Jan 302015
 

Suzanne Kelly aka Old Susannah gets to grips with Grampian’s great and good, and with St Valentine’s Day just around the corner, her soft and sympathetic side is coming to the fore. Or maybe not. Can’t you just feel the love?

DictionaryWell, it’s official now: Aberdeen City and Shire ARE ON THE MAP! This is for several reasons. It’s not because we’re home to BrewDog, the UK’s fastest-growing drinks company (and arguably the most fun drinks company anywhere). It’s not even because we might set the tone and build a granite web (keep dreaming Messrs Wood, Smith and Crosby, you never know).

We got on the map mainly because Donald Trump came to our humble backwater. But the latest developments are even more exciting than that! Alex Salmond is writing a column for the Press & Journal AND famous people came here the other weekend! Result!

As to this new column, it’s riveting stuff. Did you know he loved his mum? He’s written a column about it.

It’s in no way reminiscent of when an X Factor contestant seeks sympathy with a sad story before singing badly. He’s also sharing a few likes and dislikes. I’m sure the honourable member will one of these days come and visit the people in his constituency at the Menie Estate – it’s just a matter of priorities.

Columns don’t write themselves you know; it’s hard work for a budding writer on his own to make it in the journalism world. It’s awfully good of the P&J to give this novice a break; I wonder if it was just the goodness of the collective Aberdeen Journals Ltd’s hearts – or if there were any other factors involved in signing young Alex up to pen his thoughts? I wonder.

But that’s only the half the reason we’re on the world’s radar now: did you know someone from Oasis and a fashion model actually came to Aberdeenshire for a party?

Well, if not, where have you been? It’s the story everyone’s talking about (well, after fracking, Muse at Marischal College, pollution and other boring subjects). Apparently someone threw a party and… people came up north from down south. To hear Aberdeen Journals tell it it’s the best thing since bunting:

“Kate Moss and Nick Grimshaw party in Craigellachie… That’s right, you read it correctly!”

Yes, that’s right: you DID read it correctly! Well done! I hope you’ve not fainted with the excitement of this revelation if you’re only reading it here for the first time. Apologies. (And if one of you could be so kind as to send me a message and let me know who Nick Grimshaw is and what he does, thanks in advance).

Watch and download the Craigellachie video here, for your and your grand children’s future viewing pleasure:

Anyway, moving on…It’s not Valentine’s day just yet; but as the supermarkets are already piling the Easter eggs on the shelves, there’s no time to lose. Tally ho!

Perhaps love and romance deserve a few definitions at time of year. A cynic might think that St Valentine’s Day is nothing more than a marketing ploy. Let’s look to our betters and see if we can learn anything about affection, admiration, and maybe even love.

To Reconcile: (English verb) Renew a friendship or a love; to recover lost affection and love.

There is one power couple that I hope will soon reconcile. These are two people, meant for each other, sharing the same loves, dreams and ambitions. It would be a huge loss if they can’t rekindle what they once had. So Alex Salmond, in case you missed it: Donald Trump ‘Still Likes and Respects You.’ Or so says the Press & Journal – and if ever The Donald will be quoted accurately, rest assured it will be in the paper his Scottish Vice President’s husband edits.

In mid 2014, Trump said of Alex:

“I disagree with him on one element, I’ve had moments in life when I’ve been very friendly with him and I do respect him, but I disagree with him on wind. [Old Susannah wonders if they got this wind from all the champagne they drank with their steak dinners in New York]

I think there are other great forms of energy but wind is becoming obsolete. I disagreed with him on that, other than that, I like him. I told that to someone the other day, I actually like Alex Salmond but I have to fight him. I’ve created a masterpiece and I don’t want to see it hurt by a very, very foolish technology that’s obsolete.” 
https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/aberdeenshire/274163/donald-trump-still-likes-respects-alex-salmond/

Presumably the very foolish technology that’s obsolete is not the printed newspaper.

I suppose when two people are deeply involved – what with wining and dining in the finest hotels either side of the Atlantic – their passions will sometimes lead to heated arguments. However, now that Alex is writing a column for the Press & Journal, he’ll have lots more opportunities to let people connected to Trump know that he likewise wants and needs to get back together.

Let’s wish the couple a happy reconciliation. Trump did go on in the P&J article about taking a position on Salmond’s independence drive, and what would or would not be appropriate for Trump to do about it – but lest the imagery be too heady for some readers, I’ll not dwell on the idea of Trump taking a position on Alex.

Perhaps the taxpayer should step in – again – and send the two flying off to a 5 star hotel in New York or elsewhere where they can enjoy yet another evening of drink and fine food. Perhaps there’s some other SSSI site we can give Trump on a silver platter as well.

Anniversary Gifts: (Modern English compound noun) A list of gifts couples are meant to exchange on different wedding anniversaries.

In January 2013 the power couple of the year tied the knot. Yes, Damian Bates married 2007 Face of Aberdeen Sarah Malone. Why the two didn’t have their nuptuals announced in Aberdeen Journals Ltd – and why Sarah didn’t make the Bride of the Week page – is a mystery. But then love works in mysterious ways. I personally think they didn’t want us mere mortals to be jealous of their union.

Last year by tradition they would have exchanged anniversary gifts made of paper – but I guess Damian had already given Sarah a gift in the form of paper – the Evening Express and P&J to be specific. The modern gift would have been made of plastic for that first anniversary; but no doubt there was already enough plastic in the mix as it was.

The alternative gift for a first year of wedded bliss is to exchange clocks. However, at Sarah’s day job at Trump’s Menie Estate, there are already some small, discrete, tasteful clocks on the landscape. Even better, they all seem to tell different times – doubtless the couple count the hours until the next Trump advertising revenue comes in and the next pro Trump advertorial is put to bed. Isn’t love grand?

This year the happy couple are meant to exchange cotton. Again, that ship has sailed, for they have both cottoned on a number of years back.

Online Dating: (Modern English noun) means of using electronic communications and computing to find a potential partner based on compatibility.

Do pity us poor single people; I spend all my time crying in my Hagen daas, wondering what to do with myself, fearing I’ll wither away as a wallflower spinster. Some singles join church groups, some take tango lessons, some take out classified ads. All are desperate to find that certain someone to go to Union Square with on a Saturday, then to stroll hand in hand through the paint thinner section of B&Q with on a Sunday. Let’s face it – you have to be in a couple to be anybody.

Single or married, if we were to be honest with ourselves, men and women are looking for some very basic, important things from a relationship. Money and looks.

You can exchange Tinder feelings to complete strangers and meet up in a back booth of the Chester Hotel to compare bank balances and plastic surgery results. But those who are in the know and in the dough cut to the chase and visit website ‘Seeking Arrangements’.

This is a dignified, personal site that pairs up rich men with poor, good-looking (and for some reason usually younger) women. The women in question, while working nights to put themselves through medical school and supporting their sick mothers no doubt, need a little financial assistance. Girls dating rich men is of course nothing like girls selling themselves for money.

Today’s smart successful girls are free to seek out sugar daddies and ask them to contribute a wee bit to keep them in Jimmy Choos and Tiffany bracelets. In return the men get the satisfaction of working closely with younger people and helping out the next generation – they wouldn’t want anything else for their money from beautiful young women, would they?

I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a romantic way to find the bank account of your dreams if you’re a liberated woman (who looks good of course). And if you’re a rich, hard-working man, it’s likely the wife doesn’t appreciate you, and for a bit of money and jewellery, you can get in a few hours of appreciation on the side. Someone to listen how the wife doesn’t understand, to take walks in the park with, perhaps to do the crossword together.

Or something.

For whatever reason, some people object to sexually objectifying men or women. They even nearly stopped the Sun’s Page 3 models for a day or two!

And that would have been bad for the circulation. Such people are called Feminists. They are almost always unattractive and old. Some of the former Sun models took time out from their busy careers to make witty tweets about those who object to Page 3. Rhian Sugden said:

“It’s only a matter of time before everything we do will be dictated by comfy shoe wearing… No bra wearing… man haters.”

But I digress.

Back to the subject of ‘Seeking Arrangements’ I hope no ‘bra-wearing, men-haters’ think there is anything wrong with such a set-up. It’s not as if it objectifies women, glorifies youth and beauty and commodifies these traits.

One final word on the subject. There are some taboos that should not and must not be broken. It’s acceptable for a rich old man to buy – sorry to help out a poorer, beautiful girl. That’s one of the things we like so much about Mr Trump for that matter. They’re called ‘sugar daddies’ – such a cute nickname, with nothing remotely unpleasant about the ‘daddies’ bit.

But we can all agree that an older woman, however rich, has no business around younger men. Cougars are just unacceptable. Happy to have cleared that up.

It’s so refreshing we had a women’s rights movement, even if it was a long time ago and it’s largely forgotten. For the life of me I can’t think what people like Emma Watson are getting so worked up about. Men may earn more than women, but as websites like Seeking Arrangements show, we’re all really just looking for that person out there who shares our values.

Good luck girls – but be warned: you may have to at some point hold your sugar daddy’s hand. Or something. Still, think of the money.

Cultural Speed Dating: (Modern Aberdonian quango phrase) A matchmaking service for rich patrons and poor artists and makers to get together.

In the same way that the idea of ‘Seeking Arrangements’ gives us a warm feeling, the concept of Cultural Speed Dating is nearly as heart-warming. I wonder what clever person came up with this marvellous idea?

Poor impoverished artists can come and throw themselves at people with money in a bid to get funding. It’s a speed dating set up which gives artists the respect they deserve – a chance to beg for money from the rich in a small space of time.

Culturally speaking, the marriage between the rich, the government, and those artists who either are desperate for success/money – or who are keen to get into bed (as it were) with the powerful is as moving as when Romeo and Juliet first spoke. And that turned out just fine.

Aside from money and fame, any real artist worth their salt wants to be guided by the patronising hand of the people with money.

What can be more important for a visionary than learning to be more commercially acceptable? The people in government who hand out grants know what art they want, and if you want their money, you’ll give them what they want. The wealthy private patron has their own ideas as well too, and the ideas of the rich trump the ideas of the talented. What’s a little compromise now and then if you’re a creative?

Old Susannah was told of a foolish portrait painter who some years back took a commission from a retired wealthy man for a group painting. When the painting was nearly done, the man’s wife told the artist to leave the painting unsigned, so that she could sign it herself later.

What do you think the ungrateful artist did? He said no.

Only with slightly different words. The painter lost out on money. If you’re an artist, I hope you’ll learn something from this little anecdote before the next Cultural Speed dating comes along. I’m sure 5 to 10 minutes is enough time to explain your artistic vision to someone with a chequebook – and if not – just let them do the talking instead.

We can’t just have people going around creating art or literature that the rich folks won’t enjoy, can we?

Next week: I’ll tell you that I love my family, and what tragedies I’ve been through. Or I may update you on what Police Scotland’s been up to (or not been up to for that matter).

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

[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

May 162014
 

By Bob Smith.
windmill3apic

The Donald’s bocht a golf resort
Doon on the Ayrshire coast
A’ll get ti host The Open
Wull noo be his prood boast
.
Thirty Five million he did spen
He got Turnberry fer a snip
Es o coorse micht mean
Interest in Menie taks a dip
.
Jist cast yer myn back
Fin winfairms he did detest
The mannie made a vow
In Scotland he’d nae mair invest
.
Fit ti mak o ess U-turn
As he cums crawlin back
Bein economical wi the truth
The chiel still his the knack
.
Hud on a wee meenitie tho’
It micht nae be plain sailin
The spectre o affshore winfairms
Cwid yet hae Trumpie wailin
.
Marine Scotland it his reported
Aboot a site jist oot at sea
Far ye cwid plunk win turbines
They’d be richt in Donald’s ee
Fergus Ewing says ess plans
Fer noo are aff the radar
Yet fair refused ti rule oot
Returnin ti them later
.
If a winfairm cam ti pass
Wid The Donald then renege?
Or wid he maybe in a rage
Blaw up yon Ailsa Craig
.
At Doonbeg he’d ti stop some wark
Did he nae hae richt permission?
He can tho’ noo  gyaang aheid
Maybe efter a new submission?
.
Micht Donald hae fresh concerns
A snail in Ireland is protectit
Bi speecial environmental laws
An ess canna be correctit
.
Trump says he’s gyaan ti wark
Wi environmentalists an sic fowk
If he’d deen aat ower in Menie
He micht nae bin classed a gowk
.
Noo ere’s nae doot the mannie
Oot the news he winna bide
Wull we next aa be hearin
The bugger’s bocht the River Clyde

© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014
Image Credit: © Mark Rasmussen | Dreamstime.com …. 3 windmills
Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.

May 092014
 

Riga FlagWith thanks to Beverley Tricker.

A group of journalists from leading Latvian and Estonian media titles are in Aberdeen this week on a press visit to the Granite City.

With the new direct airBaltic flight route from Riga to Aberdeen, the city has the potential to grow tourism from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Seven writers including supplement editors, specialist travel writers and key travel bloggers will be in Aberdeen until Sunday.

The writers are being hosted by VisitAberdeen, the destination marketing organisation (DMO) responsible for attracting more leisure and business visitors to Aberdeen and the surrounding area.

In a packed itinerary which will give the writers a taste of the North East, the group are staying at Skene House Hotel Suites in the Rosemount area and will enjoy a guided city tour, a trip to Dunnottar Castle and an afternoon at Deeside Activity Park. On Saturday night they will go to His Majesty’s Theatre to see ‘Happy Days The Musical’ before spending Sunday with a tour of Meldrum House Hotel and golf course and a tour of Glen Garioch distillery.

They’ll visit Trump International Golf Links on Sunday before departing for Riga on Sunday evening.

VisitAberdeen Chief Executive Steve Harris says,

“A new route such as the airBaltic Riga to Aberdeen flight, opens up Aberdeen as a short break and holiday destination to a whole new audience. Hosting this press trip gives us the chance to showcase Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to a big audience across Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. The journalists who will be visiting write for a wide range of lifestyle and travel publications and they will produce features which give their first hand experiences of their visit to Aberdeen.

There have been several new routes into Aberdeen International Airport recently and it’s important that we focus marketing activity to these key cities to attract further visitors. The itinerary which we have planned for this group will show just how much can be packed into a weekend break which takes in city dining and shopping with trips into the surrounding countryside”

VisitAberdeen is a partnership between Aberdeen City Council and the industry including Aberdeen City and Shire Hotels Association and Aberdeen Inspired. For further information contact VisitAberdeen on 01224 900490 or visit www.visitaberdeen.com.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Feb 212014
 

By Bob Smith. Ti bi sung ti the melody o “Galway Bay”. Wi Apologies ti Arthur Colahan

DonaldWindIf ye ivver nip ower the sea ti Ireland
An meybe doon the wye o Coonty Clare
Ye micht see a mannie on his gowf course
Bawlin bigg a bliddy winfairm if ye dare

As ye sit aroon the peat fire in the gloamin
Watchin Doonbeg gowfers as they play
Thinkin Trumpie micht be here in Eire
Bit foo lang’s the bugger gyaan ti stay

His auld mither she did come fae Scotia
Far his faither cam fae we really dinna ken
A’m sure The Donald wull noo try ti tell us
He wis born in a wee bit Irish but ‘n ben

If the waves crash ower the dunes in Ireland
An flood the greens nearest ti the shore
Ye can bet yer bliddy bottom dollar
Fae Doonbeg ye’re sure ti hear an affa roar

It’s gyaan ti be the greatest there is in Eire
Wi the best in the warld it wull compare
We’ll nae doot hear es spiel fae Donald
Aboot his gowf course ower at Doonbeg Coonty Clare

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014

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

Feb 182014
 

Aberdeenshire Green councillor Martin Ford has commented on the announcement that The Trump Organization has withdrawn its planning application to build a second golf course at Menie and has abandoned its scheme to construct a large golf resort at the site.

MartinFordatUTGCllr Ford said,

“This is not a huge surprise, given Mr Trump’s track record elsewhere. For the last few years, the very slow pace of progress on the Menie development, the procrastination and delay, have strongly suggested Mr Trump was seeking an exit strategy – but wanted to be able to blame someone else for his decision not to proceed. His way out has been to blame the Scottish Government.”

Commenting on the suggestion that the proposed wind farm should have been moved or abandoned to appease Mr Trump, Cllr Ford said,

“Mr Trump has been making threats and unreasonable demands from the start. You don’t appease an arrogant, irrational bully. It doesn’t work. They only come back wanting even more.

“Mr Trump’s tendency to change his position and contradict himself, means we cannot be sure that he will not say something quite different next week. But I do think this probably is Mr Trump walking away from continuing work on his development.

“Of course, the Scottish Government should never have stepped in to grant Mr Trump planning permission in the first place. We have lost an important and beautiful natural area that was legally protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Our duty, as I saw it, was to hand this natural heritage over to following generations intact, so they could enjoy it and wonder at and better understand nature.

“Instead, it has become a golf course. The justification for allowing this damage to the environment was the jobs and economic benefit the proposed golf resort would bring.

“While the scale of the economic benefit promised by Mr Trump was clearly ridiculously exaggerated, there is no doubt that, had the resort gone ahead, there would have been some job creation and economic activity as a result. As it is, the north-east has got the worst of all possible worlds. We have lost our irreplaceable, natural, mobile dune system – for negligible economic return.

“Mr Trump should never have been given planning permission.”

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Feb 142014
 

By Bob Smith.

trumpleaving

Trump’s nae deein the Hielan Fling
He’s noo tryin River Dance
Intae his Menie Developmint
Anither dollar he’ll nae advance
.
He’s gyaan ti the Emerald Isle
Doon the wye o Coonty Clare
A feel sorry fer the Irish fowk
His arrogance they’ll hae ti bear
.
His mither bein’ Scottish born
The chiel wis aywis blawin
Wull we noo hear fae him
His faither wis a leprechaun
.
Scotland wull be the losers
The bugger dis rant an roar
Donald jist gie’t a rest
Yer mair than jist a bore
Bi throwin the toys oot the pram
He’s shown his petulant streak
Aa because he lost his case
In front o a Scottish “beak”
.
At Menie wull he pack it in
An leave here wi gweed grace?
Somehoo a dinna think so
Cos the mannie wid lose face
.
Donald o the Menie Estate
Fa’s stock his teen a dip
Noo he micht be kent as
Donald o the petted lip.
.
.
.
.
©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014
  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Feb 142014
 

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

Dictionary

Alas, the vibes don’t seem so vibrant and the dynamics seem less dynamic this week in Aberdeen city and shire, for Donald Trump is leaving us for Ireland, apparently.

Instead of security guards, bunds and dyed-green turf, we’re going to be fobbed off with renewable energy in the form of offshore wind farms near Blackdog. Much as a crucifix is said to frighten vampires, the mere thought of the wind turbines have sent Trump packing. What would his Scottish granny have said?

The once beautiful concrete fountain lovingly installed at Menie House (or is that MacLeod House now?) is just a forlorn reminder of all those Great Gatsbyesque events held there.

This was the Trump Effect, which brought in so many international tourists (well at least a few dozen people more, who went to stay at the Marcliffe) and billions of pounds and gave meaningful employment to thousands (or at least half a dozen waiting staff in the luxurious clubhouse restaurant and some self-employed caddies).

We can only hope that Damian Bates will be able to keep his bride Sarah Malone, Trump’s Scottish VP, in the style to which she’s accustomed until she lands her next post as real estate project manager/golf course supremo. Rumours that other golf courses up and down the country are trying to poach Malone-Bates for her expertise remain unconfirmed.

I for one assume Trump will fly her in to Ireland to manage the new course. Old Susannah will report on the Irish celebrations in due course.

When Turnip’s Scottish court bid to stop the wind farms failed, only the cruellest snide cynic would have found any poetic justice or karma in the sad decision; how can the same Scottish Government that got rid of two SSSIs for the course possibly go against him now?  The thing is that the Donald dared to dream, and dream big. Dreaming even featured in the court case (more on that later). Therefore, without further ado, here are some dream-related definitions.

Dream Big: (Modern American phrase) to be ambitious (if not megalomaniacal, deluded, overblown)

All you need to succeed in this life is a big dream. Of course, it’s more likely to come true if your family has a big, big bank account. Here is a delightful little excerpt as to Trump’s Dream Big philosophy:-

 “One of Trump’s motto [sic] – something that he’s lived by all his life – is to think big and dream big. The fact is that if you think small, you’ll only achieve small. But if you think big, dream big, you will achieve big things in life, and Trump’s whole life – including his rise to fame, the success that he’s had, and the things that he’s achieved – provides plenty of proof about that!

“People will probably ridicule you for being too ambitious, or being a dreamer when you think big. But if you’re not going to think big, you’re never going to get there. Dreaming big provides us with motivation to actually get there. Once we dream big, we start looking for ways and finding means to actually achieve our goal and get to our destination.

“For anyone reading this, I highly recommend picking up Donald Trump’s book ‘Think Big: Make It Happen in Business and Life’ (Amazon link here) as it makes for a really fascinating read.

“The book has been co-authored by Bill Zanker – a guy who started The Learning Annex with $5,000 and grew it into a $5 million a year company. That was before he met Donald Trump. Thirty months later, after Zanker learned to Think BIG himself, The Learning Annex is generating over $100 million a year in sales—and still growing.

“Amazon.com asks Trump is there ever was a time when he didn’t think big enough. He replies: ‘I don’t think so. I always had big plans, even when I was very young. I would build skyscrapers with my building blocks’.”
http://smartbusinesstrends.com/donald-trump-quotes-2/

What can one say? First of all though, no sniggering at the name ‘Bill Zanker’ – I wonder if his friends call him ‘Willie’? But you see, it’s very easy – you too can rise to the heights of Manhattan’s real estate elite if you dream big dreams. Simples. I don’t understand the assertion in the above text about anyone ridiculing someone for being too ambitious; it’s hard for me to see what that has to do with humble Mr Trump.

But isn’t it absolutely amazing that the young Donald used to make skyscrapers out of building blocks? Perhaps if the rest of us had such an imagination in childhood, we would have wound up owning skyscrapers as well.

So there you have it. Great men have great big dreams that come true. Some people just have little dreams. The inhabitants of Leyton Cottage on the Trump estate dream of not having security guards spying on them night and day. They also dream of Trump’s giant earth bunds coming down so they can see the sea and coast again.

The residents of Hermit’s Point on the Trump estate dream of no longer looking out their windows on dead and dying trees planted by Trump to block his home, and Michael Forbes in his farm on the Trump estate may dream of being allowed to take his boat to the shore again to go salmon fishing. Who knows? Maybe someday little dreams will come true, too.

Cheese Reverie: (modern Scottish Legal term) – the condition of being so engrossed by food at a dinner, you can’t remember if anything of national importance or anything sensational was said.

The court case must have been very interesting – Donald versus Scotland over wind farms. It certainly seems that most of Scottish policy decisions are made over dinners here and in New York. But even when listening to the First Minister talking about the country’s future energy plans, sometimes your food is just more interesting.

The Scotsman reported on how a blogger was more fixated on his cheddar than on Alex Salmond:-

“… remarks allegedly made by Mr Salmond at the lunch in the sponsor’s tent at the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart in 2012…  were recalled in an affidavit by Kiel Christianson, a golf blogger, which claimed: ‘I heard  my colleague ask about whether the wind farm off the coast, near the Trump golf course would ever be built. I recall [Mr Salmond] saying ‘Absolutely’ and then the bit about not having ‘my energy policy’ dictated by Mr Trump.

Lord Doherty found… ‘Mr Christianson was focused on the food in front of him, he was, he says, in a ‘cheese reverie.’ He did not make any note of the relevant matters at the time.” – Scotsman 12 February 2014, Mike Wade

Perhaps if faced with the chance to talk to Alex Salmond about golf and energy policy, staring at the Stilton and going into a reverie might be a pretty good strategy at that.

Nightmare: (Eng. noun) An unpleasant and/or frightening dream.

All is lost; Donald will be making Ireland’s dreams come true, and all we’ll be left with is a nightmare. You can practically picture the beautiful, subtle clocks on the Trump course melting like Salvador Dali watches in a surrealist dream.  All those millions of pounds we’ve been enjoying will be going to the lucky Emerald Isle.

The Press & Journal reports:-

“The US businessman vowed to turn prestigious Doonbeg course in County Clare into an “unparalleled” attraction after a court setback in his effort to block a north-east offshore wind development”  http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/3573209

It’s already an existing course; perhaps it will be within Sarah Malone’s skills base to keep it running without parts of it falling into the sea.

As for Scotland, we’ll soon be inundated with unemployed if Donald does pull up stakes, as well as losing all the benefits you’ve been enjoying due to the ‘Trump Effect’ (c. Stewart Spence). Thankfully one of our councilors is going to beg Donald to stay here, too:-

“Last night Aberdeenshire Council leader Jim Gifford said he hoped both the Menie and Ireland resorts could be developed in ‘parallel'” (IBID)

Let’s hope so indeed. I’m sure our Irish cousins will welcome unmarked security patrols demanding to see identification at all hours of the day and night. I’m certain they’ll love paying £200 or so for a few holes of golf. Perhaps some sand could be imported, and the Great Dunes of Menie could be replicated?

As to jobs creation, I imagine that Scottish labourers will be imported to work on the Irish course, in a fair reversal of what largely seems to have happened here. No doubt the Garda will happily give Clan Trump an escort to and from the airport every time they visit just as Police Scotland gave this international VIP when he came to Aberdeen.

No doubt Irish President Michael Higgins is already promising not to build any wind farms. I guess it’s true – Scotland is closed for business. It will be interesting watching the Trump operation at work in Ireland.

But I wonder – is there a newspaper in County Clare where the editor’s wife is a beauty queen? There just might be one job loss when Trump leaves Scotland after all.

Next week:  reaction from a mourning nation as Trump departs Menie. A condolences book will be started, and councilors will be on hand.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Dec 242013
 

ChristmasTwas the night before Christmas and all through the Deen
Nae een were stirrin, ye ken fit Ah mean?

ACSEF members were nestled all smug in their beds
Visions of brown envelopes danced in their heids
Lady Helen in her kerchief, and Sir Ian in his cap
Had just settled their brains for a long winter’s nap

When out on their lawn there arose such a clatter
Ian sprang from his bed to see what was the matter.
Away to his window, he flew like a flash
Hoping no one would try robbing his cash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of granite to objects below
When what to Sir Ian’s beady eyes should appear
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer:

“There’s no right of access to land near my home
“I’ve got lots of money so you’ve no right to roam!”

Twas a little old man with a red suit and beard
“Could this be a communist?” Ian Wood feared.
Santa approached, getting out of his sled
Turning to Ian, this is what he said:-
Christmas

“Perhaps greed and age have made you grow thick
“For as any fool knows I am St Nick.
“I’ve come to the Deen to reward the good
“On second thoughts I could skip you, Ian Wood.”

“The thing is, with the greedy things that you do
“I just don’t think that I can believe in you.”

At this Ian faltered – he so wanted presents:
“Hold on now Santa, I’m not one of the peasants.
“Let’s talk for a moment so I can explain
“How you can maximise your capital gain.”

“Pay your elves’ wages from an offshore tax haven
“Hoots Santa – think of the dosh you’d be savin’.
“Perhaps you should start a ‘Claus Family Trust,
“And there’s ‘Venture Philanthropy’ – yes, that’s a must.”

“No taxes to pay and you’ll save lots of money
“Stop giving away gifts for free – it’s not funny,”
“Just because poor people put up a tree
“Doesn’t mean you should give gifties for free.”

Santa sighed, saying “Thank you indeed Ian Wood
Christmas“I think though that you just might be up to no good.
“If you paid your taxes, if you weren’t so greedy
“I dare say that others might not be so needy.”

“I’ll bid you good night; I’ll say no more.”
“But do say hello to your close friend, Mrs Craw.”

Donner, the lead deer, was slightly perplexed
“Well Santa, which house will we fly to next?”
“Let’s go to the Milne house since we are quite near.”
And off flew St Nick, the elves and the deer.

“Santa, this heated driveway is quite nice,
“It’s totally clear of all snow and all ice.”
Stewart Milne’s ‘eco’ house had some curious features
This driveway was welcome to Santa’s cold creatures.

“Just one gift for Stew, here, do have a wee look”
St Nick was clutching a nice brand new book
“What is it called?” asked a curious elf
“Football for beginners” – Santa laughed to himself.

“I don’t know that Stewart kens much o the game
“He cares more for money, still all the same
“In the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of Yule
Christmas“This book may help him ken the offside rule.”

Away the deer flew with the sled full of gifts
“Hey,” Comet said, “D’ye ken Milne wears lifts?”
All the deer laughed until it was clear
That towards Aileen Malone’s house they were drawing near.

“Don’t be afraid of that witch” Santa said
“Who as we know had your comrades shot dead
“Deer, if anyone needed the loo,
“We’re over Malone’s house. Yes I think this will do.”

Over Malone’s roof they arrived in a twinkling,
And soon every reindeer and elf started tinkling.
“There are those politicians who will tell you, by heck
“that really it’s raining as they pee down your neck.”

“So do your business – relieve yourselves here.
“In memory of 36 Tullos Hill deer.”

The deer did their business and some of them tittered
“With only 5 LibDems she must be embittered.
“At the election her side got quite trounced.
“Change course for the Bates’!” St Nick announced.”

ChristmasAnd soon Santa stood on the Malone-Bates roof
“No wonder that these newlyweds were so aloof
“No news in the press of their marriage was blurted
“To ensure their financial interests weren’t hurted.”

Perfect gifts for these lovebirds Santa had found;
Down their chimney Santa jumped with a bound.

But just as our Santa started to speak
He was scared by a monster which started to shriek.

Santa stared at the thing which wore a night gown
Could this be some kind of a beast or a clown?
Its hair was in rollers, its eyes were cucumbers
Its face was green mud: “You interrupted my slumbers!”

“You’ve got ash on my carpet! Turn around and get out!”
The hideous thing did shriek and did shout.
Santa twigged who it was, she normally looked fairer
It was ‘The Face of the Deen’, the lovely bride Sarah:

“In order for my great beauty to keep
“I need many hours of deep beauty sleep.”
“Oh Sorry,” said Santa, “my fair beauty queen
“I ken now why you are the Face of the Deen.”
Christmas

“From me you will not hear any further peep
“Clearly you’re behind on your beauty sleep
“I’ve just some small gifts for you two then I’ll go
“Back to my sleigh outside in the snow.”

“I’m amazed at the way you two work close together
“Let’s hope that there won’t be any stormy weather
“Like when the course fell into the North Sea last year
“And the cold’s perhaps wrinkled your sweet face my dear.”

Sarah said, “I’ve got an old man and he gives me  presents,
“My beautiful face put me above other peasants
“He pays me to run the world’s greatest course”
(Mrs Bates showed  not even a sign of remorse).

“Well then Sarah, I’ve two little gifties for you
“A gallon of wrinkle cream, och aye the noo,
“And a book you should read , it’s called ‘Golf can be fun”
(For she hadn’t a clue when all said and done).

“No need to thank me, I’m just here to serve
“And I do think you have got the gifts you deserve.”
As the sleigh left, its bells made a sweet tinkle
Sarah ran to the mirror to check on her wrinkle.
Christmas

“All these liars and cheats, they do make me cross
“But let’s pay a visit to Sarah  Bates’ boss”
The elves were astounded- “Santa don’t be a chump”
Santa answered “I do have one giftie for Trump.”

Donald was home, counting his money
And planning a trip to somewhere quite sunny:
“Where can I go next to get a good thrill
“With lions and tigers and bears I can kill?”

The Donald thought people loved him – the great hunter
But everyone thought: ‘what a horrible c*nt’ – (Er,
sorry ‘bout the language but thinking of him
Makes my blood pressure rise and me head start to spin).

The Don said “I built this course for my auld Scottish Nanny”
St Nick replied “Now just you listen here, mannie
“I’ve got a list of who’s nice and who’s naughty
“Or arrogant, scheming deceptive and haughty.
“No gift for you – no ifs, ands or buts
“But please take a voucher –it’s for ‘Supercuts’.”

Izon Security arrived on the spot
They’d been spying on locals – they do that a lot:
Christmas“Get out of that sleigh and let’s see your ID!”
Santa replied: “Are you talking to me?”

“Get stuffed you great b*stards” Santa said with a hiss
“Has the right to roam been reduced to this?
“You’ve no right to spy or to hassle good folk
“And this golf course is really one heck of a joke.”

With a jingle of bells St Nick and his team
Flew over the Great Dunes of North Aberdeen
“Come on deer and elves, there are good folk in need
“The ones who are victims of all this crass greed.

“The ones who are teachers and nurses and such
“They get paid very little yet do very much
“The children who don’t have enough food to eat
“Aberdeen may be rich, but some live on the street.”

“There are people who help the sick and the poor
“Some help animals too, and of this I am sure
“Those who help others with no thought of themselves
“They are the real saints, the real Santas and elves.”

Santa and his team spent the rest of their night
Giving out presents to good folks’ delight.
ChristmasAsk yourselves this “Am I naughty or nice?”
If you’re a bad one, take some advice.

Flaunting your wealth, and harming others
Ruins the chance that we have to be brothers
If you can help, then you should get stuck in
Greed, don’t you know is a terrible sin.

It’s never too late to fight the good fight
Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!

– Suzanne Kelly

– . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . –

Picture – Christmas Tree Baubles

Credit: Ian Britton. Freefoto.com
http://www.freefoto.com/download/90-04-66/Christmas-Tree-Baubles

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Dec 132013
 

You might think that if someone came onto your land, damaged goods and removed property – and you had a video which could hold vital evidence, the police would want to look at the tape. You would be wrong, if you were called David Milne and living on the Menie Estate. On behalf of David Milne, Suzanne Kelly tried to find out why there was no follow up and why no one would so much as touch the videotape.

TrumpoliceAfter waiting several months for information requests and a Scottish Information Commissioner review, all we know is the information is too sensitive and too secret to reveal.

Put yourself in David Milne’s place. You’re living in a beautiful, protected environment; a sparsely populated coastal area north of Aberdeen. Then, Donald Trump arrives, with plans for a massive development (two golf courses, hundreds of homes, a clubhouse and hotel), and includes the homes and property of you and your neighbours in his development plan.

The national and local governments welcome Trump, and his promises, with open arms.

Next, the police create a special policy for policing the area; they claim to want to deter and detect crime at Menie. Security Guards then appear, randomly demanding identification from fellow residents. They spy on properties from their vans, and signs warning of CCTV recording go up.

Gates are erected and locked shut. One of your main access roads, formerly a well maintained dirt road is turned into an impassable rutted mess, undoubtedly due in part to construction vehicles. Months go by before it is repaired.

Next, Trump claims in the press that his property is being vandalised (which makes you wonder just why his security guards are watching the residents while vandals caused damage).

Police start to visit your neighbours, the Forbes Family, and eventually arrest Michael Forbes for taking property markers from land he is using and believes to be his – he is charged, but the case is later dropped.

Journalists you’ve met and have talked with are arrested and charged with ‘breach of the peace’. Their offence seems to have been asking the site manager when the residents can expect their water back on – it had been off for 7 days.

Photographer Alicia Bruce is dissuaded from making a police complaint although a violent-tempered Trump groundskeeper has threatened her and threatened to smash her camera.

In October 2010 someone has gone onto your property, caused damage, and removed property; someone who just might be linked to the Trump development – which soon erects a cheap fence and sends you the bill for it.  You have a video which shows some, or part of, the potentially criminal activity.

You report the matter to the police. Surely, given their area policing policy, they will be swiftly investigating, and bringing someone to justice.

Only, the police are letting the matter drop.

michael-and-policeWho decided the incident wasn’t worth following up? Why wouldn’t the police look at a video showing the possible criminal activity, if they were willing to charge Forbes with theft and journalists with breach of the peace? How can a petty removal and return of border flags be worth an arrest, and actual damage to your property not be important?

You want answers, and a freedom of information request is launched with Grampian Police.  The police then decide to answer some, but far from all of your questions.

You ask them to reconsider; you ask them for an internal review. You still don’t get the answers.

The next step is to approach the Scottish Information Commissioner’s office. Months go by, and one or two emails ask further clarifications of you.  Then the decision comes out.

There is some good news – information will (eventually) be released concerning correspondence on area incidents.  But the reasoning and procedures used to stop the police investigation are not forthcoming. This is pretty much the end of the line for most of your questions, and back to square one for other questions.

What the Commissioner Found (or didn’t find)

The decision the Information Commissioner came to can be found here. It is appreciated the law says that no information can be released which might reveal police procedure or might undermine public confidence in the police. However, several points arise when reading the decision.

1.  Right to reply while the investigation was live

Should there have been a right to comment on the Police Scotland representations when the decision was still in the draft stage?  In an investigation made by the Scottish Information Commissioner regarding Stewart Milne, there were regular updates, and opportunities to comment on Aberdeen City Council’s representations to the Commissioner.

If there hadn’t been this opportunity, the city’s claim the information was too expensive to get would have been allowed to stand – this claim was disproved by keeping the petitioner informed of the council’s claims, and allowing the petitioner to comment on them.

Other opportunities for involvement in the Commissioner’s investigation were reflected in passages such as:

“If you would like to make any further comment regarding the Council’s reliance on section 33(1)(b) of FOISA for this information then please feel free to. Any comments you make will be taken into consideration in reaching a decision on this case”.
http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/ApplicationsandDecisions/Decisions/2011/201100822.aspx

and

“In order for me to thoroughly investigate your case I would appreciate it if you could provide me with a submission as to why you consider that there is a public interest in disclosure of information.” (IBID)

2.  No info blackout?

Relevant information was found exempt from disclosure because it contained third party data.  Surely some form of redaction of this personal third party data might have been possible – local and national governments issue ‘redacted’ documents (documents with passages blocked out) all the time.

This suggestion could have been made to the Commissioner during the investigation. It might or might not have been acted on, but the case for redacting the ‘sensitive’ information could have been made.

3.  Public Image: Limited

With regard to the need to maintain ‘public confidence’, is it possible that the lack of transparency is exactly what is eroding confidence.  When it seems, in cases such as this one, that laws are being applied unevenly – particularly where there is a specified local policing strategy in place, you might think the police would be eager to explain apparent disparity.

4.  Investigation?  What investigation?

There are parts of the decision which call for almost line for line comment; below are some points (marked with letters in square brackets) and relevant comments.

In Points 19 through 25 of the Decision, it is established that the

[a]“…withheld information was held in files of investigations into allegations of criminal conduct which were carried out under the statutory obligations of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967″ and that the Commissioner accepts that the police

[b] “held the withheld information for the purpose of an investigation…” and therefore she

[c] “must conclude that the exemptions apply.”  The police claimed that:

[d] “disclosure of the requested information would entail releasing information gathered for the purposes of an investigation, which would involve details of investigatory processes and other issues considered as a matter of course during an investigation” and they also claimed

[e] “disclosure of the information would reveal processes showing how allegations are investigated which could prove useful to criminals and those intending committing a crime.”

[a,b] Had there been the opportunity to comment during the investigation, it would have been pointed out that no investigation took place – how could there have been an investigation when potentially crucial videotape evidence was not examined?  Therefore Police Scotland’s claim its data was “.. for the purposes of an investigation” looks just a bit shaky.

As they had written on 29 March 2013:-

“The solicitor gave advice to the officers dealing with the matter and based on his advice, they made the decision that the incident was not a criminal matter.”

[c] Perhaps the Information Commissioner would have still sided with the police, but there should have been a chance to throw reasonable doubt on their reason for withholding the information.

[d] It can be argued that the information the police had was not gathered for the purposes of an investigation; the evidence they have must be  largely what David Milne gave to them directly. This refusing potential evidence is a move which hopefully is without precedent.

The refusal leads to the question: Was a decision taken that the special policing policy invented expressly for the Menie Estate did not apply to David Milne but only to the developer? The policy was to:-

“Maximise safety; minimise disruption; facilitate lawful protest; deter, detect, detain and report those responsible for unlawful behaviour.”

Disclosure of the thinking behind the lack of investigation seems clearly to be in the public’s interest  – if laws are not being enforced and/or criminal activity is not being investigated, the public would have serious concern. At present, it certainly looks as if Justice decided to peek out from under her blindfold and engage in a bit of favouritism.

[e] It seems a bit of a stretch to claim that telling Milne why his vandalised property didn’t warrant proper investigation would jeopardise Police Scotland’s secret investigative procedures and help criminals.

At present, there are dozens of police documentaries and docu-dramas, from Crimewatch UK to several specific programmes which give a great deal of information on how the UK and Scottish police investigate (or do not investigate in this instance) criminal activity.

As well as a sizable list of crime documentary/procedural shows, there are books such as ‘The Police Procedural’ by George N Dove – which leaves little left to be revealed on points of police procedure.

Stating at Point 30 of the Commissioner’s decision that:

“it will not be in the public interest to disclose information if this would undermine the confidence of the public in that part of the justice system or the confidence of police officers gathering information for such investigations”

There was no investigation, so it is hard to see how this point of law is applicable in this situation. With all due respect, withholding information as to why this incident was not fully investigated is precisely what might erode public confidence in the police.

5.  Whodunnit?

At Point 36 of the Commissioner’s Decision it again becomes regrettable that there was no opportunity to comment on the draft decision before its release.  This point states

“… the decision not to pursue a prosecution was not made by their solicitor, but by the officers investigating the matter who considered that the incident was not a criminal matter.” 

This brings up two important issues.

Firstly, there is a large contradiction in what was originally released by the police and the Information Commissioner’s conclusion. The Commissioner has been advised at some point in her investigation that it was police officers who decided the matter was not a criminal one. However, on 29 March the police wrote in a letter:-

“ The solicitor gave advice to the officers dealing with the matter and based on his advice, they made the decision that the incident was not a criminal matter.”

This again reinforces that there was no investigation – so the reasons given for not releasing the desired information because it was the subject of an investigation is something of a Catch 22. It would be very interesting to know if it was on the solicitor’s advice or on the police’s own judgment that the video was refused.

6.  Policy

As previously raised, the police invented a specific, Menie-based strategy. The following question had been put to Police Scotland in the original request:-

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

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

In light of this stated policy, do the police consider that its handling of the incident at the Milne property in October 2010 fits in with the strategy of ‘…detect, detain, and report those responsible for unlawful behaviour’? If the policy was not applied to the trespass, theft and damage at the Milne property, then whose decision was it that the policy did not apply?

In any event, it seems clear that the police do not want to explain why this policy was not used to protect Mr Milne.

Later on, as Trump operatives moved onto land that was subject of a civil dispute, police enabled Trump’s employees to take the law into their own hands, enter disputed areas and even cause property damage, while helpless Forbes was told he couldn’t do anything to stop it.

In that case it is possible the police were not correctly applying law and arguably going against their own invented local code for most of these incidents. As the saying goes, “there is one law for the rich, and another for the poor”.

8.  Of No Interest (?)

At Point 24 the Decision notes the Police claim “there was no significant wider public interest”. This is simply untrue, not least because of the outcry at the treatment meted out to Menie resident Michael Forbes, who was initially charged with theft for taking marker flags out of his field, which he then handed over.

The arrests of journalists Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney also throw light on what confidence in the police the public may have, and certainly these incidents show there is local, national and international interest in policing at Menie.  Point 24 should not have been allowed to stand without my right to reply as applicant.

9.  Contradiction?

David Milne had also accomplished the impressive feat of getting some 19,500 people to sign a petition to Holyrood asking for a public inquiry into the goings-on at Menie. This was, unsurprisingly, turned down: the Petitions Committee’s procedure was to ask the agencies in the firing line if they wanted to be investigated. To a one, they said no.

This lack of transparency regarding the Milne property vandalism brings back the spectre of the aborted public inquiry: at present we’re being told information can’t be released, but at the time the inquiry was possible, the police wrote that there was nothing left to disclose.

Despite that claim to the Petitions Committee, there certainly seems to be fair amount of information regarding Mr Milne’s case which the police haven’t, and won’t disclose after all.

This rather raises some interesting questions about the accuracy of the police representation to the Petitions Committee, which reads in part:-

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

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

Some people beg to differ.

Flaw and Order

At the heart of the refusal to supply information there is the carte blanche, the all-encompassing get out clause for FOI requests put to the police:  it seems releasing this kind of information just might “undermine the confidence of the public in that part of the justice system.”

Recent restructuring of Scotland’s regional police forces into Police Scotland spelled the end of Grampian Police. This had to be a good thing; the local police force didn’t exactly have an untarnished recent past. Its former top policeman Ian Patterson is going to prison for sex offences.

Two officers of what was the Northern Constabulary were recently convicted of a bizarre, wholly unlawful abuse of two troubled teenage girls, taken from their care home to a remote farm, frightened and forced to walk without shoes through horse manure.

But it was a new low for the police force of Grampian and Scotland when the documentary ‘you’ve been trumped’ captured the moment that Baxter and Phinney were abruptly, roughly – and to any rational person’s judgment – unjustly arrested at the Menie Estate. The arrest shocked the world, and the documentary showing life at Menie has travelled the world, winning awards.

The Police Scotland reorganisation was meant to improve the police’s operations and public image, but scepticism continues.

Judging from the response David Milne had to a freedom of information request, this scepticism, if not mistrust and lack of confidence in Police Scotland, may be around for a good long while yet.

In an article on 23 November 2013, the Herald raises some doubts:-

“One national force, it was argued, would not just save on costs, but would also improve accountability. This has not transpired, at least on the evidence of a refusal by Police Scotland and the Scottish Government to release details of the KPIs being used by the new force. As we reported this week, both bodies rejected our Freedom of Information request on the topic.” 
http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/herald-view/police-accountability-at-important-junction.22755317

The Herald wasn’t able to obtain information on how the police operate, and so largely it proved for Milne.

Yet the Information Commissioner has partially sided with Milne. He will not be getting all of the information (or indeed much of the facts sought), but he will be receiving – in January – further details about police cautions issued at Menie.

The police decided that when asked for information ‘since 2010’ they could merely give information from 2011, even though the original information request told the police to ask questions if they were not sure what was meant.  This information will be of some use, but it won’t really address the big picture.

If the idea is to maintain confidence in Police Scotland, perhaps accountability and transparency (as the Sunday Herald article suggests) would be a good start.

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