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”.


“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.”

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.
Nov 212013

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

DictionaryTally Ho!  Another exciting, fun-filled, vibrant, dynamic and connectivity-laden exciting week’s gone by in Aberdeen.

Lots of action at BrewDog this past week, with a few tastings, new products, and interesting visitors. I spent some time with my favourite Scottish film director who was there for a bite and a beer.

Earlier in the week a newlywed couple and small wedding party lit the bar up; it was a pleasure to see the happy couple, and all happiness to them

Animal charities Mrs Murray’s Home for Cats and Dogs and Willows threw fundraisers; they and other charities such as Blaikiewells Horse Sanctuary and The New Ark need support as the cold weather, feed costs and animal abandonments all get worse.

This winter will be tough on everyone, especially our older residents and those facing financial hardships.  The VSA can point you in the direction of how to help.

It will be a pretty bleak winter and future for Scotland’s deer.

Scientists are lecturing estate managers on killing does and hinds, and organisations such as SNH (Shootin’ ‘n’ Huntin’ to give it its full title) want to wipe out up to half of Scotland’s deer, much to animal lovers and estate managers dismay. SNH wants powers to turn its deer guidelines into enforceable laws so they can go onto any land they like and demand deer culls.

We did see that coming. Estate managers argue the SNH has its figures wrong and they see firsthand what the deer populations are like, and no additional cull is needed. Who are you going to believe – empire-building, jumped up power-hungry government mandarins, or people who see deer daily? Why the government, of course – when have they ever steered us wrong?

On the other hand ‘Wildlife’ charity (???)  Scottish Wildlife Trust want to wipe deer out in order to help Scotland meet its wholly arbitrary (and very high) CO2 management goals. It’s all those deer driving around in cars on their own rather than taking the bus that’s polluting our air you see.

Between the Wildlife trust charities wanting to blast deer rather than protecting them, and the Forestry Commission wanting to turn forest land into windfarm sites, it’s a wonder we have any wildlife left at all. Deer are also being blamed for the demise of the Capercaillie, the decline of which has nothing to do with loss of habitat, pollution, human activities, fencing, etc.

Also hard up this winter will be our very own Stewart Milne

Perhaps for festive Christmas cards we should replace any scenes of deer in forests with wind turbines, guns, boffins, and Aileen Malone. Funny, you don’t hear that much of HoMalone these days, but rest assured, she is remembered for her work on Tullos Hill, culling deer.

Also hard up this winter will be our very own Stewart Milne. His company is posting a loss (again).

No doubt once people snap up his new houses by the Cove Bay roundabout and electricity substation overlooking the dual carriageway, he’ll be back to his 7 course meals in the Marcliffe (before it is turned into a much-needed office complex instead).

In the news this week, Audit Scotland reports there may be arguments and problems in the council – this shocking claim has caught everyone by surprise. Willie Young will be posing for photos with Callum McCaig for a joint Christmas card, to disprove the rumours of infighting.

At least the current crew of councillors aren’t flogging property off for a song and shutting down needed services like the past lot did. If some people seem to be coming to blows I’m sure it’s actually just good-natured horseplay (although from what my sources tell me, this can get a bit rough).

Of course it is only the elected officials who are the problem; it has nothing to do with staff and officers, who all get along famously.

Finally in the news, Hull has won ‘City of Culture 2017’ over Dundee. The judges had some interesting things to say about the Aberdeen bid, which can be found here. Perhaps a few definitions on ‘lacks cohesion’ and ‘deliverability’ are called for.

Gone with the Windfarm / Storm in a Toilet

No story was bigger though than the Trump Court of Session windfarm trial. It’s even bigger than the Evening Express’ exclusive that city council gardeners are storing tools in the otherwise unused and lockable Union Terrace Gardens toilets. The gardeners gave up their own personal time to help with many events in the gardens held by many groups.

Clearly, the Evening Express and the city council would have preferred them to be doing important things like moving old paint cans out of the loos instead.

it’s in such a poor state those who might want to buy it aren’t allowed in to see it

There has already been a flood of argument on this subject on Facebook, but for those who are worried about the heritage of our city and its listed buildings, perhaps turning an eye towards Westburn House might be a more appropriate way to channel energies for those who are worried about Aberdeen’s built heritage.

This great building is Grade A listed, it’s on the market, and it’s in such a poor state those who might want to buy it aren’t allowed in to see it, which is something of a drawback.

Old Susannah hears the city’s own engineers don’t want to set foot in it either. No word on whether any rakes or paintbrushes are inside Westburn. Perhaps it’s time to take stock of all the listed properties in the City’s care, and get them up to scratch.

Anyway, Trump in his generosity is even willing to selflessly get involved in whether or not Shetland will get more wind turbines; as an American billionaire (or should that be racketeer?), of course his ideas about Scottish energy generation are essential.

As mentioned, that champion of social justice Donald Trump is bravely demanding his rights in the Court of Session. What are his concerns? They can be summarised as:

  • fighting for his right to have his views to sea unspoiled.
  • fighting for his right to stop unnecessary, unattractive overdevelopment at the expense of the environment.
  • fighting against the government helping and advising special interest groups achieve their ends.
  • ensuring all existing laws of the land are respected in Scotland.
  • fighting the fact that no-one came to the golf course to see first hand what the visual impact would be of the dreaded offshore turbines.

What a guy. You’d expect such noble aims from a man with his own, brand-new, family crest, wouldn’t you? Anyone suggesting that this is hypocrisy taken to a whole new level is just jealous of Donald.

Word is that Susan Munro is baking him a bund-shaped cake

It would churlish to suggest he, in some way, is getting a dose of his own medicine or his just desserts. It’s time we gave credit to the man for everything he’s done to us – sorry, for us.

Word is that Susan Munro is baking him a bund-shaped cake as a consolation gift, and that David and Moira Milne have invited him up for a drink to look out from Hermit Point past the dying Trump-planted trees to see just how bad the windfarms will be. I may send a bottle of Glenfiddich, if he’s not named Top Scot of the year.

In celebration of all things Trump, and as a gesture of solidarity for the wigged one, Old Susannah considered flying to Africa, killing some water buffalo and elephants, stopping for a few selfies, and flying out again. As there were no suitable private jets with gold-plated taps available, I opted instead for offering a little true or false quiz.

First and Second prize will be a pint of BrewDog; last prize is a pad of genuine Trump logo notepaper, and a photo of Sarah Malone, aka Mrs Damian Bates. Send in your guesses to

True or False Quiz

1.  Susan Munro and residents of Leyton Cottage have had their view of the sea removed by a mound of earth Trump plunked yards from their home without any planning permission. No site visit was ever made to consider the impact of the bunds.  This is acceptable.

2.  Donald Trump’s golf course was not visited when consideration of an offshore windfarm miles away was planned and his permission was not sought. This is unacceptable.

3.  No one should have to look at offshore wind turbines when they’re playing a round of £200 per game golf at Trump Golf Links International Scotland.

4.  Trump had advice from government quango Scottish Enterprise worth at least £30,000.

5.  It was completely wrong for the government to give advice to pro windfarm groups.

6.  Trump wined and dined with two First Ministers and Jack Swinney of Scottish Enterprise when he was seeking to build his golf complex at Menie. This did not in any way indicate undue influence for a live planning application.

7.  Trump’s aide was present at the Marcliffe Hotel (beneficiary of the ‘Trump Effect’, soon to be turned into office buildings and its grounds destroyed) when a call was made about Trump’s application to the Shire council, which rightly raised a few eyebrows.

8.  Trump told the media he’d been promised permission for his golf complex by the government; he released this after he had a spat with Salmond over the windfarms.

9.  It was OK for the government and Scottish Enterprise to favour the Trump course. It is not OK for anyone to favour windfarms that golfers might have to look at.

10.  Trump is bringing billions of pounds into our fragile economy, has made us all wealthy, and therefore we should do as he says.

11.  Trump is implicated in the US in racketeering for his ‘Trump University’ scheme.

10.  There is nothing at all contradictory or hypocritical in any part of Trump’s legal actions against the windfarms and the government.

Do send in your entries. In case of a tie, here is the tie-breaker question:-

“I support Donald Trump and all he’s done for Scotland because……   “

We’ll leave it there for now; good luck with the quiz, and next week – more definitions.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Sep 302013

Another day at the Menie Estate, another breach of the approved planning permission occurs, and another retrospective planning application appears:  it certainly seems like business as usual. However, this latest application is a step too far for residents.
Suzanne Kelly provides background, and tells you how to object to the application and thereby help the residents of Leyton Cottage get their sunlight back.

Susan window 2

View from Munro kitchen of bund with vegetation preventing access where it previously existed, blocking light and view. July 2013_

Trump came, saw and continues to conquer both nature and our planning laws. What was meant to be temporary ‘stockpiling of earth’ has turned into a nightmare for Susan Munro and her family at Leyton Cottage.

Currently, there is an application and an accompanying report (written by environmental consultants working for Trump, Ironside Farrar) which would see giant bunds made permanent between Leyton Cottage and the rest of the estate to the detriment of those who live there.

Susan Munro has this to say about the bunds:-

“The bunds caused  drainage problems with water unable to get away due to the car park [formerly a green space, now tarmac] and washed our road away for weeks – we were unable to get home.  The large bund is blocking light from the house and also our views.”

Dirt blows into the house, into car engines; dirt and sand have killed many garden plants. The law as it stands doesn’t care about the views – but surely it must care about blocking light and property damage?

Anyone opposed to this proposal to keep and enlarge the bunds is advised to lodge their objections to Aberdeenshire Council’s Planning offices before 6 October.

Objecting is straightforward and can go a long way to helping one of the many long-suffering families. Again, people are literally living in Trump’s shadow, and this giant wall of earth serves to immure a cottage and its residents.

The application can be found here:
Here is where to lodge your objection: –

-and here is why you may wish to do so.

In an audacious, unannounced, callous move which was captured by Anthony Baxter in documentary You’ve Been Trumped, a huge mound of sand and earth was bulldozed into place between Leyton Cottage and its view of the land and sea back in 2010. No warning was given. At one point the assurance was given that these bunds were just part of construction and were temporary.

In fact Sarah Malone Trump VP, wife of supportive local newspaper editor Damian Bates said at the time:-

“With regard to the stockpiling of soil … this is a necessary part of the golf course construction process, for which we have full planning permission…  No-one is being intimidated – we are merely getting on with the business of building. The landowners in the vicinity know that they are now living in the middle of a very large construction site and work will only increase over the coming years.”

Perhaps Ms Malone should attend the hearing and explain the construction process and the engineering requirement for the bunds.

SignSandBundThis ‘stockpiling of soil’ ruined car engines at the Munro property, killed many of their garden plants, damaged their home – all from soil and sand blowing from the mound into their property from the bund.

They have not been able to view the sea from their home since.

A wooden bench on their land sits empty; it is on a hillside, and they used to sit up there and look out to sea.  Now they look out on a mound of earth covered with dying pines on top of it.

Perhaps Ms Malone – a woman who admits she has zero experience of building golf courses or housing complexes – believes this mound was business as usual, and was an approved, temporary measure. It’s still there, landscaped on the side viewed by the golf club visitors, covered with weeds and dying trees on the Munro side.

While there is some grass slightly lessening the effect of the blowing earth and sand, this constant stream of windblown dirt can be seen on a sign outside the cottage.

Ironside Farrar have not answered any emails from Aberdeen Voice, nor has its professional body, the Royal Institute of Town Planners. The RITP’s website boasts of the professional calibre of its members. Despite Ironside Farrar writing in its report to the Council the bunds have been lowered, the largest one is still there, unaltered, and the bunds do not appear to have been part of the approved original plan.

There has been some lowering of a short, tiny bund between the parking lot and the Munro house.

Trump said he didn’t want to see the houses – so he basically walled the people in, or so it seems.  Now he’s fighting to keep the bunds, submitting the Ironside report with his application concerning parking. If this nodded through, it will be a dark day for more than just the Munro family; it will mean seeking retrospective planning permission is an acceptable way to build.

I have been dealing with Susan Munro for some years now, I have seen the bunds and the damage they have done, the bunds have been a topic of conversation at every meeting we’ve had:  the family want the bunds gone.

Photos of Susan by her kitchen window looking out at the bund where sun and sea used to be seen, are both iconic and symbolic of how Trump treats his neighbours – with contempt.  Can you imagine looking out of your home one day at sea, sky, wildlife and sunlight – and the next day looking at nothing but a mound of earth?

This bund must not be allowed to stay. There is some possibility that this action breaches her human rights – it certainly looks to any feeling person like a gross act of bullying and intimidation.

The Report

The report by Ironside Farrar is at best illogical; at worst it seems to be misleading.  The report can be found here: extension=.pdf&id=9855674&location=VOLUME7&contentType=application%2Fpdf&pageCount=5

While Ironside Farrar start off their report by acknowledging  the conditions which were put on Trump for his non-spec parking lot, they have decided that the best thing to do is to ignore this rather clear directive, decide that they know what it really means, and then things get even less logical from there.  They start off:-

BundReportOf course, no reinvention or reinterpretation of the condition was required.  They did so anyway with their design proposal:-

BundReport2 When it comes to audacity, the report has no equal:

“This will in turn protect the residential amenity of the owner/occupier of the property.”  is their astonishing and easily disproved claim.

In an ideal world, planners, councillors and objectors would complain about this unsupported and illogical conclusion appearing in the report. In summary, rather than sticking to the instruction to take the bund down, the environmental consultants working for Trump decided a bund is somehow needed, and they have the nerve to suggest it is Susan Munro’s amenity they are being considerate of.

The consultants talk of using native species on the bunds which they propose to be made even larger. Clearly their concern for Susan Munro doesn’t extend to the drop in her property value these bunds so blatantly would mean.   They seem to be aware that the existing bunds are very steep (not great for tree root systems) and mostly composed of sand (perhaps why the doomed pine trees keep dying).

trees_to_be_planted_on_bund_near_S_Munro_trees_already_planted_not_doingvery_well_16_feb_13These trees by the way are perpetually planted in the sandy bund, watered by clumsy, unattractive plastic pipe systems, and inevitably die and get replaced.

It is wasteful and disrespectful to the environment that these trees are used in such a manner, but surely the report writers can’t stretch the truth so far as to say removing the trees constitutes reducing the bunds in height, can they?

Not that there is any sign of the trees actually coming down, until they finally turn brown and are dragged away to one of the rubbish tips on the estate.   The report closes with drawings showing massively high bunds, mature trees – but with no trace of the cottage on the plan; this is quite an oversight.

If you didn’t know precisely where the cottage was, these drawings are of little use.

They do however give you an idea of a massive wall of earth, a Great Wall of Menie, which will cut the Munros off from light even more so than the present bunds do, leaving the cottage in a claustrophobic cell: and these environmentalists, Ironside Farrar, have the gall to say it is for the Munro’s benefit.

It is hard to think that the planning authorities can possibly grant permission for the bunds to stay, or that any councillor, sworn to uphold the rights and needs of their constituents, would allow a neighbour to build a great wall of earth on a property boundary.

What they decide to do will speak volumes, and it will be widely reported.  Again, objections are due before 6 October; your help is needed.

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


Sep 272013

Lies, Damned Lies, and The Trump Effect (or 74% of people don’t remotely trust the Evening Express).

Credibility is stretched to new extremes by claims made by the Chamber of Commerce and the Marcliffe’s Stewart Spence concerning ‘the Trump effect’. Numbers, surveys and statistics are used in attempts to demonstrate how positive an impact Trump is having on Aberdeenshire tourism. Suzanne Kelly peeks behind the curtain at the little man pulling the strings, using a satirical survey to demonstrate just how easily statistics can be massaged.

StatspicTrump International Golf Links Scotland hasn’t exactly been booked solidly, if its own online booking tool is anything to judge by.

But an assortment of people and institutions which were leading the call for the course to be built are hard at work, convincing us that we’re all better off with money flowing in.

There may be some money coming into town indeed, but here are a few thoughts before we swallow the bait whole.

Ninety-three percent increase in room sales to golfers at the Marcliffe!  Such a precise claim, it has to be accurate doesn’t it? 

Many people who’ve heard this statistic are accepting it as proof of Trump having a positive economic impact.

The Chamber of Commerce published an article, “Golf Halo effect benefitting Aberdeen City and Shire hotels by up to 93%” (

There is that magic number 93 again. It’s a high number, it’s echoed by Spence, the Chamber of Commerce, and in a few press releases that have been turned into press articles by some of our printed press. This is, in propaganda terms, positive reinforcement; a claim is made, it is repeated, it is not explained in depth by those who want you to believe it.

It starts to sink in.

We have the precise-sounding number ‘93’; we have had that figure reinforced in different media. You would be forgiven for drinking from the trough you’ve been led to and take it for granted that it is true and not to be questioned.

But numbers can be made to do almost anything you want them to do.  Is the glass half empty or half full? The answer depends on the spin you put on it.

A satirical survey was carried out for one week concerning the Evening Express; over 50 people replied to it. In truth, 52 people replied to it – but if you say ‘over 50’ people – then the reader can imagine higher numbers.

Taking that logic forward, let’s consider again the Chamber’s claim that the ‘golf halo’ is benefitting hotels ‘by up to 93%.’  This statistic is nearly meaningless.

How many hotels were in the survey? How many benefitted by 93%? How many benefitted considerably less than that? How many tourists were counted and how was it done? What was the mean (the figure arrived at by adding all the results together and dividing by the number of hotels)?  Was the mean significantly less than 93%?

StatsangleWithout further details such as the length of time the assessment covers, what other events were on which could have increased tourist numbers, how was the measurement made, this ‘up to 93%’ means next to nothing.

Furthermore, from most reports it is apparently the Marcliffe’s Stewart Spence claiming this 93% increase for his hotel.

The Marcliffe is a nice spot. Do hundreds of people stay there? No.

In fact there are 7 suites and 35 rooms.

Therefore this 93% increase is not likely to mean any huge number. For one thing, Donald Trump is known to have stayed at the Marcliffe; no doubt some of his large entourage stays with him. Let’s just say Trump gets one suite when he has stayed: Doing the maths, this is a 14.28% increase in suites used for visitors to the Trump course.

Depending on who’s doing the statistical analysis, you could also call this a 100% increase in Trump-related visitors from the time before the course.

The Chamber’s report also reads:-

“These figure relate to the golf ‘season’ from May to date and Mr Spence considers that by the end of September, this figures will have increased further to the point where rooms booked by golfers are three times as high as bookings in 2012.”

Coming in at something less than 93% increase – a 5% increase is reported by Jury’s.  This is buried in the Chamber’s article, and Jury’s less boastful claims also credit a discount offered as well as theatre and other events than golf being a factor.  But again, is the Marcliffe really imposing a survey on all of its well-heeled guests?

Is it guessing who’s playing and who might be playing? Without knowing the methodology used and the numbers involved, Mr Spence’s guess is just that. Furthermore, he’s hardly likely to do anything but insist the numbers are up; it might just be in his interest for us to think all is rosy – and for Mr Trump to hear him making such positive noises.

There also seems to be a faint hint of arrogance at suggestions that Trump is now why people are coming to our area to golf. There are after all more courses than this new one.

What questions you ask and whether or not they are slanted can generate virtually any statistic you want to generate.

Getting back to the spoof Evening Express survey, here are the results:-

Question:  Do you Trust the Evening Express?

Answer Choices                                                                                                                                                                           


Yes when it comes to cute baby competitions 14.29% (7)
No 20.41% (10)
Not Even Remotely 73.47% (36)
Total Number of Respondents  49

Question:  What do you think can be done to improve the Evening Express?

Answer Choices                                                                                                                                                                            


Sack the Editor 48% (24)
Protect the jobs of the workers who it seems face more job cuts 32% (16)
Allow reporters to investigate stories and write their conclusions up freely 68% (34)
Stop taking items that are 3 days old and recycling them 46% (23)
Exorcism 28% (14)
Total Number of Respondents 50

Question:  What do you think of first when you think of the Evening Express?

Answer Choices                                                                                                                                                                            


Sarah Malone Bates, VP at Trump Golf, Winner of the EE Face of Aberdeen Contest, and her subsequent marriage to Damian Bates, Aberdeen Journals Editor in Chief, and the wee potential for a conflict of interest this creates 70% (35)
The balanced, reasoned, multifaceted approach to local issues 6% (3)
The lovely pictures of the granite web, printed at the drop of a hat 28.00 (14)
The time their headline read ‘two deer found dead ahead of cull’ and the deer actually
died a year before of unknown causes?
18% (9)
Total Number of Respondents  50

Question:  What would you most like to say to the EE Editorship?

  • Print facts without bias
  • More people read Aberdeen Voice………
  • propaganda isn’t journalism.
  • Just give up.
  • Print a newspaper, not a comic
  • You traitors!
  • What will you do when there is no more oil? You’ve sh*t upon the people of Aberdeen for many years (on behalf of your advertisers), so there will be no-one to cry when your advertising revenue dries up and your paper goes bust.
  • Not printable, I’m afraid.
  • Have you considered journalism as a possible change of career ?
  • Well done for speaking up for the silent majority in Aberdeen, those who shout loudest usually get what they want, that’s why our City is such a mess.
  • Print the truth
  • Why and when did he decide that Joseph Goebbel’s style of propaganda was appropriate for a local newspaper?
  • Get out of the pocket of big business.
  • The only content from local areas is of vandalism or babies. If there is any cultural events happening that the EE haven’t sponsored – they will not find its way into the paper. Certainly have no decent article written about them.
  • You’re a crook and an obsequious lickspittle of corrupt and greedy businessmen
  • Unprintable
  • Well, hello, I suppose as I didn’t realise it had an editor. Thought some PR company just collated their press releases. I would also like it to campaign for chips to be wrapped in newspaper once again – then it would have a purpose
  • Take a reality check
  • Can the editorship read?
  • Balanced! Not a lot of crap typed by keyboard warriors!
  • I used to think this paper was the only one worth buying, until it printed a story about me that was utter sh*te.
  • Stop printing sh*te!
  • Your fired
  • we want proper unbiased news not some fatcats pipedream
  • so long and thanks for all the fish
  • How do you manage to sleep at night.
  • Get a grip.
  • Goodbyeee!
  • Stop promoting Donald Trump, Sir Ian Wood and Stewart Milne.
  • Unprintable.
  • Get tae …
  • Get a divorce, mate.
  • Nothing …. because anything I say will be taken down, changed beyond recognition, put in quotes and used against me in a skewed context.
  • What is the difference between the EE and a bucket of shite? The bucket.
  • Being the “Millionaires Best Friend” and slanting the news accordingly, may be profitable, but as a newspaper, ???? shameful.
  • Ta, ta!
  • Get Ye behind me Satan!!!!
  • Stop sucking up to “Big business”


Question:  What would you like to see done to the EE headquarters?

Answer Choices                                                                                              


Build a granite web over it 20.41% (10)
Turn it into an outdoor theatre 6.12% (3)
Give it to Aberdeen City Gardens Trust (an unelected private company) to manage 16.33% (8)
Turn it into some kind of credible business 53.06% (26)
Exorcism 16.33% (8)
Total Number of Respondents  49

It should be noted that the respondents were anonymous; I did not ask anyone to reply, and I did not reply to the questions myself. When setting up a survey, it is possible to target specific audiences. I was asked if I wanted to purchase an option to have specific kinds of people given my survey to answer; I declined.

When it comes to surveys you are being asked to put your trust in, you may want to determine who the respondents were and how they were chosen.

Aberdeen’s Evening Express seemed a likely candidate for this illustrative, satirical exercise for several reasons.

Firstly, they are more than happy to print the conclusions of the Pro-Trump lobby.

Secondly, there is a good, recently disclosed reason for that:  Aberdeen Journals Editor in Chief is married to Trump’s Vice President, not that you learnt this from the paper itself.

Thirdly, on occasion their coverage of issues could be what you might call slightly bias.

Fourth, the  paper is running its own survey as to ‘mending our broken heart’. This survey starts from the premise we are broken-hearted over not having built a granite web over our only city centre green public space. Their campaign in favour of building the web was nothing short of ferocious.

ballsNow they want us to believe they are interested in mending the huge divisions the issue caused, and that they merely want to get our opinions. Not everyone would agree their survey comes from a place of neutrality with a goal of peace-making. They therefore seemed a good candidate to illustrate how surveys can be slanted.

The EE survey questions all had set answers (except the last one). Those who live in Aberdeen City will recall being given similar ‘straightjacket’ answer choices when it came to choosing a shortlist for potential designs for Union Terrace Gardens.

The choice to leave the gardens as they are and just improve them was not given to us, forcing us to choose one of 6 (mostly abhorrent) designs.

What the public did actually vote on and comment on in this exercise remains a mystery. Despite the public purse paying (at least in part) for the exercise, an unelected Limited company consisting of 4 people refuse to let us have the results. Perhaps the Hotel Association will want to come forward with the raw data they have collected regarding Trump .

The Evening Express survey was leading – were leading questions asked of hotel guests?

Using the logic employed by the Chamber, I could write an article now saying ‘Up to 98% of Aberdonians think the Evening Express is Dreadful’.

One thing my survey did was to ask for comments. No two are alike. Not only do they all say different things while conveying the same general message, none of them were from the same IP address. Bear that in mind, and go back to the public consultation as to whether or not to allow the Trump complex to overrule the SSSI protections.

Of course both sides had recommended their followers to either support or object. However, a startling number of supporters came in via email – and dozens and dozens of these are wholly identical.

Identical not only in terms of the wording being verbatim, but the fonts and even the line breaks. Of course these were all counted as individuals weighing in. While many organisations will use form letters, usually this is pointed out when responses are counted – this does not necessarily seem to have taken place with the Trump application.

do not accept any conclusions until you know how big the sample was

It is one thing to say thousands of people support a course of action – but it is quite another thing to say that thousands of people sent in precisely the same replies supporting a course of action. (Does government look at things like IP addresses?  It might be worth doing so in future).

Let’s assume that massive hordes of golfers are now coming here because of the Trump course. You would therefore expect the course to be running at capacity. From eyewitness accounts of people living nearby, this is not the case. Even the online booking system used by the Trump organisation shows there are often many un-used tee times almost every day.

The next time someone tells you there is ‘up to 93%’ of an increase in something, or the next time you read a statistic somewhere, do not accept any conclusions until you know how big the sample was. Do they mean 93% of ten thousand people? Or are they talking about 93% of 7 suite and 35 bedroom guests?

If someone tells you there is an increase in an activity, find out what the time period is, what other factors could have influenced the increase (were people flocking to an area, say for an event like Offshore Europe?). Ask whether the person or group giving you the statistics have a vested interest in the matter at hand: does Mr Spence want to encourage Trump and co. to continue to visit his hotel?

Do VisitScotland want to validate their ongoing claims as to the benefits of the Trump course? Does the Evening Express have any reason to want to regurgitate pro-Trump statistics? Unfortunately numbers, as well as people, can be deceptive. Without having more information such as who the respondents were, the raw data and background, statistics are meaningless.

Put another way – at least up to 93% of survey data and statistics are unreliable.

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

Scottish ParliamentBy Suzanne Kelly.

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

Over 19,400 people supported this call.

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

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

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

Part of it can be found here: 31.08.13.pdf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing. They sent the following:-

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

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

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

David Milne told Aberdeen Voice:

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

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

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

Mr Milne continues:

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

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

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

Further information on the need for a public inquiry:-

Scottish Parliament image – Credit:

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

By Suzanne Kelly. 

trump106featMenie Estate resident David Milne started a petition to ask for a public inquiry into the past, present and future events and issues arising from Donald Trump’s takeover of the Estate to build ‘the world’s greatest golf course.’

As per previous coverage of the problems faced by residents and visitors to the estate, there are many questions that have remained unanswered as events have unfolded. The Scottish Government called in and approved Trump’s plans – a move which was without precedent.

The actions of the police, local and central government, and Scottish Enterprise as well as the SNH since golf course construction began have included the arrests of two journalists on the charge of ‘breaching the peace’, as shown in Anthony Baxter’s award-winning documentary, You’ve Been Trumped.

Environmental monitoring which was to be robust, was patchy at best, and now seems non-existent. Residents have been stopped by Trump private security. Surely the SNP government, keen to show the benefits of an independent Scotland, would want to honour the request of 19,000 petition signatories, and shed light on its actions if they were above board?

The petitions committee members have decided otherwise.

The brief statement now on their website reads:-

“3 September 2013: The Committee agreed to close the petition, under Rule 15.7, on the basis that all of the organisations that responded state that they have made, and continue to make, details of their involvement with the Menie Development public, and that there is little to demonstrate that another inquiry is necessary or justified.”

Astonishingly, the method used by the committee when asked to consider investigating these five institutions was to ask them if they thought an investigation was needed. The outcome was inevitable, once the decision was made to rely on the word of the organisations to be investigated.

The committee’s statement refers to ‘another inquiry’. Whilst there was a report on the planning process in 2008, a great deal has happened since then.  The statement refers to ‘another inquiry’ – there has not been any inquiry remotely like what was requested by the thousands who signed Milne’s petition.

David Milne’s letter to the Petitions Committee has been heavily redacted. Future articles will look at why Milne’s final statement was cut in this way.

What did he plan to say that the committee did not want the public to see?

Were any of the people on the committee likely to want to prevent an investigation into how Alex Salmond wined and dined Trump, and then intervened in the live planning application? Why did the police arrest two journalists on the say-so of Trump’s site manager, yet decline to even look at potential evidence caught on video of property damage and theft from the Milne property?

Reactions are still coming in from residents, campaigners and politicians; these will be aired in due course as well. But for the time being it is clear that the wish of the people to have a proper, public examination of what is now a cause celebre does not matter to central government.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Sep 122013

It’s been another event filled week in city, shire and country, but at least the weather has been amazing. By Suzanne Kelly.


Last Sunday I took a long drive with some friends through Banchory, then down to Drumtochty and Stonehaven. We also stopped into one of the NEOS (North East Open Studios) venues.

Even though it was past closing time, Katrina McIntosh showed us in to her very enviable loft gallery/painting space.

Her gallery space is crammed with a wide variety of work, and I was pleased to see so many ‘red dots’ indicating sales. Safe to say we enjoyed her work.

Animals, especially highland cattle stared back from canvas; there were some very evocative red pepper paintings (already sold) using painting techniques to great effect to convey the vegetables’ skins; I particularly liked some of her paintings of birds.

The NEOS experience is all around us; visit Katrina’s webpage here: and the overall NEOS website here: .

Other studios will be investigated over the three weeks the event runs.

The weekend was capped off beautifully by a BrewDog visit; the hopinator (a magical device BrewDog occasional attaches to its beer lines and fills with whatever takes their fancy: (herbs, tea, chilies) had been filled with lemon rind, and the already magical elixir, Tongue Tied, was running through it.

The result was a summery, sunny, citrusy refreshing drink that was undoubtedly the Pimms of the beer world (I do like a nice Pimms).  I even put ice in it, which may have upset traditionalists. Don’t bother looking for it now; it’s been quickly drunk.  Do feel free to ask BrewDog to do it again.

I also had a nice visit to Under the Hammer, where some of my paintings are still on show, and a trip to the Moorings one night was a good occasion to let the hair down.  There are many good bands heading to the Moorings soon; I for one can’t wait for the 30th anniversary tour of Spear of Destiny, and local(ish) act Pallas returns in November with a new album. So yes, we do have culture on tap in our area.

Oh, and I spent a few happy hours in Union Terrace Gardens on Saturday afternoon; the benches were all full; people were enjoying the pleasures of being in a city centre park. Children played; the air didn’t reek of car exhaust fumes; and surprisingly few druggies or criminals were about.

Music, art, craft, theatre…we certainly have some creative minds and talents in our area. Outside of the arts, some of our local worthies show creativity I can scarcely believe. We have masters of invention and reinvention, and their sheer perseverance is astonishing. This week Old Susannah looks at a few such people and the odd (very odd) institution, and marvels.

But first, I bring you a shocking story. No, not Cat Cubie’s recent column on the groundbreaking premise that it’s OK to be a geek, but something nearly as important.

A dodgy land deal in Scotland? Hard to believe, but the BBC reports:-

“Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has raised concern over a controversial government land deal struck with a businessman. She said taxpayers’ cash was used to buy land in Paisley from John McGlynn in 2008 for £840,000, which was later sold back to him for £50,000.Ms Lamont asked First Minster Alex Salmond to justify the transaction when she raised the issue in parliament.”

Well, this is a huge embarrassment. You wouldn’t find this kind of thing in Aberdeen. No, when we do a land deal with a dodgy businessman, we would never bother with such paltry sums of money. Considering our own Stewart Milne looked set for a tidy £1.7 million ‘windfall’ from our council, it is clear we’re the more affluent area.

We are also definitely the more creative area, as rather than buying and selling for a loss, we sold for a massive loss, and at the same time coincidentally awarded Milne contracts for projects worth a nice packet. Had the other bidders for this work been given the chance to offset a low bid and resulting low profit margin against making a nice sum off of a land deal, they too could have seen a good cash flow.

If I were one of these bidders, I might be cross enough to call a lawyer.

Without any further ado, I present herewith our masters of reinvention. When it comes to invention; I think you will agree that some of them truly can be called Mothers.

The New Statesman: Kevin Stewart, Fiscal Wizard (with a few memory issues)

Kevin Stewart is now far away from his Kate Dean lapdog past. It’s a few years since his heroic role in ACC’s cuts to services to vulnerable people, and simultaneous generosity to land purchasers (see above for instance). No, Kev is now in power as an MSP, and as such can tell us what the current council is doing wrong.  The P&J quote this elder statesman frequently in its pieces critical of the new administration; I’m sure you hang on his every word as much as I do.

That mean Willie Young seems to dislike Kevin insinuating the current administration has cooked the books.

Kev just might be something of a masterchef in this area.

Carrot Top Kev was around when we accidentally sold so much land for so little profit that we set yet more records. Audit Scotland couldn’t decide whether the councillors involved in the deals were incompetent (surely not!) or dishonest. The police were therefore asked to investigate, and as if by magic, no problems at all were found. Phew! Yes, things were different when Stewart and Dean ruled the roost.

His SNP biography has also got a different take on events; it’s funny how the passage of time can make things seem even rosier than they were:  Kev’s biography reads in part…

“Finance & Resources Committee [was] — something of a poisoned chalice, for he was soon made aware of the Council’s £50million debt, incurred over the years by profligate and incompetent administrations. Showing considerable courage and tenacity, Kevin Stewart succeeded in making the necessary savings in the Council budgets — without which the city would have faced near bankruptcy — and his efforts were recognised by the electors of Aberdeen Central in the Scottish General Election. He stepped down as a councillor in May 2012.”

Could those ‘profligate and incompetent administrations’ have anything to do with the fact Kev had been serving(?) the city since 1999? Obviously not.  As to those ‘courageous’ cuts, Old Susannah guesses Kevin’s courage casts a shadow over the comparatively small courage shown by the people who had to get along once he and Dean cut their essential services.

Choices might want to send him a copy of ‘The Wrong Choices’ – an excellent documentary highlighting Kevin and Dean’s courage; Willie Young might want to consider the accusations of ‘profligacy’ lodged by the SNP on this epic Stewart Biog page.

It seems this experience has given Kevin the expertise and experience necessary to criticise Young and the current administration. Do bear this in mind when he next appears in print criticising ACC’s current government, and be grateful for his encouraging words and finger-pointing:  he does know what he’s talking about.

Indeed, when it comes to reinvention, and a bit of historical amnesia, Kevin has few peers. One however is the shire’s sweetheart, Gillian Owen.

Gillian Owen:  Campaigner for Free Access (just not for all)

Take comfort people of Menie! Fear no more, photographers and journalists: an Aberdeenshire champion of your access rights has presented itself in the form of Cllr. Gillian Owen. Your right to roam is in good hands.

Well, she might not care about the many infringements of legal access rights on the Menie Estate (I’ve not read a word from her about the treatment meted out to Susan Munro, Alicia Bruce, Baxter & Phinney, etc. etc.) , but you can’t say she doesn’t care. ‘Access Issues at Inverurie Bus Stop’ is the Inverurie Herald’s headline heralding the advent of this access champion:-

“I have been fighting for better protection for our children as they walk to school but BEAR have gone too far, a resident has brought to my attention that pedestrians no longer have an access to the bus stop at the shortest point.”

Yes, there is a stretch of roadway that now has a girder on it, probably 10 yards long.  Perhaps this is an infringement on peoples’ rights to get to the bus stop quickly. Perhaps it is just a girder to stop people driving off road. In any event, your freedoms are assured.

Evening Express – Broken Heart Mender

In the distant past, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Evening Express was a mercenary tabloid desperate to please its advertisers, to serve the needs of its proprietor and his family (ignoring unflattering news stories now and then), and to sell as many papers as possible via an endless stream of beautiful bride/baby/pet/toddler/senior accountant competitions. You would be wrong.

It’s really an agony aunt wanting to make us all feel better. It’s a completely different paper to the one that called the shire councillors ‘neeps’ for voting against Trump; it’s a different paper to the one that gave a slight edge to the pro web factions. It’s actually a peacemaker. I for one believe it is taking the peace more than making it.

This selfless paper is going to fix our broken hearts. No, not about your first love – something much more important: not having a granite web.

They want your opinion, and that’s pretty big of them I must admit. In a poll that will in no way be twisted to suit a pre-existing agenda, one which is by happy coincidence the same as the big advertisers, you can have your say on fixing the city.

I can’t wait to see the resulting statistics. Tea leaves, ouija boards, tarot cards all point to a result which sees everyone in town unanimously voting to turn the gardens into something other than gardens. We shall see. Here is where you tell them what you want:

Of course, the paper can draw on its own expertise for how to revive the flagging city centre; it is doiing all it can to revive its flagging circulation.  This of course will some time soon include investigative journalism, objective writing, and presenting points of view which differ from the editor’s.

In the mean time, there have been job cuts, and more are quite possible.

No doubt the city government will instantly implement whatever plan this scientific, objective poll says is what we want.

Back when the Trump consultation for the initial planning permission was live, scores of emails arrived which used the exact same phraseology about the benefits the course would bring. This wasn’t some sort of organised ACSEF campaign I’m sure; it must just have been great minds thinking alike.

I’m sure that no such distortion of the results will happen to this poll. In fact, I am sure that if the public demand that the Express shares its raw data, minus any personal data, they’ll be more than happy to do so.

Well, with the parameters of what might/might not wind up in UTG continuing to change by the second, I will comment on that never-ending story soon. Do keep telling your elected reps – those of you who live in the city – what you do or don’t want to see happening.

Next week:  the (un)surprising decision of the Petitions Committee regarding Trump at Menie.


Alas!  In the midst of all this great weather and great things to do, the abandonment and ill treatment of both people and animals continues.  If you want to help in our area, Mrs Murray’s Home, Willows, Blaikiewell’s, The New Ark and the Scottish SPCA are filled to capacity and need both donations and loving homes for animals.

If you can spare some time and energy, Befriend a Child (city and shire) could use your help, too  – among other worthwhile charities and groups.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Aug 302013

By Bob Smith. Wi apologies tae the unknown composer o Bonnie Lass O Fyvie

There eence wis a group
o Trumpie’s baboons
Cam mairchin doon throwe Menie O
A heid yin’s name wis Dod
Shoutin oot Trump he’s a god
Lang live the Great Dunes O Scatland O
Noo ither Menie fowk
thocht Trump he wis a gowk
Fer connachin the bonnie dunes o Menie O
He’s buggered an SSSI
Iss wis the rallyin cry
He’s deen fer the shiftin sands o Menie O
Donald says ye’ve nivver seen
the likes in Aiberdeen
Ma course is the best in iss warld O
Bit if yer nae weel aff
We’ll class ye as a nyaff
Ye’ll pey throwe the nose tae hit a ba O
Oh bugger damn an blast
a villain I am cast
Fer screwin some lives ower in Menie O
Weel aats jist their bad luck
An a dinna gie a f—k
Am “King” Donald, Thane o aathing O
Aat mannie caed Wee Eck
shud git it in the neck
Fer darin tae spike aa ma guns O
Iss winfairm a declare
A jist fin hard tae bear
An a’ll nae feenish fit a’v stairted O
O Trumpie gyaang tae hell
mony fowk div yell
Yer jist a pain in the ersie O
Yer cunnels nae sae bricht
An yer hair’s a bliddy sicht
Lang mey the faimilies bide in Menie O

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013

Aug 272013
Plaque at Menie with wild claim that dunes are the world's largest.

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

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

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

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

The following, among others, think quite a lot:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Police Scotland

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

Police Comments on Scrutiny:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“However, in Spring 2009, following the announcement of a number of strategic economic and infrastructure developments, Grampian Police established a short life ‘Critical Incident Preparation Group (CIPG)’ with a remit to coordinate the prepared phase of ‘critical incidents’.

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

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

  • “Preparation
  • “Management
  • “Restoring Best Confidence

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

“This has been determined as;-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is intimidating. But is it lawful?

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

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

Everyone understood their roles; everyone acted perfectly

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

The Scottish Government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Post decision on the outline planning consent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

there is more evidence that this knowledge was not applied

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scottish Natural Heritage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case Proven:  An Inquiry Is Needed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suzanne Kelly fights her way through the hordes.

Suzanne Kelly fights her way through the hordes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proposed layout of the new course

Proposed layout of the new course

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

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

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

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

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

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

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