Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, The Telegraph and Grampian police should be ashamed for allowing and aiding Trump’s use of illegal methods to try to force people out of their homes and farms on the Menie Estate in Scotland but the main cause of the problem isn’t Scotland being too small to stand up to big money, similar things happen in the UK and US all the time. The cause of the problem is allowing big banks, firms and billionaires to make political donations and allowing revolving doors between jobs with them and with government departments giving contracts to them and regulating them. (If you just want to know what you can do rather than read the rest, scroll down to the ‘what you can do’ bolded sub-heading)
I'd thought Donald Trump was the obvious contender for balloon self-inflated by his own arrogance. Maybe Neil Midgely, deputy editor of the Telegraph newspaper is a contender too. He has a review of the documentary ‘You’ve been Trumped,’ which is Anthony Baxter’s film showing Trump’s SNP government and Grampian police backed campaign to try to force out people out of homes and farms they’ve lived on all their lives, by illegal methods including letting Trump’s employees cut off their water and electricity supplies, build earth berms round their houses and many other intrusions on to and damages to their property (1).
Midgely writes " But the …documentary…was so biased in favour of the protesters that it was hard not to end up rooting for Trump and his monolithic capitalist plans. There were endless sympathetic chats with the locals who wouldn’t sell their eyesore properties to Trump….When Trump’s men infuriated the locals – by apparently cutting off their water supply, or building mounds of earth outside their windows – the film’s implicit suggestion was that it was all done out of spite. And if spite was the motive, it was spite so bracing as to be a rare and precious thing. It was also cheering to see the busybody film-maker, Anthony Baxter, at one point carted off by the local constabulary. " (2).
First off Neil, they’re not “protesters”. The word you’re looking for is “residents” – people who’ve lived (and in some cases farmed) there for all their lives. They had considerable sympathy and support from many people and there were a few protests in favour of them, which get brief coverage in the documentary – but most of it is interviews with the residents, with police, with Trumps’ spokespeople (who unsurprisingly didn’t have much to say other than threats of getting the documentary makers arrested and charged), clips of Trump making his own case and film of what Trump’s employees and the police were doing, along with interviews with legal experts and experts on the likely impact on jobs from the development (which found, in opposition to Trump’s claims that local people would get a lot of jobs on it, most of the jobs would be likely to go to Polish and other EU migrant workers).
I thought that Conservatives were all for property rights, Neil ; Seems not in your case. Seems you're quite happy for billionaires who've bought political influence to come in and take peoples' property and try to force them out of their homes to make way for another frigging golf course (because of course there's a massive shortage of them in Scotland - e.g St Andrews for instance has none, obviously), so long as they're oiks and not your golfing buddies.
I thought Conservatives were for upholding the law. Seems not in Neil’s case. He’s fine with money trumping the law; fine with Trump's money, or the promise of some jobs, getting police to let him illegally cut off peoples’ water and electricity supplies and steal parts of their land from them and even build earth berms round their houses.
I thought Conservatives were meant to be for civil liberties. In Mr Midgely’s case, seems not. He enjoys seeing people arrested on trumped up charges of 'breach of the peace' and handcuffed for merely interviewing the people involved.
I very much hope that you are a victim of similar injustices in future Neil – that your property is stolen by developers, that your electricity and water are cut off to try to force you out of your home – and that the police and government similarly either aid the developers or look the other way as your property and rights and civil liberties are ridden roughshod over by big money. Then you might understand what you got wrong here.
On top of that Trump was determined he should get to build not just on 90% of the site he wanted, but that it had to include destroying an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) containing rare species too. We don’t exactly have a shortage of golf courses in Scotland. St Andrews alone has more than you could count and there are huge numbers of others all over the country. If we lost a golf course we could replace it. If we lose rare species to extinction there is no getting them back though. They are gone forever.
The smartest political calculations can go wrong when they leave out right and wrong
SNP First Minister Alec Salmond decided to over-rule the elected local council’s planning committee – and it’s SNP chairman in 2009 – to give Trump exactly the planning permission he wanted. His government must have either looked the other way or else seen to it that the then SNP headed Aberdeenshire local council got the police to do a mixture of looking the other way as Trump’s employees broke the law on other peoples’ property, guarding the law breakers as they did so; and harassing and arresting the documentary makers (including by arresting them and putting them in a cell for four hours by mis-using the catch-all ‘breach of the peace’ charge).
Salmond calculated that he would gain more votes by the jobs created and sports coverage of the new golf course than he would lose by allowing an arrogant billionaire to over-rule the local council, destroy habitat for rare species and force people out of their homes. Even the most charismatic and intelligent politician can get his sums wrong where he doesn't factor in right and wrong though. In a case of poetic justice he’s suffered negative media coverage (largely due to Anthony Baxter’s work) combined with a feud with Trump over plans for offshore wind turbines off the coast of his golf course development. The recession created by the financial crisis has also reduced investment and demand for Trump’s development, which might fail yet.
Next time Salmond is engaging his brain purely as a vote calculating machine he should remember this and take right and wrong into account too.
Why it’s not caused by Scotland being a small country – and not an argument against independence
The British and US governments cave in to big firms, banks and billionaires constantly. Just look at the NHS contracts going to Circle Healthcare whose shareholders lobbied for privatisation and donate to the Conservative party ; or US military aid of over $1bn a year to Egypt, openly given to subsidise US arms firms that make political donations to Presidential and congressional campaigns, particularly Lockheed Martin (3) – (9).
That’s not to mention all the white-washing of the pollution of water and air by fracking and on land oil drilling in the US due to the big oil and gas companies buying up political influence and even funding biased scientific studies (thankfully countered by neutral ones).
So the problem isn’t the size of the country, but big money buying influence through private donations to election campaigns and political parties; revolving door syndrome allowing people to go between jobs in those firms and the government departments giving contracts to and regulating them ; and governments’ choosing jobs from multinationals, which may go overseas as quickly as they arrived, over backing smaller businesses based in their own country. (the last problem being the relevant one with Trump and the SNP – though it’s possible Salmond also hoped to get donations for his party, though I’ve found no evidence he got any) (10) – (11).
The solution is to make it a criminal offence to give or receive private political donations, or to go from a job in a government department to a company given contracts or regulated by it, or vice-versa, for 5 or 10 years; and provide limited, equal, public funding to all candidates in elections.
What you can do
Join and/or donate to the Tripping Up Trump campaign group against forced compulsory purchase orders being issued purely for the benefit of big developers.
(1) = Independent blogs 18 Oct 2012 ‘You’ve Been Trumped! Director Anthony Baxter speaks about his new documentary’, http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/10/18/you%E2%80%99ve-been-trumped-director-anthony-baxter-speaks-about-his-new-documentary/
(2) = Telegraph 21 Oct 2012 ‘You've Been Trumped, BBC Two, review’,
(3) = Herald letters 23 Oct 2012 ‘Trump documentary highlights the vulnerability of smaller economies’ http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/letters/trump-documentary-highlights-the-vulnerability-of-smaller-economies.19214235
(4) = Conservative Home website ‘Big cash donors to the Conservative party, by ‘donor group’ January 2001 to June 2010’, https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?authkey=CM2egqgB&key=0AtAQVk3Qj4FYdEJKVTg3aTZteV9pcnFZbXBvN3lRcUE&hl=en&authkey=CM2egqgB#gid=0
(5) = Observer 05 Jun 2011 ‘Questions grow over private care firm Circle Health ahead of flotation’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/jun/05/questions-grow-over-circle-health
(6) = guardian.co.uk 05 Nov 2011 ‘Private firm to run NHS hospital’,
(7) = NYT 23 Mar 2012 ‘Once Imperiled, U.S. Aid to Egypt Is Restored’,
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/world/middleeast/once-imperiled-united-states-aid-to-egypt-is-restored.html?_r=0 ; ‘An intense debate within the Obama administration over resuming military assistance to Egypt, which in the end was approved Friday by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, turned in part on a question that had nothing to do with democratic progress in Egypt but rather with American jobs at home…. The companies involved include Lockheed Martin, which is scheduled to ship the first of a batch of 20 new F-16 fighter jets next month’
(8) = Center for Responsive Politics – Organisation Profiles – Lockheed Martin,
http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000104 (shows Lockheed Martin executives and PAC committees donated over $2 million to candidates in the 2012 election cycle including Obama and Romney and members of congressional committees on defense spending)
(9) Center for Responsive Politics - Lockheed Martin: All Recipients ; Among Federal Candidates, 2008 Cycle, http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/recips.php?id=D000000104&type=P&state=&sort=A&cycle=2008 (shows similar donations including to Obama and McCain’s campaigns in 2008)
(10) = Guardian 15 Oct 2012 ‘MoD staff and thousands of military officers join arms firms’,
(11) = Guardian 22 Oct 2012 ‘Blurred boundaries between public service and private interest’,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/healthcare-network/2012/oct/22/public-service-private-blurred-boundaries ; ‘the resignation from the NHS Commissioning Board of Jim Easton to become managing director of the private provider Care UK…Previous senior officials in the Department of Health transferring their wallets to the private sector include Matthew Swindells, chief information officer at the DH who joined KPMG, along with Mark Britnell and Gary Belfield, who had run the DH commissioning programme; Simon Stevens, Tony Blair's senior health advisor from 1997-2004 became a vice-president for United Health; and Penny Dash, formerly DH director of strategy, left for McKinsey.