Mar 242017

Aberdeenshire’s Democratic Independent and Green Group (DIGG) councillors – Paul Johnston and Martin Ford – have welcomed a report on ‘Augmented provision for young people’ being considered at a meeting of their Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee. 

The report recommends how to use the additional £100,000 for ‘youth work’ included in Aberdeenshire’s 2017/18 revenue budget passed on 9 February.

The DIGG included £70,000 for youth work (re-allocated from within the community learning and development budget) in its draft 2017/18 budget proposals published last November.

Following budget discussions, £70,000 of new money for youth work was included in the Aberdeenshire administration’s 2017/18 budget proposals published on 2 February.

The amount for youth work was then increased from £70,000 to £100,000 after the Scottish Government announced additional funding for councils on 2 February and further discussions took place between the DIGG and the administration regarding the extra Government grant.

The DIGG argued that new Council funding for youth work was required to support activities that now fall outside the scope of community learning and development, and suggested either direct provision by the Council or grants to community groups would be appropriate.

Both direct provision and grants are now being recommended by officers. 

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“The DIGG identified funding for youth work as a budget priority and we are very pleased £100,000 has been included in the 2017/18 revenue budget.

“The report to the 23 March meeting of the Education and Children’s Services Committee means a decision can be taken on how to use the additional money before the financial year starts at the beginning of April.”

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Nov 222016

martinford-kintore-crossing-tallWith thanks to Martin Ford.

Aberdeenshire’sDemocratic Independent and Green Group of councillors (DIGG) is arguing the consultation on alternative service delivery models for sport and cultural services agreed at their council’s Education, Learning and Leisure Committee should form part of the expected wider consultation on budget options due to start later this year.

Aberdeenshire Council has agreed to follow a revised budget setting process for its 2017/18 budget in line with the decision taken at the Council’s budget meeting last February and in accordance with the provisions of the confidence and supply agreement between the DIGG and the Council’s coalition administration.

Draft budget proposals are to be published in November giving time for public consultation and to allow discussion on proposals between the various political groups on the Council ahead of formal budget decision making in February.

Cllr Martin Ford (pictured) said:

“I’m really not keen on the charitable trust proposal for future delivery of sport and cultural services. If it was not for the potential financial benefits – possibly betterment in excess of £1 million per annum – I don’t think the option would be under consideration. As it is, given the financial pressures on the Council and anticipated need for future savings, using a Council-owned charitable trust to deliver sport and cultural services has to be given serious consideration.”

Aberdeenshire Council is expected to have to make significant savings in its revenue budget for 2017/18 and in subsequent years. At this stage, before the Scottish Government grant settlement is known, there is considerable uncertainty about the amount the Council will have to save to balance its budget for next year.

However, based on reasonable assumptions, additional spending cuts or other savingstotalling over £10 million are expected to be required, over and above thesavings already identified in the draft 2017/18 revenue budget published last February.

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“In setting its revenue budget for 2017/18, Aberdeenshire Council is going to have to take a range of decisions driven by the need to save money. Moving to a Council-owned charitable trust to deliver sport and cultural services is one option that could be adopted.

“Deciding what to do to balance the revenue budget means comparing all the potential savings options and trying to identify the least damaging and disruptive way of achieving the spending reductions required. Public consultation on those savings options that would affect the Council’s public services should also allow simultaneous consideration of the different proposals, so their relative acceptability can be gauged.

“Including alternative models for the delivery of sport and cultural services in the Council’s budget consultation process is the logical way to proceed,”

Cllr Paul Johnston said:

“As part of consideration of alternative delivery models for sport and cultural services, I would want the Council to look at options for local control, not just a single Aberdeenshire-wide charitable trust.

“As a group, the DIGG aim to have a range of draft budget proposals ready for the November full council meeting, and will welcome the opportunity to get feedback and comment on these before the Council sets its revenue budget for 2017/18 next February.”

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Oct 212013

Two city youth councillors, Barry Black and Kenneth Watt, have backed a Scottish Parliament motion calling for the legislation making three religious figures on local authorities’ education committees necessary to be banned.


Instead of the religious committee members, Barry and Kenneth
believe that the positions should be filled by young people, who can be taken from democratically elected bodies such as the Scottish Youth Parliament or the Aberdeen City Youth Council.

Kenneth said:

“It is not correct in 2013 to have religious figureheads – who nobody elected and many disagree with – to be making decisions about school children.

“I firmly believe that multiculturalism should be a key part of religion in faith in school, however, this in no way makes it appropriate to have unelected people deciding the budget and crucial decisions for schools.

“The majority of young people have no affiliation to religion and by only selecting religious representatives from a faith with a ‘place of worship,’ minority faith groups and those who do not follow religion are not represented.”

Barry said:

“We have officially recognised youth groups at both national and local level – it would be a much better idea to utilise an elected young person to give input in to their education.

“Young people should be empowered to make decisions about what matters to them.”

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Sep 192013

Scottish ParliamentBy Suzanne Kelly.

As per previous articles, Menie Resident David Milne appeared before the Scottish Government’s Public Petitions Committee to request a public inquiry into the past and present situation at the Menie  Estate.

Over 19,400 people supported this call.

The Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Police Scotland, Aberdeenshire Council were going to have to answer some tough questions.

Each was asked by the Petitions Committee if they wanted an investigation.  Each said no. ‘Good Enough’ was in effect the Committee’s response; it sent Milne packing.

Before rubberstamping this blatant self-regulation by the organisations already in the firing line for their actions, the Committee allowed Milne to make a final statement.

Part of it can be found here: 31.08.13.pdf

But only part.  The Petitions Committee decided that the sections crossed out (redacted) were  potentially defamatory and/or possibly not from genuine sources. David Milne was urged to retract these crucial passages. He did not, and the result is that they were blacked out.

And what was so potentially scandalously defamatory? Precisely what did the Committee call into question as to its authenticity?

Information which has been in the public domain for years:  one a quote from Donald Trump, and the other a letter from Jack Perry (once Scottish Enterprise head) to Trump published in Aberdeen Voice, and obtained directly from Scottish Enterprise under Freedom of Information legislation.

it remains fact that many meetings took place between Trump, Swinney, and Salmond

These two items were and remain very damning to central government and Scottish Enterprise.

They should have been addressed, not put aside, and the public have every right to see information already in the public domain, to remind them of just how badly the public inquiry is needed.

It is unclear how any claim of potential defamation exists in the Trump quote. No one is named; the government is mentioned.  Here is the quote, as originally covered in national newspapers:-

“In an interview with Scotland on Sunday, the 66-year- old tycoon claims: “I give the Executive (Scottish Government] a lot of credit. They called me and really wanted me to continue going forward. I said are you kidding? I just lost. I don’t like to lose. They said no, you’ll win. They didn’t want me to leave.”

“Four days after the rejection, the Scottish Government “called in” the application on the grounds the decision put the integrity of the planning process in jeopardy. It then went to a public inquiry before being approved by finance secretary John Swinney.

“The revelation has brought calls for a new inquiry into the chain of events that preceded that decision.

Labour MSP Duncan McNeil, who led a Holyrood local government committee inquiry into the affair two years ago, said: “This is an explosive admission from Donald Trump. In many ways he has let the cat out of the bag and raises serious questions. The Scottish Government cannot form an impartial view on a planning application that has been called in if they have given secret guarantees to one side. There is now a case for reviewing the evidence in light of this new information.”
– The Scotsman, October 16 2010

While the Government and Trump bickered back and forth about these comments, it remains fact that many meetings took place between Trump, Swinney, and Salmond (on one occasion at least with the taxpayer flying Jack Perry to New York) in advance of and during the planning application process.

Coming over all coy about this 2010 comment in 2013 is curious, and it would be interesting to know the source of this sudden queasiness.

The petitions committee would be more than welcome to issue me with an apology

In a move I find personally insulting (who knows? – I may take action at what I consider to be comments defamatory to me), the Petitions Committee redacted the Jack Perry letter.

They decreed that unless Jack Perry concurred the letter was from him, they would not allow its use.  They admit they saw the letter, but were not sure if it was genuine.

For the avoidance of doubt, I received this letter by email in response to a Freedom of Information request I made to Scottish Enterprise. It was emailed to me from Scottish Enterprise. SE further advises that other correspondence may have been ‘lost’ when a member of staff left.  There is for instance no correspondence post course construction, yet a glowing recommendation from Jack Perry appeared on the Trump website.  I had to make several requests of SE to receive correspondence, and am surprised that an employee leaving would result in their work somehow being deleted or lost.

The petitions committee would be more than welcome to issue me with an apology for casting aspersions on whether or not a letter I produced was genuine. I will not hold my breath.

In the meantime, here again is the text of the letter:-

“You may or may not recall that I had the pleasure in October 2006 of joining you for lunch in the Trump Tower with the then First Minister, Mr Jack McConnell.  At that time, you shared with us your vision for the development for the Menie Estate.  We at Scottish Enterprise (S) certainly shared your excitement over this project.  As the project developed we believed and still do that the economic benefits to Scotland of this project were substantial.

“Accordingly, we were profoundly dismayed by the decision made by the Aberdeenshire Council Infrastructure Committee to reject the planning application for this project. I recorded that disappointment in a personal letter to Ms Anne Robertson, Leader of Aberdeenshire Council. As you know, since then the Scottish Government has decided to ‘call in’ the application. Rightly and properly, Scottish Government Minister’s [sic] will not now comment on the application but I regard their action as encouraging. We concur with the Scottish Government’s contention that this is genuinely a project of national importance to Scotland.

“I have taken the liberty of discussing the matter with the Chairman of the Scottish Parliament’s Enterprise, Energy and Tourism Committee to make him aware of our support for the project and to offer any evidence to him and his committee should they require [sic].

“While this Committee has no role in the approval process of your application, it is possible they may consider the repercussions of Aberdeenshire Council’s decision on Scotland’s tourism industry. I have also now spoken about this matter to the Shadow Enterprise Ministers from the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties in the Scottish Parliament. I have tried to make it clear in these discussions that the impact of Aberdeenshire Council’s decision goes far beyond the immediate issue of the Trump development but has much wider implications for Scotland’s international image and reputation as a country which welcomes investment.

“I have been greatly encouraged by the unequivocal support from the Scottish business community which your project was [sic] attracted. I remain hopeful that Scottish Government Ministers will address this matter with speed. We shall continue to provide whatever evidence and support we can, should we be called to do so.

“For your information,  I have also been greatly encouraged over the past few days by the support shown by the Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Forum [ACSEF] whose chairman, Mr Patrick Machray, has been very public and very vocal in support of the Trump development.  Patrick is also the Chairman of Scottish Enterprise Grampian.  As Scotland’s principal economic development agency, we at Scottish Enterprise wish to see your development proceed. We will continue to do what we can to help. 

CC (redacted), Lorna Jack, Patrick Machray”
– Perry to Trump 7 December 2007, sent via email to S Kelly Wed, 29 May 2013 16:17

What do the Committee say about the redacted text? What do they say about ignoring Milne’s arguments? What do they say about dismissing the will of 19,400 people? What do they say about the most flawed methodology in the history of investigation?

Nothing. They sent the following:-

“Thank you for your email. I am responding in my capacity as Convener of the Public Petitions Committee.  I appreciate that you and others feel strongly about the issues raised in the petition.  However having considered the matter, the Committee members decided to close the petition for the reason given. 

“In relation to procedure, the Scottish Parliament’s public petitions process provides that the Public Petitions Committee shall take such action as it considers appropriate in relation to any petition and that it may close a petition at any time. There is no appeal process against a decision of the Committee.”
– David Stewart MSP – email to me from Committee on Mon, 16 Sep 2013 16:12 (hopefully, they will not accuse me of fabricating this!)

Getting the government to open this huge can of worms and put its institutions under a microscope was a big ask. The committee might not be pursuing the answers, but others are.

David Milne told Aberdeen Voice:

“Now that I have finally finished laughing at the self incriminating actions of the public petitions committee I have to say I am saddened by their lack of interest in the facts of the matter. They have in effect proven my case better than I ever could have done, the way they so readily brushed aside facts that have been in the public domain for many years and have now given the appearance of trying to airbrush them out of existence, proves the need for an inquiry.

“They have shown that the governance of this country cannot be trusted and if they truly believe that the people of this country will quietly turn and walk away cowed and defeated, they are sadly mistaken”

Further investigation is taking place. Further Freedom of Information requests are in progress, and cases will be built for presentation to other regulatory institutions; there are other avenues to explore.

Mr Milne continues:

“Tomorrow is another day and a future for this country still beckons brightly, we will see it realised even with direct interference and obstruction from those who believe they are in power. The truth has a habit coming to the surface and it will do so, in due course.”

If anyone is dissatisfied with this decision and state of affairs, this would be an excellent time to contact your elected representatives.

This is not, as some might feel, a defeat and the end of the matter. Some might even say this is the government’s committee showing its real colours. And that is where things stand: for now.

Further information on the need for a public inquiry:-

Scottish Parliament image – Credit:

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Aug 272013
Plaque at Menie with wild claim that dunes are the world's largest.

Plaque at Menie with wild claim that dunes are the world’s largest.

Suzanne Kelly sets out part 2 of her case for a public inquiry, examining the role of the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural heritage and the police.

“It’s a request about good governance, about the way planning rules are set and managed – about the way the relationship between officials and developers are kept within appropriate bounds…” 
– David Milne, The Scotsman

What’s wrong with the state of play at the Trump International Golf Links Scotland course and its genesis?

The following, among others, think quite a lot:

The institutions which would appear at the public inquiry are: Aberdeenshire Council, Scottish Enterprise, Police Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, and The Scottish Government. Their representatives – often the very people who would have been in place when things were going awry – are writing to the Committee, insisting everything is fine and all  the evidence has already been examined. This is demonstrably untrue.

Information continues to emerge (e.g. from FOIs to Police Scotland and Scottish Enterprise; the ‘disappearance’ of MEMAG, (the environmental group meant to observe and recommend), and problems continue to either arise (e.g. the new course is set to border a public park) or they remain unresolved (e.g. bunds blocking Munro home).

Munro bunds gateThose who gave the Trump golf complex project the thumbs up are giving a thumbs down to an inquiry into the emerging details of how they and their institutions acted in the past and present. No surprise there of course.

With no inquiry, the future for civil rights, journalistic freedom, equal protection of law, restrictions on quango interference with government, unchecked civil servant conduct, independence of local government and our environment (for openers) looks pretty bleak.

There are relevant issues that have never been addressed whatsoever :–

  • the growing number of work taking place which require retrospective planning,
  • the genesis and status of the bunds which cut properties off from light and view, and which have causing property damage (sand and dirt from bunds has blown into the Munro garden, home and motor vehicles)
  • how the Shire insisted weekly site visits ensured no deviation was taking place,
  • how MEMAG (set up as a result of the Scottish Reporter’s Report) proved to be such an inefficient environmental force and what its current status is
  • how and why Dr Christine Gore (then with Aberdeenshire planning) came to communicate with lawyers representing Trump, seemingly taking direction from them – and how instead of being criticised she became promoted
  • how efficiently the council, Scottish Natural Heritage and SEPA are monitoring the environmental situation (residents report trees have been buried; how a very large rubbish tip of mixed material (including unlabelled bottles possibly containing chemicals) came to be on the estate and how it was disposed of, what chemicals are being used, what is happening to biodiversity; what was their interaction with MEMAG, what chemicals are in use on the course;
  • how the police dealt with the arrests of journalists Phinney and Baxter; how much time and effort they spent accompanying Trump/Trump personnel to and from the airport;
  • how the police dealt with Michael Forbes, who was cautioned for removing £11 worth of plastic border flags put on land he believed was his;
  • why the police chose not to pursue action against the Trump organisation which had allegedly gone onto the Milne property, removing items and causing damage – especially when Milne offered them a video of the event:  they refused to take the evidence;
  • why this application was called in in the first place – did government seek to ignore its own SSSI designations to allow a dining chum of the First Minister (one who has some unsavoury connections as Panorama revealed) to build a golf course and housing on one of our most unspoilt, environmentally sensitive regions?

Having looked at the responses from Aberdeenshire Government and unelected Scottish Enterprise, this second part of the article now looks at Police Scotland (formerly Grampian Police in our area), The Scottish Government, and Scottish Natural Heritage.

Police Scotland

Submission to the Committee by Derek Penman, Assistant Chief Constable, Policing North

Police Comments on Scrutiny:

“Police Scotland remain completely neutral on all matters concerning the development of the Menie Project with our focus remaining on ensuring that officers approach their duties with integrity, fairness and respect for all parties involved, and only taking action where appropriate to address behaviour which breaches the criminal law.

“It is our position that all officers involved in the policing response connected with this development have carried out their duties in an impartial and transparent manner.

“Prior to Police Scotland and in response to media interest in relation to the police action around the Menie Project, Grampian Police commissioned an independent peer review, conducted by Northern Constabulary, which reported in November 2011 that there was good evidence that impartiality is a major factor in all decision making. The action taken was lawful, proportionate and in keeping with the strategic aims. There was no evidence of any individual, group or organisation being favoured’.

“Notwithstanding, Grampian Police acknowledged there were occasions where they could have provided a better service. On each of these occasions, explanations, and where appropriate, apologies have been provided to those concerned.”

“There are currently no outstanding complaints against the police nor, to the best of our knowledge, has any associated matter yet been referred to the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner. This is a legitimate avenue of recourse for any party who remains dissatisfied at the response to any complaint against the police, and also highlighted as an option by a committee member at the recent Public Petitions Committee.

“In the continued interests of transparency, balanced against a requirement to maintain confidentiality where appropriate, Grampian Police (and subsequently, Police Scotland) have made over 200 documents, emails and other records available to the public, including various media agencies and other individuals who have requested them. Most, if not all of these documents have subsequently been made widely available and/or reported upon, either by those who have requested them, or on the world wide web and/or through various media outlets.

“In conclusion, Police Scotland is satisfied that the policing response by Grampian Police into the development at Menie was undertaken in an impartial manner and has been subject to review.”

It seems incredible that Police Scotland claim all aspects of how they acted have been fairly, fully, independently investigated, and there is no need for the requested inquiry (as SE, Aberdeenshire, central government and others have tried claim). But they’re trying it anyway.

They have still not explained how they came to arrest two journalists

At the time of writing, their claims of disclosure and peer investigation aside, there are still outstanding issues; surely the letter’s author must know this. Issues which should be covered include alleged property damage and trespass at the Milne home, the cost of extra policing provided to Trump, the treatment of Michael Forbes, and not least how two journalists came to be arrested in the absence of any evidence or just cause.

With regard to the Milne Property, some people trespassed, removed fencing, and caused damage:  David Milne has a video.  The police refuse to explain why they showed no interest in this video, and refused to take action.  A current FOI request concerning this incident is ongoing, but they will not say why their solicitor decided not to pursue the case, and why they refused to look at the evidence Milne offered.  This hardly agrees with their assertion all information is in the public domain.

Police Scotland also refuse to say how much money has been spent by the taxpayer on policing Trump. The police seem to agree their presence is needed when Trump or his operatives travel to or from Aberdeen Airport to Menie.  They admit some £8k was spent for a cancelled event – yet claim they could not determine the cost of extra policing given to Trump.  Surely a check of payroll records for increased  presence/overtime on Trump travel days would give this information.

It is most worrying to contrast the different treatment given to Trump compared to the caution given to Michael Forbes over boundary flags Trump agents put in a field Forbes believed he owns.  He was later charged with theft – of £11’s worth of flags left in a field he believes he owns, when he had made efforts to give the flags back.  The police also stood by when Trump agents went onto Forbes held property and caused damage.  Police were allegedly tipped off that a ‘demonstration’ would be going on, although there was no sign of this, they remained and allowed Trump agents onto the disputed land, and watched as Forbes property was damaged.  They simply stood by.  By contrasting this incident with the police refusal to investigate the Milne damage/theft when they refused to look at evidence, and you can see that an independent investigation is needed with full disclosure.

Then we come to the arrest famously caught on film of two journalists whose crime seems to have been going to the Trump estate office to ask about restoring water to residents (the  Trump builders damaged the local water supply, leaving residents without running water for a week; no remedial action was taken).  Image control seems to have trumped robust, fair policing.  Rob Edwards wrote an article detailing how the police put their efforts into managing the public relations aspects of a TV screening of ‘you’ve been trumped’ which showed them arresting – roughly arresting – Baxter and Phinney, who had been working on their documentary.

No such efforts seem to have ever been directed at determining who ordered the arrest, or how the police decided on the use of the controversial charge ‘breach of the peace’ (which seems to be a blank arrest warrant).

Paul Holleran of the NUJ said of the journalists’ arrests:-

“This is blatant example of police interference aimed at stopping bona fide journalists from doing their job. Their footage shows they were asking very pertinent questions in a mannerly fashion as befits professional journalists. I believe this is a breach of human rights, and we are taking legal advice.”

The police were happy enough to create a special initiative for policing the area.  In September 2011 they wrote to me; here is an excerpt:-

“However, 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)’ with a remit to coordinate the prepared phase of ‘critical incidents’.

“A ‘critical incident’ is determined in the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) Critical Incident Management Practice Advice as;- ‘any incident where the effectiveness of the police response is likely to have a significant impact on the confidence of the victim, their family and/or the community’

“Accordingly, this development was founded on guidance contained within the NPIA manual and centred around the ‘three phases of critical incident management’ determined as

  • “Preparation
  • “Management
  • “Restoring Best Confidence

“From this, a generic, local strategy relevant to Menie Estate and other similar developments was developed.

“This has been determined as;-

  • “Maximise safety;
  • “Minimise disruption;
  • “Facilitate lawful protest;
  • “Deter, detect, detain and report those responsible for unlawful behaviour.”

A public inquiry should look at the way this strategy evolved, who decided on its nature and application in principle, and not least its legality.

What police powers were invoked at the estate and where their lawful application was either overstepped (Phinney, Baxter) or ignored (Milne) needs to be examined, and flaws ironed out for the future.

is there not a huge potential for future abuse of power?

Photographer Alicia Bruce was aggressively threatened by an on-site security guard so much so she called the police.   Their approach?  They tried to dissuade her from making a complaint against the guard because he could get in trouble.  Compare and contrast that with their arrest of Baxter and Phinney.

If the police do wish to be ‘restoring best [sic] confidence’ then they should submit to an inquiry.

A police state?  If the police can stretch the power to ‘detect’ and ‘deter’ anything they deem potentially unlawful; if they have wide sweeping, unspecified powers to ‘maximise safety’ – is there not a huge potential for future abuse of power?

The power to issue cautions to those who have been arrested has led in the cases of Baxter, Phinney and in cautioning Forbes to situations where people have been denied the chance of going to court to state their side of the issue – while at the same time being in effect bound over not to do anything the police might not like.

It is intimidating. But is it lawful?

Likewise the application of ‘breach of the peace’ seems to be a very open-ended issue with potential for abuse and over-use.  A public inquiry could ask the police to explain themselves on these points in this situation.  Additionally, a recommendation for review of these wide sweeping powers would be most welcome.

There are signs the police were growing jaded by Trump’s demands ; perhaps it is time for them to welcome this inquiry, explain themselves, and tell us who is accountable for this rather iniquitous catalogue of events, and to give assurances things will improve.

Everyone understood their roles; everyone acted perfectly

Scotland is now a country that locks up journalists, on the say-so of an entity with links to organised crime (as Panorama claims). If that alone is not grounds for an inquiry into the entire saga, then what would be?

The Scottish Government

Submission to the Committee by Scottish Enterprise Chief Executive, Lyndsey Murray, Decisions Manager, writing on behalf of the Directorate for Local Government and Communities – Planning and Architecture Division

Scottish Government Comments on Scrutiny: (opens with lengthy history of the decision being called in, Scottish Reporters creating their report)

“The Scottish Government has released a substantial amount of information into the public domain through evidence given to the Local Government & Communities Committee’s inquiry … a significant number of answers given to Parliamentary Questions and responses to a substantial volume of correspondence to date. The information released shows that Ministers are fully aware of their responsibilities in relation to planning and have discharged these responsibilities fairly and responsibly having regard to the Ministerial Code.

“The documents also show that civil servants involved in the handling of the case have fully met the standards of propriety expected of them as per the Civil Service Code. Kevin Dunion, the former Scottish Information Commissioner, in an interview with Holyrood magazine in December 2011 stated:

“’I think a sensible government, and we have seen a couple of examples of this in Scotland where the Government has done it very well, where they say something is of such public interest that let’s get into a position of strength and put everything in the public domain. Our government did that over the Trump development which was causing a lot of headlines and the Government said, well, here is the information that we have regarding our engagement with Donald Trump.’”

“Scottish Parliament‘s findings in relation to the handling of the call in of thapplication by Scottish Government.

“The Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee published a report, on 14 March 2008, on their consideration of the Scottish Government’s handling of the “call-in” of the outline planning application which concluded that Ministers and officials had acted in accordance with planning legislation.  Paragraph 63 of this report sets out a detailed chronology of events, established through a detailed examination of available documentation and through questioning of the key participants.

“Post decision on the outline planning consent

“Aberdeenshire Council is responsible for planning matters within its area and for enforcing the conditions attached to the grant of planning permission for Menie Estate. Any planning application for development at Menie Estate, subsequent to Ministers’ approval of outline consent in 2008, is a matter for the planning authority.”

And there it is.  Everyone understood their roles; everyone acted perfectly, and if you don’t believe Murray, you can believe an excerpt from 2011 from the ex-Information Commissioner in Holyrood Magazine.

No mention of Christine Gore dealing with Anne Faulds of the Trump legal team.  No impropriety in the transatlantic wining and dining.

No problem with the Reporters’ Report (for openers it uses emotive, leading, subjective terminology when referring to the proposed development – ‘world-class’.. ‘the applicant estimates that it would bring major benefits…’ ‘a course which avoided the SSSI would not achieve the applicant’s ambitions and the development would not proceed’.. and some clearly overly optimistic promises:  ‘an estimated 4,694 net full time equivalent construction jobs… 1,237 net full time equivalent jobs from ongoing operations, both at the Scottish level.’  (see pages 6 and 7 of the Report –

No mention either of the curious status of Professor Bill Ritchie, which is nearly as cryptic as the MEMAG he headed.  He is listed as being a pro-Trump witness and yet the document also contradicts this on Page 81 where it states:-

 “[Ritchie] gave geomorphological advice to TIGLS on an independent basis, based solely on scientific judgement.  He does not support or oppose the proposed development at Menie Links.”

Was Ritchie reimbursed for this ‘independent advice he gave Trump?  He would eventually head MEMAG (whether any fees were paid to the mysterious MEMAG’s members would be very interesting to learn).

there is more evidence that this knowledge was not applied

How you can claim independence while consulting Trump and then create a  role for yourself within MEMAG, which you recommended be created should make a fascinating conversation. (I should love to hear more from this University of Aberdeen professor, but he is not answering emails at present).

Did Dr Christine Gore, then in Planning at Aberdeenshire understand her role as well as Lyndsey Murray asserts?  If so, why was she dealing with Ann Faulds?

Was it above reproach for Salmond to have dinner dates with Trump when the plans were being formulated?

Despite Murray’s assertions everyone knew their roles, there is more evidence that this knowledge was not applied. There was the famous phone call with Sorial present – is and other instances of our local and central government meeting with Trump camp are detailed as Murray says in the Local Government and Communities  5th Report 2008 Planning Application Processes (Menie Estate).

It shows a great level of interaction with local planners, central government and Trump factions – and virtually no contact with the government’s environmental entities.  Its scope seems to be the planning process and sequence of events. It is certainly damning in places, but it would feed into the proposed inquiry – certainly it would not replace it due to its limited scope.

Point 45 is itself worthy of some attention by an inquiry:-

“It is important to note that the provisions of the 2006 Act relating to the hierarchy of developments are yet to be enacted and do not apply to the Trump application.  As such the Trump application is neither a national or major development, as defined in the 2006 Act.” Page 8

In light of the above, is it wrong to wonder if the act of calling this application in was a political one?

Murray would point out that the information is in the public domain for the TIGLS development, and that everyone in the chain observed the proprieties.  He would reach a conclusion favouring his government and his office; the facts are as we have shown just a bit out of sync with his (bias?) conclusion-drawing.  A particular event, which the 2008 refers to as ‘brief’ is this:-

“Aberdeenshire council officials disclosed that they had to terminate a telephone discussion with Jim McKinnon, Scotland’s chief planner, on the disputed application, when they realised that members of the Trump Organisation were in his office.

“The phone call was just hours before Mr McKinnon informed councillors that Scottish ministers had taken control of the planning decision, and less than a day after Mr Salmond met with Mr Trump’s team.

In light of First Minister/SE/Trump dinners, a phone call  with Sorial present to top planners, Gore communicating with Faulds, no one appearing to seek government advice (only the Trump team’s advice seems to have mattered), Murray’s assurances are not as comforting as he would have us believe.  It is inquiry time.

Scottish Natural Heritage

Submission to the Committee by Ewen Cameron, Tayside & Grampian Operations Manager.

SNH Comments on Scrutiny:  They objected to the plans; they have been in a largely consultative position; they will supply documentation if required. Unlike all other respondents, they are not saying there is no need for a public inquiry.

Passages, frankly, boring ones, about dune shift were not going to stop Trump

You have to feel a bit sorry for SNH; they were certainly not invited to any steak dinners; they were not invited to the Marcliffe; they did not lobby government – perhaps they did not think they needed to.

After all, the law was supposed to protect the environment, a golf course can be built most anywhere, and surely Scottish Enterprise and VisitScotland – two quangos – could not successfully wine, dine and lobby their goals successfully in view of environmental law?  Alas, that’s what happened.

If the SNH submission to the Reporters had been as emphatic, enthusiastic, promise-filled and accessible as the submissions for Trump, things might have been different.  Passages, frankly, boring ones, about dune shift were not going to stop Trump.  Perhaps they felt that Professor Ritchie, heading MEMAG, would be all the environmental enforcement they needed?

As we’ve seen, the professor professed neutrality, while consulting with Trump and while planning MEMAG, which he would join.  MEMAG has faded; it has removed its minutes (the last ones indicated communication failures and the lack of Trump attendance at meetings).  No one including central government can tell me precisely what its status is.

And yet SNH indicated in its letter to the Petitions Committee:-

“The ecological clerk of works copied us into reports which they sent regularly to Aberdeenshire Council on behalf of Trump Golf Links Scotland… we would also raise matters in MEMAG meetings.  We have attended regular meetings of MEMAG since its inception.”

The letter is dated 5 July 2013.  When did SNH meet MEMAG last?

How can a system allow a developer to be his own watchdog?

Who was in charge of the environment?  It seems paid Trump personnel.  Who salaried the ecological clerk of works?  MEMAG was  paid for by Trump.  How can a system allow a developer to be his own watchdog?

I do feel for the SNH; it would be interesting to know if any political pressure or influence was used to dissuade them from proactively protecting the area.  It does not seem that far-fetched an idea; and an independent public inquiry could ensure future environmental monitoring and environmental protection powers are guaranteed, and responsibilities clear-cut.

Case Proven:  An Inquiry Is Needed

In Part 1 of ‘Menie: The Case For A Public Inquiry’ an overview was given on Aberdeenshire Council’s and Scottish Enterprises’ written submissions to the Petitions Committee that all was right with the world.

With information still coming out – as well as having been ‘lost’ – by Scottish Enterprise (which claims it has lost/discarded correspondence re.  Jack Perry/Trump), the case for an inquiry has never been clearer.   The public inquiry is required, not only to re-examine a flawed report created by the Scottish Reporters at the time, and all the other issues, but to ensure that lessons are learned.

The institutions which should be eager to clear the air and explain their seemingly bias, unorthodox actions are instead claiming they’ve already released all their information, and that they have done nothing wrong.  Where such investigations do exist, such as for the police and the Scottish government, the examining bodies have links to the organisations they were investigating.

Given the conclusions that such examinations reached, exonerating those involved from any wrongdoing, the case for independent inquiry is further strengthened.  Phonecalls from the Marcliffe with Sorial present?  Police refusal to investigate the damage/theft at the Milne property – and their ongoing refusal to explain this are absolutely at odds with claims that any robust, independent inquiry has taken place.

If a public inquiry doesn’t take place, what kind of local and national government do we have in place?  What kind of accountability will we see for what has happened? What kind of message would the absence of an inquiry send?

It would enforce the ability of powerful developers to construct how they please

If the inquiry does not take place, it would be a thumbs up for government ministers and quangos meeting with planning applicants when plans are under scrutiny. It would be affirmation that quangos can lobby government and prevail with their plans, overriding environmental protection designations such as SSSIs. It would be a go-ahead for planners to take legal advice and suggestions from lawyers representing planning applications.

It would be a green light for unaccountable, ineffectual ad hoc environmental ‘watchdogs’ to be invented, trotted out to demonstrate some sort of environmental concern exists; then to in fact be ignored by developers, to fail dismally to communicate and protect, and to be mysteriously wound down when no longer needed for press calls.

It would be a go-ahead for further national call-ins of local matters. Where would this end?

It would be carte blanche for police to enforce laws or not, acting arbitrarily. It would enforce the ability of powerful developers to construct how they please, in effect walling up residents with giant bunds and dying trees.  A refusal to hold an inquiry would be nothing short of an insult to the 19,000+ people who want one.  It will mean status quo at this out-of-control development.

Possibly worst of all, it will send a clear message out to future developers that anything they want is theirs for the price of a few expensive dinners.

Until that inquiry, we are not just open for business, we are selling our heritage, biodiveristy and environment for money, and we seem to be in bed with what seems to be a rather unsavoury developer.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Aug 092013

By Suzanne Kelly.

In the wake of the Trump Organisation’s activities at the Menie Estate and its interactions with government, the impartiality of some of our public servants and representatives has been called into question.

Over 19,000 people have signed local resident David Milne’s petition requesting a public inquiry, which will be decided by The Scottish Government’s Petitions Committee.

Such an inquiry would put local and national government, Police Scotland and Scottish Enterprise and more under the microscope, and they don’t want that.

Despite the protestations of these organisations, the requested inquiry is not only about uncovering past activities, it is also about what is going on in the present, and making changes for the future.

Following Milne’s appearance, the Petitions Committee requested comment from SNH, Marine Scotland, Aberdeenshire Council, Police Scotland and Scottish Enterprise Grampian. With concerns still emerging across all these bodies regarding past and present incidents, the case for an independent inquiry seems clear.

In a two-part story, here are the bodies’ arguments as to why the inquiry isn’t needed, and the reasons why there must be a public, independent inquiry.


Menie Resident David Milne created an online petition calling for a public inquiry into present as well as past public sector activities at the Menie Estate. The estate, once an unspoilt, sparsely-populated area on the North East coast of Scotland is to be transformed into two golf courses, a hotel and hundreds of homes, compromising two Sites of Specific Scientific Interest in the process.

Milne’s petition, signed by over 19,000 people was heard by the Petitions Committee at Holyrood.

David Milne’s petition, which can be found here, states:-

“We are calling on the Scottish Parliament, through the Public Petitions Committee, to urge the Scottish Government to hold a public inquiry into the way local government, Scottish Ministers and other relevant public bodies conducted themselves throughout their dealings with the Trump Organisation in relation to the Menie”

From the responses coming in from our government’s agencies, you could be forgiven for thinking the call was simply for a review of past activities. Generally speaking, almost all of the statements made to the press, and the official responses to the committee to date, claim that the agencies do not want this inquiry.

Those in the firing line are taking the position that the issues are in the past, and this was ‘the most scrutinised planning application’ in Scottish history.  Sarah Malone, VP at Trump Golf Links International Scotland told STV:-

“This has been the most scrutinised golf development in history. The project has already gone through a public inquiry and a very lengthy planning process.

“Mr Milne needs to move on. The championship course is now established and drawing thousands of golfers from around the world to the North-east of Scotland, as well as creating business opportunities and much needed jobs.”

Malone’s comments about the project have nothing to do with the full scope of the requested investigation. Indeed, the very act of calling the application in by a government which wined and dined Trump both sides of the Atlantic should perhaps itself be investigated.

There is little doubt Malone, married to Damian Bates of the overwhelmingly pro-Trump Press & Journal, wishes Milne and the rest of the residents would ‘move on’.

At one point a Trump operative pretended to be a private home buyer, and approached the residents, wanting to buy their homes on the false pretence that he and his wife ‘fell in love with the area.’

As for Malone’s claims that thousands are playing the course, this may be true, but it is far from booked to capacity according to the online booking form. Have the thousands of jobs materialised? Has the local economy received great economic benefits? Perhaps the investigation should include those questions in its scope as well.

Its minutes reveal communication issues, lack of site visits and lack of Trump employee attendance

The argument by those seeking to avoid an inquiry because of past scrutiny does not bear analysis. The planning application’s past history is assuredly of interest; there are still details emerging as to how individuals and institutions acted. However, there are many issues which were never explored, and some that were brushed aside.

There was no meaningful scrutiny of what went on behind the scenes before, during and after the planning permission was granted. There was never any scrutiny of the roles played by local and central government, Police Scotland, Scottish Enterprise or environmental groups meant to safeguard the area, including the dysfunctional, disappeared MEMAG, an environmental entity set up to watch over the estate.

Its minutes reveal communication issues, lack of site visits and lack of Trump employee attendance at meetings. Crucially, there are ongoing problems, and a public, independent inquiry would hopefully examine these in detail. This is what Milne is calling for.

As David Mine indicated:-

“This isn’t about me or anybody else against Trump, but an effort to try and ensure that those who were responsible for making numerous mistakes and breaches of the rules are held to account, and an attempt to prevent anything similar happening again in the future.”

On May 14 2013 the Petitions Committee heard Milne and asked questions about his request. They then called for the public bodies involved to respond. Predictably, the responses indicate that the bodies do not want an inquiry.  Surely, if everything was handled correctly, an inquiry should be welcomed by all sides to clear the air?

It is currently only Police Scotland that seems to admit any failings at all; at the time of writing, their submission to the committee is not available. As to the other organisations and quangos involved, to paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies, commenting at the height of another high-level scandal ‘Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?’. 

Here are details of the Scottish Enterprise and Aberdeenshire Council submissions, with relevant reasons why they inquiry is needed despite their protestations.

Scottish Enterprise

Submission to the Committee by Scottish Enterprise Chief Executive, Dr Lena Wilson.

SE Comments on Scrutiny:

“Over recent years, our engagement with the Trump Organisation has been the subject of numerous FoI requests and as such this information is in the public domain. At all times we have endeavoured to provide a full and comprehensive account of all staff engagement and SE’s relationship and role with regard to the Menie Estate development.”

Highlights from the body of the letter:-

“In 2005/6 SE Grampian conducted a Feasibility Study of the Menie House Estate to assess the economic viability of a 5-star hotel and golf resort …also commissioned a promotional DVD to showcase the project to the international market and to promote and increase the profile of Grampian as an attractive inward investment location.  ..The Trump Organisation contacted the Menie Estate directly, with no involvement from SE… the Feasibility Study has been made public under FoI…  “

“Through our international arm, Scottish Development International we were alerted by a third party that the Trump Organisation was looking for locations in Scotland and Ireland for a prospective golf development. When we met with representatives of the Trump Organisation, the Menie Estate had already been identified by the organisation as a possible site.

“SE Grampian was supportive of the proposals for a golf development at the Menie Estate, given the economic impact it would have on the region.  SE Grampian (and subsequently SE) did not offer or commit funds in support of the proposed Trump development in Aberdeen.  In 2007, our former Chief Executive wrote to the Trump Organisation on the matter of the planning application decision.”


This response does little to explain the role Scottish Enterprise had in the successful planning application. It might refer to the contents of the 2007 letter Perry sent Trump, but the contents and implications should surely be subject to a public inquiry.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the determination of an unelected quango, whose head accompanied the First Minister to dinner with Trump, outweighed the legal status of SSSI land, and the wishes of Scottish Natural Heritage, the views of which never seem to have been sought when SE decided to market the Menie Estate.

Aberdeen Voice obtained the 2007 letter some months ago from a FoI request.

There are indications too that correspondence from SE to Trump, Aberdeenshire Council (and possibly other entities), which simply must have existed have been lost, discarded or not disclosed. More details to follow, and will appear in a separate forthcoming article.

letter also provides among other things a nice list of Perry’s pro-Trump lobbying efforts

For instance, SE claim that no correspondence took place between 2008 and the present between it and Trump.

Magically, a ringing endorsement for the club by Jack Perry, SE, appears on the club’s website – a site that did not exist until after the planning go-ahead was granted, and after the December 2007 letter they mention.

It seems too that correspondence from Perry on the subject of Trump cannot be found, perhaps an inquiry can get SE to explain how so much happened with so little correspondence, or whether correspondence was definitely deleted – and if so why. Additionally, since Perry tells of writing to the head of Aberdeenshire Council ‘expressing dismay’, there should then be a letter to this effect somewhere.

The SE logo and Craw appear in a pro-Trump video shown at a public meeting, apparently taken from STV. SE, supporting Trump, had no problem in letting this go without complaint.  No doubt therefore that anyone is at liberty to use the SE logo, which of course implies SE endorsement, with impunity.

This December 2007 Perry letter also provides among other things a nice list of Perry’s pro-Trump lobbying efforts, all of course made possible by the public purse.

Here are excerpts from the 7th December 2007 letter Perry wrote to Trump:-

“You may or may not recall that I had the pleasure in October 2006 of joining you for lunch in the Trump Tower with the then First Minister, Mr Jack McConnell.  …We at Scottish Enterprise certainly shared your excitement over this project. As the project developed we believed and still do that the economic benefits to Scotland of this project were substantial.

“Accordingly, we were profoundly dismayed by the decision made by the Aberdeenshire Council Infrastructure Committee to reject the planning application for this project. I recorded that disappointment in a personal letter to Ms Anne Robertson, Leader of Aberdeenshire Council. As you know, since then the Scottish Government has decided to ‘call in’ the application. Rightly and properly, Scottish Government Minister’s [sic] will not now comment on the application but I regard their action as encouraging. We concur with the Scottish Government’s contention that this is genuinely a project of national importance to Scotland.

“I have taken the liberty of discussing the matter with the Chairman of the Scottish Parliament’s Enterprise, Energy and Tourism Committee to make him aware of our support for the project and to offer any evidence to him and his committee should they require [sic].

“While this Committee has no role in the approval process of your application, it is possible they may consider the repercussions of Aberdeenshire Council’s decision on Scotland’s tourism industry. I have also now spoken about this matter to the Shadow Enterprise Ministers from the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties in the Scottish Parliament. I have tried to make it clear in these discussions that the impact of Aberdeenshire Council’s decision goes far beyond the immediate issue of the Trump development but has much wider implications for Scotland’s international image and reputation as a country which welcomes investment.

“I have been greatly encouraged by the unequivocal support from the Scottish business community which your project was [sic] attracted. I remain hopeful that Scottish Government Ministers will address this matter with speed. We shall continue to provide whatever evidence and support we can, should we be called to do so.

“For your information, I have also been greatly encouraged over the past few days by the support shown by the Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Forum [ACSEF] whose chairman, Mr Patrick Machray, has been very public and very vocal in support of the Trump development. Patrick is also the Chairman of Scottish Enterprise Grampian. As Scotland’s principal economic development agency, we at Scottish Enterprise wish to see your development proceed. We will continue to do what we can to help.  “

CC (redacted), Lorna Jack, Patrick Machray

One of the glaring issues is the reference to Scottish Government’s predisposition to go ahead with this project, prior to the government reporters making their report. If the head of the government you worked for wanted a particular result, and if that knowledge was well known, viz public dinners and meetings with the applicant, lobbying letters from SE, etc., would you possibly be pre-disposed to doing what your employer wanted?

An inquiry should look at the lobbying admitted to and what repercussions this had in terms of creating pressure to press ahead with the Trump plans.

Quango watchers will not be surprised by the overlap between ACSEF and SE; both unelected, both lobbying for their own causes with public money.

despite the expert opinion of Sarah Malone, these issues were not examined fully

Both quangos seem convinced by the economic arguments; perhaps the robustness or otherwise of the economic case for the course made at the time should be re-examined in public.  Perry may have been dismayed by the Shire’s initial rejection; those who are interested in democracy may well be dismayed by Perry’s lobbying, dining habits and spending.

Was it proper for Jack Perry to send Trump such a letter in the first place? Should unelected, publicly funded quangos pressure local or central government and shadow ministers? Should SE as a quango have sought environmental guidance from Scottish Natural Heritage before committing public money, some £35000, on a DVD and one thousand copies extolling the virtues of building a complex on two SSSIs?

Perhaps a public inquiry should be asking these questions, for despite the expert opinion of Sarah Malone, these issues were not examined fully, and have definite implications for the future.

For further details of the ongoing FOI request and the questions and anomalies involved, see

Another article is in preparation concerning recently released Scottish Enterprise correspondence.

Aberdeenshire Council

Submission to the Committee by Shire Council Chief Executive, Colin MacKenzie.

Comments on Scrutiny:-

“I would suggest that any such matters arising prior to and surrounding the call-in by the Scottish Government in December 2007 have already been exhaustively considered and debated. ……I strongly believe that no further scrutiny is required of events leading up to and including the call-in by the Scottish Government and I can find no substance in any of the allegations made against Aberdeenshire Council during the subsequent period with reference to either elected members’ conduct or due planning process.”

Summary of letter contents:-

“[begins by mentioning many historic inquiries, omitting the quantity of information since released and the number of issues subsequently arising]…I would also require far greater detail in order to respond to any such inferences made [in the film You’ve Been Trumped and/or at the committee hearing]  in relation to the conduct of Aberdeenshire Council elected members. What I would say is that both officers and elected members of the council take very seriously any allegation that the rules detailed in The Councillors’ Code of Conduct have not been followed, being fully aware of their importance particularly when elected members are exercising a quasi-judicial role in regulatory matters… It is and has been Aberdeenshire Council’s position that procedurally elected members are not provided with the detail of the planning obligation and financial contributions in order that there is clear autonomy in the process. I would add that as part of a wider council review of developers’ obligations, the position is currently being considered here.

“It is misleading to say that all bar the original application at the Menie Estate have been retrospective. I can further confirm that with reference to the applications for full planning permission for further development at the Menie Estate, due planning process was and is being properly followed by the council in accordance with the relevant statutory guidance and legislation. … Also, where the council becomes aware of any breach of planning regulation which requires investigation, proper investigation is carried out with any appropriate follow up action taken. It is not the case that council officers are on site every week but only as required with reference to any statutory regulation whether in terms of planning or otherwise.

“… Unauthorised planning developments were not allowed to continue unabated at the Menie Estate nor was an unusual or different process adopted with reference to planning developments there. In 2012 there were 175 retrospective applications dealt with by the council. This represents only 4% of all applications submitted and of the 175, only 5 (less than 3%) related to the Menie Estate. The requirement to make retrospective planning applications is a common and consistent approach taken by the council to remedy breaches of planning control.

“With regard to some of the other points made during the hearing, I would explain that the clock at the entrance does have planning permission and there are a number of planning applications where the work is in accordance with the approved plans. The large marquee referred to was properly erected under the permitted development rights which allow for such structures to be in place for 28 days. The temporary clubhouse is in fact located as per the approved plans. It may be the case that reference is to its position indicated in the outline planning permission but that was only indicative which is perfectly competent. I can confirm that Aberdeenshire Council did previously investigate the use of the former Leyton Farm buildings and concluded that no unauthorised change of use of the buildings had occurred and that their use had been incorporated into planning permissions that had been approved. The council’s planning service is currently seeking a retrospective application for an area of bund adjacent to Leyton Cottage. Although the car park and lighting were not constructed in accordance with the original approved plans, a retrospective application has now been granted for the works as they have been carried out.

“There have been a number of complaints regarding outdoor access restrictions at the Menie Estate, only some of which are valid in terms of preventing access rights under statute. Our officers have met with a representative from the estate on a number of occasions and were working with the estate looking into various solutions which would resolve users’ access issues whilst taking on the concerns of the landowner/estate in relation to potential security risks and vehicle access. Menie Estate has recently instructed agents to act in this matter and the intention going forward is to correspond direct with them.”

Comments on Aberdeenshire submission.

It is hard to know where to start; the letter paints a picture of a correctly-behaving council and misguided residents and observers.

It is possible to take exception to almost every idea it puts forth, but rebutting a few of its claims and attempts at explanation should suffice in making the case for Aberdeenshire being a Council where there are leadership, accountability, procedural and communication issues, to say the least.

With regard to the use of figures to try and trivialise the number of retrospective planning permission applications needed at Menie, this is at best disingenuous. We could likewise make statistical analysis of the applications over the size of the shire, and see how many are localised at Menie.

We could ask how many of the total retrospective planning applications made were for areas with stringent conditions laid down by central government. We could ask how many of these retrospective applications were for properties with their own dedicated Environmental Clerk of Works.

We could also ask for an explanation of how the weekly visits to the site to ensure planning permission was adhered to are now being denied. In August of 2011 Aberdeenshire’s spokesperson wrote to me:-

“This development is well-scrutinised and the approved plans are being adhered to.

“Site inspections are undertaken on a weekly basis by various organisations to ensure that the development is being carried out according to the planning permission granted.”

This does seem just a little at odds with the newly-stated position that MacKenzie takes.

I can see why Dr Lena Wilson gets to speak for Scottish Enterprise; it is not an elected body.  Were the elected members of Aberdeenshire Council consulted as to the contents of MacKenzie’s submission, and should they have been?

MacKenzie’s letter puts a good deal of emphasis on the councillors and their conduct.

He is well aware that Councillor Gillian Owen was an outspoken supporter of Trump; her own newsletter (now taken down alas) had a photo of her with Trump, apparently taken at a visit to the course. Perhaps she accepted not so much as a cup of coffee; for nothing appeared on her register of interests. Again, this is somewhat at odds with MacKenzie’s sanctimonious offering.

It is also at odds with MacKenzie’s attempt to give Councillor Martin Ford a dressing-down for the crime of being a councillor giving the BBC an interview at council premises.  In terms of following procedure and precedent, it should be noted the council stood at all times by Dr Christine Gore.

The main focus of any inquiry should be Aberdeenshire planning.

The conduct of Dr Christine Gore has not been looked at critically by the government as yet. She famously sought advice from the Trump team, and wanted to know how to manage the public over the impending approval. When in 2009 Gore was to be the subject of investigation by her professional organisation, the Royal Institute of Town Planners, over potential collusion with Trump, the Shire defended her.

The Shire, aware of communication between Trump’s lawyers and Gore, issued a statement reading in part:

“It is very easy to throw around accusations in such a highly publicised case where misinformation by a number of parties always grabs the news headlines.”

As Rob Edwards wrote:-

“Trump’s lawyer, Ann Faulds, drafted a four-page report in Gore’s name justifying the evictions for submission to councillors, though it was never used. An email from Gore to Faulds in April requested at least a week’s notice of Trump’s application to help manage media interest.

“Thereafter ‘close liaison’ would be required, Gore wrote, ‘in order that we can have a managed approach to what is inevitably going to be a difficult and emotive reaction given that this new application will involve land outwith the applicant’s ownership.’

Marshall alleged that Gore ‘appears to have colluded with the developer’s solicitor’, and argued that her use of the word ‘emotive’ was pejorative. Her behaviour was in breach of the RTPI code of conduct requiring planners to act with integrity and to exercise ‘independent professional judgement’, he claimed.”

Gore has since been promoted and earns £109,827 per annum from the Shire.

The environmental clerk of works did quite some job; despite the many conditions put on building in this previously-protected area, a giant bund of earth now separates the Munro household from its former views of the water, blocks their light and has caused actual property damage as the sand and dirt blows off it into their yard, garden, cars and home.

This has never been looked at, nor indeed has the last-minute change in a retrospective application concerning this bund.

How precisely this giant mound of earth was allowed in the first place should perhaps itself be worthy of an investigation; to ignore this kind of planning debacle on such an unprecedented development will do nothing for the current residents, and ignoring the issue bodes very  badly for future developments.

The status of this giant mound of earth changes within the planning department documentation so often that it seems to be moving from an unplanned structure of considerable height causing damage to a mere blip worthy of retrospective approval. Still, Mackenzie tells the Petitions Committee that all is fine in terms of retrospective planning permission.

Outdoor access is still in contention, despite claims to the contrary, and other issues with how the Shire’s officers handled the development past, present and future are worthy of perhaps their own separate investigation.

Perhaps if MacKenzie spent as much time worrying about the planning department, the environmental clerk of works, Gore’s interaction with Trump, and so on as he does about Ford speaking to the BBC, an inquiry wouldn’t be required. As things stand, whatever he might write – clearly in inquiry is needed.

Part 2 of this series will look at further submissions to the Petitions Committee, and will supply questions that should be asked at an inquiry. If any Aberdeen Voice readers would care to submit questions for consideration for this list, please get in touch. 

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Mar 262013

By Suzanne Kelly.

Aberdeeenshire Council’s Formartine Area Committee met today, Tuesday 26 March, and decided not to grant retrospective planning permission to Trump International Golf Links for works at the Menie Estate which had gone against the approved plan.

A Council spokesperson advised that:-

“the application was deferred to allow a site visit and a public hearing. (there was no vote – the action was agreed by committee). The date and time of both will be arranged in due course.”

The Planning Officer had recommended granting retrospective permission, which would have seen a giant mound of earth block the Munro home’s access to light approved.  The bund had already caused problems for the family when first constructed; dirt and sand from it blew into their property including their home, and damaged cars.

Campaigners also celebrated today as the Government gave the go-ahead to the offshore windfarms Trump so desperately vowed to fight.  Area resident David Milne commented:-

“It came as no surprise, but it was still pleasing to hear that the Scottish Government had decided to retain control over their own energy policy and not hand it over to a non resident, self interested developer.

“It was, however, more surprising and even more pleasing that Aberdeenshire Council decided not to issue retrospective permission for unlawfully constructed bunds surrounding the Munros home at Menie and instead delay their decision until a site visit has taken place; they have after all only had since the spring of last year to consider this.

“Whilst the 17800 signatories to the call for a public inquiry into their behaviour may have had some effect, we can but hope that common sense has finally reared its head with the council, I shall wait and see if this logical and honest decision is the start of a trend or an aberration.”

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Mar 212013

By Suzanne Kelly.

An eight-month old application for retrospective permission at Trump Golf Links International at Menie has suddenly been altered with no warning or publicity.

A new document was added earlier this week to the retrospective App 2012/2342, and after eight months of relative inaction, the application which would allow the bunds to stay put is now going to be decided by the relevant councillors:  on Tuesday 26 March.

The very short lead time – less than a week – between the changes to the application made on the Council’s web page means little chance for meaningful consideration – and the people who made representations have not heard anything about the changes or the upcoming meeting. 

These developments may well be against protocol.

How this happened, who was involved, and the legalities of the situation are being questioned by residents and campaigners.  Arguably, the application if changed should be re-submitted, allowing people the chance to respond to the new document, and those who made a representation should have been  informed of the changes and the meeting.

These bunds – which seem to serve no purpose but to make life difficult for those living close to them – should just be taken down as originally promised.

They block light, they block views, and crucially the wind has blown earth off of them into the Munro home, at times leaving an inch of sand and dirt inside the front door, and damaged her cars, with sand and dirt getting into the machinery.  The bunds have arguably devalued the Munro property.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Planning Department, already one of the targets for a requested independent inquiry (15,000+ people have signed a petition so far), had previously given assurances that the bunds (steep, high mounds of earth) built around residents’ homes were temporary.  This assurance was repeated in an email from now-retired Aberdeenshire officer, Gordon Lyon in May 2012.

So far, the Trump Golf Links International Scotland operators have deviated from approved planning permission with the bunds, parking lot, and other issues:  all of these deviations received retrospective planning permission.
See: Menie Estate Report by Suzanne Kelly 

Why the developer is going against the approved plans without any challenge by Aberdeenshire Planning officials, is unclear.

Planning were supposed to visit the site frequently to prevent issues such as deviations arising.

The Government Report on the development recommended the developer would be expected to stay to the approved plan, and that monitoring would take place for planning and environment compliance.

This hardly seems to be the case with the bunds, parking and other deviations, and MEMAG, the environmental monitoring group is not meeting (last posted meeting minutes are for June 2012) and not answering correspondence (no questions answered from a 26 January email to date).

A resident, who discovered the changes on Aberdeenshire’s planning website this week, made the following observations:-

“As well as an amended drawing of the small bund (and change of title so that it no longer mentions Leyton Cottage), there is now a completely new drawing called ‘LANDSCAPE PROPOSALS – AS BUILT EARTH   BUND ADJACENT TO DRIVING RANGE’ which details the ‘big bund’ immediately south of Leyton Cottage and adjacent to the Access Road.

“As far as I know there has been no public notification of this expansion of scope. And there appears to have been no notification to the people who had previously submitted objections to the original content of this application (the author of these comments received no notification himself).

“The ‘Expiry Date for Public Comment’ is still shown as 16/08/2012- and ‘The time period for submitting comment has expired’.

“When the bunds first appeared back in October 2010, the Council’s enforcement officer at the time, Gerry Main, wrote: ‘The mound of sand to the south of Leyton Cottage is of a temporary nature and will be utilised.’

“Furthermore, the APP-2012-2342 web page now shows a ‘Committee Date’ of 26/03/2013 (next Tuesday) when the application will come before the Formartine Area Committee. ( See: )

“As is normal practice, the planners have prepared a report to the Area Committee. It was posted there sometime in the past 24 hours (it wasn’t there yesterday morning). The report recommends that permission is granted, subject to removal of the trees planted on top of the small bund.

“Strangely, the report states in para 6.7 that ‘With reference to comments made through representation that have not been taken into account in the above assessment, this application is solely for the car park area and not for the landscaping for the access way’. This needs clarifying as it is inconsistent with the fact that the ‘big bund’ drawing has been published on the planning page, which the report appears to overlook completely.

“Also the ‘Additional Document 1’ presented to the committee is drawing no 71236/8007 Issue D and includes contour detail of the lower section of the ‘big bund’, whereas the version of this same drawing on the planning page (as of last night) was only at Issue B and had no detail of the big bund.

The writer of these comments feels  that:-

“this looks suspiciously like TIGLS and the planners attempting to sneak through retrospective planning consent for the highly controversial and unauthorised ‘big bund’ hoping that no-one will notice, and without allowing public comment”

The following questions have been asked of Anne Ramsay of Planning:-

1.  Have new documents been added to this application as it appears?  IF SO:

2.  Who agreed to add these documents?

3.  How has this information been conveyed to interested parties and those who sent in representations?

4.  Who made the decision not to throw this amended application out and start with a new application reflecting the changes?

5.  Is Aberdeenshire Planning confident it is proceeding in a legally-acceptable, transparent manner in this instance?

6.  Why, after an 8 month wait, is a newly amended application to be determined with under a week for council members and stakeholders to digest?

7.  In due course, please send a response to the resident’s concerns listed above.

If the answer to Question 1 is negative, then:-

a.  Please explain the appearance of new documents on the application?

b.  Have stakeholders/those making representations been advised the matter will be discussed this Tuesday?

The response received will be printed as soon as can be arranged.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Sep 132012

Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly visited Tullos Hill on 29 August and St Fitticks’ on 2 September.  These were sites of tree planting – and deer culls.  Around 40 animals were killed (the record-keeping is so poor and the freedom of information office reports so contradictory that the exact number is hard to tell). Suzanne presents a pictorial record of the current condition of these two sites.

The Housing & Environment Committee  August 2012 took a report from Pete Leonard, Director of Housing Services, and supporter of the tree scheme and deer cull.

As we have come to expect, the report supports the scheme and the manner in which it was carried out.

(click on pictures for description )


While we await the official minutes from this meeting, here are some photos intended as a special Thank You to scheme proponent Aileen Malone, Pete Leonard, countryside expert and ranger Ian Tallboys, mysterious consultant Chris Piper.
The city’s information office claim to have no information on his company or address – despite paying over £44,000 for this stunning result, and despite Piper writing a joint report sealing the Hill’s and the deer’s fate.

Thank you as well to all those councillors who voted in favour of the Tree for Every Citizen Scheme and who voted to stop myself and Andy Findlayson (now elected councillor) from speaking out on the scheme’s flaws when this could have been prevented.

None of this would have been possible without these peoples’ involvement and determination to turn a once beautiful, thriving hill into what you see in these photos.

Yes, parts of the hill were left intact – but much of the biodiversity and beauty is gone.






What if the £120,000+ spent on this unwanted scheme had gone on preventing arson in the gramps instead?

The Minutes of this meeting are not out, but word has it those who favoured the scheme have hailed it as ‘a green success.’ 

It seems the £43,800 we had to repay in March 2011 was ignored as somehow being relevant to the late 1990s. 

The incorrect, legally unsupportable position that the deer had to be destroyed anyway was maintained.

There were also assurances that the shooting took place with proper regard for safety. 

Those responsible for decisions concerning the actual shooting and risk register are in for a surprise before long on that score.

The only good thing that came from the H&E meeting was the repeated reassurance from new Convener Neil Cooney who replaced Aileen Malone that there will be no repetition of any scheme that demands the life of deer to plant arbitrary trees.











Will these trees thrive?  Doubtful.

The soil is poor, the trees will be subject to ‘wind toss’, there is salt spray from theNorth Sea, and weeds are being left totally unchecked. 

Was anything like the scheduled 89,000 trees planted on Tullos and St Fitticks? 

 Definitely not.


If you want to attend an upcoming meeting (date, time TBC) on next steps and lessons learned, please get in touch at .






The scheme may be over, the PR and legal repercussions for its supporters is not.

  •  Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Aug 312012

Voice’s Old Susannah looks at events over the the last week … and once again, what a week it’s been in the ‘Deen. By Suzanne Kelly.

Vibrant and dynamic adjectives are being used to describe the Labour, Lib Dems and Independents who voted against the beloved web.

Conspiracy theorists say that these ungrateful refusenicks have brought civilisation to an end, even that they secretly scheme to bring the monolith design for the gardens back.

Such villainy!  It is hard to believe that some LibDems were not swayed by the powerful, intellectual charismatic persuasion powers of Aileen Malone.  But they weren’t.

Old Susannah failed to make it to the 28 August Housing & Environment Committee; alas I missed the debate on the deer.

Pete Leonard’s reports on the tree for every citizen and deer cull say the whole thing is ( a) finished, and ( b) a success.  Result!  Funny how something can look like a ‘cost-neutral’, complete success to someone, and yet seem like a shambolic, environmentally unsound, unwanted, exorbitant, barbaric disaster to the rest of us.

As I wasn’t there, I missed the chance to see former Convener Aileen Malone show up to defend her scheme and those who implemented it for her; I’m sure her speech to the new H&E Committee was as moving as her speech during the Union Terrace Gardens debate.

On that occasion she said how important it was for councillors to listen to the people.

During the deer cull she embodied this tenet by ‘accidentally’ deleting emails protesting the cull, ignoring 3 community councils which implored her to stop the cull, and taking delivery of a 2,500 signature petition against the cull.

Oh, HoMalone listened all right. She just chose not to pay any attention to what she heard.  I say that I missed her defence of the scheme at the H&E Committee – but even though I was not there, she – being a person of honour and principle must have put in an appearance rather than leaving Leonard hung out to dry.

Any shirking would have been cowardly and an admission of ineptitude.

We will be toasting Neil Cooney with several brewdogs; he has said there will be no further culls simply to plant trees.  Perhaps he will be able to resurrect the scheme of keeping Tullos Hill meadow as, er, a meadow, even if Pete Leonard says that is more expensive than trees, tree guards, deer fencing, mechanical diggers, gorse stripping, and pesticide spraying for a few years.

I guess Pete and I went to different accounting lessons.

we have to deal with an awful lot of garbage here in Aberdeen

The dust is not settling very well on the granite web, which has been toppled.  What a shame.  Rather than us having shiny walkways in the sky to enjoy rain, snow or shine, to walk up and down on, to fall off, it looked for a moment as if all that lovely £50 million was going to be wasted helping people in Africa.

To put things in perspective, we have to deal with an awful lot of garbage here in Aberdeen:  vacant and decaying properties acting as beacons for arsonists; closed shops, litter that never gets cleared, social problems and services slashed by the previous administration.

The relatively simpler problems which pose minor irritations in Africa include famine, infant mortality from disease and hunger; kidnapped children beaten into soldiers, civil wars, a plague of AIDS, illiteracy and so on.

When I learnt the web was not going to be built, I remembered Sir Ian’s words as told to the Press & Journal:

“Sir Ian Wood said last night that projects in Africa would benefit from the £50million he has offered toAberdeen– should the City Garden Project be rejected” – Press & Journal, 11/02/2012

How wonderful!  I wondered if there was going to be an African granite web, perhaps with some fir tree bosque and underground parking – that would cheer the starving multitude a little.  But like the web, this promise seemed almost too good to be true.

But then something unforeseen happened – something which has never happened before:  Sir Ian changed his mind.

No – Sir Ian is going to leave the money on the table for a year in Aberdeen.  Fine.  It’s his money (if he actually has all this in liquid assets he is a lucky man indeed).  Perhaps it’s time to turn to the dictionary for some assistance with the relevant issues.

Life Expectancy: (compound noun; English) – Statistical figure showing the mean for a group of people or living things to determine the typical time span from birth until death.

Old Susannah wondered which group of people needed £50,000,000 more – Aberdonians to turn their only city centre (common good land) garden into a giant web with an outdoor theatre next to a theatre?  Or Africans for food, shelter, education and healthcare.

Just for the record, the UK’s average life expectancy is about 80.5 years.  If, however,  you are in parts of Africa, this can be slightly lower – say about  56.5 years if you’re born in Niger,  50.6 years in Chad, 46.2 in Rwanda and give or take a few days you get 43.5 years to live if you’re born in Zimbabwe. Figures are not available yet on the life-extending benefits of granite webs.

We live longer in the West; that’s why we need more places to shop and more theatres to entertain us.

A town of Aberdeen’s size and stature can hardly be expected to get by with a Music Hall, an AECC, a HMT, a Lemon Tree and a dozen private music venues (plus concerts now and then at Pittodrie) – no, we need to build an outdoor theatre in front of HMT while we subsidise the operation of the other publicly-owned theatres.  Simples.

On the other hand, if you are likely to be killed in some form of tribal gun battle, die in childbirth, or die as either a starving infant or a child soldier, you don’t really need as many different diversions for your leisure time.

So, in a year Sir Ian may send his £50 million to Africa, if Aberdeen hasn’t begged him to put up the web, repenting of last week’s decision to just fix what we have for less than the £140 million web. Africa will just have to wait and see.  And if a few million people have an extra year of hardships, then so be it.

Petition: (Eng.verb) to entreat, often formally with writing and backing of others, for a desired outcome.

I can’t help but notice how many different petitions have been started since the City cruelly turned down the chance to borrow £92,000,000 to build a bosque and a sensory hippy trail thingy (no, I don’t get it either – ask Paul at Gray’s  School of Art).

There are petitions demanding Labour resign, petitions denouncing Barney Crockett and others, petitions saying the granite web was the marvel of the age.  Even Kevin Stewart, last seen explaining why our vulnerable and disabled had to suffer services cuts, has come out of the woodwork and made a very clever motion in the Scottish Parliament.

I was involved in petitions to save the Tullos deer and save Union Terrace Gardens.  This confused some people who called me a tree-hugger, and were baffled that  I didn’t want 89,000 trees on Tullos Hill if it meant destroying what was already there.

But now I have a new petition.  Do have a look, and if you agree, please feel free to sign and to share.


Dummies are being used to guard parking spaces in Old Meldrum; evidence suggests this scheme probably originated in the higher levels of ACC management.

The dummies are thought to be on secondment at the highest levels of the Housing Directorate.  I am asked to point out that any resemblance between the dummies in Oldmeldrum and any former city councillors is purely coincidental.  And obvious.

Next week:  more definitions.

  •  Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated