Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saying No to New Highland Clearances!

David and Moira Milne

DAVID and MOIRA MILNE met in 1992, and that same year David finally managed to buy an old coastguard look-out station, and start working on it, so the couple could convert the disused building into their family home. It took a lot of hard work, energy and vision. But these were not property developers looking for a quick profit, they were a couple looking forward to enjoying the home they had made for themselves in peace.

Now they are having to fight for it, not against repossession such has affected many people in the present crisis, but against dispossession - to make way for a sodding golf course! That's to say, two golf courses, a private housing development with time-share flats and a 450-bed hotel, all part of a resort scheme which US property tycoon Donald Trump wants to establish at Balmedie, along the coast north of Aberdeen, with the approval of local councils.

Trump owns a 2,000 acre estate at Menie in Aberdeenshire.

Aberdeenshire county council is due to discuss compulsory purchase orders on five properties when it meets on Thursday, October 1. Not for housing, schools, hospitals or other pressing social needs. People like the Milnes and other people would be required to give up homes and farms to make way for Trump's luxury development for private profit.

Campaigners petitioning against the orders have gathered so far more than 7,000 signatures. You can add your voice online at:

Tripping Up Trump, campaigning for the people and environment threatened by Trump’s development, says the issue has moved from being a planning and environmental question, to being about the human rights of local people affected.

"Worse still, Trump received outlined planning permission on the grounds that he had all the land he needed. This is why Tripping Up Trump stands strong, demanding that Donald Trump doesn’t abuse the law and residents affected by his controversial housing and golf development".

Evoking comparison with the ruthless Highland Clearances, when Scottish crofters were driven from the land to make way for sheep, and then for grouse, turning poor people's farmland into playgrounds for the rich, Trip up Trump's website is referring to this as the "Trumpland Clearances".

Last year Donald Trump rejected warnings from his own environmental experts that the £1bn golf resort the coastline north of Aberdeen would damage a legally-protected stretch of dunes. Environmentalists also charge that local airport expansion plans are driven by Trump's envisioned resort.

Campaigners also challenge the claim that Trump's resort would replace jobs being lost in the offshore oil industry. Apart from short-term construction work, the resort would offer low-paid seasonal and domestic work - and Trump's plans include a 400-bed hostel for migrant workers. That's better than no provision, but hardly an answer to Aberdeen's future economic needs.

His proposals were rejected by the local council last year, but gained the backing of Scotland's first minister Alex Salmond. The Scottish National Party-run government granted Trump International Golf Links Scotland outline planning permission, and both Aberdeen city council and the Lib Dem-led Aberdeenshire county council have got behind the scheme.

Donald Trump has not ignored the people opposing him. He recently passed police a set of e-mails which he claimed showed that Tripping Up Trump (TUT) was behind a stunt in which more than 20 statues in Aberdeen Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling were dressed up, with Donald Trump masks and golf clubs. A Menie Liberation Front claimed responsibility, saying it was “to symbolise the way Trump thinks he can walk over Scotland”.

Martin Clegg, a spokesperson for TUT, denied his group was involved. Grampian police were investigating. The e-mails purported to be from Clegg and another TUT activist discussed the statue dressing idea, and also contained minutes of a meeting at which concern was expressed on the legality of the action, and the need for care to avoid damage to statues.

Insisting TUT had nothing to do with the statues stunt, Martin Clegg said a complaint had been made to police over the intercepted e-mails. “It will surely not surprise anyone that TUT discusses campaigning against the Trump development at its meetings. ...The Trump organisation appears to be spying on us. We suspect they planted a mole.”

Donald Trump Jr declined to reveal how the e-mails had come into his possession, but said his father had “many friends in Aberdeenshire who were always passing on information”.

Trump's "friends" don't all come free. His organisation has employed lawyer Ann Faulds, partner in an Edinburgh law firm, who previously advised the former Scottish Executive on its policies for compulsory purchases of land for development. According to one critic, this shows power is being “bought and sold for Trumpton gold”. The accusation has been forcefully rejected by Trump, with his senior aide attacking the media for spreading “shit”.

bIf Aberdeenshire does decide to go for compulsory purchases it may be a first. In the past these have been used for housing or transport needs, and usually as a last resort. Some councillors may be unsure about these powers being used for a private profit scheme. This may be why an expert lawyer has been brought in.
“This is indicative of the way the Trump organisation works,” says Daviid Milne. “They engage people who have worked for government to allow them to understand every wrinkle, loophole and furrow in the legislation.”

It has angered Mr.Milne and strengthened his resolve to resist. He has promised the only way he will leave his home is “horizontally in a box”.

IThanks to Sxottish Socialist Party member Catriona Grant for bringing this to my attention).



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