Oct 222015

Dr Whiteford speaks at ConferenceWith thanks to Kenneth Hutchison, Parliamentary Assistant to Dr. Eilidh Whiteford MP.

SNP Conference has condemned the Tory Government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill and backed fresh plans to oppose the measures in both Holyrood and Westminster as research shows the cumulative cost of the measures in the bill by the next General Election will be £3.2 billion.

The Tory cuts to welfare benefits will disproportionately impact on the lowest income households with the most severely affected being those at the bottom of the income scale; women and households with children.

Moving the motion, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, the SNP’s Westminster spokesperson on social justice said:

“I have research which shows that the cost of the welfare and work bill to Scotland’s low income families will be £3.2 billion by 2020/21. In 2020/21 the annual cut will reach £900 million every year.

“And as the measures in this bill only accounts for 86% of the cuts announced by the Chancellor in his summer budget we can see that by the time of the next general election Scotland will be facing over £1 billion welfare cuts each and every year.

“Over half a million children live in families that rely on tax credits to make ends meet. 350,000 of those children will feel the impact of Tory cuts as they strip away much needed tax credits from over 200,000 low income working families across Scotland.

“Children will be pushed into poverty by the austerity driven Tories who choose ideology over humanity. It’s no wonder that they are changing the definition of child poverty to remove working households from the equation. They know their policies will make child poverty spiral not reduce.”

Speaking in the debate, Alex Neil MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights, attacked David Cameron on imposing cuts to benefits, cuts to tax credits, sanctions, and driving hundreds of thousands in the UK into poverty saying:

“No-one believes the Tories about their so called living wage, and the SNP will continue to fight for a real living wage for all people.

“We should have all the powers over social security, it should not be in the hands of the Tories. With those powers, we will use them to the maximum within the resources available.  We will also give dignity and respect to those who rely on social security to get by.

“The Scottish Government will not sweep poverty under the carpet and we will always protect our values and the vulnerable.”

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil also confirmed one of the first acts of an SNP Scottish Government would be to scrap the so called ’84 day’ rule.

The rule under the UK Government prevents families with a seriously ill or disabled child from receiving Disability Living Allowance and Carer’s Allowance payments once they have been hospitalised or received medical treatment for same condition for more than 84 days.

Alex Neil said this disgraceful rule would be abolished as a matter of principle as soon as new welfare powers are devolved from Westminster to Holyrood.

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Aug 282015

A new book Oil Strike North Sea will be published on the 7th September. It is an overview and history of the search for oil and gas in the North Sea, something author Mike Shepherd has been actively involved with since 1980 and several of his own experiences are described in the book. Mike shares with Voice readers how the book came about, and his belief that Aberdeen Was Short-Changed Over North Sea Oil.

Oil Strike cover I had cooperated with Diane Morgan on her recent book, Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens. Diane asked me to contribute one of the chapters in the book detailing the economic background to the abortive city garden project.

Working so closely with a professional author such as Diane had inspired me to write my own book and the North Sea oil industry was an obvious topic, particularly as not many non-technical books have been written on it.

Diane very graciously provided an introduction to my book and seems to have enjoyed reading it going by her comments.

I want to concentrate here on one small aspect and this is part of the chapter dealing with Aberdeen.

Although I’m Aberdonian born and have lived in the city for most of my life, the details of my research for this section astonished me when I realised its significance – it became clear that the Aberdeen area has been massively short-changed by both national governments over the last 40 years.

Let’s summarise the case: The tax take from North Sea oil and gas is now more than £300 billion. The amount provided by both the UK and Scottish national governments to support onshore North Sea oil infrastructure in the Aberdeen area – almost nothing. So who paid for the onshore infrastructure then? We did.

The funding was largely provided out of our local rates and council taxes. I’ll quote from the book, Running the Granite City Local Government in Aberdeen 1975-1996 (Davidson, K and Fairley, J  2000, Scottish Cultural Press), because I am not sure anyone would believe the figures if I merely cited them:

“The withdrawal of government support for industry meant that the public sector effort was primarily that of local authorities. Local authority estimates suggested that between 1975 and the early 1990s council expenditure on oil-related developments was well over £100 million per year throughout the Grampian Region.”

Check that, over £100 million per year. It’s ironic that several other regions in the UK have directly benefitted from North Sea oil revenues but not Aberdeen. The Shetland Isles, having gained revenue from the Sullom Voe oil terminal, have accrued an oil fund of over £400 million in two separate trusts; the Orkneys likewise have an oil fund of about £200 million.

Elsewhere, as a consequence of the agreement on licence boundaries in 1966, Northern Ireland gets 2.5 per cent of oil and gas royalties and until 1991, the Isle of Man received 0.1 per cent. Yet, an initiative by Grampian Regional Council to apply rates to offshore oil platforms was stopped by the UK government.

How did this situation happen?

Aberdeen M ShepherdHere is the explanation given in my book. When the North Sea started up in the 1970s, the Labour Party in government were keen to try and get as much of the industry as possible relocated to the Glasgow area.

There was an under-employed workforce in Glasgow that could easily adapt to the engineering skills required for North Sea oil, whereas the Northeast of Scotland was deemed likely to be overwhelmed both environmentally and socially by the oil industry.

They didn’t want the oil industry here. Despite for instance, the establishment of the new British National Oil Company headquarters in Glasgow, the oil companies in any case decided to move to Aberdeen.

Maggie Thatcher’s Conservative Party took over government in 1979.

It wasn’t their policy to give regional funding to support private enterprise even if the case was well-deserved; the Aberdeen area was considered remote and politically irrelevant for their purposes. A large proportion of the oil revenues was used to support a reduction in the top rate of income tax which in turn fuelled house price rises in England.

When the Scottish government turned up in the 90s, nothing much changed.

The political central of gravity in Scotland is the Central Belt and Aberdeen is almost as remote to Holyrood as it is to Westminster. Witness the case of the funding for the Aberdeen bypass by the Scottish government. In an extraordinary decision, both Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Council are each expected to fund 9.5 per cent of the costs, something neither council can afford given their debts.

Where does this leave Aberdeen? What happens once the oil industry leaves the area? Despite all the guff about city centre regeneration, Aberdeen’s big problem is its transport links with the rest of the country and its industrial base outside of North Sea oil activities. Aberdeen is just as remote now as it was before the oil industry came.

The UK’s motorway network stops at Perth and the roads north of Aberdeen are a joke; they have not received the investment they deserve. Even the railway between Aberdeen and Dundee is single track for a short section south of Montrose and this leads to a major rail bottleneck. There has been a lot of jaw-jaw about improving this section but it has never happened.

North Sea oil will leave a legacy to Aberdeen. While it has lasted, much of Aberdeen’s native industry has gone. One paper mill remains, the Crombie cloth mills have shut and Aberdeen’s two shipbuilding yards are no more. Aberdeen also used to hold one of the UK’s largest fishing fleets. Over the years Aberdeen has become largely a one-horse town and that horse is the energy industry.

A fairly obvious move would have been for the Scottish government to have promoted the area for renewables, but this hasn’t happened to any major extent. I see this as a major shortcoming, as there is an obvious crossover between the engineering skills of the oil and gas industry and renewables.

What is Aberdeen’s future? It should primarily be as a center for renewables but this would require a change in policy from the Scottish government in order to preferentially commit resources here. Some in our local business community see tourism as a growth area for the city even though a unique selling point for the city, it’s distinctive architecture and building stone, is being increasingly blighted by soul-less modern developments.

What is clear and has been clear for almost a decade is that there is a concerted need for a discussion on the future of Aberdeen. This should focus on funding, regional transport links and to promote a future Aberdeen as a centre for Scotland’s renewable energy industry.

The book launch for ‘Oil Strike North Sea’ is at Waterstones book shop in Union Street, 7pm on Wednesday 9th September.

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Aug 032015

With thanks to Phil Moar, Account Manager, Citrus Mix.

Shire1Aberdeenshire Rugby Club is teaming up with local charity Instant Neighbour to help lend a hand to the city’s poorest and most vulnerable.
The Woodside club will work with the charity to raise donations of canned and long-life foods, electrical equipment and baby supplies for the most in-need individuals and families across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

The club will be appealing to all past and present players as well as social members to bring donations to the clubhouse between 6.30pm and 8pm on a Tuesday and Thursday night before the first pre-season friendly on Saturday, August 15.

The first XV will be taking on Perthshire while the Super Twas second XV will be facing up against RAF Lossiemouth. Representatives from Instant Neighbour will be present on the day to collect the donations raised.

Aberdeenshire RFC club president Alasdair Farquharson said:

“The club is based out of Woodside Sports Complex and as such is keen to help charities in the local area and support people in the community.

“We are therefore delighted to be organising a collection day at the club where former and current players can bring donations in kind or financial which we can then pass on to Instant Neighbour.

“We’re thrilled to be working with them and hope to help them in any small way we can.”

Susan Cheyne, business development manager at Instant Neighbour, said:

“Instant Neighbour relies on the kind donations of members of the public to allow us to continue to help those in need living in and around Aberdeen. Without donations, we would be unable to provide our local community with affordable furniture, electrical equipment, and childcare equipment, and we could not operate our food bank.

“By donating these items to us, you are directly helping to support some of the poorest and most vulnerable people living in Aberdeen. Thank you for your generosity.”

Aberdeenshire RFC are a BT National League Division 2 side situated in the north of Aberdeen. In addition to the club’s three senior teams, Aberdeenshire has a burgeoning ladies and junior team.

Further information can be found at http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/aberdeenshire/

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Jul 242015

Eilidh Whiteford, Parliament [2015]

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford outside Parliament.

With thanks to Paul Robertson.

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has slammed plans to give Members of the UK Parliament a 10% pay increase, saying the plans are “wholly inappropriate.”

The proposed increase comes following the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority’s review of members’ salaries. The consultation closed on June 30, and SNP members have highlighted the unfairness of the raise at a time when most public sector workers are only receiving a 1% increase.

The matter is complicated by the fact that IPSA is independent of parliamentary control, and that MPs cannot refuse the proposed increase.

IPSA has a legal duty to pay the increase into the bank accounts of MPs, but Eilidh Whiteford, who is also the SNP’s Westminster Spokesperson on Social Justice, has today said she has alternative plans for the extra money.

Eilidh said:

“After a budget that will cut the incomes of those in low paid work, and in light of the ongoing public sector pay freeze, an increase in MP’s pay is wholly inappropriate. If it goes ahead, I will be increasing my donations to good causes.”

“Members receive a generous wage already, and how IPSA can justify a 10% increase at this point in time is beyond comprehension.”

Westminster SNP Leader Angus Robertson MP added:

“Now is a time of austerity and huge financial difficulties for far too many people. It is not right for MPs to have a pay-rise in these circumstances.

“As IPSA has gone ahead with these changes, I think it would be right to use the funds to support good causes.”

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Jul 032015
Gary Craig2

Gary Craig, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired

With thanks to Paul Smith, Citrus Mix.

Aberdeen city centre is averaging footfall of over two million per month according to figures collated by business organisation Aberdeen Inspired.

The data, garnered in partnership with specialist retail intelligence company Springboard, found that the heart of Aberdeen welcomed 2,005,958 visitors throughout the month of May.

April’s figure registered 2,022,501 while March saw a footfall figure of 2,705,660. February was 2,240,720 with January totalling 2,201,561.

The ongoing research, which uses a network of sensors to provide anonymous feedback on the movements of visitors to the area, is also finding that Union Street continues to be an integral part of the city centre, averaging a monthly footfall of 119,031 for 2015 so far.

The statistics also show that Market Street has an average footfall of 97,698; Upperkirkgate has 74,865 and Belmont Street 51,839.

Saturday has been the busiest day each month since the turn of the year, highlighting that it still remains the traditional day for shoppers to hit the high street.

The statistics follow Aberdeen Inspired’s recent announcement that it is to roll out an innovative wayshowing initiative which aims to improve orientation, navigation and journey planning for people visiting the city centre.

The first phase of the project involved the installation of four informative map totems at key locations on Broad Street, St Nicholas Street, on Schoolhill and outside the tourism office on Union Street.

Due to its success, the next stage of the initiative, which has been led by Aberdeen Inspired and jointly delivered with Aberdeen City Council, will involve the installation of 54 further map totems throughout the city centre. The project has now been given final approval by councillors, who agreed a 50% funding contribution to the scheme.

Gary Craig, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“The results that we’ve gained so far through the Springboard software has allowed us to begin to build up a picture of the city centre’s footfall and, perhaps more importantly, what areas are key in terms of numbers of visitors.

“To have over two million passing through the area on a monthly basis is quite an impressive statistic and the fact that the often maligned Union Street remains integral to the area is also pleasing.

“As an organisation, one of our main goals is to increase footfall within the BID (Business Improvement District) zone. The more information we have, the more able we are to make informed decisions on improvements and events that will breathe new life into the area.

“The statistics will really come into their own in 2016 when we have this year’s figures to compare and contrast with. However, as we move towards our re-ballot date for early next year, the statistics we have collated thus far are vitally important in helping us obtain a solid understanding of the area that, if we are successful, can be used to shape our next phase as an organisation.”

Retail specialist Springboard has also completed a recent vacancy rate survey of the city’s Union Street, with statistics from October 2014 finding that 6.1% of ground floor units on the thoroughfare are empty. This is over 4% less than the UK average which currently sits at 10.3%.

The survey also found that independent units make up 55% of Union Street’s offering, which again outperforms the UK average of 31.8%. The Scotland average currently sits at 29.8%.

Gary Craig added:

“You often hear quoted that Union Street has too many empty shops these days, but this is not true – actual figures show that the occupancy rate has stayed relatively stable over the last four years at around 94%. Hopefully with new office developments and some early improvements as part of the City Masterplan we will see this level steadily grow.”

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID (Business Improvement District) operates. It is a business-led initiative within the city centre in which levy payers within the BID zone contribute. Proceeds are used to fund projects designed to improve the business district.

Further information on the work of Aberdeen Inspired is available at www.aberdeeninspired.com

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Jun 252015

Stuart Donaldson MP 4With thanks to Stuart Donaldson MP.

As the number of smart meters installed by Scottish Gas in homes approaches the 1.5 million mark, Stuart Donaldson MP has welcomed the news that 1,610 homes in West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine are already benefiting from increased control over energy bills through Scottish Gas smart meters.

Smart meters were on show at a Scottish Gas Innovation Reception in Westminster, along with other technology which helps people understand and reduce their energy use.

Smart meters give people greater insight into how much gas and electricity they’re using. A smart energy monitor can be placed anywhere in the home to display in pounds and pence how much gas and electricity is being used, helping people to be more efficient. Smart meter readings are sent automatically to energy companies, putting an end to estimated bills and manual meter readings.

Smart meters installed by Scottish Gas also come with a free online tool that:

  • breaks down a home’s energy use by day, week or month;
  • shows how much is used on things like appliances, heating and lighting;
  • compares the household’s use to other similar homes, and;
  • provides personalised tips on how to be more energy efficient.

Stuart Donaldson MP also saw Scottish Gas’ smart thermostat, Hive Active Heating, which lets customers control their heating and hot water remotely from a smartphone, tablet and laptop. More than 200,000 homes now control their heating remotely using Hive. 51% of customers use it daily, and 70% think they’ve made energy savings since having it installed.

Smart meters and Hive Active Heating are part of a wave of ‘the internet of things’, which sees household objects connecting with each other and people through the internet, opening up new ways of controlling our homes. More products are being developed by Scottish Gas to maximise the internet of things and help people more easily manage their energy, and create homes of the future.

Stuart Donaldson MP said:

“The Scottish Gas Innovation Reception provided a terrific insight into how new technology is helping my constituents become more aware of energy use and how they can manage their bills. I’ll be continuing discussions with Scottish Gas and other relevant agencies to ensure that the continued roll-out of this technology can benefit all my constituents.”

Vicky Charles, a Smart Energy Expert for Scottish Gas who took part in the Innovation Reception, said:

“Whether it’s discovering how energy efficient the fridge is, or the cost of using the tumble dryer; or if it’s being able to turn the heating off without getting out of bed, our customers are excited about these new technologies. They make life easier and can save you money on your energy bills.”

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Jun 192015

A satirical cornucopia of news stories, current events, anecdotes and statistics on the life and crimes – sorry – life and times of Donald Trump. Businessmen large and small, beautiful women, here’s all you need to know to convince yourselves Trump’s the partner for you. And – he wants to grow up to be President. Old Susannah aka Suzanne Kelly counts down.

DictionaryDonald Trump is not just another pretty face. Sure, he may have had the odd financial hiccough or two.

He may have done business with some less than savoury characters (Damian Bates of the P&J and the odd underworld shadowy figure).

But at heart he’s just a nice guy who wants to build a golf club – best in the world – that his dear saintly grandma would have loved. With no further ado, here are 19 reasons why this is the ideal business/matrimonial/golf/huntin’ & shootin’ partner for you.

  1. He’s going to stop Mexico from sending rapist druggie immigrants to the USA

In a remarkable video, Trump’s just explained how Mexico is ‘sending’ the good ole US of A people with problems. We’ve got to stop these foreigners from coming into a civilised country, riding roughshod over its laws, and taking over. If he’d have said this from his Menie estate golf clubhouse, where he flies in, having taken over two former SSSI sites and brought grief to the locals, it would have really driven the point home.

Listen to him talking about how to deal with these undesirable foreigners here:

  1. He’s into freedom of expression – unless you’re working for him and have something on your Facebook page that’s naughty and bad for the club’s reputation. How we all laughed when the highly-offended Trump International Golf Links Scotland management sacked its chef. Why did they get the hump?

The man had the temerity to have (stop reading if you are of a sensitive disposition, and skip to No 3) a shortbread that looked like a man’s private parts on his Facebook page. Sure, this was his own private Facebook page not linked to Trump, and someone else had put the offensive confection on the chef’s page, but when you’re dealing with financial titans of Trump’s moral fibre, there is no room for anything offensive. (See also No. 5 for further evidence of what is / is not offensive to publish).

The chef in question was going without his final pay for a while; he had a sick child. Was it the intervention of a local newspaper (hint: not the P&J) which was going to write further about this that helped get the chef his settlement? We’ll never know, as like anyone else who’s worked for the Donald, he may well have been gagged.

  1. The Donald can link you to some colourful characters.

While immigration from Mexico to the US is obviously a no-no to our man; Donald Trump once indicated that only Europeans should be allowed to come on over. Some of these acceptable types of immigrants and their children now do business with the man.

There is no room for racial discrimination; Trump’s been accused by others of having links to alleged criminals and organised crime figures from European as well as Asian backgrounds.

This article seems to assert there are possible links to organised crime and Donald Trump.

In this article questions are raised about Mr Trump’s links and as to whether the Scottish Government fully assessed any such issues

Aberdeenshire planning is aware of all of this; so were the Scottish reporters who granted him permission to take over Menie for his planned complex. But they decided it wasn’t relevant. There is a government/Police Scotland directive about looking out for organised crime operations – which may well flourish in property development (heaven forfend!). But as you and I know, there is often smoke without fire. I think Trump’s just vaping.

Since no laws about organised crime and what goes with it are being enforced in Scotland (in Trump’s case anyway), you’ll get to meet lots of influential people if you get in bed with the Donald.

  1. His Gran was Scottish

There can be no more persuasive argument than that Donald Trump boasts Scottish bloodlines. No wonder he’s always trying to get Barak Obama to produce a birth certificate; Obama might be one of those non-European raping drug dealers that snuck into America.

It was always something of a surprise that having The Don show up at Aberdeen Airport (estimated cost of one cancelled trip, according to the Police, cost the taxpayer £8000 in police costs) with beautiful girls, red carpets and a personal police escort hasn’t led to massive crowds waiving hankies and throwing flowers. He’s one of us after all (Old Susannah has Scottish roots too, but alas won’t be opening a golf course).

This love of all things Scottish and a disdain for third world people trying to better themselves is seen in the many ‘Made In China’ ties, shirts, souvenirs available with the Trump brand.

  1. He passes valuable skills and moral lessons to his children: Hunting is cool

Donald Jr. is a chip off the old blockhead. He is as much a conservationist as his father is an environmentalist (see No. 12). When Donald Jr posed with a severed elephant’s tail, it made some bleeding heart liberals angry.

You might think that with poachers reducing Africa’s elephant, rhino and big game population to the vanishing point that elephants were somehow benevolent creatures and should be saved. It’s just as Donald Jr. explained it in Anthony Baxter’s (see No. 20) film ‘A Dangerous Game’. If people like the Trumps didn’t go on safari with guns, Africans wouldn’t have shoes.

That kind f charity alone should convince you this is the business partner for you. Ladies will swoon at the braveness of the big hunter polishing his big gun too.

Forbes Magazine puts it all into perspective:

“First, what was with that elephant tail? Donald Jr. told me that TMZ didn’t report that Africans traditionally cut off the tail and make bracelets from the tail hair. TMZ didn’t seem to know—again, because they didn’t do any reporting—that Africans do this as a sign of respect for the fallen animal. And they didn’t report that elephants are over-populated in the area the Trumps hunted and so need to be hunted to prevent them from further destroying their habitat.

“They didn’t mention that when elephants overpopulate they literally rip down the forest. They didn’t note—and any conservation group could have told them this—the result of an overpopulated elephant herd is death by starvation and disease. Nor did they did contact the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to find out that hunting is managed scientifically to benefit all species and the ecosystem.” 

As Groucho Marx once said in Animal Crackers:

“This morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas – how it got in my pyjamas I’ll never know.” 

So here we have a family of brave, intrepid hunters risking life and limb to stop elephants in their tracks. Now that you know the real facts, and that the tail was going to be made into a bracelet to celebrate the animal’s bravery or some such, defend the clan Trump. All I can say to those who criticise them for their hunting is ‘Tusk, tusk tusk’.

  1. He’s going to be President 

It’s not enough to run beauty pageants and golf courses; it’s not even enough to be a self-awarding award winner (see no. 9)  and an energy expert. The Donald wants to be president, and apparently he’s going for it. For some reason, he feels an affiliation for America’s right-wing Republican party; I am sure this surprised you greatly.

He has a plan to stop IS/ISIS in its tracks (but we can’t be told about it yet), and he’s going to build great big walls between the US and Mexico (those pesky raping druggie immigrants don’t you know). Watch for further developments. I feel much safer knowing that one day Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin may interface representing the US and Russia. Peace in our time may be imminent.

Most of us think of him as a modern incarnation of ‘Honest’ Abraham Lincoln (except Lincoln had better hair). However, The Washington Post is not as convinced of his honesty. They write:

“He won’t feel the need to strictly adhere to, well, the truth.” 

This is a shocking statement about how he may perform in a debate, and I hope he sues them. Here’s a great profile of the future president.

  1. He’s quite the ladies’ man

The world’s most beautiful women flock to the Donald. Dreams of running their fingers through his chequebook – sorry – his hair — bring the world’s most glamourous, self-esteem-filled women running. This sex appeal will surely rub off on all who are associated with him. Perhaps part of that appeal are all those photos of him looking thoughtful and self-possessed.  You might find yourself throwing interesting shapes with your mouth as well just like he does.

  1. Trump helps liberate women by running beauty pageants

It’s nice that Donald helps the fairer sex be all they can be – objects. If that weren’t good enough, if further proof if any were needed that there is no racism in the Trump organisation – the Miss Universe pageant is open to every beautiful woman willing to put on a bikini. Miss Universe is a completely above board exercise in finding out who looks best in a gown or a swimsuit. Can you believe one year a transgender person entered? It speaks volumes for Trump that they let this happen (eventually).

One sore loser claimed the pageant was fixed! Donald retaliated in the most refined, gentlemanly way possible – he sued her for $5,000,000. Obviously a beauty pageant would never be a fix.

  1. He’s won awards including the 6 Diamond Award

Donald Trump’s businesses have won awards. Winning is everything. What helps to win awards? Being one of the people behind the award scheme of course. The well-known American Academy of Hospitality game DT’s Menie Links a six diamond award. Diamond award, diamond geezer.

The prestigious 6 Diamond award had never been achieved before.  And what makes a 6 Diamond Award more special than a 5 Diamond award? Well, it’s one more, innit? For more details of what the award is about, you could enquire on the website – where you can see the Academy Trustees. The top row has a photo of one ‘Ambassador Extraordinaire’ – Donald Trump. I’m sure they will answer all questions about how the award winners are selected.

10. Trump’s a TV star – that means he must be popular.

No doubt this will be a vote winner. ‘President Donald Trump’ – this does have a certain ring to it. Alas, though – he may not be friends with people who helped his US version of ‘The Apprentice’ along the way. And those lucky female contestants? Here’s what Trump said:

All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.

Indeed it is. I’m surprised Damian Bates isn’t worried about his lovely bride Sarah ‘Face of Aberdeen’ working so closely with this sex magnet magnate.

  1. Donald’s helping to make Neil Young’s music popular

Neil Young is an obscure Canadian musician. Trump very kindly took Mr Young’s song ‘Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World’ and used it for his Presidential campaign song. You’d think that this would please Neil, but he’s having none of it. You just can’t please some people. I’ve no doubt the two men see eye on the major issues of the day – keeping Mexicans out of the US, building golf courses, beauty pageants, etc.

Perhaps they just need to sit down and have a chat. Word is that Neil’s desperate to do so.

  1. He will save us from Wind Power: he is an expert, and he ‘Is the Evidence’

Not content with bringing us beautiful women to look at and Chinese-made golf clothing, Trump will keep fighting to ensure that you and I have a wind-power free future. If you can believe it, the Scottish Government want to put wind farms where guests at the exclusive Trump Golf Scotland resort might have to look at them. This will be stopped at all costs. Trump was invited (naturally enough) to Holyrood for his expertise.

He explained his first hand knowledge of the effects of wind power on tourism. People apparently want a sedate, serene experience at an expensive resort, without having to look at an oversized, overblown, over-bearing eyesore. We have to pick our future: clean energy and a shift from our oil-based economy to renewables, or happy millionaire tourists. Best listen to the impartial expert.

  1. He furthers the careers of journalists

Without Trump’s complaint to the police and the subsequent arrest of journalists Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney, where would the two be now? As if getting bundled into the back of a police car for asking about a broken water main weren’t enough, Donald even agreed to be interviewed by Anthony for a subsequent documentary.

You can’t say Donald is heartless now can you? As well as helping these fledglings advance their profile, Trump is generous in his support of local press supremo, Damian Bates.

For all the information on Baxter, Phinney and the two related, award winning documentaries (note these awards were actually given out by bodies that neither journalist were personally involved in, just like Trump’s diamond award), just turn to the Press & Journal. Over the course of 5 years, 2 or three pieces appeared. Or, you can try the search feature on Aberdeen Voice.

  1. He helps people break into project planning

One day, there she was, sitting amid the costumed dummies of the Gordon Highlander Museum. The next, she’s sitting amid the costumed dummies at TGILS. Sarah Malone owes a great deal to Donald Trump for advancing her career from administrator of a museum to Vice President of a multi-million pound development.

You really don’t need much experience to take on project management of a golf resort complex. You don’t even have to know about golf. If you’re a size 10, not too tall, and have connections with the press, you too can find yourself at the helm of a project like Sarah has. You just need determination, a beauty contest trophy, and a husband in charge of a newspaper. Oh, and of course, a benevolent benefactor such as Donald has kindly been to Sarah.

  1. He helps keep extras and background artists in work 

A few years back, an angry mob protested against wind farms. They were all very much motivated in their cause – motivated by the money they were being paid by Trump to show up that is. Now he’s apparently given work to yet more up and coming actors and extras to show up in support of his campaign launch; apparently the going rate was $50.

  1. Trump knows good fences make good neighbours

When he thinks big, he things big. He plans to make a wall between the USA and Mexico as already mentioned. Sounds like a plan. A plan that he would have.

He’s got some form here in Scotland. When Susan Munro refused to sell her home to a Trump minion, Neil Hobday, who was pretending to be a tourist in love with Scotland, Trump simply got the bulldozers in. Now where her kitchen window once looked out across the fields to the sea, she sees a huge mound of earth with weeds and dying trees on it.

The newly-created mound of earth was not on any of the approved plans for the area, but he’s not one to stick to the approved plans, is he – what a loveable maverick.

He even hired environmentalists to write a report saying that the existing families were better off with these mounds of earth blocking their light and views. The experts didn’t bother to speak to the homeowners; they just wrote the report without disturbing them. How’s that for being considerate?

This wall was meant to be lowered considerably. That’s not happened, and any day now, our trusty Shire enforcers will make him comply. Sure they will. The Munros loved it when all the dirt and sand from the newly-created mound blew into their home, their garden and their automobile engines. Good times.

  1. He plants trees

Trump loves to plant lots and lots of trees at Menie. The mounds of earth he erected by Susie Munro and the Milne’s homes didn’t do enough to hide these Scottish cottages from the rich patrons he wanted to attract. So, he started planting pine trees on them. The trees, oddly enough, didn’t like growing on top of a sandy pile of dirt at the beach (when did you last see a pine forest close to the sea?)

The trees get watered by minions, the trees turn brown, the trees die and are replaced. Some might think this is spiteful, wasteful, and not fair on homeowners (or on the trees doomed to die). But you have to admit, this self-proclaimed environmentalist has planted plenty of trees.

  1. He’s got great business sense

It’s uncanny how he can make money. Despite 4 or so corporate bankruptcies leaving all sorts of small businesses and employees in the red, the Donald just keeps going. I guess we can thank his kindly bankers and benefactors to a degree, but it’s really all down to his skill.

  1. He is as modest as he is honest

On one occasion the man said:

“I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”

God only knows what the other candidates were like.

These are a few of the many, many reasons you want to be doing business with the man lovingly known as Clownface Von F*ckstick.’ Thinking of aligning with him? Go right ahead.

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Apr 102015
Christian Allard MSP for the North East of Scotland

Christian Allard MSP for the North East of Scotland

With thanks to Gavin Mowat.

SNP MSPs Alex Salmond, Dennis Robertson and Christian Allard have welcomed an allocation of £3,233,000 for Aberdeenshire households from the Home Energy Efficiency Programme. The scheme provides grant funding to local authorities to develop and deliver local fuel poverty programmes.

Additional funding for Aberdeenshire comes as part of £103 million investment to tackle fuel poverty across Scotland in 2015/16.

This includes a new £14 million loans scheme which will offer homeowners interest-free loans of up to £10,000 for energy efficiency measures.

The SNP Government will also launch the next phase of its Cashback scheme which will see £10 million made available to homeowners and private tenants, and £5 million for social landlords.

Through the scheme, private sector households will be able to claim up to £5,800 for installations recommended by an energy advice report, and households on remote areas will be entitled to greater amounts to cover the increased costs they face.

Both the Cashback and Loans scheme will open on April 13. Advice for applicants will be available on the Home Energy Scotland website or at 0808 808 2282.

Local SNP MSPs welcomed these measures which will help protect vulnerable families throughout Aberdeenshire from the effects of high energy costs.

Commenting, Aberdeenshire East MSP Alex Salmond said:

“It is unacceptable that anyone should have to suffer from fuel poverty – that is why the SNP in Government is investing £103 million to tackle the issue.

“More than £3 million will go a long way towards making valuable energy efficiency improvements to homes throughout Aberdeenshire.

“I would urge homeowners in Aberdeenshire struggling with their heating bills to find out about their options from Home Energy Scotland – and apply for an interest free loan when they become available later this month.”

Dennis Robertson, Aberdeenshire East MSP, added:

“That anyone should be in fuel poverty in Scotland is an absolute scandal and it is encouraging to see the SNP Government take steps to tackle this issue.

“Constituents contact me regularly to ask for advice regarding fuel poverty and it will be great to be able to reassure them that the Scottish Government are fully aware of this issue and are ready to help those in need.”

North East MSP Christian Allard said:

“This additional funding is very welcome for the North East and is another example of the SNP’s desire to tackle fuel poverty.

“The new loan scheme will give homeowners the opportunity to apply for interest free loans which will make it easier for them to take action to install energy efficiency measures.

“Fuel poverty has no place in Modern Scotland and this action will go some way to resigning it to the history books.”

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Mar 272015

acsha logoWith thanks to Eoin Smith, Tricker PR.

Aberdeen City and Shire Hotels’ Association (ACSHA) is remaining upbeat about the performance of the sector, despite a decline in occupancy rates last
Figures released by hospitality research company STR Global shows that occupancy fell by 8% to 70% between January and February, and by 2.6% overall in the 12 months from February 2014.

In comparison, however, the average daily room rate dropped by 2.9% to £94.85, while the number of bedrooms available over 12 months increased by 4.6% due to new building projects.

Over 1,000 additional hotel rooms have been created in Aberdeen since 2013, with two further major hotel openings planned for sites at Aberdeen International Airport later this year.

ACSHA chairman Chris McGuinness believes that, in addition to the increased number of bedrooms, falling oil prices will also have influenced the February figures. He says that members of the trade organisation are taking a measured approach to the slump in the energy sector.

He said,

“There are a lot of very experienced operators in the city who have witnessed the cyclical nature of the energy sector over many years. We know only too well that the oil industry has peaks and troughs: the sector has enjoyed a phenomenal performance over the past couple of years, so the current downturn has not been unexpected.

“We expect to see a reduction in the amount of discretionary business travel as a result of the downturn, with less people traveling into the city for meetings and training courses. However, we are not panicking by entering into a rates war as previous experience tells us that this will not be a long-term issue.

“The current decline will not last forever, and as global demand for oil starts to increase so too will the price of Brent crude oil. When that happens, Aberdeen’s hotel industry will be in a stronger position than before with more bedroom availability for those visiting the city on business.

“For many years we have found ourselves in a situation where we did not have enough supply to meet demand. That should now start to balance out and the gap in performance between Aberdeen and rest of the UK – which has previously been far too big – will get closer.”

ACSHA has worked closely with destination management group VisitAberdeen to market the city for weekend breaks, and will continue to in efforts to help position Aberdeen as a leisure destination.

Mr McGuinness adds,

“The high demand for bedrooms midweek means that Aberdeen has some of the best value weekend rates anywhere in the world. Supporting VisitAberdeen continues to be a priority for ACSHA.

“We must not forget that there is more to the hospitality industry than bedrooms, and anecdotally members are telling us that revenue from food and beverage sales is rising year on year and meetings and events, which includes weddings, is also performing at the level it has in previous years.”

Aberdeen City and Shire Hotels’ Association represents 43 independently operated hotels and conference venues. These hotels provide around 4,100 bedrooms in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. ACSHA is committed to improving the quality and standard of hotel services and to furthering the overall standards of excellence and hospitality within the region.

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Jan 192015

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Tricker PR.

Angus ForfarAn Alford graduate has made it through to the final shortlist of a prestigious scholarship offering the opportunity to visit Japan to study the country’s language, culture and tradition.
Angus Forfar (22), a former pupil of Robert Gordon’s College, is one of six young people being interviewed for the 2015 Thomas Blake Glover Aberdeen Asset Scholarship, sponsored by Aberdeen Asset Management, next week.

The scholarship, which was initiated by the Japan Society of Scotland, enables one Scottish student the chance to visit Japan to study the language, culture and tradition – an experience described as a “life changing opportunity” by last year’s winner.

The scholarship is open to young people who are at a post-secondary educational level, with preference to candidates whose interest in Japan has a business focus.

Angus’ interest in Japan stems from a number of visits to the country in his formative years. Having lived in Japan as a child while his father completed a PhD in Japanese Anthropology, Angus developed a connection to the country which was strengthened by further family trips and his gap year in 2010, during which he spent five months in Tokyo and Fukuoka.

Angus graduated from the University of Glasgow with a First Class Joint Honours in History and Classical Civilisation. His undergraduate dissertation was a comparative study of Ancient Greek Tragedy and Japanese Noh Theatre.

Angus and the other shortlisted candidates will be interviewed on Monday (19th January) at the Japanese Consulate-General in Edinburgh with the panel made up of four members of the Council of the Japan Society of Scotland, and chaired by Dr Helen Parker, of the Japanese Studies Department of the University of Edinburgh.

One will be chosen to go on a fully-funded intensive language study course at a university summer school in Japan, an experience described as a “life changing opportunity” by last year’s winner Giancarlo Bell (19).

The student of medicine at the University of Glasgow spent six weeks at the International Christian University in Tokyo on an intensive Japanese language course where he achieved A grades.

Giancarlo says:

“I will remember the trip and the friends I made forever. But, more importantly I developed language skills and an adoration for Japanese culture that I will build on for the rest of my life. I realised that, despite my success in the beginners’ course, I am only scratching the surface of a massive, beautiful, seemingly-impenetrable written and spoken language.”

The scholarship is named after the Scottish entrepreneur Thomas Blake Glover who was born in Aberdeenshire in 1838. Glover settled in Nagasaki in 1859 and played a critically important role in opening Japan to the west. Known as the Scottish Samurai, he introduced the first railway locomotive, started the Kirin brewery and influenced the industrial development of Mitsubishi.

The scholarship aims to recognise these successes by providing young Scots with the opportunity to learn about business and culture in the hope of further improving Scotland’s historic links with Japan.

This is the sixth year that Aberdeen Asset Management has sponsored the Thomas Blake Glover Aberdeen Asset Scholarship and chief executive Martin Gilbert, says:

“We are proud to support initiatives which give committed and enthusiastic Scots an opportunity to advance their career opportunities.

“This scholarship offers an exceptional opportunity for one Scottish student to experience Japanese education, industries and lifestyle and an opportunity to forge new partnerships with the country, which has one of the world’s largest economies.”