Sep 282017

As the significant new data security regulation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), comes into force in May 2018, Darren Bird, Head of Technology at Xeretec, explains how businesses can stay compliant.

Xeretec’s Darren Bird.

Irrespective of how security conscious we have become in the digital era, the recent cyberattack on the NHS was a sobering reminder about the online vulnerabilities that all private and public sector organisations are still exposed to.

Cyberattacks come in many forms, with many resulting in confidential data either being exposed or compromised.

But security breaches don’t just arise from large scale, high-profile attacks. Sometimes poor internal processes, or a lack of diligence, can result in a breach.

In a bid to force companies to be even more proactive in their efforts to protect company and customer data, the EU has announced the GDPR will come into action in May of next year.

In the case of a breach, the EU is warning of hefty fines of up to €20m, or 4% of a company’s annual worldwide turnover – whichever is greater.

Here are our recommendations to help avoid GDPR non-compliance:

Implement measures to keep your data safe:

The primary objective of the GDPR is to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the EU. This will ensure all organisations provide a broader duty of care to their customers, to prevent their personal details and data from leaking, so it is crucial that businesses start to think about the security measures they will put in place to comply with the GDPR.

The EU specifies that personal data is:

“any information relating to an individual, whether it relates to his or her private, professional or public life. It can be anything from a name, a home address, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer’s IP address.”

Don’t overlook print from a security perspective:

In the context of document imaging and print, it’s well known that unprotected print devices can be a source of data leaks. Private data is still being left unclaimed on devices, even though solutions already exist to mitigate the risks. While May 2018 may seem some time away, now is the time for all organisations to start assessing how ready and able they are to comply with the GDPR. Xeretec ensures that all its clients’ print is secure and has vast experience helping businesses to understand the security vulnerabilities print exposes them to  

Find print solutions to comply with GDPR:

Xeretec can also provide intelligent print management solutions that enable IT administrators to set up automated workflows. These can detect if documents contain specific patterns relating to data, such as bank or credit card details, personal health information, or sensitive company data. It can then redact any, or all, instances of that pattern in a document.

On top of that, it is sophisticated enough to flag up incidents of potential compliance violations to a company’s chief data, security or compliance officer, thereby acting as an early warning system ahead of a potential breach.

Having a secure print function is another way that businesses can help their print comply with the GDPR, as this only allows those authorised to release prints from a device via a secure PIN code or swipe card. This is a powerful way to stop unclaimed documents being left on devices and an effective measure to help prevent security breaches from occurring.

Combined, these solutions can help deliver the type of proactive security management that could easily halt the kinds of security breaches that the GDPR is trying to prevent, therefore helping businesses avoid paying severe fines.

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May 192017

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

One of the biggest shake ups of European privacy legislation which is expected to have a significant impact on the way business is done comes into force in 12 months’ time.

It’s going to have a huge impact on how businesses store and process data and carries tough penalties and hefty fines for breaches.

The Government will implement the General Data Protection Regulation and it is expected that the UK will continue to comply with GDPR after Brexit – so all businesses should be assessing how they use personal data and how this legislation will affect the sector in which they operate.

Advanced planning is key to ensuring compliance with the new legislation which comes into force from 25 May 2018, according to Austen Clark, managing director of Clark Integrated Technologies.

 “The changes that will come with the 2018 deadline will have implications for businesses of all sizes that handle the personal data of EU residents, regardless of location,” Mr Clark states.

“The GDPR is going to have a huge impact on how businesses store and process data and they need to act now to make sure they are properly prepared for this major overhaul of data protection legislation which will impact on us all. Dedicating time to this now will ensure businesses have procedures in place to be able to comply with the new regulation.

“This isn’t just for big businesses – a gym that offers a members’ loyalty scheme or a one-person chiropractor that asks patients to complete a wellbeing form will have to ensure that personal data is stored in line with the new regulations and not breach them.”

GDPR will directly apply in EU countries and replaces ageing European and national data protection legislation, with companies given until until May next year to adopt the measures and become compliant.

Influenced by technological advances, it introduces new accountability obligations, stronger rights and ongoing restrictions on international data flows. GDPR seeks to protect individuals whose personal data is handled by companies. Data processing refers to the handling, storage, evaluation, reference or general use of information relating to individuals. Businesses should only be collecting necessary data and discarding it when it is no longer required to protect data subject rights.

So an online retailer running a small e-commerce site that holds customers’ personal details is subject to GDPR regulations. And any company or individual providing marketing, IT, accountancy or business support that may have access to a wealth of client and customer data needs to ensure this is collected, stored and protected in specific ways.

One of the biggest considerations of the new regulations is ensuring sensitive data is handled correctly.

Government help to prepare for the regulation is available, with webinars, training courses and data flow audits and Mr Clark suggests a good starting point is to carry out a gap analysis of current processing in line with GDPR.

“Understand what data you hold, how you are using it, and make sure that you are practising good data hygiene by limiting access to data to only those who need it, and ensuring that authentication protocols are up-to-scratch for those users,” Mr Clark advises.

“Businesses should also consider deleting data that is no longer required so that it does not become an unnecessary risk.”

Clark IT is already working with clients to assess how GDPR will impact on them and the sector in which they operate, to guide them through the complexities of the legislation and to ensure they become fully compliant. The IT specialists can take clients through the process from start to finish using its unique portal and working with partners to cover legal, datacentre, insurance and finance matters.

While it may seem like a daunting process, GDPR should not be viewed as unnecessary red tape says Mr Clark, who predicts that the legislation has the ability to bring benefits to both businesses and individuals.

Mr Clark states:

“This creates a new single data protection act, and has scope to bring increased consistency to data protection practices, eliminating problems arising from the existence of different national variations.

“There are enhanced powers given to data protection authorities in tackling non-compliance and it will also be easier for individuals to claim against data controllers where their data privacy has been infringed.

 “GDPR will also give individuals greater control and rights over their personal data. As a result, individuals will be able to request that businesses delete their no longer necessary or accurate personal data.

“The regulation could also prove to be an advance in the war against cybercrime, given mandatory breach notifications. Taking GDPR seriously will see businesses invest in, and demonstrate, high levels of security which could in turn raise customer trust.”

Clark IT based near Turriff in Aberdeenshire is one Scotland’s leading independent providers of managed ICT solutions with a broad range of corporate and commercial clients not only in the North-east but across Scotland and beyond.

Its clients benefit from the specialist knowledge of its 26-strong workforce to support their systems and through managed IT services. Clients also benefit from Pro-active IT Support, 24/7 Monitoring, A virtual IT Manager, predictive IT costs and a strategic IT plan tailor-made for their business.

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May 052017

With thanks to Kenneth Hutchison, Parliamentary Assistant to Dr. Eilidh Whiteford.

Eilidh Whiteford with local fisherman John Clark.

Eilidh Whiteford, SNP candidate for Banff and Buchan, has renewed calls for a re-think on Aberdeenshire Council’s proposals to end Macduff Harbour’s Night Watchmen service.
Dr Whiteford joined local fisherman John Clark aboard the Banff-registered Reliance II on Wednesday night to see for herself the importance of the watchmen, and the challenges of piloting commercial vessels safely into Macduff Harbour.

Speaking after the visit, Dr. Whiteford said:

“I have already raised this issue with the council, but this evening I was able to see for myself exactly why the watchmen at Macduff need to be retained.

“This is primarily a safety issue. Even in daylight with perfect weather conditions, the entrance to Macduff Harbour is challenging for vessels. The harbour entrance can also be deceiving for skippers less familiar with the port, due to the remnants of the old harbour wall. 

“It’s also a commercial issue. Landings in Macduff have increased greatly since landing restrictions were lifted last year, and it is probably the single most important development towards regenerating economic activity in the town.

“At a time when the council has been putting huge efforts into regenerating Macduff and the surrounding area, it would be entirely counterproductive to undermine these efforts by removing essential personnel who enable commercial fishermen to land safely.”

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Apr 202017

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Austen Clark, managing director of Clark Integrated Technologies.

A major UK business survey revealing that a fifth of British businesses have been hacked by cyber criminals hammers home the need for all firms to ramp up their defences against cybercrime.

With only a quarter of firms surveyed by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) saying their business has security measures in place to guard against hacking, Austen Clark of Clark Integrated Technologies warns that too many firms could be exposing themselves to the very real danger of being hit by cybercrime.

Mr Clark, managing director of the Turriff-based ICT firm, says that the BCC report published this week drives home need for all businesses ramp up security defences to protect against hacking – and there are simple, tangible actions that all organisations can follow to reduce their risk of becoming a victim.

Larger companies – defined as those with at least 100 staff – are more susceptible to cyber attacks, according to the report, which found that 42% of big businesses had fallen victim to cybercrime, compared with 18% of small companies. Only a quarter (24%) of the survey’s 1,200 respondents said their business had security measures in place to guard against hacking.

Cybercrime can jeopardise a firm’s finances, confidence and reputation as well as causing disruption to business and productivity, warns Mr Clark, adding that while data breaches at web giant Yahoo, telecoms firm TalkTalk and the dating website Ashley Madison are the ones to grab headlines, the BCC report shows how worryingly widespread the problem is across the economy.

Mr Clark says:

“The internet brings huge opportunities but it also brings risks and every single day businesses face cyber-attacks, with attempts to steal information and money, or disrupt business. It is increasingly important to manage these risks to take advantage of the internet whilst protecting your business.

“As cybercriminals become more determined and better organised, no business can afford to take its eye off the ball. Firms of all sizes, from major corporations to one-man operations, can be victims so all need to be proactive about protecting themselves from cyber-attacks.

“Cybercrime is a bit like the elephant in the room – everyone has heard of it and has stories relating to ‘other businesses’ but no one wants to admit they have been hit by a cyberattack as there seems to be a stigma around being a victim of a scam or con. But reports like this one show the alarming extent of the problem, and its impact on the economy.”

The good news is that there are regular and simple actions that can be taken to help businesses promote good cyber health and Clark IT advises the following:

  1. Install and update anti-virus, anti-spam, and firewall/s
  2. Carry out regular updates on all software and devices
  3.  Change your password regularly (make it difficult to ever guess)
  4.  Secure your network
  5.  Provide clear and concise procedures for handling email, internet and mobile devices
  6.  Train your people in good security practices
  7.  Implement and test backup plans
  8.  Carry out regular security risk assessments to identify important information and systems
  9.  Carry out regular security testing of your business
  10.  Be suspicious – not everyone is a prince with $100 million dollars to send your way

Hacking attacks on British businesses has been said to cost investors £42bn.

Clark IT is based near Turriff in Aberdeenshire and is one Scotland’s leading independent providers of managed ICT solutions with a broad range of corporate and commercial clients not only in the North-east but across Scotland and beyond.

Clark IT clients benefit from the specialist knowledge of the firm’s 26-strong team to support their systems and through managed IT services. Clients also benefit from Pro-active IT Support, 24/7 Monitoring, A virtual IT Manager, predictive IT costs and a strategic IT plan tailor-made for their business.

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Feb 102017

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

As cybercrime continues to be a real and growing menace to business, data backup must become a greater part of continuity planning, according to a Scottish IT business leader.

Data backup is one of the most important areas of IT and yet is also one of the most ignored, Austen Clark of Clark Integrated Technologies has warned ahead of World Backup Day on March 31.

A study last year found that while 36% backup their business data entirely there are 36% who back nothing up at all.

“It is the time put a clear focus on data backup, with man-made cybercrime threats adding another dimension to the risk of data being destroyed or deleted” says Mr Clark.

“We are living in a data-driven society and data is crucial to the smooth running of any business.

“As such backing up data is an essential security measure in today’s computing world. The rise in ransomware attacks which effectively take data hostage from business is just one example of how data loss can happen.  An attack can has financial implications and can cost hundreds or thousands of pounds to businesses.

“Data has gained intrinsic value, either in the staff time needed to generate it or in its relevance to your clients. Data loss, both accidental and due to theft, costs millions of pounds to businesses every year.”

Mr Clark answers some of the most commonly posed questions around the subject.

What is backing up?

Quite simply, backing up is making a copy of your most important files which can be used if the original copy is lost, with the second copy ideally held at different location to the original and be kept in a secure environment.

It is usual for data to be saved to just one place, like ‘My Documents’ on a PC’s hard drive but if this data were accidentally changed or deleted it would take considerable time and expense to restore, with the possibility it may never to be recovered.

Growing numbers of computer viruses have become a risk to business information, and once they have infected your machine they may delete or corrupt your data.

Other common causes of date loss are physical failure of a PC or Server, accidental error, theft or disasters like fire, flood or even simply a dropped glass of water.

Data backup should be specifically tailored for your business.

What data should I backup?

When choosing what data to back up think about what you would need to continue working if your network was damaged.

Clients address, telephone details, your account information, important documents. How long has it taken you to collate all this information and what would happen if you couldn’t get it back once lost? These are the key questions to think about around backing up.

What types of backup are there?

There are various types of backup available and the one you choose will generally depend on time, security and budget. There are a number of frequently used backup solutions to suit business needs.

Memory stick devices tend to be used for smaller backups or mobile users. These are usually removable hard drives and are very popular. The disadvantages of these cheaper devices are that they are at times unreliable and easy to lose or damage due to their small size. The data which is held on them is usually unsecured, meaning if customer details or financial information is held on them this is a greater risk if they were to be lost or used by unauthorised personnel.

When a backup is done the previous backup is overwritten, meaning that only one version of the backup can be stored.

Tape backup is an old industry standard backup medium for businesses with a reasonable amount of data to backup. Daily, weekly and monthly backups can be carried out and as long as you have a managed tape rotation and store the tapes offsite it is a possibility to use this backup solution.

The disadvantages of tape are that it is slow, both to backup and to restore. As it is a manual process it can be subject to error and unless you remember to take the tapes offsite on a daily basis it is subject to the same threats as the original backup.

Online data backup is an efficient choice for small and medium businesses. There is no need to purchase hardware or software, just  a monthly service. Select the data you want to backup and it is transferred in an encrypted format to a high security data centre.

Backups are fully automated, meaning no user intervention is required and you can restore single files or full backups at the click of a mouse. Full protection and availability make this an attractive option. Different versions of backups are available, covering accidental changes made or deletions.

What other considerations are there?

Always test your recovery data – a backup is useless if it cannot restore correctly. Backup regularly, you don’t want to find out the last copy you made is several months old. Keep your backups off site, that way if you do lose data to a fire, flood or theft you know you can retrieve your information.

What about personal devices?

Research shows that 30% of people have never backed up but with 113 phones lost or stolen every two minutes and one in 10 computers infected with a virus each month it is just as important to back up data here too which means it can be saved in the event of a disaster or accident.




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Nov 222016

Ransomware attacks are on the rise; corporations and individuals find their computers suddenly locked until a ransom is paid. The risks to data on such attacked computer systems are serious. Suzanne Kelly used a Freedom of Information request to uncover that the city council experienced a cyber attack.

computer-security-social-media-1679234_1280Despite the city holding data on all 225,000 Aberdeen citizens and area businesses, a malicious ransomware attacker managed to breach the city’s anti-virus and firewall protections.

Ransomware attacks happen when ‘phishing’ emails or spam links allow a programme into a computer system which then locks data away, until the owner of the system pays a ransom or manages to bypass the attack.

The City had been asked:

“Has your organisation ever been the victim of a ransomware attack which meant that an external hacker encrypted a PC or device or network within your organisation and demanded payment in order to decrypt the device?”

They answered that there was one such incident in the past 12 months.

The City had to remove all software from the relevant device; a spokesperson advised:

“We re-imaged the device. Re-imaging is the process of removing all software on a computer and reinstalling everything.”

A subsequent  FOI request will be made to determine if the responsible person or persons were identified, what the cost was to the city, and whether any data could have been accessed, if so what data, and what were the circumstances that allowed the ransomware in.

The City did not record how much money the attacker demanded as a ransom.

The City did not notify the authorities, although blackmail of any kind is a criminal offence, and citizens’ data could have been compromised. Computer World magazine warns that UK institutions are not taking ransomware threats seriously:

“Cyber criminals simply have to infect computer systems with malware designed to lock up critical data by encrypting it and demand ransom in return for the encryption keys.

“The occurrence of ransomware attacks nearly doubled, up by 172%, in the first half of 2016 compared with the whole of 2015, according to a recent report by security firm Trend Micro.

“Ransomware, the report said, is now a prevalent and pervasive threat, with variants designed to attack all levels of the network.

“Cyber criminals spearheading these attacks are creatively evolving on a continuous basis to keep enterprises guessing,” said Raimund Genes, chief technology officer at Trend Micro.

“Ransomware is typically distributed through phishing emails designed to trick recipients into downloading the malware, or through app downloads and compromised websites.”   

Police Scotland offers advice on this kind of crime:

“In order to prevent people becoming victims, Police Scotland is advising every computer user to ensure they are running the latest versions of security software; have their data backed up regularly to cloud services or devices not connected to their computer; be extremely vigilant about opening any unsolicited email; and visiting websites you are not familiar with, or do not have a business need to access.

“DCI Cravens added:

“There is a lot of help available online for both individuals and businesses and useful advice for everyone can be found at:

“For businesses, Cyber Essentials is a new Government-backed and industry supported scheme to guide businesses in protecting themselves against cyber threats, and further information can be found by clicking on “”

Picture courtesy of Pixabay:

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Nov 102016

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Photos by: Grant Anderson -

Tesco Bank’s online hacking attack  has prompted the  boss of a North-east IT firm to issue a stark warning that cybercrime must be taken very seriously – and not just by national and international brands and corporations.

Small and medium enterprises are just as vulnerable and this latest attack is simply another indication of the damage that can be wreaked by hackers, according to Austen Clark, managing director of Clark Integrated Technologies.

Tesco Bank has more than 7 million customers accounts and confirmed “fraudulent criminal activity” was first identified late on Saturday with about 20,000 customers have had money taken from their accounts, with “suspicious activity” identified in another 20,000.

Mr Clark (pictured), a leading voice in the campaign to ensure owners of SMES defend against cyber criminals, has urged businesses to wake up to the realities, saying that the fast-paced and ever changing nature of information technology meaning new potential online risks are arising all the time.

Mr Clark states:

“Many firms may not realise the risk they face from cybercrime. Governments and multinational corporations are large targets but their increase in awareness and investment in defence against cyberattacks are leading to SMEs producing a more viable focus for hackers.

“There is a serious and important message for companies of all sizes that store and handle personal data. People’s personal information must be securely protected at all times.

“While under-reporting is massive, Federation of Small Business statistics show that two thirds of small businesses have been the victim to cybercrime in the past two years, while over a third of small businesses do not report crimes against their business. It’s time for small businesses to sit up, appreciate the potential severity of cyber-attacks and implement good risk management.”

Cloud computing has resulted in work no longer being a place but a task as flexible and home working options increase in the work place. With reliance on multiple internet connected devices only set to rise as well, cybercrime is something that everyone needs to guard against.

“We’ve observed that attackers are exploiting the new opportunities that these new ways of working creates,” Mr Clark continues.

“Attackers are now aware of your weakest locations, such as off-network devices and remote offices, furthermore they now target specific systems and users

“Attackers have the patience to acquire multiple footholds so then can launch an attack at the proper time – and are more motivated and sophisticated than ever to target company’s data. Data has been the driving force behind the latest attacks and is viewed as the world’s newest currency.”

Thankfully, businesses can increase their security online by securing their IT, having up to date malware protection, managing user privileges and working towards educating workers and raising awareness to of good practice.

Some of the most basic measures include:

  • Allow your software and applications to be updated as soon as possible.  These updates often contain vital security updates to protect your devices from new threats.
  • Never use obvious passwords like ‘password’. Add symbols and numbers and a mix of upper and lower case letters to ensure a strong password.
  • Delete and block suspicious e-mails and never open attachments or follow links contained within.
  • Don’t forget smartphones and tablets are at just as much risk from viruses and other forms of malware as computers.  Install anti-virus protection, keep it up to date and use it regularly.
  • Educate your staff on the dangers of cybercrime, both to the business and them as an individual and encourage them to use best practice

Mr Clark concludes:

“The internet brings huge business opportunities but it also brings risks and every single day businesses face cyber-attacks, with attempts to steal information and money, or disrupt business. It is increasingly important to manage these risks to take advantage of the internet whilst protecting your business.

“Focus on protecting data and standardisation and use independent advisers to manage your interests.

“If your business does become the victim of hacking, it’s important to dissect a breach after it has occurred as this can help understand how to prevent it from happening again. However, like most things, prevention is so much better than cure.

“There’s really no such thing as a silver bullet – all systems have weaknesses and vulnerabilities – but there is help and guidance available to help prevent against becoming the next victim of cybercrime.”

Clark IT is based near Turriff in Aberdeenshire and is one Scotland’s leading independent providers of managed ICT solutions with a broad range of corporate and commercial clients across Scotland and beyond.

Clark IT clients benefit from the specialist knowledge of the firm’s 22-strong team to support their systems and through managed IT services. Clients also benefit from Pro-active IT Support, 24/7 Monitoring, A virtual IT Manager, predictive IT costs and a strategic IT plan tailor-made for their business.

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Apr 012016
Euan Badenoch2

Euan Badenoch says backing up was a “lifesaver”

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

An Aberdeen University student could have lost an academic year’s worth of material when his laptop crashed – but for heeding his mum’s words of wisdom and ensuring his data was backed up.

For Euan Badenoch (23) being able to retrieve data after a computer crash was a “lifesaver” that meant that he could retrieve his work on a different PC and continue where he left off.

The former pupil of Turriff Academy was nearing completion and close to deadline on a 3,000 word assignment for his Masters Degree in Environmental Science when his laptop gave up the ghost.

His mum Morag works at Clark Integrated Technologies near Turriff and one of her regular reminders to Euan after he left home to embark on his studies was the importance of backing up data in case of an accident or failure.

Euan followed her advice, backing up his work to a USB and external hard drive. It meant that when disaster struck and his laptop failed, all was not lost and he could simply pick up where he left off.

Euan admits it would have been devastating to have lost all of his work due to a computer failure.

“My laptop is old and when I went to switch it back on there was no life and I had a panic attack as I’d spent a lot of time and research on this piece of work and the deadline was just a day away,” he explains.

“Not only would I have lost that particular assignment and but the rest of my university course work since October last year.

 “Having my data backed up was a lifesaver.  It’s just something I do automatically now and have multiple saved copies so that it’s always accessible.”

Yesterday was World Back Up Day, with the message to not be an April Fool by failing to back up data.

Back up services are important for individuals and it’s essential for business too, says Clark IT’s technical lead Amar Mirashi.

Amar has many real experiences of being able to avert major problems for the businesses they support, such as in cases when files have been accidentally deleted, ransomware has struck or a laptop was lost.

One customer’s network was hit by ransomware attack through the CryptoLocker virus which encrypted network files. With hourly back-ups in place, Clark was able to restore systems to the time 15 minutes before the virus struck, allowing business to continue as normal.

Through back up, Clark  IT was able to restore an accidentally deleted document to a client which was essential evidence in a legal wrangle it was having with a supplier. The document had been part of a deleted email, but it was traced and restored through back up – and the client won the dispute.

A businessman who left his laptop on the boot of his car and drove off never saw the portable equipment again – but with cloud back up Clark IT ensured he was able to access all of his data.

Amar says:

“As a trusted adviser to clients, it is our responsibility to ensure they have the best services possible and we do that proactively and we stress to our clients the importance of having correct back up in place. At times when there may be potential for problems, we pick that up through alerts to our support desk and act and advise appropriately.

“It’s all part of the fully managed service we provide for our clients. Preventing data loss and ensuring business continuity for our customers is key.”

To find out about World Back Up Day, visit

Clark IT has 25 years of experience in providing industry leading support and delivering business-class technology. The company’s integrated solutions provide industry leading services, productivity and cost effective IT platforms for business growth. For more information, see the firm’s website at


Mar 282014

Alister coutts CNDScottish CND will be organising a walk from Scottish Parliament to Faslane and a demonstration and rally on Saturday 5th April in Glasgow. With thanks to Jonathan Russell, Chair Aberdeen and District CND

At present all of the UK ‘s Nuclear weapons are based in Scotland at the Faslane Nuclear base on the West coast of Scotland  near to Glasgow and surrounding areas with Scotland’s highest density of population.

The Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament will be organising two major related events which the general public can get involved with to raise awareness of the horrific nature of Nuclear Weapons.

The first is a Spring Walk which will start on Tuesday April 1st at 12.15 pm outside the Scottish Parliament and takes in on its way Currie, Bathgate, Coatbridge, Glasgow, Dumbarton and eventually arriving at the Faslane Nuclear base on Monday 7th April.

One of our local members Alister Coutts ( pictured ) who is going on the walk gave the following reasons for doing so.

“Even though I’ve been involved in environmental activism for around 10 years, I’ve not been a member of Scottish CND for all that long and only went to Faslane for the first time in April 2013, but I’ve been opposed to nuclear weapons, and indeed nuclear power, for as long as I can remember. My first reason for joining the peace walk is therefore to do as much as I can to remind the public that the stunning countryside surrounding Gare Loch has been completely and utterly destroyed by the abhorrent presence of the Trident Nuclear Missile base for 50 years too long.  

 “The peace walk will also be a great opportunity to highlight the fact that the upcoming Independence Referendum presents the people of Scotland with the chance to start the process of ridding not only Scotland, but the UK as a whole, of these weapons of mass destruction forever. My hope is that this could also have a positive knock on effect and result in other countries around the world being pressurised into destroying the nuclear arsenals as well. 

“From a more personal viewpoint, having a daughter: Kate, a son: Robbie and three beautiful grandchildren: Alfie, Molly and Kenzie, my second reason for taking part in the march is to do as much as I can to ensure that their future is bright in a nuclear weapon free, and I would like to hope, an eventually neutral, Scotland.”

Included in the events of the walk but for all the public to get involved in will be a March and Rally on Saturday April 5th starting at 11.30am and ending at 12.30pm with a Rally. Speakers at the rally will include Nicola Sturgeon MSP Deputy First Minister, Patrick Harvey MSP. Lord Provost Sadie Docherty, Lesley Riddoch, Dave Moxham (STUC) and Rev Sally Foster-Fulton. Music will be provided by the Gleeboom drummers.

Local MSP Christian Allard has put out the following statement:

“There is clear opposition to nuclear weapons being based in Scotland. Yet the Westminster Government, in this latest budget, have missed their last chance to commit to getting rid weapons of mass destruction before the referendum. An SNP Government in an independent Scotland would be committed to removing Trident from Scottish waters for good.’’

 “In the meantime I would urge anyone who is concerned about the presence of nuclear weapons in Scotland to make sure their voice is heard at this series of events in April.”

Jonathan Russell Chair of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament added:

“the Independence referendum gives the opportunity for Scotland to get rid of its Nuclear Weapons. He also challenged the Labour Party to end its present stance on replacing Trident.’ Nuclear weapons have the potential to kill us all and are a scourge on humanity. We need to see concerted efforts internationally to get rid of these weapons and here in Scotland we should be setting an example.”

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Apr 222013

Suzanne Kelly reports on a recent conversation with artist Alicia Bruce  in a two-part article. The first looks at her background and her work regarding the Menie Estate.

Alicia Bruce was the first photographer to show the world the human cost of the Trump development at the Menie Estate, countering the anti-resident propaganda which dominates the local press to this day.
Aberdeen Voice was keen to find out more about her and her photography, and we finally catch up with her as she closes a show at Holyrood and works on a local project.

When and how did you decide to embark on a career in photography?  Where did you study?  Who and what inspired you?

I was 19 and studying Social Sciences.  My friend had a key to a darkroom – it was that moment when the first print came up in the darkroom and that was that.  It kind of changed my life and direction – I was completely obsessed and decided that was what I was going to do.

I turned up at Aberdeen College with a portfolio and said ‘let me in!’ I did an HND there followed by a degree in Photograph and Film in Edinburgh.

You are known for your work with the residents at the Menie Estate?  How did you get interested in this subject? 

I started the project in 2010 I had a exhibition slot a Peacock Visual Arts the following January.  The project began out of curiosity and also questioning what I was reading in the media and, the local press in general about Mike Forbes, ‘Trump Opponent’.  I thought ‘Is this guy really that angry – how can he sustain this?’

I’d visited the site with the project in mind once before, but went around the edges, the beach.   I then went to visit Mike’s croft.  He could have slammed the door in my face. – I told him  I had an exhibition coming up and I’d like to feature a portrait of him.  Mike thought this was brilliant; he was so welcoming and a real comedian.

He couldn’t have been nicer or more different from how he was portrayed in the press at that time.

David McCue was having his ‘Triumphant’ exhibition in Mike’s barn that same day and the atmosphere was electric.   That day I also met Susan Munro, John Munro, Sheila Forbes, David Milne, Molly Forbes, Anthony Baxter (who had just started filming his documentary) and Martin Ford to name a few.

We all hit it off and they were keen to tell me what was happening.  Susan and John were excited about my project idea as they loved my ‘Flood in the Highlands: after Sir Edwin Landseer’ photograph.  They had just seen some Landseer’s at the Glen Affric Lodge.

The community spirit and welcoming atmosphere that day was a million miles away from the media perceptions of the area.  I made time to meet all the residents individually later that week.  Their hospitality, generous spirit and enthusiasm for the project continued.

Initially Menie was going to be part of a wider exhibition theme focusing on social political issues in Aberdeen.  But Menie – you get caught up in everything that’s happening, and I couldn’t’ believe this story wasn’t being told.  I felt a responsibility to use my exhibition as a way of telling the story from the residents perception and showing what was about to be lost.

That clip of Anthony and Richard’s arrest is a vital document of social history

I couldn’t believe how quickly things were changing in 2010.  Some people would say ‘it is just a golf course’  It was difficult for people to comprehend what was really going on.

With Anthony Baxter there filming, there was the comfort of knowing he was documenting an overview of the situation which removed the pressure which I had felt to tell the whole story. It was great to work in parallel with him.  The shock hit all of us the day he was arrested – we were afraid that the footage would be lost.

That clip of Anthony and Richard’s arrest is a vital document of social history; it’s unquestionable.  I’m glad he was brave enough to record it.

My  exhibition, which opened in January 2011, and features in You’ve Been Trumped, contained portraits made in collaboration with the residents accompanied by their statements.  I also exhibited 19 landscape photographs depicting the wilderness landscape before it was ‘Trumped’.

When the exhibition opened it was first time ever  the residents  had positive press locally, nationally and internationally.  At the time that was a huge achievement.  The residents homes were then under threat of CPO.  Trump released at statement during the exhibition claiming he would no longer pursue CPO’s, the residents have yet to see that in writing.

My portraits with Mike, Sheila and Molly Forbes were acquired by the National Galleries of Scotland in February 2011: this was huge as it meant the residents of Menie, who had until then been misrepresented, had secured their place as National treasures but had also been empowered to represent themselves in the process.

You had a run-in with security covered in Duckrabbit blog – it sounds horrible.  Do you want to talk about it?

I have frequently been followed by security, stopped by the police in Menie – it shifts your perception of your place in the world.

We knew it wasn’t right – but it still became the norm, something we continually questioned but dealt with.  I know how to diffuse things; I know that as individuals they are just people doing a job so I will just have a chat to them.  I would always explain that I was doing nature photography.

I know my rights and would never delete an image or show them my photographs.  Anthony Baxter got the brunt of their anger.  Because I was a young female, and being chatty, they probably thought I was not interested in the politics in the same way Anthony was.  It helped having a doric accent too.  But my life wasn’t easy.

The scariest incident which I think you are referring to was the most unexpected.

I was in Susan Munro’s garden and well off Trump property.  I had a packet of biscuits in one hand and turned round to take a shot.

The next thing a knew an angry security guard was screaming and threatening to smash my camera – he declared that back up was coming.  He blocked our route out with his van and, due to the bunds of earth planted by the developers round Susan’s, there would have been no witnesses if he attacked me.

Luckily I escaped unhurt as did my Hasselblad.  I called the police and the man was given a full, adult warning.  He should have been charged with attempted assault.

In August 2010 when I photographed David Milne for his portrait; he had an angry expression – that’s because there were workers on quad bikes going up and down the dunes.  After we left Hermit Point later that evening, the guys on quad bikes followed our car; they went into a field and then pulled right in front of the car on a country road with their lights off. We narrowly escaped a serious crash.

That same summer I’d been spotting and photographing little red flags which kept popping up on the landscape.   Mike was worried they would hurt the horse – he called the police and said he’d found all these things on the property – and he was charged with theft of £13 of red flags.

That same day the story ‘Trump opponent charged with theft’  was on the front page of the Evening Express.  I saw a copy at the Castlegate newsagent and I was furious.

I wasn’t speaking publicly at that time about what was happening – if I was too vocal at that stage, I wouldn’t have had access to complete the project.  It was surreal.  Now that my work is in the public domain and the story is out there, it’s easier to talk about.

We discussed theories about how that story got into the press so quickly.

There has been definite sway with the local news which seems to lack compassion for the local residents.  I certainly didn’t see any articles about local people harassed by developers.  The language is derogatory about the residents  calling them ‘protestors’ and  ‘Trump opponents’.

One of my achievements was getting a positive story in the Press & Journal the day the Peacock exhibition opened.

What do you think of recent developments at Menie?

The wind farm – I think they’re (Trump) could be looking for an excuse to exit.   It doesn’t look like the golf course is  going to bring the economic benefits that the Trump would have hoped.

Anthony put it eloquently – Trump says he wants real journalists; but he really wants sycophants.  I can’t help but think he’s got a bee in his bonnet about wind farms but it gives him a way to back out of the hotel and the housing development – which is where the money would come from.

It’s bitter sweet seeing nature fighting back as the golf course collapses into the sea.  I have concerns about the long term effects of stabilising those sand dunes where meant to be protected. “our equivalent of the Amazon Rain Forrest’ Jim Hansom.

A forest was planted in front of David and Moira Milne’s house in January this year too.. The intimidation is endless.

The last time I visited, a large marquee was being constructed near the clubhouse.  David Milne poured us all a glass of champagne and toasted the windfarms.

Tell me about your recent show of the Menie photographs at Holyrood

The Scottish Government were the target audience for this exhibition held during Scottish Environment Week 2013.  I wanted the decision makers to come face to face with Mike and Sheila as they entered the chamber.  If Alex Salmond could not find the time to go to his constituents’ doorsteps, then I had to bring them to his.

In the run up to the exhibition there was an ongoing dialogue with the parliament’s exhibitions team and a formal application process.  I had to find an MSP sponsor months before the show could go ahead, I repeatedly invited  Alex Salmond (as the MSP for Menie) to be my sponsor but never received a definite yes.

At the final hour Patrick Harvie, Green MSP and Malcolm Chisholm, my local MSP, jointly supported the exhibition.  I am thankful to them for their support.

I chose the entrance to the Member’s Lobby as my exhibition space.   MSPs including Alex Salmond have to walk past that area to get to the chamber. Right at the entrance to the chamber I displayed a 30×30 inch print of the golf course collapsing into the sea with the caption:

The Fourth Tee.

Trump International Golf Links Scotland

Nature fights back.

January 2013″

I thought it was important to get as many people to see that as possible– it was undeniable that that was happening and that the economic benefits of the course were questionable.

I asked Salmond why he had not been to visit Mike and Sheila

Getting the work into parliament was a long process. I had to be security checked and my work scanned which is standard practice.  The security forms ask questions like ‘Are you a terrorist?’  There were questions about your parents as well.

Alex Salmond coming to find me; it was a welcome surprise.  He described Mike and Molly as  “Great characters … great characters.  Mike stands up for Scotland.”  I pointed out that they are not characters; they are real people.

It was clear that the exhibition really got under Alex Salmond’s skin.  I asked Salmond why he had not been to visit Mike and Sheila.

At first he claimed he had been to see them but after I pointed at the image of their house a few times asking again “have you been here, have you been in this house?” he eventually answered “I’ve spoken to them but  I’ve not been to the croft… no.”  He then said  “it’s making lots of money.”  I responded,  “it’s falling apart.  Look!”

MSPs were talking to me all week about the photographs and the current situation in Menie.  It was an honour to represent and humanise the situation with Scotland’s decision makers. I was told by one MSP that some would be dreading having it there.  I made it clear that the outcome for the exhibition was to draw attention to the need for a public inquiry into the handling of the Trump Development.

David Milne released a petition the week before the show opened.

As well as the large scale printed portraits accompanied by statements and the landscape, I displayed a multimedia work on a 24″ screen.  The multimedia contained 20 captioned photographs of the environmental damage caused by the development with detailed captions.

MSPs would stand for long periods of time reading these.  The soundtrack was ‘Cover Your Eyes’ a song written by Karine Polwart about the Trump Development.

The exhibition had a high impact, got people talking, hopefully shifted policies and was celebrated in a parliamentary motion stating:

“That the Parliament congratulates the award-winning Aberdeenshire photographer, Alicia Bruce, on her ongoing photography project about Menie, an area of outstanding natural beauty on the Aberdeenshire coast; understands that her photographs from this series have gained international acclaim and have been published in The Times, The Scotsman and several arts magazines, and that two of the portraits have been acquired by the National Galleries of Scotland, and welcomes that Alicia’s photographs, many of which restage compositions from celebrated paintings, have helped to tell the story of the residents of Menie, whose homes came under threat due to what it considers the bullish golf course development of Donald Trump, and to portray a side of that story that otherwise might have gone unheard.”

Motion S4M-05749: Patrick Harvie, Glasgow, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 27/02/2013
Menie Community Photography Project

More from Alicia and her other projects in the next instalment.

All images copyright Alicia Bruce

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