing on his ability to create a development here.  You’d almost think the poor man has a bad track record.

Some spoilsports who objected to granting permission for the development at Menie had expressed concerns with the Trump organisation’s track record and reputation.  But this wasn’t going to get in the way of his company being deemed suitable to have its way with The Great Dunes of Scotland.

Back in the day, the government reporters’ report referred to some of these objections:-

“We were passed some letters of objection from the public that contain offensive remarks about the applicant and his business; inappropriate comments directed at others; defamatory and personal comments about councillors involved in decision making in Aberdeenshire; and political statements favouring one party over another.

“None of these matters has any bearing on the planning merits of the case and such comments have been discounted from our consideration which is concentrated on those issues that are relevant to deciding an outline planning application.”

 We should all thank those unbiased government decision makers, not least the Aberdeenshire planning officers who brushed away these petty concerns.  Trump may not have brought the 7,000 jobs or the houses or the hotel yet, but that’s surely nothing to do with his track record.  It’s only the wind farms stopping us from having the world’s greatest golf course.

Next week’s definitions:  unaccountable, back-tracking, deceitful, scheming, exaggeration, manipulation – and other planning-related technical terms.

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May 172013

By Sue Edwards.

On 21 May 2013 the Formartine Area Committee of Aberdeenshire Council will meet at the Kirk Centre in Ellon to discuss various planning matters.

One of these will be to decide whether to give planning consent to a retrospective application put in by Trump International Golf Links Scotland (APP/2012/2342 on the Council’s website).

The application is for “Full Planning Permission for Engineering Operations to Construct Car Park to Serve Golf Course and Proposed Clubhouse (Amended Design) (Retrospective)”.

A retrospective planning application is explained in the two paragraphs below taken from the Scottish Government’s Guide to the Planning System in Scotland.

“If you build something without planning permission, or if you don’t follow the conditions attached to a planning permission, the council can use their enforcement powers. Enforcement is important because it makes sure that everyone stays within planning law and the conditions of their planning permission.

The council will choose what action to take. If something is built without permission, but would have been likely to have been granted permission, the council may ask the person responsible to make a ‘retrospective’ planning application. This will then be decided in the same way as all other planning applications. If the council grants planning permission, there may be conditions attached.”

The reason for this retrospective planning application is that the finished works bear no relation whatsoever to the original planning application (APP/2011/3560) for which consent was granted on 13 December 2011, including the car park layout, lighting and the materials used in the construction.

You may think, fair enough, easy to make a mistake, but this is in fact the SIXTH retrospective planning application TIGLS have had to put in to Aberdeenshire Council.
Each time, the councillors on the Formartine Area Committee have waved the application through, although on this occasion they did agree on a site visit to view the car park layout, a section of the bunds built around a neighbouring property and the lighting, but had to make a further visit (no doubt at council-taxpayer’s expense) as the lighting had been switched off for the first visit.

Would any other builders or developers be allowed to run rings around our planning laws? Why have Aberdeenshire Council not put a stop to his cavalier attitude to our planning system? HOW HAS THIS BEEN ALLOWED TO HAPPEN?

Trump has recently announced his design for the hotel he is planning to build on the Menie Estate. It has been likened to a Victorian asylum, a holiday camp, a row of beach huts, and more. But perhaps we need not worry … perhaps it will look nothing like that. We will just have to wait and see what he chooses to build, regardless of any planning consent he gets.

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May 132013

By Suzanne Kelly.

North-east novelist John Aberdein, author of Amande’s Bed and Strip the Willow, was in town for a few days, and found time to take a little tour of the Menie Estate with us.  Here are some of his photographs and reactions.

We arrived at the Menie Estate at half twelve on a lovely, warm Spring Sunday.  Walking towards the Munro property, I knew what to expect.  But when you see the bund separating the Munros from the views and from the sun for the first time, it is unsettling.

The bund increases in height, but it is not just the severe, bulldozed ridge of sand that takes the breath away, it is what is planted on top.

Evergreen trees, conifers, are already brown.

“Is that supposed to be some kind of irrigation system?” John asks incredulously.

A pathetic yellow hose lies unattended, snaked up to a dying tree.

John told us that he’d planted hundreds of  trees as a supporter of ‘Trees for Life’, the Findhorn-based organisation aiming to restore the Caledonian Pine Forest.

Here was a complete contrast. Conifers shovelled into a ridge of sand to be a cosmetic screen for a few months, then hauled out and replaced once they had withered, browned and died.

We all talked about this waste and misuse of living things as symptomatic of a deeper sickness.

We stopped to talk to Susan Munro’s partner, son and friend at their place. Aberdeenshire Planning seem very keen to attempt the impossible and sweep this giant mound of sand under the carpet.

It is far higher than ever agreed when permission was granted. It blocks light and the previous spectacular views.  And it delivers a continuous flow of windblown sand, making Susan’s attempts at gardening difficult if not impossible.

Whether the planners are allowed to call this ghastly thing ‘landscaping’ and whether it will be allowed to slip through as the latest of many retrospective planning applications Trump has lodged remains to be seen.  So far, his batting average for getting what he wants is perfect.

We stop in at Hermit’s Point. “Love that flag”, John says of the black and white ‘Tripping up Trump’ standard flying over the property.  Not for the first time, I impose on Moira’s and David’s hospitality. (My drinks bill would be rather large if it were the clubhouse we were stopping at instead, I reflect).  We discuss issues past, present and future.

John is again astounded at the dead and dying trees staggered around the Milne family home.

Then we head to the course, slipping by the permanently-locked giant gate between Leyton Farm Road and the parking lot.

What would John make of the course, I wondered. Before we make our way to the dunes – where John used to go running  in the Sixties as a University harrier – I suggest we stop to read the plaque Trump has had erected at the course entrance.

John – like most people I’ve taken there – is speechless for a moment.

The plaque speaks of the course Trump ‘conceived and built… encompassing the world’s largest dunes’ and how it has been ‘delicately weaved’ into the dunes, producing ‘according to many, the greatest golf course anywhere in the world’.

John comments on the ‘grandiose’ nature of this monument to bad grammar and high-octane self-delusion. We all joke about the smaller sand dunes to be found in the Sahara, Death Valley, China.  Whilst out in Peru – as many may know – the Cerro Blanco dune stands 3,860 feet tall and takes at least 3 hours to climb. John wonders why it is important to claim that these are the world’s largest dunes.

“Why can’t people just enjoy them for what they are?” he rightly asks.

We walk along the tarred road that wends through the course until we can cut to the beach. John comments that, “It’s a beautiful May Sunday but so far I’ve seen only a few golfers way in the distance. I’ve yet to see anyone making a shot.”

We make it down onto the beach, where a breeze from the south is blowing, perhaps the main breeze that makes the dune system move and flow.

There is a Second World War machine-gun pillbox canted over and part-buried.

John heads for a quick swim, then we inspect the putting green that’s close to the sea, really close, the edge just 10 metres or so from the drop-off.

“Another big storm and that’s gone”, John says.

I can’t argue with that. Is it actually nearer the sea than was ever approved? MEMAG, the environmental watchdog, should know, but it’s a struggle to get them to communicate with me. Instead, a smart Trump-uniformed young guy in a buggy drives up, and asks in friendly fashion if we are enjoying ourselves and if we are ‘out walking.’ Not a lot we can really answer to that…

Walking past Michael Forbes’s salmon coble lying full of gear but marooned in the grass, John wonders how on earth the historic access Michael used to have from his own land to the sea can have been taken away.

I explain the police told him he would be charged if he tried to go through the newly-erected gate blocking his way to the shore.

The Aberdeen Outdoor Access officer has mailed me that he would be looking at these issues.

“Sad”, says John as our visit comes to a close.  “Such an air of failure and bleakness. It’s impossible to imagine this place until you’ve been here. Golf courses elsewhere that I know are full of buzz and fun. But any notion of play here seems to have been expunged.” I think this means he probably won’t be booking anytime soon.

So back we go, joking about donating an arm or a leg to buy a round of drinks in the clubhouse. Past that same clubhouse – and out round the big locked gate. We rescue Steve’s springer spaniel from a swamp of black slurry and head back to town.

“Sad” is the word I’ll most remember John Aberdein using.  The sun was shining, the sea was lovely, the people were great and he loved meeting them. But the atmosphere of this sterile, struggling, would-be country club had been boiled down to its simplest description. Sad.

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Oct 242012

A documentary about a golf course? On the face of it, this might not sound like a thrilling premise for a feature documentary. Then again, this is no ordinary golf course. And this is no ordinary film. Suzanne Kelly examines the impact of Anthony Baxter’s You’ve Been Trumped in the wake of the film being broadcast on national television.

You’ve Been Trumped is the story of a handful of Aberdeenshire residents, and what happens when two intrepid documentary makers dare scrutinise Donald Trump.

Despite the best efforts of the Trump machine to smear the individuals involved, discredit the film and stop its being shown on the BBC, You’ve  Been Trumped made its national television premier on 21 October 2012, some 16 months after its first outing.

Director Anthony Baxter may not have intended to stir up a hornet’s nest, but his film is playing a part in Scottish politics.

Grampian Police, Aberdeen’s newspapers, Creative Scotland, local and national government officials through to First Minister Alex Salmond – all come out of this story badly. 

What started as an investigation into life at the Menie Estate has taken in the issues of government accountability, wind farms, and even the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

You’ve Been Trumped: the early days

June 2011: a film is shown at the Belmont Cinema in Aberdeen; ticket demand is equalled only by sales for the last instalment of Harry Potter. This is local news. Local newspapers Aberdeen Press & Journal and its sister, Aberdeen Evening Express, completely ignore the film, however.

The film charts the arrival of Donald Trump at  Aberdeenshire coast’s Menie Estate which he has purchased, vowing to turn it into the world’s greatest golf course. The area, partially on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), is protected by law. The local authority, Aberdeenshire Council, vote against the massive Trump development by one vote.

In an unprecedented move, the Scottish Government then call in the Shire’s decision and overturn it.

The film documents the very real, devastating effects on local residents who refused to sell up to Trump and leave their homes. It follows several of these people and accurately documents what life was (and still is) like for them with the arrival of Trump’s private security and construction workers. Experts with environmental, governmental and economic credentials are also featured explaining what is wrong with the development.

Trees are destroyed, mounds of earth are piled high around residents’ homes, power lines are broken, and residents’ property is invaded and destroyed. When the homeowners find their water supply has been ‘accidentally’ dammed by Trump’s team and seven days elapse without any remedial action, Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney go to the estate office to ask what is being done.

At this point the documentary makers become the subject of their own film.

Visiting the estate manager to discuss the water issue, Baxter and Phinney receive a hostile reception and leave. They then visit resident Susan Munro, and a police car pulls up. A discussion between filmmakers and the police inexplicably, abruptly turns into a very physical arrest – all caught on film.

Genesis Of The Film

Baxter grew up further down the coast, and spent summers in the Balmedie area. This was his inspiration for making this film. He was turned down for funding by Creative Scotland, the government-run arts funding board, which decreed not enough people would be interested in the story. He went ahead anyway, mortgaging his home to fund this project.

Between June 2011 and October 2012 the film toured the world, winning awards and earning critical acclaim. Internationally respected documentary film maker Michael Moore had this to say on the occasion of You’ve Been Trumped! winning a special prize at the Traverse City Film Festival:

“… Anthony Baxter entered the front lines of the fight against the developers to capture the outrage of the locals, who stood tall against bulldozers even as their own police force aided Trump’s henchmen in protecting his project.”

Trump Gets Cross

At first the Trump team dismissed the film as being ‘boring’. When the film started showing more widely, the Trump organisation  began to retaliate.  George Sorial, Director of International Development at the Trump Organisation, called the film “a complete fraud.”

It seems the BBC decision to show the award-winning documentary proved too much for the Trump organisation, and they are threatening to sue the corporation. A statement verging on the apoplectic was issued:

Sarah Malone of Trump International Golf Links on STV:

“We are appalled at the BBC’s decision to broadcast the highly biased and manipulative so-called documentary You’ve Been Trumped.

“It is not a documentary – it is a piece of propaganda that is wildly inaccurate, defamatory and deliberately misleading.

“Baxter is not a credible journalist or film-maker. He set out to create a sensationalist, Local Hero story, through underhand, clandestine means, in the hope of making money off the Trump name.”

“We have taken legal advice, and are determined not to let this matter end here.”

Baxter Opens Several Cans Of Worms

The Media And Trump

Perhaps the threat of lawsuits intimidates some members of the press; others are perhaps seduced by The Donald’s wealth (often-questioned as it may be), or his television fame –or they might have hopes of future advertising revenue. The sad fact is that the media in Aberdeen have hardly mentioned Baxter, while every visit a Trump family member makes to the City seems to be front page news.; TV and local radio Northsound did give the film attention when it debuted.  STV does give coverage as quoted above, but questions arise over its use of Malone’s assertions without challenge, as if they were fact. Malone says Baxter is not a journalist, that the film is propaganda, and was made using underhand methods.

These are the sorts of slanderous remarks Trump would take to court in an instant if they were levelled against him.

Aberdeen Voice editor Fred Wilkinson wrote to STV asking for evidence of Malone’s claims, specifically evidence of £100M having been spent on the course and the clubhouse, and Malone’s statements relating to an independent poll which she claims proves over 90% of local residents support the project, and that:

“ten thousand people … flocked to play the course this season.”

What is wrong with STV repeating these claims in an article is further explained in Wilkinson’s letter:

“… I have real doubts if there is evidence to back up these claims, and therefore, have to ask if it is good journalism to allow these to stand.

“By printing quotes which present such fantastic figures as fact, you are at least to some extent endorsing the validity of the statements/figures.”

 ( Read: Fred Wilkinson’s letter to STV )

Grampian Police:  Keen To Arrest, Not Keen To Explain

If Ms Malone is correct and Baxter is manipulative and used underhand methods then he is a genius at it. His getting the police to arrest him and producer Richard Phinney for Breach of the Peace is one of the most powerful parts of the movie.

Asked about the arrest and the policing policy at Menie, this is what the Grampian Police had to say:-

 “…in Spring 2009, following the announcement of a number of strategic economic and infrastructure developments, Grampian Police established a short life Critical Incident Preparation Group (CIPG).

“… a generic, local strategy, relevant to Menie Estate (was) developed. This has been determined as; Maximise safety; minimise disruption; facilitate lawful protest; deter, detect, detain and report those responsible for unlawful behaviour.”

You could be forgiven for thinking the same police force that refused to stop Trump’s people trespassing on private property, or insist the water was restored promptly would have perhaps thought a caution was more appropriate than handcuffs. You would be wrong.

Aberdeen city centre can resemble the Wild West on a weekend night. If everyone committing a breach of peace was arrested, the street would be deserted.  Yet police claim a policy to deter unlawful behaviour, but seem to be using this self-granted power only when it suits.

As reported in the Guardian, the police eventually made an apology of sorts:

Chief Inspector Martin Mackay:

“I can understand why a member of the public could have perceived the police actions within the documentary as being rash and confrontational and this has caused me some concern”.

This ‘apology’ is condescending to the public, the implication being it is not able to differentiate between rightful arrest and the bullying of journalists.  Phinney and Baxter learned of the apology not from the police, but from the Guardian.

Anthony and Richard explained they were making a documentary. They identified themselves as journalists (indeed, they have a number of radio and television credits, despite what Ms Malone might say).  Journalists should be allowed to pursue stories without fear of police intimidation or arrest.  The National Union of Journalists described the arrests as an “unprecedented” breach of media freedom.

Perhaps the least democratic aspect of the arrests is that the charges were then dropped. While at first that might seem like a victory, what it means in fact is that Baxter and Phinney never got to tell their side in court or clear their names. The police might well have looked very bad in court.

Furthermore, the charges were dropped on condition no further Breach of the Peace occurred. Was this an attempt to silence them and stop their filming? It could well have been the intent.

Who exactly is in charge of the Grampian Police? They have since complained they were ‘under pressure’ from Trump… perhaps they should review how they act under pressure?

The Clerk of Works: A Selective View

Trees were bulldozed and buried in a pit or pits; this is captured on film.

Mounds of earth were raised around the homes of Susan Munro and David Milne – these are still there per recent photos, and have caused serious problems. Precisely what they are there for other than to block out these homeowners from seeing and being seen is unclear.

The entrance sign is far larger than it was supposed to be. This might seem a minor matter, but one wonders if Trump is using such deviation as the thin edge of the wedge to see how far he can go without any objection. In fact, Trump sued Palm Beach for $10 million over the over-sized flag pole he wanted to erect at his property there.

Running water loss, mounds of earth, buried trees, a bill for fencing erected without consultation slapped on a resident. In August 2011 the Clerk of Works wrote :

“Firstly, the loss of water alleged is not a planning issue…”

“The removal of trees was part of the overall and extensive tree survey undertaken relative to the planning … Extensive habitat translocation was undertaken to receptor sites. An area of on site disposal was used for scraped vegetation, etc. only – this work did not involve trees”

“With regard to the erection of fencing, the planning service has no knowledge of this, nor any subsequent billing.”  [David Milne was presented with an exorbitant bill by the Trump organisation for fencing he had not agreed with erecting]

“You mention a large amount of earth on the site – the earth bunding we believe you are referring to was fully removed by April 5, 2011″ [not according to the residents in August 2011].

Given the behaviour of the local press, police and authorities, you might be forgiven for thinking there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. Surely the national government would be free from the  taint of such bias?

Trump and Salmond:  Dinners, Dramas, Democracy

As Trump was seeking permission for his Menie golf haven, you might have expected any politicians to stay well clear of him for fear of being seen to be biased. Planning regulations likewise indicate prudence was called for. No such inhibitions or concerns for propriety occurred to Alex Salmond; he and Trump have had an expensive dinner or two together.

What were the topics of discussion? Surely Alex’s duty as a First Minister did not allow him to make deals with rich men currently seeking planning permission?

But just as Trump has some form with threatening legal action, Salmond has a history of seeking out the rich and famous. He was asked tough questions about his relationship to Rupert Murdoch at the Leveson Inquiry. He seems to have had a hand in promoting the controversial Granite Web project, a massive building scheme billionaire Sir Ian Wood tried to create over Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens.

When the two dined in October 2007, Trump would later claim Salmond lured him into making a one billion pound investment at Menie, with Salmond promising there would never be any wind farms near that stretch of coastline. When a wind farm application was put forward, the relationship between the two men soured.

Trump testified to the Scottish Parliament that he was the evidence that such a promise existed; Salmond denies the conversation took place. However, it is undeniable that the Scottish Government took the unprecedented step of intervening in Trump’s planning application, rubber-stamping it over the local government’s will.  (Perhaps Salmond should have skipped dinner, all things considered).

But no one ever believed that Salmond would have courted Trump over the controversial release of the one man found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing. That man,  Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, was terminally ill with cancer and in the midst of appealing his sentence. He always maintained he was innocent. Whatever the merits or otherwise of Megrahi’s conviction, Salmond was in favour of allowing him return to Libya.

The Donald played a major trump card when he revealed Salmon sought his support over Megrahi’s release. Geoff Aberdein, special adviser to Salmond, drafted a statement for Trump supporting the controversial release. Trump refused – knowing full well that a New Yorker taking such a stance would become a pariah.

According to the Herald, Salmond was:

“… very unhappy and demanded to speak to Mr Trump,” he said.

“He was demanding and insisted he had helped us and now it was time to help him.”

Trump has the evidence on his side over this episode of his relations with Salmond – perhaps he was likewise telling the truth about the wind farms? Sometimes it is hard to tell.

The implications are staggering: our First Minister asked a New York real estate developer to support a controversial legal decision. What exactly was the quid pro quo? Was it the carte blanche Salmond gave Trump at Menie?

In any event, it is safe to say this is one Anglo-American special relationship that is truly over.

All the evidence points to democracy being thrown out of the window at the first whiff of dollars, from the lowest clerk or policeman on the beat to Scotland’s First Minister.

Arguably, we owe all of these revelations to Baxter and Phinney’s determination to make their documentary.

Local Points of View Today

Baxter was taken aback at the Aberdeen Evening Express’s assertions he was unavailable for comment as reported in the Monday 22 October edition, when an interview with him was going out the very next day. At the time of writing it is not clear how much time the paper allowed Baxter to respond before making its unavailable for comment statement. (The Evening Express has several editions per day; perhaps it could have mentioned that an interview was pending?). “Nonsense,” was the word Baxter used in response to the EE’s claim.

There is no doubt that those living in the shadow of this golf club are genuinely, deeply grateful to Anthony and Richard for sharing their plight with the world. After the BBC screening – and the Trump spokeswoman Malone’s attempts to discredit You’ve Been Trumped – long-suffering resident David Milne, depicted in the film, wrote:

“The screening of You’ve Been Trumped has to be seen as a triumph for honesty in journalism, something that has been lacking in the main papers in the area for some time, with their censorship of the main campaign group fighting for the residents’ right to be heard. Trump now claims that he has had no right to reply and is about to sue, why now?

 “The film has been public for about two years now and has toured the world several times gaining ten international awards in the process. If he (Trump) expects us to believe none of his people sneaked in while it was showing in New York and reported back then he is truly an idiot. 

“The article in the EE mentions a local poll. Is this the same one he mentioned in a previous BBC programme (money programme All American Billionaire?, Emily Maitliss) where he previously quoted a local poll which he was challenged on and failed to provide evidence, because there is none? The current posturing, shouting and gnashing of teeth is simply the antics of a spoilt schoolyard bully who has been caught out and shown as a liar, bully and thug.”

A fundamental environmental protection order lifted, peoples’ lives affected for the worse, planning integrity called into question at the highest levels, eyebrow-raising policing, and power politics. All part of a documentary about a golf course. We are indebted to Baxter and Phinney for bringing all these stories into the light, which might otherwise have never come out.

Coda: Mother Nature may well have something to say about Trump’s efforts at fixing a sand dune system which has been on the move for thousands of years. Reports coming in from the course suggest that the wind and tides may have their own ideas for the future of Menie.

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Dec 092011

By David Innes.

I’m as inclusive as the next man, and am delighted at the cultural diversity of the UK and the city in which I make my living.

Although I may occasionally wince at the Gingerbread Cottage-type Anglicisations of traditional place-names in the North East, this is ameliorated when I see dwellings bearing names such as An Teallach, Glas Maol and Glenfarclas on my regular working excursions into the English Midlands and beyond.

The man-made is all very well. Owners come and go, and taste and preference will move with the times and the custodians. Messing with natural physical and topographical features, though, is another matter.

Were there a move to rename Bennachie Strawberry Mountain or Lochnagar Byron Peak, there would be an outcry, and quite right too. Why there was none when A Certain Plutocrat decided to rename – because he owns them and he can – Menie Sands “The Great Dunes of Scotland” I do not know.

This cultural imperialism, however, did set me thinking. Scotland is great in other ways, and every time I hear the temporary new name for Menie Sands, I will think of these…

The Great Doin’s of Scotland

Wembley 1961. 9-3. Nine bloody three! Thank you Haffey, Shearer, Caldow, MacKay, McNeill, McCann, McLeod, Law, St John, Quinn and Wilson.

Flodden 1513. Scots manager James IV’s selection proved to be his downfall. Eschewing the tried and tested 4-4-2 formation, he elected to field the heavy guns and eighteen foot pikes on a heavy pitch. Not for the first or last time, a strategic military balls-up saw us lose a generation of young men. Silver lining? We got The Floo’ers o’ the Forest, that haunting lament that is among the Great Tunes of Scotland.

Wembley 1975. 5-1 Five bloody one! Stewart Kennedy in goal had a nightmare, leading to the accusation that John F Kennedy stopped more shots in Dallas in 1963 than his goalpost-clutching namesake did twelve years later.

The Great Junes of Scotland

June Imray. The Torry Quine. The Quine Fa Did The Strip At Inverurie. An icon.

June 1976. Sun for weeks and weeks and weeks. Only spoiled by Elton bleedin John and Kiki flippin Dee monopolising the airwaves with ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’. It did, every time I heard it.

June Gordon. Lady Aberdeen 1913-2009. Professional pianist and conductor who founded the Haddo House Choral and Operatic Society, helping bring that culture thing to the NE.

The Great Tunes of Scotland

The Bonny Lass o’ Bon Accord. A Scott Skinner 1910 chart smash, memorable for Pete Murray’s introduction on that year’s Top of the Pops Christmas Show, where he urged the audience to “sing along with the words, they’re lovely”. The gype.

Hallelujah Freedom by Junior Campbell, formerly of Marmalade. 1972 was a vintage year for Top of the Pops, with Alice Cooper, Blackfoot Sue, Slade, T Rex and Hawkwind all  threatening the Wood Lane studio foundations. Yet few songs that year were better than this tasty titbit of joyous pop soul from Shettleston’s own Sedaka.

The Black Bear. Formation marching forgotten as drouthy regiments headed back to the barracks and the mess to this rousing pipe melody. Guffaw during The Longest Day as Lord Lovat orders his piper to play Blue Bonnets Over The Border and The Black Bear fills the speakers. Grimace at Andy Stewart’s use of the tune for his Tunes Of Glory.

Hermless, Scotland’s alternative national anthem, according to its writer, Mr Michael Marra, of Dundee. Gets right inside the true Scottish psyche. Learn it now, you may be lustily joining in with it at the Commonwealth Games in 2014. “…I ging to the lebry, I tak oot a book and then I go hame for ma tea”.

Thanks, The Donald min. They’ll still be “thon great heaps o’ sand atween Balmedie and Newburgh” as far as many natives and inaboot-comers are concerned, who didn’t realise their official title until you plonked your glorified pitch and putt course there. But I’ll never walk along that beach again without humming Hallelujah Freedom , the Scotland The Brave-based Grampian TV signature motif preceding a June Imray link, and musing on what might have been had Bobby Clark been selected for Scotland in May 1975.

Oct 102011

With thanks to Gordon Maloney.

On the 18th of October, university campuses across the country will be showing ‘Just Do It’, a truly inspiring film chronicling a year with direct-action environmental activists.

As one of the activists in the film says “”It doesn’t matter if it’s dodgy, if it’s big or small, you’ve just gotta do it” and while this is perhaps less elegant (or, arguably, more so) than the Suffragettes’ “deeds not words”, this message is just as pressing now as ever before.

After years of disillusionment over, at best stalled, at worst useless, “official processes” on climate change – as well as almost everything else from poverty to tax havens and employment – activists have learned that if they don’t take matters into their own hands, big business will.

What this film is about, more than anything else, is showing that direct action can change the world and that anyone can do it.

It is exciting, it’s fun and it’s a way to affect change now – and there’s nothing to be scared of. Would the fate of Woolworth’s have been different if, instead of leaving quietly, sacked workers had occupied their shops up and down the country? Precedent suggests that it may well have been.

What stopped them? Fear? Apathy? Maybe, but far more likely is the concerted campaign run by every organ of capitalism that tells us from birth that we can change nothing. This alienation is the greatest danger our society faces, because it disempowers us more than poverty and discrimination ever could.

Here at the University of Aberdeen, where one of the screenings is taking place, we have seen clearly the dangers of relying on politicians and the good-will of business.

Donald Trump’s golf development, on the unique and beautiful Balmedie beach, is a classic example of big money riding rough-shod over local democracy, advice from every reputable environmental organisation that’s looked at it and even the local people.

Less well known is Ian Woods’ plan to destroy the beautiful, historic Victorian sunken gardens in the centre of Aberdeen City. Again, here, the concerns of local people have been ignored – even though a consultation organised by Woods’ backers showed massive opposition to the plan – and we see, once more, the privatisation of public space in the name of profit for the few.

It is becoming clearer every day that asking politely simply doesn’t work, and this message is beginning to reverberate in the popular conscious. Mubarak was brought down by massive popular mobilisations and industrial actions, and those occupying Wall Street know that the banks won’t be reigned in by a petition.

The right to strike wasn’t won at the ballot box, it was won by striking – and people now understand that meaningful action on climate change isn’t going to come from nowhere, and it certainly isn’t going to come from business. It’s going to come from us.

Just Do It will be showing at the University of Aberdeen, MacRobert Building at 6pm in room MR051 on Tuesday the 18th. This is a free showing and students and non-students are more than welcome.

Jul 012011

By Bob Smith.

Hiv ye heard o the fairy tale
Fit’s telt bi oor local press
Faa boast they report aa local news?
A richt fable ye maun confess

An award winnin film ‘You’ve Been Trumped’
Ti a full picter hoose it played
Nivver a wird in the P&J
Nae EE heidlines iss made

Noo it wis the Scottish premier
O the story aboot fowk at Menie
Ye wid hae thocht iss warranted
A scrawl fae a journalist’s penie

Can ye tell fact fae fiction
Fan oor local press div print?
Stories aboot gyaan’s on at Menie
Ah’m feart the truth gits tint

Noo Trump flees in on private jet
Aa ower their front page it’s splashed
Yet aboot harassment o the Menie fowk
They’re nae aat bliddy fashed

Maybe o coorse oor local press
Ti print some stories they’re nae able
Jist in case they fin theirsels
Banished fae Trump’s tap table.

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2011