Dec 062012
 

By Bob Smith.

Michael Forbes his bin voted
Glenfiddich’s “Tap Scot” o the year
Iss’ll hae Trumpie fair bilin
Gyaan reid in the face a fear
.
Michael wis geen iss award
Fer his steely determination
The puir chiel wis left speechless
Fin he received a standin ovation
.
Imaagine fit Trump’ll be thinking
As oor Michael he won iss award
Donald says he bides in a slum
An thinks him an affa cyaard
.
Noo Michael refused tae buckle
He unfurled the democracy flag
Stuck twa fingers up tae The Donald
As Trumpie cairry’t on wi his brag
.
Donald am sure wull pint oot
He’s bin created a GlobalScot
By some fowk in big business
Fa spoutit some mair tommyrot
Fit his Trump ivver deen fer Scotia
His he biggit his course bi default ?
Is money teen in fae the gowfers
In an American bank’s secure vault?
.
The award leaves Trump in a pickle
He canna say the hail thing’s a farce
Glenfiddich Distillery’s weel respected
An micht hae a kick at Trump’s arse
.
Raise a gless tae Michael Forbes
Fa stood an held the stage
Agin an American billionaire
Fa’s noo duncin aroon wi rage
.
Let’s jist hae anither award
Like Top Director o the year
Iss maan ging tae Anthony Baxter
Fa didna show Trump ony fear..
.
.

.
.
©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012
Oct 212011
 

By Bob Smith.

A’ve bin haen an e-mail natter
Wi a mannie fae the P&J
Aboot their lack o recogneetion
Fer the film aboot the Menie affray

Nae meention o it’s Scottish premiere
Fit wye?  A thocht a wid speir
“You’ve Been Trumped” is a success
The P&J winna mak iss clear

Na Na,  the chiel wisna haen iss
The paper hid scriven some spiel
On mony occasions said the mannie
He must think a’m bliddy feel !!

I syne askit plain an ti the pint
Dates please faan iss wis printed
The chiel widna say nae mair
So a didna git fit a wintit

Noo the craitur wis maist pit oot
Fer hintin they war Trumpie’s freen
Maybe if the mannie hid ‘s wye
A’d be run oot o Aiberdeen

A’ve aywis thocht a newspaper
Wis supposed ti report the news
Tho aboot  “You’ve Been Trumped”
We’ll nivver read the P&J’s views

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2011
Image Credit: © Guy Shapira | Dreamstime.com

Oct 072011
 

By Bob Smith.

Hark the “Sunday Herald”  did sing
An ti us aa the news did bring
Trump  he wintit oor cops ti be
Jist like the lot in the NYPD

Donald he cam fae oot the sky
An ti oor bobbies wint in bye
Askin they aa did his biddin
Fowks the mannie wisna kiddin!!

Fit dis the silly bugger fear
Molly Forbes in combat gear?
Maybe David Milne wi bows an arras
Dis Susan Munro train “Suicide sparras” ?

The tap bobbies noo they warna convinced
Bein accused o bias they maybe sensed
Bi drappin aathing at Trumpie’s request
Yet twa filmin chiels they did arrest

Aberdeenshire Cooncil think Donald’s a god
An were maybe happy that PC Plod
Wid flee aroon at Trumpie’s biddin
Checkin fit’s happenin at “Michael’s Midden”

Faa’s tellin the truth aboot the windfairm
Did Scottish Government agree nae ti hairm
The bonnie view fae Donald’s mansion
An turbine plans they winna sanction

The fowk faa work in MacLeod Hoose
Are feart that vandals are on the loose
Wull Dod Sorial an aa Trump’s posers
Be shoutin “Donald Faar’s Yer Rozzers?”

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2011
Picture Credit:  © Daniel Wiedemann | Dreamstime.com

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 072011
 

Dr David Kennedy, former Principal of The Robert Gordon University, is a man of many interests, experiences and opinions. Voice’s Suzanne Kelly was eager to get his views on contemporary local and global topics and they conversed, among other topics, about life, the planet, greed, oil, fish and Wood. This is the first extract from that conversation.

David Kennedy was not short of words, opinions or facts.
He had recently been interviewed in-depth by the mainstream media in connection with the proposed New Town development at Elsick, but in the end all that was reported was the well-publicised return of his own honorary RGU degree in protest over RGU’s decision to award a similar honour to Donald Trump.

This simple act of defiance was eloquently accomplished and captured beautifully in Anthony Baxter’s and Richard Phinney’s film, You’ve Been Trumped.

For those who mainly get their news from Aberdeen Journals, the rest of the world has been writing about this award-winning documentary for months, and it is hitting cinemas in Scotland again now – see details elsewhere in Voice.

I asked first about his son Peter’s concern over the development of a massive housing estate at Elsick and  Peter’s subsequent article in Voice   and wondered if Dr Kennedy himself was keeping up with the issues around this or other planned housing developments?

“There‘s a lull at the moment other than the application that went for approval last week. The BBC spent just under an hour with me. Despite taping a long video interview when the report of the development was eventually aired, virtually nothing of what I said was used, just a reference to my handing back my degree some 12 months ago to RGU.

“The arguments that I put during the interview were about farmland. Human beings have a few basic requirements. One is food; another is warmth. As a prime requirement, humans must be able to feed themselves. We were cautioned by Winston Churchill during WWII that we should NEVER allow ourselves to be dependent on other countries for our food. If our country is unable to do this, then we must depend on trade with other countries.

“How is Scotland going to feed its people if it hasn’t any farmland? Therein lies the problem. We’ve seen here in the North East the decline of all the indigenous industries that have been with us for hundreds of years – textiles, paper, agriculture, fishing, that sort of thing. They’ve all been virtually destroyed by the growth of the oil industry, which sucked skilled people away from these industries.

“Oil is a finite resource, therefore we know from the start it’s not sustainable. It is a short-term gain for a long-term loss. I was on a few committees debating the future of Aberdeen when the oil was gone. Tourism was the only answer they came up with. However, tourism is like taking in one another’s washing – our tourists go out, theirs come in. Where is the gain? The future of Scotland certainly depends on its being able to either produce its own food in sufficient quantities to feed its people, or otherwise manufacture and export goods other countries want.”

This led us to discuss red tape and over-regulation in the farming sector.

“That of course largely comes from what is happening in Brussels. I know one or two larger farmers in the area, one of whom told me he’d never been as well off in his life. Thanks to me and other taxpayers, he was being paid so many subsidies from Brussels for set-aside, tree-planting and so on, as Europe wanted to control where food is and isn’t produced and thereby avoid overproduction.”

Suzanne’s fascinating conversation with Dr Kennedy will continue in future issues of Aberdeen Voice. We are grateful for his input.

Sep 302011
 

You’ve Been Trumped – the documentary film branded ‘a failure’ by Donald Trump has just won its third major documentary award – and first in Scotland – clinching the Scottish Screen Archive Prize for Best Feature Documentary at the Edindocs Festival in Edinburgh. Suzanne Kelly reports.

The award means the film will be archived as an important piece of Scotland’s history and stored at The National Library of Scotland ‘forever’.

This latest award follows two other major festival awards for the film.

In June You’ve Been Trumped won the Green Prize – the top environmental award for UK documentaries – at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival.  And in August, the film scooped the Special Jury Prize at Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan.

You’ve Been Trumped was rejected for funding by Creative Scotland and passed over for this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival

However, it has proven to be a hit at some of the world’s most prestigious documentary festivals and will shortly be screened in Australia, Taiwan, Bermuda and at several major film festivals in the United States.

You’ve Been Trumped tells the story of Donald Trump’s attempts to build what he claims will be ‘the greatest golf course in the world’ on a supposedly protected environmental site in Aberdeenshire.   The plan involves building 1500 houses and a luxury hotel on what scientists have described as ‘the crown jewels of Scotland’s Natural Heritage.’

You’ve Been Trumped has just begun a Sheffield Doc/Fest winners’ tour – playing at major independent cinemas across the UK and is also part of the Take One Action Film Festival which takes in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness.    The film is also due to return to cinemas in Aberdeen and Dundee next month.  Meanwhile, You’ve Been Trumped will be travelling to the Vancouver International Film Festival later this month and will unspool for its official New York premiere in early October.

Director Anthony Baxter said:

“It’s a great honour for You’ve Been Trumped to be recognised as an important historical document and reassuring to know that future generations will be able to learn lessons from the environmental destruction that’s been unfolding on the Menie Estate for precious little economic benefit.”

Scottish folk singer-songwriter Karine Polwart (“exceptionally subtle and melodic” Q Magazine) is currently penning a new song inspired by events captured in the film, which will be unveiled when You’ve Been Trumped is screened at the FilmHouse in Edinburgh on 2nd October as part of the Take One Action Film Festival.

Footnotes:

  • You’ve Been Trumped (UK, running time 95 minutes) was made by Angus based independent production company Montrose Pictures Ltd.
  • The film score features music from world the world renowned Sigur Rus and the band’s front man Jonsi.
  • Many of You’ve Been Trumped’s future screenings can be viewed here – with more dates to be added.
  • Latest news on the film can be seen here.
  • For further information call Montrose Pictures: +44(0)1674 677 233 or email: projects@montrosepictures.co.uk
Aug 292011
 

Old Susannah watches the latest developments in the ‘Deen and the wider world and feels like a deer caught in headlights.  Here is this week’s look at what’s happening where and who’s doing what to whom.  By Suzanne Kelly.

Evening Express readers were rejoicing in the streets last weekend as the results of the ‘Happy Tots’ photo contest were revealed. Little wonder then, that there has been no word there or in the P&J of Anthony Baxter’s continued world tour of his award-winning film ‘You’ve Been Trumped, or the screening of Emily James’s film ‘Just Do It’ at the Belmont. Nor was there space for the little matter of the council’s ongoing deer debacle.
Word has it that the SNP is growing squeamish over the blood-letting that the little creatures (ie the LibDems) will suffer at the ballot box when the voting season opens, and are looking for a way out.

Let’s hope so. Not even the most gullible politician believes the promised carbon off-setting benefits of this unwanted forest has any merit. The Public Services Ombudsman likewise are weighing up the City’s actions over the deer. The Ombudsman may soon look at other matters, but that is another story for another time.

In the larger, non EE world, there is violence at every turn it seems.  Happily we can all feel safer for a few reasons. One, the use of tasers seems to be going up in the UK.  This seems to coincide with the number of deaths caused by tasers likewise increasing – but then again, that means less criminals on the streets.  

It also means less innocent people on the streets, but you can’t have everything. 

Tasers don’t cause severe agony I’m told, but there was a police official who was going to make a film demonstrating how innocuous the tasers were, using himself as a guinea pig.  Unfortunately, he was in excruciating pain, and his little film didn’t have the desired effect.  Tasers are only used by calm, rational, well-trained men, and not angry cops who might repeatedly taser a suspect until they die.  Usually.

But I feel even safer still:  the US Navy’s been spending time (and lots and lots of money) developing a means to make their weaponry even more deadly.  It has been said that this new technology means weapons can explode with up to five times the energy of existing armaments.  I guess this is their way of trying to be more energy efficient, so that’s quite good.  As things stood, NATO was only able to destroy the world a few dozen times over. Now we can sleep soundly in our beds.

Old Susannah enjoyed the (mostly) sunny Tullos Hill picnic last Sunday and was happy to see some new faces there. 

It is a beautiful hill with beautiful panoramic views over city and sea – so it’s got to go.  Sadly, a second group of picnic-ers failed to find the main party, but a good time was still had. 

Anyway, time for some definitions.

Board:

(noun) a collection of people who have managerial, supervisory, or other responsibilities and powers, e.g.. ‘Board of Directors’ ‘Board of Governors’.

Private company boards are established (normally) to oversee methods and manage reasonable, defined objectives.  However, we are in Aberdeen, and are ruled by Aberdeen City Council.

There is no shortage of boards set up by the City and given  powers – powers which are always used in a fair, reasonable and democratic  way.  The Licensing Board did itself proud two years ago; it ran straight to the Press & Journal to say a dozen or so restaurants and clubs, etc. were not compliant with new licensing laws.  These wrong-doers were named and shamed in the press, and faced being closed, fined, and having their licenses revoked.

In a truly dramatic style, this was announced about a week before the traditional Christmas lunches and dinners were to be held.

Naturally you would expect a Board to have possession of all the facts before going to the papers.  Yet somehow this board made a few tiny mistakes.  A few of those it named as non-compliant with the law had, er, long gone out of business.  Slightly more embarrassing, at least two of the named-and-shamed establishments were fully compliant, having jumped through hoops made of red tape.

Old Susannah had planned a lunch in such a place, and called the Board once I knew for certain how wrong the Board was.  I spoke to a woman; she was very helpful.  She asked me who I was to question the board, and told me I must be mistaken.  However, a day or so later, the Board had gone back to the P&J with a grudging retraction.  My Christmas lunch went ahead, and all was right.

But here are a few lines from the Board we should all be looking at:-

“The role of the Project Monitoring Group is to oversee the Union Terrace City Garden project’s progress and ensure that Council’s interests, and that of the majority of Aberdeen citizens, are protected as the project progresses. The membership of the Project Monitoring Group comprises   Councillors Malone (Chair), Boulton, McDonald, Kirsty West, Wisely, Young and Yuill”.

“For reference, the membership of the City Garden Project Management Board comprises Councillor John Stewart (Chair), Councillor Callum   McCaig and Valerie Watts, ACC; Tom Smith and Colin Crosby, ACSEF; Jennifer Craw, the Wood Family Trust; Bob Collier, Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce; John Michie, Aberdeen City Centre Association; Lavina Massie, the Aberdeen City Alliance, Maggie McGinlay, Scottish Enterprise and Paul Harris, Gray’s School of Art”.

Aberdeen City Council Website

I guess it must be an Aberdonian thing, but here we have a board to oversee a project which 55% of people responding to a survey don’t support.  (Arguably the number against ruining UTG is higher, as a tiny hiccough in the online voting system changed negative votes to positive ones – I guess it’s hard to use this new-fangled technology).

Isn’t it wonderful that this Board just sprang into being without the need to trouble the taxpayer or voter as to their thoughts? 

Perhaps it will be a difficult job to be a board member here – for one thing these selfless souls have to ‘oversee the progress’ of the project which is unknown (there is no scope, timescale or budget agreed – but I’m splitting hairs).  If you look at the paragraphs above, you might get the idea that not progressing the project is not an option.

The tricky bit will be how on earth to ‘ensure that Council’s interests, AND that of the majority of Aberdeen citizens, are protected as the project progresses.’

 I vote we protect the Council’s interests above all else.  The project will progress, and the vastly different interests of the Council and the citizen somehow have to be both ‘protected’.   This Board (led by one Mr Gerry Brough) has so far protected us by employing a wide range of techniques.  

These include setting up a company to take the project forward with no mandate from the people, stacking the board with people who want a Wood Group solution for UTG, and by redacting minutes to protect us from truth.  I feel as protected by Gerry Brough and this board as I do by the US Navy and its brand new super-explosives.

It is unclear who designed the make-up of this board, but I wonder – did they have a small, subconscious desire for the project to go ahead? 

It almost seems as if most of these people are desperate for the gardens to be turned into whatever Wood (and Milne) want.  Then again, the presence of Jennifer Craw to represent the Wood Family Trust is a reassuring sign that everything is totally impartial and ‘above Board’.

Citizens opposed to the project should not bother their heads about the decision the board made:  there will be no opportunity at the upcoming public consultation to vote to leave the gardens as is.  You get to vote on which of the six shortlisted projects (again chosen by a handful of non-elected people) you want – and that’s that.  And this wonderful, unbiased board has just decided at its last meeting to start lobbying government officials to pressure them to go ahead and fill in our garden.

If you want to write to the Board and tell them how happy you are with their work so far, please do.  And if you feel like doing some lobbying of your own, you can always write to the Scottish Futures Trust to tell them how happy you are about these fantastic garden-raising  plans.

The City is some £50,000,000 in the red

But of all the many boards we have working hard to keep Aberdeen the efficient vibrant, dynamic hub it is, there is a board composed completely of planks.

I refer of course to the Budget Monitoring Board:  the City is some 50 million pounds in the red that we know of.  That really is some job they have managed  these past few years.

Dictatorship

(noun) system of government wherein a single person or small  group has undemocratic control and powers over the citizenry; often a totalitarian state.

Despite their threatening and irrational behaviour, it looks as if some of the world’s most hated dictators are set to topple.   These hated figures have held onto power at all costs, some for many years, despite people demanding that they go. Dictators try to threaten journalists and other critics; they use threats of legal action to silence opposition.  These dictators often look slightly deranged and dress in odd garments, and often look over-tired and slightly bloated.

One of my favourite quotes from the ‘Harry Potter’ series of books by the inimitable JK Rowling went something like this (I paraphrase).

“Dictators always fear the people that they oppress, for they know that one day, someone will rise above the masses and over-throw them.” 

– Apologies for the bad  phrasing JK,  but it’s true.  Those who come to power and then disregard clear voices of opposition and who do not play fairly will eventually be overthrown, or just voted out of office.

So dictators, do everyone a favour and just leave when asked to go.  (PS – in a related development it seems that Libya has finally got rid of Gaddafi).

Next week:  start queueing now:  the great St. Nicholas House furniture sale is ON!  Grab a future heirloom from the used, battered desks and chairs.  You paid for them once – here’s your chance to pay for them again (not to mention the brand new furniture you bought for Marischal College).  Sale stars 3 September.

Jul 052011
 

Old Susannah tries to get her head around the Council’s secrecy and finds them much more transparent than they had thought they were.  By Suzanne Kelly.

Firstly, I trust we are all excited about the discovery of a giant wombat’s fossil in Australia!

This lumbering, hulking, ungainly creature could not move with the times, and so faded into history. Its great big head only had a pea-sized brain which was useful only for more primitive functioning. It spent its time hoarding nuts and drinking at its favourite watering holes.

Any relation to Councillors K ♦♦♦ D♦♦♦ or N♦♦♦ F ♦♦♦♦♦♦ is curiously coincidental.

While I may have spent most  of this past week enjoying the sun as well as well as a pleasant afternoon or  two in Brewdog, I’ve not been oblivious to the things that the City Council,  local institutions and mainstream press want me to be oblivious to.  While I enjoyed champagne and plenty of Pimms  with my friends ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ and ♦♦♦♦♦♦  in the great outdoors, I’ve been informed of a few developments.

Despite the summer sun, there are shadowy  figures behind the scenes, keeping secrets, denying facts, and trying (with  little success) to keep people and stories quiet – some innocent, some not so  innocent.

‘No news is good news’ – so  the saying goes, but whoever came up with this particular phrase probably had  too much of Brewdog’s ‘Sink The Bismarck’ ultra-strong beer.  Here in Aberdeen ‘no news’ seems to mean the local,  mainstream press have decided to play things down.  So – listen very carefully, I will say this  only once…

Redacted: (adjective) – obscured,  covered up, deleted, censored.

Some months ago, I attended a special meeting of Torry Community Council at which  the Friends of Union Terrace Gardens presented their case, and a very nice lady  named Jan represented ACC (Gordon McIntosh  had been invited, but was having dinner instead).  Jan told us how everything was going to be  wonderful, and how the entire matter was going to be handled ‘in a transparent  manner’.

In fact, she used the word  ‘transparent’ half a dozen times.  I left the meeting with a warm, fuzzy feeling that if something were going on about  the gardens, it would all be transparent.  What a relief.

How very strange it was  then to open up a P&J this week and find our new Council Leader McCaig asking why the minutes of one of the Garden-related groups (and there are many  I can assure you) has been redacted.  Over the weekend I’d emailed him asking why the text had been redacted; he’s not slow off the mark, our Mr McCaig.

But what group is this redacting its papers?  It’s the City Gardens Project Monitoring  Group.  What do they do?  According to the City’s website,

“The role of the Project Monitoring Group is to oversee the City Garden project’s progress and ensure that Council’s interests, and  that of the majority of Aberdeen citizens, are protected as the project
progresses”.

I take it that makes it  quite clear why they must act in secret. It’s not a question of whether or not something will be done with the gardens – they are overseeing progress.  So – the Council’s interests are not the same  as the interests of Aberdeen citizens (minority or majority).  In all my years I never would have guessed  that.  Perhaps they should have redacted  this mission statement as well.

Who is in this group?  Who attends the meetings?  If you go to the city’s website, you can  download the minutes and reports – where you will see that all the names of  attendees have been blacked out, or in council-speak ‘redacted’, together with  lots of text.

The City was trying to keep this top secret information a closely guarded secret.  Perhaps the Monitoring Group is made up of  MI6, the CIA, Lord Lucan and Spiderman?  Whoever it is, I bet they have a dual identity, a good cover story – and probably a costume with a cape.  I hear they all meet at midnight and each have limos with blacked-out windows.

 From now on I hear that anyone in a Council committee which discusses  Union Terrace Gardens will sign the Official Secrets Act, be security-vetted,  be given a cover identity and undergo survival and torture training.

Mr McCaig has no  recollection of agreeing to this group’s identity being protected, and he wants  some answers.  Let’s hope he gets  them.  Why on earth would this be secret, and what do they wish to hide?  Answers  on a postcard please (preferably in a secret code).

Alas for our poor Council:  their secrets are out.  That nice Danny Law over at STV has announced that a simple bit of cutting and pasting reveals all.  Visit STV for further information.

http://local.stv.tv/aberdeen/news/261573-council-blunder-means-concealed-minutes-from-union-terrace-gardens-meetings-can-still-be-read/

You might also want to visit the (excellent) blogspot Other Aberdeen:-
http://otheraberdeen.blogspot.com/

It’s hard to imagine that  the City didn’t give due care and attention to this life-or-death matter of who’s going to meetings and what they are saying about our gardens.  I am stunned.  From now on I hear that anyone in a Council committee which discusses  Union Terrace Gardens will sign the Official Secrets Act, be security-vetted,  be given a cover identity and undergo survival and torture training.

For my part, one of my trusted sources told me how to spy at the hidden text a while ago, and I was sworn to secrecy – which I kept.  My secret hope was that the Council would continue to keep thinking it had successfully blacked out text that could actually be read.  We could have been onto a winner with this one.

My sympathies to the Garden Monitoring Group at this unfortunate point in time, and in particular to one of those in the group:  our very own old friend, Ms Aileen HoMalone.  Not only is the debacle an embarrassment in itself, but my very own spies tell me that since the balance of power shift, this and other committees will be re-arranged over the summer, shedding a few LibDems in favour of SNP councillors along the way.

Gag:
1.  noun – a joke or stunt designed to cause laughter or possibly embarrassment.
2.  Verb – to make another remain silent via coercion or force. 

A gag can  be a stupid remark, like John Stewart’s saying Aberdeen needs a monorail, or a  stunt — like holding a design competition for ‘transforming’ a cherished  garden into a car park/mall.  On the more  sinister side of the coin, this week both Aberdeen City Council and Robert  Gordon University stand accused of gagging their staff.

Now, obviously the opinion  of staff at ACC is held in the highest esteem by management, and at an institution of higher learning such as RGU, nothing can be held more important  than the right to free expression and intellectual debate.  There is absolutely nothing ‘Big Brother’  about Aberdeen City Council rounding up four of its less-than-grateful staff as  it did this week to tell them off.

What had the four done?  They said mean things about the City and their bosses on something called ‘Facebook’, which apparently all the young people are using.  I hope these four ingrates have apologised for having opinions.  I do know that they have been issued with a set of guidelines as to what they can or can’t say.  Sounds like a great move.

In fact, back when the cuts were being  proposed in 2008, the City very wisely told its staff that they should in no way protest against the City’s school and service closures.  Many of them did so anyway.  You might think such people are brave in standing up for education and health services, but you must remember, when you take a job for the City, you lose all your human rights.  Fair trade, I’d say.

I hope these four people are at home right  now, reading their new behaviour guidelines and composing letters of apology.  I’d certainly hate to think they’d be sending  me copies of the city’s newest Kafkaesque policies.  Or even worse – they might be creating anonymous Facebook identities so they can continue to keep us posted with City developments and dark doings.

As to that bastion of higher education, Robert Gordon University: they are also gagging for it.  You may have seen the news that RGU want the Trade Unions to go away and stop bothering them. 

This institution of higher learning has announced that since the unions are now ‘smaller’, they shouldn’t have to recognise them at all. Quite right.  Just because the University has shed a few jobs and has a few less people, there is no reason the unions should have shrunk as well.  Staff and educators alike are overjoyed by this move on RGU’s part, as they won’t have to go to any more tedious union meetings.

The staff won’t publicly say how happy they are, because RGU is, according to STV “accused of ‘gagging’ staff as dozens protest over de-recognition decision”.  I know staff who have been asked to take on more work with no pay, who have had pensions cut, and who work weekends with no extra money to show for it.  I’m sure union representation is the furthest thing from their minds.

RGU wanted the whole episode to be treated as Top Secret:  staff were told not to discuss these special Trump security arrangements

It might be worth mentioning that RGU held its staff’s safety particularly important during Donald Trump’s visit for his honorary degree.  RGU management were so concerned about the safety of its people who would be in the same building as ‘the Donald’ that they let Trump’s private security people search bags, set up security checks, and made sure no one left the building until the great man himself had gone.

Some people say that their mobile phones were looked at, and they weren’t allowed to take any photos (which would have been the first thing on my mind), but this remains unconfirmed.

Those who did get in touch told me that RGU wanted the whole episode to be treated as Top Secret:  staff were told not to discuss these special Trump security arrangements.  I would be happy for the RGU administration to confirm or deny that private, American security was given power over its staff.

Maybe they could have done what Robert Gordon’s College did, and simply lock any bothersome people up in cupboards (congratulations to Ms Michie for winning her case against the College where she was indeed locked in a cupboard.  I await news of the dismissal of the person who did this, but it hasn’t appeared yet).

News Blackout: (modern English phrase) – to deliberately ignore or censor news events. (See also ‘P&J’)

The local press simply  don’t have the time and space to tell you the entire goings on.  The P&J may have covered the story of the City Council’s ‘redacting’ text (see below), as Cllr McCaig came forward with the story.

However, if you put ‘Robert Gordon University’ into the Press & Journal’s online search feature, you’ll see a collection of innocent PR stories about boat races and an RGU student appearing in something called ‘Glee’ (whatever that is).  No RGU bashing in the P&J; they don’t want to upset that nice Mr Wood and his friends.  No word of gagging staff or staff being kettled by American private scurity.

You might also search the P&J website for the story of guitar hero Richard Thompson’s honorary degree from Aberdeen University granted  on the 5th July (congratulations by the way). 

I’ll give you that Richard Thompson is no Donald Trump (who got his degree from Ian Wood’s RGU for services to money).  Thompson has only enjoyed a successful international musical career since the 1960s, released award-winning albums, and made a particularly important collection, ‘1000 years of popular music’.  I doubt the man even has his own jet.

Don’t bother searching for news of his honorary degree award in the local rags – it’s not there.

Just as Anthony Baxter never got any newspaper coverage for his documentary ‘you’ve been trumped’ about Trump and the Menie Estate (it was held over twice and had unprecedented demand at the Belmont), the local press are making life easier for us by deciding what’s newsworthy and what isn’t.

I for one am far more interested in petty burglaries, minor football matches and cute baby photo competitions than the workings of secrecy in local government and the schemes of our local millionaires.

It is the editors at the local papers who decide what goes in (or possibly a few of the city’s richercitizens), not the reporters.

At least we don’t have a ‘News of the World’ situation.  Several newspapers stand accused of hacking mobile phone conversations – of murder victims and their families. Potential evidence has been lost and Milly Dowler’s family wrongly believed she might still have been alive since her voicemail was being accessed.  If you can think of anything lower than this, don’t let me know.

PS – the Murdoch Empire isclosing the News of the World after Sunday!  Result!  However, Murdoch is looking to take over BskyB completely.  If you somehow think this might lead to a  monopoly over news coverage, speak now.

RGU, millionaires, the  future of our Gardens, quangos, dodgy deals, secret deer cull plans:  somewhere the truth is out there.  Just don’t hold your breath waiting for it. 

Speaking of holding your breath, I’d best go  close the windows.  The wind must have changed, and the scent drifting through my open windows in Torry is decidedly not roses and violets.   Old Susannah is off for a short but much needed holiday.  I am going to turn 50 on ♦♦♦♦♦♦ and will fly to  ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ on ♦♦♦♦♦ and will stay with ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ where I hope very much to see ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦My best wishes to ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦.

Jul 012011
 

Voice’s Old Susannah casts her eye over recent events, stories, and terms and phrases familiar as well as freshly ‘spun’, which will be forever etched in the consciousness of the people of Aberdeen and the Northeast.

Old Susannah is still reeling from the Friends of Union Terrace Gardens Ceilidh held last Friday night at the Hilton Treetops.  The ‘vocal minority’ as the Council likes to call the Friends was certainly vocal on the night, and the excellent Ceilidh band was ‘vibrant and dynamic’ –  so much so that we upset the party in the next room, which happened to be Aberdeen Football Club!

A red-faced man from AFC was ever so slightly angry and spent his entire night yelling at the hotel staff that; ‘he had spent a lot of money’, and ‘’didn’t expect to hear a band’ during his event.

Actually, I could barely hear the band over this refined gentleman for most of the night. He was obviously very important, because he kept saying who he was.

Eventually many of us took our drinks out of our room and sat on sofas watching his endless tirade.  If AFC players had his stamina, then there would be more silverware in their trophy cabinet.  I can only hope we have not inconvenienced Mr Milne himself.

Anyway, the Friends raised lots of money; Anne Begg made a moving speech and everyone (except the AFC man) had a fantastic night.

On Sunday I took advantage of the opportunity to watch you’ve been trumped’ again.

Anthony Baxter did another Q&A session and was joined by Menie resident, Susan Munroe.  The giant mound of earth and sand those nice Trump people left next to her house, (no doubt for a very important reason) is having a wonderful effect on her garden and her car.  The garden is dying (so less work for her to tend it) and the car is clogged with sand (so that means less C02 emissions – another result).

The Q&A session wound up in the Belmont’s bar and continued for quite some time.  Anthony is looking forward to his New York film premier, as you might well expect.

I suspect in reality he’s just hoping Trump will show up and bring his lovely young wife Melania with him – I’m sure Anthony is hoping for an introduction.  Then again, I may be wrong about that.  Anthony definitely sends his thanks to the Belmont and the people in Aberdeen who have turned out for the film.

But the real story of this past week was the rise of 26 year-old Callum McCaig, now installed as the new leader of Aberdeen City Council.  It is pointless to make jokes about his youth; he is bringing his year of experience to the job.  Rumours that he wants to turn Union Terrace Gardens into a skateboard park are (so far) unfounded.

I am actually going to give him the benefit of the doubt for the present.  To be honest, when I was 26 my interests lay in other directions, but the less said about that the better.  He says he wants to listen to what the people are saying.  Is it possible he is embracing….

Community Engagement:

(modern English phrase) involvement of a group of people in decision-making processes.

If you read the many wonderful booklets and reports the City and its army of quangos and consultants have written over the past 10 years (well, a girl has to have a hobby), you will realise what lengths the City has gone to in its quest to ensure we are all given a voice in planning.  The City might not actually listen to that voice (viz Union Terrace Gardens, the Tullos Hill Deer Cull, school closures, etc etc). – but it’s awfully nice of them to give us a voice all the same.  To quote from some of their literature, here is what the city kindly does with us:-

Effective Community Engagement means:

  • Ensuring that people are made aware of proposals that affect them as early as possible.
  • Appropriate systems are in place to allow their opinions to be made, shared, and considered.
  • To allow better explanations to be made by the Council as to how and why specific decisions on design issues have been arrived at.
  • Help to implement the principles of Inclusive Design.
  • Help develop greater interest and transparency in the planning system.
  • Involving people across the whole public spectrum.

The ‘Inclusive Design’ implementation has long been a personal favourite.  I don’t understand what this phrase means in the slightest but it certainly sounds both important and beneficial.  Please feel free to send me some examples of Inclusive Design the City has put in place.

I could be forgiven for thinking that in its haste to improve our lives; the City might have forgotten these principles on a few occasions. Let’s look at these points again as applied to the Tullos Hill and other current situations (my comments are in bluish):-

  • Ensuring that people are made aware of proposals that affect them as early as possible.

I don’t remember the part when the City told us a deer cull was coming for their tree programme, but I do remember they and SNH wanted to keep the cull quiet.

  • Appropriate systems are in place to allow their opinions to be made, shared, and considered.  

The public were allowed to comment on the tree planting until the end of January.  This was the ‘phase 2 consultation’.  However, once we found out that the cull was part of this phase 2 plan and that it had been kept secret, we were told we could not share our opinions.  That nice Ms Aileen Malone and other Lib Dems refused to let me and the Nigg Community Council representative address the May Housing Committee with this new information:  because she had only asked for a verbal report on the cull, not a written one.
Democracy in action!  Or is that Democracy inaction?   You could be forgiven for thinking it was a sneaky, underhanded, undemocratic ploy on (HoMalone’s) part– but if the City says it has systems in place for public opinion sharing then who are we to question it?

  • To allow better explanations to be made by the Council as to how and why specific decisions on design issues have been arrived at.

The deer campaigners keep asking why the cull was kept secret, why we can’t have non-lethal measures, why the trees have to be there at all.  The Council either ignore these questions, or keep repeating that a cull ‘…is standard practice for maintaining woodlands throughout Scotland.’  It doesn’t seem to matter much that there is no woodland on the hill at present, just the deer.

  • Help to implement the principles of Inclusive Design.  

Again, Inclusive Design is fantastic.  This is being shown to great effect in the ongoing Union Terrace Gardens saga.  The inclusivity seems a bit limited to a few millionaires, ACSEF and Scottish Enterprise, but hey ho.

  • Help develop greater interest and transparency in the planning system.

I have to say I find the planning system very very transparent:  I can see straight through it when it comes to Union Terrace Gardens, Loirston Loch, and Tullos Hill.

  • Involving people across the whole public spectrum.

Fantastic!  Four Community Councils at least have condemned the cull and its handling.  Two thousand five hundred local people signed petitions against it.  And what does the City’s Chief Executive say?
It says  that this only represents a small number of people.

It seems inclusion doesn’t mean including groups of only a few thousand members.  I’ll get the hang of who does and doesn’t get included yet.

Now that we have seen how Community Engagement works, I hope we can all appreciate just how important our opinions as taxpayers and residents are to our City.

Maybe this is one engagement that should be broken off.

Open Plan:

(adjective) description of a style of interior layout, particularly in an office situation, characterised by the lack of walls.

The idea was to create an open area where information would free-flow.  The reality however is that people in such areas have no privacy and are under pressure to conform.  Most companies are getting rid of such uncomfortable, noisy interior layouts.  But not our City.

Inside the new Marischal College, aesthetic sensibility rules OK.

Staff who were lucky enough to be moved to this open plan nirvana had been told they could bring a maximum of two packing crates of their files / work with them – and one of those crates was for their computer (unless a  new machine had been laid on).  Thankfully architectural and interior design principles will continue to guide how things operate – staff cannot have any personal mementos or – heaven forbid – plants on their desks!

What would it look like if people could have their desk look the way they wanted?  Chaos would ensue and things would not look as uniform as a factory.  There is a horrible fear that someone will spill something on the new carpets.

I am sure our 65 million pound wonder building won’t have any acoustic problems; no doubt there are acoustic tiles and such in place.  Since shouting, swearing and screaming are rarely heard in the City’s hallowed halls, I’m sure everyone will get on in the new office just fine.

Other staff members are being moved around from building to building; it certainly keeps things lively.

Next week: Definitions, Deer info, and I attempt to contact Neil Fletcher again with a civil question.

 

Jun 242011
 

‘You’ve Been Trumped’ is a new documentary taking on Donald Trump’s invasion of Scotland.  Director Anthony Baxter talks to Voice’s Suzanne Kelly about movie making in Scotland, Trump, Menie’s residents and environment, the future – and getting arrested for a ‘breach of the peace’.

Anthony Baxter meets me in the Belmont Cinema Saturday afternoon; an extra day’s showing of his documentary, ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ has been added by popular demand.

Tickets for the previous night had sold out at a fantastic pace, rivalled only by the demand the Belmont experienced for the last Harry Potter movie.  Rather impressive for a documentary about building a golf course.

However, this is no ordinary golf course, no ordinary bit of coastline, and certainly no ordinary people at the story’s heart.

Although there are a large number of people wanting and needing his time before the movie starts, he invites me to sit with him for an interview, and offers me more time afterwards should I need it?

The documentary had its Scottish premier at the Belmont the night before, and residents of Menie were warmly-received guests of honour.  When the film ended last night, it received a standing ovation – something I have never seen for a documentary — with long-suffering Menie residents Molly Forbes and Michael Forbes getting applause.

The audience included Martin Ford, the Aberdeenshire Councillor who cast a deciding vote against Trump’s plans before the Scottish Government called in the plan and allowed the devastation of the Menie Estate.  This was a completely unprecedented move on the Scottish Government’s part.

Baxter greets me enthusiastically; he is eager to talk about last night, and he is filled with thanks for all of those who came, and those who supported the film’s creation, particularly the Menie residents and his producer, Richard Phinney.

I ask him how he became interested in Trump’s plans for building ‘the world’s greatest golf course.’

“My grandfather lived in Montrose, and we often went up the coast to Menie when I was young,”

“I wanted to make the film – it was a very important story and it wasn’t being told properly… it was not being reported.”

We discuss the glaring absence of newspaper coverage of last night’s event (both Northsound Radio and STV covered the film’s premier, but there was not a word in the Press & Journal or the Evening Express).

“It was the biggest documentary ticket sales demand at this cinema, and none of the local press even mentioned it,” Baxter comments.

As a local event it was newsworthy – as a documentary on a controversial Aberdeenshire issue, it was doubly so.  Elsewhere in the world, the press are less coy.  The Times and The Guardian newspapers aren’t so myopic – they have covered the documentary prominently.  In the wider world The Toronto Star, Canada’s biggest selling newspaper, declared:-

“You’ve Been Trumped is a “shattering chronicle… of American greed, hubris and stupidity.”

Baxter tells me that in Canada the audience was extremely angry after seeing the film, and couldn’t believe Donald Trump’s golf resort had been given the go-ahead in Scotland.  Today’s audience was no less angry.

“How did you finance your film?” I ask. Baxter answers by first thanking those who helped – the credits contain a fairly long list of sponsors and supporters.

He explains his frustration at the lack of Scottish arts funding:  none of our government-sponsored arts bodies has given him anything at all towards his film’s creation.  He had applied for a £10,000 grant – he was turned down.  Apparently the Scottish government funding source which turned him down concluded ‘there was not enough audience interest.’

I would love to ask this agency what it has to say now.

“I also had to re-mortgage my house.”

I asked him to repeat, and he confirms this.  It takes a particular kind of bravery to invest any money and time to pursue a creative venture in the first place – but to be willing to risk your home to make a film about one of the world’s most lawsuit-happy entrepreneurs must take nerves of steel.

I mention that ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ has just won an award.

“It’s fantastic to get the Sheffield Doc/Fest Green Award– it’s the highest environmental documentary accolade in Great Britain.” Baxter explains.

“Now I just want to get the film seen by as many people as possible.”

The judges who awarded the prize said:-

“This year’s Green Award goes to a film which exposes one of the most shocking environmental crimes in recent UK history.  We hope that this award will raise awareness and hold Donald Trump to account for his environmental and social belligerence, and expose the corruption and incompetence at the heart of the Scottish authorities which let this destruction go ahead.”

The project started a year ago – by the time I’ve seen the film, I realise what an extraordinary year it’s been for him, the Menie residents, and tragically for what was once a dynamic sand dune system and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (the highest environmental protection an area can be given – for all the good it meant in the end).

It looks as if Baxter will be successful in getting people to see his movie – he is off on 7th July to New York where the film will be shown at the IFC (the prestigious New York City home for independent films).

“I will be sending Donald Trump an invitation.” Baxter offers.

Trump has apparently derided the film as ‘amateurish… a failure’ and ‘an attempt to cash in on the Trump name.’   According to STV, the Trump organisation has branded Anthony Baxter ‘a fraud.’  All things considered, I somehow think ‘the Donald’ won’t be accepting Baxter’s invitation.

Grampian Police would seem to have slightly overstepped the mark

The Trump organisation has a habit of, shall I say, putting forth its own version of the truth.  For one thing the Trump organisation once said it would never use compulsory purchase orders to take over the homes at Menie.

This claim was proved to be untrue by Aberdeen Voice’s contributor, ‘Bennachie Blether’ , who had been sent copies of lawyer’s letters which indeed discuss compulsory purchase orders, see: Aberdeen Voice Article – Menie Masterplan

Trump has also claimed that Menie Resident Michael Forbes twice promised to sell out  to Trump. Forbes denies the claim, and for anyone who has seen this film, it is inconceivable Forbes would ever have said any such thing.   I am therefore just a little sceptical of Trump’s fraud claim.   Baxter then has other showings – for details see: youvebeentrumped – the movie

Baxter and Phinney were arrested at Menie for ‘a breach of the peace’.  This arrest is captured on film.

The events leading up to their arrest need to be seen to be believed.  Suffice it to say, the whole cinema was outraged.  Grampian Police would seem to have slightly overstepped the mark.

Baxter is asked during the Q&A – the first question as it happens – if he now plans to complain about the police or take any further action.
Baxter says that he wanted to do the job of showing what is going on at Menie, and it is now for others to look at the police.

He and Phinney were charged with a ‘Breach of the Peace’ before the charges were downgraded to written cautions at the time – which served both to prevent them having a fair day at court, and to try to intimidate them from continuing their filming.

If the intent was to stop this film, it is clear that it did the exact opposite.

The entire matter was eventually thrown out – not before DNA had been taken and they had been treated like criminals:  they did not find out about the matter being dropped from an apologetic police force, but from the media third-hand.  This use of police caution had also been used against Michael Forbes – he had removed marker flags that Trump’s people put on his land – and was cautioned not to do anything again.  The value of these flags was £13.

Baxter has suggested someone should investigate the policing of the Menie Estate.  Someone will be doing so.

I form the impression that Anthony Baxter is a man who is not going to rest on his laurels; in fact I doubt he’ll be getting much rest even if he wanted to.

People are seeking his attention; I end the interview and he gives me his contact details.  He’s leaving Aberdeen after this afternoon’s film and question & answer session.  One last question springs to my mind.

“What’s next?  Any future documentaries planned?” I ask.

“I’d like to do something on Afghanistan.  There is a children’s hospital ER I want to look at.” Baxter answers, and is soon ushered away for the film’s start.

I resolve to keep my eye on his future works, and head off to find my seat.  When I emerge a few hours later, I am impressed, shocked, and angry.  The film is beautifully crafted, and through all the trials, the residents of Menie, and other individuals who stood against the Trump machine renew my faith in people to a considerable degree.  If as Trump says Baxter is a ‘fraud’ and a ‘failure’, then I think we could do with more frauds and failures like him.  See this film.

Awards: Sheffield Green Award, Sheffield International Documentary Festival, Doc/Fest 2011
Directed By: Anthony Baxter
Written By: Anthony Baxter & Richard Phinney
Produced By: Richard Phinney
Website http://www.youvebeentrumped.com http://www.jonsi.com

For those of you who saw the film and wish to rate it for The Guardian  readers, see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/movie/142256

… And for those of you who have not yet had the pleasure – additional screenings will be held at Belmont Picturehouse, Aberdeen:-

Friday 24 June at 6.30pm
Saturday 25 June at 1.45pm
Sunday 26 June at