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Brexit – Smoke and Mirrors designed to Split the Scots – Time to Prepare for the Fightback

 

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4 July 2016: The United Kingdom and its exit from the European Union.
Road Transport

Trade agreements will have to be renegotiated and UK legislation decoupled from EU regulations. Depending on negotiations, a full Brexit – which includes an exit from the European Economic Area – seems likely, to be followed by the re-imposition of a ‘hard border’ between Britain and the countries remaining in the EU. Where will that border be?

Between the continent and England, certainly; between Northern Ireland and the Republic, possibly; but also, potentially, between England and a Scotland that somehow manages to persuade the rest of the EU that it is still part of it. If Brexit were comprehensive, trucks crossing those borders may again require the paperwork that drivers had to deal with prior to 1993 and the opening of the single European market. Carnets to cross borders, finite in number, may have to be applied for. http://transportoperator.co.uk/2016/07/04/how-brexit-could-affect-road-transport/

 

 

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Maritime Transport

The maritime industry would be the most directly affected, given the importance of freight to the sector. Any changes in trading patterns would be especially relevant for UK ports, which themselves are responsible for handling around 90% of the UK’s trade.

Under Brexit, the UK would lose the ability to trade freely with EU member states, at least until and unless a free trade agreement is put in place, which would have the following implications. (Delays in negotiations could mean a significant period trading under World Trade Organization, WTO, agreements.)

1. UK trade would be subject to tariffs and import duties. In the WTO scenario, trade between the UK and EU member states would take place under most-favoured nation tariffs. In 2014 the EU’s average tariff rate was 5.3%.

2. UK trade would be subject to customs clearance. There would also be an increase in administrative costs. According to the WTO, around 8% of the financial cost of importing goods by sea comes from customs clearance. The World Bank estimates that the customs clearance process adds around a day to the import process for a single freight container. However, for multi-stop journeys through Europe, separate customs checks would be needed for each country a lorry had travelled through. Instead of a seamless journey off a ferry and onto a motorway, a lorry would have to wait while each separate pallet is checked, requiring extensive investment in parking facilities at UK ports and/or extensive queues in France (if customs clearance were moved there) or UK port towns.

Overall, World Bank estimates suggest that the additional customs requirements could add costs to trade. However, the scope of the impact is potentially more important. The EU is the UK’s largest trading partner. Some 49% of the UK’s trade in goods is with EU members. There is also evidence of a large increase in trade under EU membership. HM Treasury estimates show that EU membership increases trade with EU members by between 68% and 85% relative to a baseline position of WTO membership.

http://www.oxera.com/Latest-Thinking/Agenda/2016/Brexit-implications-for-the-transport-sector.aspx#_ftn8

 

 

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Impact on Scotland.

Remaining part of the UK is not an option since Scotland would be further removed from the EEC with resultant adverse effects experienced by being at the end of an expensive supply chain.

An independent Scotland would, (assuming operational systems for the movement of goods and services to and from Scotland through England remain in place largely unchanged) still be severely disadvantaged.

The way forward is to significantly further develop the Ro-Ro (roll-on, roll-off) container port at Rosyth which would bring much welcomed business to Scotland. Facilities would also be expanded so that free movement of members of the EEC ( avoiding the channel ports and English customs) could be guaranteed through the re-introduction of passenger traffic.

A brief history of the Rosyth-Zeebrugge service follows so that the reader will be able to gain an understanding of events to date.

 

 

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1999: Rosyth – Zeebrugge ferry service

The European Commission backed a feasibility studies, costing £100,000 looking into the viability of a North Sea ferry service linking Rosyth in Fife with Zeebrugge. It is expected that a new ferry service would bring greater prosperity and could create 1500 jobs.

A Scottish Enterprise spokesman said: “We are all aware that the roads are getting very congested in England and the east coast seaports in England are getting extremely congested as well. We are now also seeing engineering advances which mean you can get from the east coast of Scotland to continental Europe by ship in something like 15 or 16 hours. The service, will depend on a new breed of fast ferry not yet seen in Britain, covering the 400 mile crossing at speeds of up to 30 knots.”

 

 

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2001: Euro ferry docks on the Forth

A feasibility study by Scottish Enterprise concluded that a new service between Scotland and Europe to be commercially viable. The study showed that most Scots would prefer to travel from a home port rather than the English port of Hull. A steering group was then set up to evaluate business plans from interested operators.

The aim is to have a daily ferry link for freight and passengers with a crossing time of around 16 hours to a port in Belgium, the Netherlands or France. It is estimated that such a service could boost the long-term survival prospects of the Rosyth yard.

 

 

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2002: New ferry link makes waves

Scotland’s first passenger and freight ferry to continental Europe has set sail from Rosyth in Fife. The crossing to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge takes more than 17 hours, but will save passengers and truckers having to drive via Hull or the English Channel ports. Each ferry can carry more than 1,000 passengers, 120 cars and 100 commercial vehicles. The development brings Scotland closer to Europe.

A representatives of the Road Haulage Association said: “There is a lot of potential for people using the service. There is new drivers’ hours regulations coming into effect in the next two years in the working times directives that is going to seriously restrict what hauliers can do. So this ferry gives them great advantages from Scotland and I just hope they give it a chance. We will be encouraging them use the service.

 

 

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2003: Ferry service needs more freight

Operators of Scotland’s continental ferry service have said it needs to attract more freight traffic to ensure its survival. But Superfast Ferries said the route has been a huge success, attracting 100,000 passengers so far, many of whom were new tourists to Scotland. The figure is more than double the number expected.

Tourism body VisitScotland said: “It’s a fantastic, direct access from the continent, right into the heart of Scotland and it is bringing new visitors who tend to drive and stay for longer than those arriving by air.

But there are concerns the service cannot survive without increased freight traffic, which is slowly growing at about 4% a month.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) commented: “A number of major players are now using the ferry. Upcoming regulations restricting driver hours, could see increased freight only business. At present the way that this ferry is working, especially with just the trailers going, it’s saving on driver time, it’s just the goods that are on the ferry being met at both ends.”

Forth Ports, Chief Executive Charles Hammond said: “the it was still early days for the route. We’re still in a start-up period, but we’re building on that and we’re very confident that Superfast and the ferry service are here to stay,”

 

 

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2008: Ferry firm to axe Rosyth service

A ferry firm running services from Scotland to continental Europe is to stop operating out of Rosyth blaming fuel costs and lower than projected passenger numbers for the decision. The Scottish Government said it was “disappointed” as it was “a commercially successful service”.

The crossing to the Belgian port takes about 18 hours. and saves passengers and truckers having to drive via Hull or the English Channel ports. Each ferry can carry more than 1,000 passengers, 120 cars and 100 commercial vehicles. A statement from the company’s board of directors said: “We regret to announce the discontinuation of the Rosyth to Zeebrugge ferry service.”

The Scottish Transport Minister said: “Scottish Ministers are strongly committed to the continuation of this route, and will pursue all viable options to achieve continuity of a commercially operated service. The government will seek to identify an alternative commercial operator for the service.

A representative of the South East Scotland Transport Partnership (Sestran) said: ” the decision is difficult to understand on commercial grounds”. The ferry is currently operating at capacity and actually turning away potential business. The loss of the ferry link will inevitably impact upon the economy of the region, and that of Scotland as a whole, as travellers and freight companies seek access to ferry services elsewhere.”

A spokesman for Forth Ports said: “This is disappointing news as the ferry link is an important part of Scotland’s access to European markets. Our own analysis shows that the route could easily attract 60,000 freight units, within a potential marketplace of 200,000 freight units, making this a viable, profitable route for an operator with the right mix of vessels and frequency of sailings.”

A CBI Scotland’ spokesman said: “As a nation on the periphery of major export markets in Europe it is crucial that Scotland maintains excellent transport links to the continent. The Superfast ferry has made a significant contribution to this over recent years, and it would be a great loss if that service was to cease, as it would reduce the range of affordable, practical and reliable transport options open to freight operators and manufacturers.”

 

 

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2008: Optimism over Rosyth ferry talks

Negotiations to find a new operator for the Rosyth to Zeebrugge ferry are “ongoing”. Forth Ports said it was “optimistic” that negotiations could be concluded in “a short space of time” and it would be keeping the terminal operational.

The Scottish Government said the route was still “economically viable”. A spokeswoman added: “We will continue to work closely with our partners in Forth Ports and Fife Council to do everything possible to secure a successful outcome.”

The chief executive of Forth Ports PLC, described the ferry as of “vital strategic importance to Scotland”. He added: “I can confirm that negotiations with a new operator are ongoing. Since commencing in 2002, the Rosyth – Zeebrugge ferry has been successful, carrying almost one million passengers and 200,000 freight units. We look forward to building on this success, especially on the freight side where we see significant expansion opportunities.”

 

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2008: Dutch ferry operator for Rosyth

Dutch ferry company Norfolkline is to revive the Rosyth to Zeebrugge route, with the service starting up again in the spring, it has been confirmed. Part of the Danish Maersk group, it will operate a passenger and freight service using a new vessel.

Unveiling the new operator for the route Mr Salmond said: “Securing the continuation of this service is a real success story and hugely important to Scotland’s economy. We have worked closely with Forth Ports to ensure Scotland maintains a direct ferry link to Europe and I am delighted to announce today that Norfolkline will now operate the Rosyth-Zeebrugge route adding maintaining connections with major European markets is vital for Scotland at a time of global economic challenges. In the six years this route has been operating, it has carried nearly one million passengers, 4.2 million tonnes of freight and in 2005 generated around £3.4m of tourism expenditure in Scotland. And of course by removing 1.38 million lorry miles from Scotland’s roads it is an important contribution to the fight against climate change.”

The managing director of Norfolkline, said: “I am very happy to announce that Norfolkline will revive the Rosyth-Zeebrugge service starting next Spring. Norfolkline will run a passenger and freight service with three departures from each port every week. With the introduction of a brand new ferry, we hope to provide a comfortable and environmentally friendly crossing to our customers.”

The South East of Scotland Transport Partnership (Sestran) chairman, said: “Sestran believes that a direct ferry link between Rosyth and Zeebrugge is vital to the future development of the south east of Scotland. We are very relieved that a new operator has been found to run this important route. If the service had ended it would have had serious consequences for the region’s economy, as travellers and freight companies sought access to ferry services elsewhere.”

Under the waterborne freight grant, a Scottish Government-administered scheme, up to two million euros would be available to Norfolkline, subject to the criteria for the grant being fulfilled. However, Norfolkline has not made a request for funding at the moment, and said it was running the service from “a robust commercial base”.

 

 

 

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2010: Passenger ferry service from Rosyth to Zeebrugge to end

Scotland’s only direct passenger ferry service to mainland Europe is to cease, it has been announced. The route operator, has blamed insufficient passenger demand for the move. The passenger service will continue the end of December.

Andreas Teschl, from the DFDS Group, said: “We are aware that the ferry service has provided an important link between Scotland and the continent so it is a matter of deep regret that we have had to take the decision to no longer operate passenger services on the Rosyth to Zeebrugge route in the future. “We know this decision will be disappointing to many people and we would like to thank all those who have supported us, particularly the Scottish government, the travel and transport industry, as well as those passengers who have used the service.”
2011: A new freight service from Scotland to mainland Europe has launched.

DFDS Seaways is running the service from Rosyth to Zeebrugge with two ships, and four departures a week sailing from each port. Route director Allan Hull said: “The freight service between Rosyth and Zeebrugge has been very popular with the haulage industry which has recognised the benefits of the route providing the only direct Ro-Ro (roll-on, roll-off) link between Scotland and the continent. While it was a matter of deep regret that the passenger service had to be withdrawn, we saw potential in enhancing the freight service to meet increased demand from the sector. Our new schedule will see two Ro-Ro ships operate on the route with the number of sailings increasing from three to four departures a week. This will increase overall weekly capacity by 25%.”

The Scottish Transport Minister said: “The Rosyth to Zeebrugge ferry route is an important link between Scotland and the continent. Although we are disappointed by the decision to withdraw the passenger service, we have requested that DFDS keep this under review. The current weather conditions certainly highlight the benefit of having a direct route to Europe, not to mention the significant positive impact it delivers in relation to climate change by removing a significant number of lorry miles from our roads.”

 

 

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2014: Fresh fears over Scottish European ferry link

Fresh doubts have been raised about the future of the freight ferry service between Rosyth and Zeebrugge. Forth Ports chief executive Charles Hammond has written to the Scottish government voicing his concerns about European environmental legislation. He said rules coming into force at the start of 2015 will increase costs disproportionately. The Scottish government said it has already provided “significant support” to the service. It added that it would look at any further proposals brought forward by the industry.

The new concerns have been prompted by the EU Sulphur Directive. It will force shipping operators to switch from high-sulphur marine fuel oil to more expensive marine gas oil. North Sea and English Channel operators are allowed to fit exhaust scrubber systems as an alternative, although these are expensive and not suitable for all existing vessels.

Mr Hammond believes the cost on the longer Scottish route will be much greater than its rivals suggesting that the additional cost for the Rosyth service will be twice as great as that for Teeside. He wrote: “This has the potential to severely impact on the financial viability of existing freight ferry service into and out of Rosyth. Indications are that the disproportionate costs increases for the Scottish ferry service will not be acceptable to the current users of the service and that alternative freight routes will be used, utilising southern UK port and transferring the traffic to road.”

A Scottish government spokesman said: “We understand DFDS has been consulting customers on the options to deal with the impacts of the EU Sulphur Directive, which comes into effect next year. The Scottish government has provided significant support to the service, within EU State Aid rules, and will continue to support any proposals for EU funding brought forward from the industry.

 

 

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2014: Three bodies agree ‘safe’ future of Scottish European ferry link

DFDS Seaways, the Scottish government and Forth Ports have agreed to continue the freight ferry service between Rosyth and Zeebrugge. The three bodies signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to continue direct freight ferry services from Scotland to continental Europe.

In August, doubts were raised about the service’s future due to European environmental legislation. Capacity on the route will be increased following customer requests. MoUs are formalised decisions between two or more parties. The organisations agreed to continue the service under the management of DFDS Seaways.

Previous concerns over the route were prompted by the EU Sulphur Directive, which will force shipping operators to switch from high-sulphur marine fuel oil to more expensive marine gas oil. North Sea and English Channel operators are allowed to fit exhaust scrubber systems as an alternative, although these are expensive and not suitable for all existing vessels.

DFDS Seaways and Forth Ports have also announced that infrastructure improvements at Rosyth terminal mean that containers can be double-stacked, therefore increasing freight capacity.

Mr Smedegaard CEO of DFS Seaways said: “We have always been very committed to this route and we are very satisfied that with good dialogue with the Scottish government and Forth Ports we were able to find a solution to maintain the service in light of the forthcoming sulphur requirements, which will pose enormous challenges for the transport industry.”

Senior Vice President Kell Robdrup commented: “We would like to thank all stakeholders involved for their continued support for this environmentally-friendly mode of transport and we look forward to welcoming additional customers making use of the only ferry service directly linking the continent and Scotland”.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-29896285 http://www.dfds.com/freight-shipping/routes-and-schedules/rosyth-zeebrugge

 

 

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Aberdeen – Enlightened Electorate or a City of Luddites? – The 2017 GE Provided the Answer – It embraced the Unionist’s and Sided with Westminster. So Sad

 

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Aberdeen – Enlightened Electorate or a City of Luddites?

Aberdeen is a lively, cosmopolitan city located in North East Scotland, famous for its beautiful architecture and as a gateway to Scotland’s spectacular castle and whisky country. The city has been the hub of the UK’s energy industry for nearly 50 years and has enjoyed a high quality of life and low unemployment.

The city offers a wide range of activities and opportunities through its vibrant sports and social scene, its cultural events calendar and its world renowned research and education institutes, to its network of business and employment support services.

Politically Aberdeen was a labour stronghold until 2003 when the Liberal Democratic and Conservatives parties formed a governing coalition.

The 2007 election saw the demise of the Conservative and the rise of the Scottish Nationalist Party. There was no overall control and the largest party, the Liberal Democrats formed a governing coalition with the Scottish Nationalist party.

The newly formed local government instructed completion of a full financial review. This revealed a financial black hole of massive proportions and the matter was referred to Holyrood and the police for investigation (reports below).

The 2012 election brought more change. The Scottish Nationalist Party gained more seats but not enough to take control. Labour, the largest party formed a coalition with the Conservatives.

The Council’s political leaders have been obstructive, at times offensive (almost to the point of misrule) to any initiative muted by the Scottish government in Holyrood, often by-passing it airing issues through a compliant press and the office of the Scottish Secretary, David Mundell (most likely the conduit for the Conservatives on the Council).

The level of undemocratic actions and misguided decisions of the administration alienated it from many Aberdonians, but local government elections were held on 4 May 2017 and the electorate returned  a Tory/Labour council. The logic of  many voters is beyond understanding

What follows is a number of historical events applicable to Aberdeen many of which are indicative of incompetence, misrule and activities bordering on criminality. Quite why they failed to persuade the good people of Aberdeen to dump Labour and Torys defeats me.

 

Marischal Square image

New look Aberdeen – Hated by the public but approved by the council

 

9 October 2014: Aberdeen City Council has reinforced the belief that it is surely one of the most distasteful and sleekit of local authorities.

It has played a dirty game over the development that it once boasted would be Marischal Square – a great opportunity for a civic space it once promised – an idea that captured the mood of the city’s citizens browned off by a recent diet of lacklustre plans lacking in ambition and confidence.

Did they say square? They did. Did. Not any more. Because square there aint. Unless you follow the logic of Cllr Boulton who, in reply to being challenged on the great disappearing square, muttered something along the lines of – the whole area is a kind of square.

It is clear the Labour- led coalition which includes a Tory and Independents while happy to provide a blank sheet for the developers eager to build shops, offices and a hotel were less interested in what the people of the city wanted. Did I say less interested? Not interested.

Of course councils ignoring the wishes of the people is not a new phenomenon but disappointing nevertheless whenever it occurs and when it doesn’t even try to modify the commercial aspects of the design as a sop to public opinion.

The final decision was taken away from the Planning Committee and put to full council to ensure the commercial proposal went through, as councillors would be more or less voting along party lines. This was nothing short of politicising the scheme and a scandalous manipulation of power on a project that is so controversial.

Cllr Willie Young is reported to have indicated on July 17th this year that the decision had already been taken to go ahead with the Muse development causing consternation among opposition councillors opposed to the deal.

https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/tag/aberdeen-city-council/

 

After-note:

1.The projected and budgeted cost of relocating the Council Headquarters to the Marischal College was around £30m. The final bill will be around £140m.

This gives rise to the public view that the approved new builds have been put in place as income generators. The finance raised from Aberdonian’s to be used to help offset the massive overspend. So it is “sod the public and the park” and the Aberdeen taxpayer can be used to clear the overspend.

2. The demolition of Aberdeen City Council’s former headquarters (St Nicholas House) was delayed following the discovery of asbestos which had to be cleared from the site by the council before any sale could be processed. The work costing many £ million was not included in the forecast costs. No matter the Aberdeen taxpayer absorbed the overspend through their rates.

 

 The former council headquarters at St Nicholas House was to make way for a new civic square, hotel and office.
The square was subsequently removed from the plans in favour of a larger private development

 

 

28 August 2008 : Aberdeen is Europe’s oil capital, but its council suffered a financial crisis, so what went wrong? Behind the granite facade lies a city in municipal ruin.

This year the city council decided to close many welfare facilities in a round of cuts alleged to be as high as £50 million – a vast amount for a council with an annual budget of £417 million.

“How could this happen in Europe’s oil capital, a city full of millionaires?”

Bewilderment that was reflected around the country that a city, home to an industry worth an estimated £15 billion annually, could not afford to pay for its services.

The council was hauled before the auditors at the Accounts Commission.

The Accounts Commission said previous coalition councils had spent £10 million over limit for at least the previous five years and “did appear to have the capacity for change”. The impression of poor management was further reinforced during the commission’s inquiry, when the council leader appeared unable to answer questions on policy.

No-one resigned or even accepted blame – Len Ironside, retained the role of leader of the opposition. Only chief executive Douglas Paterson took early retirement from his £127,000 a year post after a scandal involving a £10 million under-sale of properties.

http://www.scotsman.com/news/aberdeen-city-council-special-report-behind-the-granite-fa-231-ade-lies-a-city-in-municipal-ruin-1-1088387

 

 

 

 

 

February 1997: Aberdeen City Council – Demand for Labour councillor Ramsay Milne to quit

A political row blew up yesterday when the Liberal Democrats on Aberdeen City Council called for the resignation of Labour councillor Ramsay Milne following criticism of him in a report by the Local Government Ombudsman. The report, censured the former Aberdeen District Council for maladministration and criticised Mr Milne for breaching the national code of local government conduct.

The Ombudsman’s report followed a complaint relating to a controversial land deal under which the council paid £400,000 to Grampian Healthcare NHS Trust for land in Cornhill Hospital on which the Castlehill Housing Association was to develop property, including homes for dementia sufferers.

The development proposals drew several protests from nearby residents but were eventually approved. Councillor Milne was involved in the deal in his capacity as estates planning officer of the trust. When it was discussed in committee and at council he did not declare an interest because, he explained, he stood to make no personal gain out of the land disposal.

The complaint to the Ombudsman was about the lack of an environmental assessment and although he expressed sympathy he did not uphold it. However, commissioner Frederick Marks said that while Councillor Milne’s conduct did not give rise to the complaint he viewed his conduct as a breach of the national code of conduct on a number of occasions.

 

After-note:

At 2016 Mr Milne is the Chairman of:The Planning Development Management Committee charged with primary responsibility for ensuring the effective and proper disposal of the Development Management and Building Standards responsibilities of the Council.

This is the same person who as a senior manager in a similar position with Grampian Healthcare authorised the sale of Health Service property for a sum of £2!!! (See below)

May 29 2006: Brother-in-law of the former First Minister, Jack McConnell, McLuckie is the millionaire owner of property company Camvo 37.

In 2007, retired detective sergeant, Alistair Watson – the officer behind the ‘cash for honours’ enquiry that dogged Tony Blair – sparked an investigation into McLuckie’s dealings with the Scottish Executive by writing to the Metropolitan Police.

Apparently, five houses and a plot of prime building land had been sold to Camvo 37 by the Executive for just £2 in 2004 on the site of the former Ladysbridge Hospital, near Banff, Aberdeenshire, is now worth upwards of £1million. Mr. Watson is quoted as saying:

There is something which appears not quite above board about this deal. It raises a number of serious questions about the relationships between all those involved and the Labour Party.

What I want to know is why was this sale of what had been a public asset not put out to tender? Like any other public asset it should have been put up for sale in public. Also why is it that property worth supposedly only £2 is now worth one million just three years after-wards?

And the NHS Grampian official responsible for the sale to Mr McLuckie’s company was at one time a prospective Labour Party MSP. He is now a Labour councillor. It would appear to the average man in the street that spending £2 and making a million from it is quite a bit of luck no matter how expert the property speculator behind it. It smells and not just a little.

It was also reported that ‘six months before negotiations over the Ladysbridge deal opened, another company he owned, Choices Community Care, donated more than £2,000 to Mr McConnell’s election funds

Follow-up:

Apparently, ‘The Inland Revenue tried to stall the sale after discovering Camvo 37 was benefiting from public cash being used to develop the site.

But it was pushed through by NHS Grampian property transaction manager * Ramsay Milne, who was on a list of prospective MSP candidates selected by Labour in 1998. He is also a Labour councillor in Aberdeen.

This refers to the fact that ‘Inland Revenue district valuer (DV) Jim Campbell tried to halt the deal in 2004 when he discovered Camvo 37, the firm run by the First Minister’s brother-in- law Robert McLuckie, was to receive £120,000 from an Executive quango, Communities Scotland, to help build new homes on the land.

Another £230,000 of NHS and council cash was spent renovating the existing houses even though the DV said the company should pay. Paperwork relating to the deal had explicitly stated that Camvo 37 should cover all costs associated with the development rather than relying on grants.

Further, ‘Camvo agreed to use its new acquisitions solely to care for adults with learning difficulties for the subsequent 20 years. It built four homes on the site, and rented them out to ‘Choices, a Livingston-based firm which provides care facilities for people with learning disabilities. Mr McLuckie was on the board of Choices until February this year when he sold his stake as part of a £10 million management buyout.

Records for the 2004/05 financial year show that Camvo 37 had debts of £1.4 million. It made a loss of £2,044 from a turnover of £141,239, making the grant Camvo gained from Communities Scotland three-quarters of its annual turnover. The strictest penalty the company faced was £255,000 for paying less than the market value of the site and failing to keep its promise.

At one point, Jack McConnell was questioned about his brother-in-law’s financial dealings but refused to be drawn in to the argument. As it turned out, in June 2007, the deal was given the all-clear by Health Minister Andy Kerr.

Earlier, in 2002, Choices Community Care, which largely provides community care services in Motherwell and Wishaw, secured £337,000 worth of business in Mr McConnell’s constituency, which was brought to the public’s attention by SNP council leader Richard Lyle.

http://powerbase.info/index.php/Robert_McLuckie

 

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17 February 2009: Grampian Police in probe on council land sale – Officers pass internal report to fiscal

Fraud squad police have investigated the sale of millions of pounds of Aberdeen City Council properties and prosecutors were today examining a police report into the controversial council property sell-offs, which spending

watchdog Audit Scotland said were almost “bordering on neglect”. Property was sold off by Aberdeen City Council for £5.5 million less than its potential value on the open market and one senior council official was sacked.

A Grampian Police spokeswoman said: “We have made inquiries, assisted by Aberdeen City Council, and the information obtained was the subject of an internal report to the procurator fiscal.

http://www.afc-chat.co.uk/forums/index.php?showtopic=19819

 

 

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2009: Audit Scotland Report on the sale of properties in Aberdeen 2000-2004

There is a lack of evidence to support the valuation at which properties were sold and there are cases where the Council may have achieved a better price

Of the 26 disposals considered, internal audit concluded in eleven cases that there was a lack of evidence to support the valuation at which the property was sold. Such a high proportion indicates weaknesses in procedures and in senior management supervision and control.

In particular, internal audit found:

• Cases where no valuation report was prepared or where valuation reports were not signed off by the Principal Surveyor.

• Evidence that valuations were prepared after property deals were agreed with purchasers or where there is no evidence to support valuations.

• The potential loss of more than £5 million in proceeds from disposals, based on a comparison of valuations by Asset Management with those obtained by internal audit from independent surveyors.

As part of the investigation, internal audit commissioned independent chartered surveyors to value properties and the District Valuer to provide additional advice on Carden House. The following table summarises the information contained in the internal audit report on the main transactions showing a potential loss:

 

                                                                                                                                        Property/site                              Potential value (£)                Proceeds

College Street Car Park                     3,630,000                     1,800,000

Land at Carnie                                   1,065,000                        365,000

Seafield Club and Allotments            2,930,000                         685,000

Site at Earnsheugh                               20,000                                 100

Land at Powis Terrace                         372,000                         275,000

Carden House                                1,250,000                          590,000

Total                                               £9,267,000                     £3,715,100                                                                                                                                                                                                                       There is of course a degree of subjectivity in such valuations and in some cases the maximum potential value would have been dependent on planning approvals. However, based on these figures, it is clear that the Council may have achieved more across these six properties. In total, this could have exceeded the amount achieved by more than £5.5 million (£9,267,000 less £3,715,100).

While the independent valuations are important in quantifying the financial consequences, the valuers’ comments provide useful additional insight on the deficiencies in the Council’s processes. The importance of option appraisal is highlighted as a key recurring point. In the case of Seafield, for example, where there is a potential loss of £2.2 million, the valuers note that investigations of alternative uses for the site would have resulted in
substantial additional capital receipts.

The most serious comment by independent valuers relates to the College Street car park where they concluded that the proceeds may have been double the £1.8 million achieved. Based on the information available and their opinion on open market value, they concluded that the deal struck by the Council was ‘extremely poor and almost bordering on negligent’

 

 

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Monday, 31 March 2008: Aberdeen Council Sex Case Manager Wins Case

A council manager forced to quit his job after complaining about senior colleagues having sex in the office has won his case for unfair dismissal. Former leisure manager Tom McNeil, 52, was accused of breaching the confidentiality of a report by his employers at Aberdeen City Council. He was also claimed to have made defamatory remarks about a woman he claimed to have seen engaged in a sexual act in the office. Mr McNeil had lodged a complaint about the senior manager cavorting with another manager behind a partition.

He also complained that on another occasion, later that year in 2004, the female senior manager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was seen by Mr McNeil performing oral sex on then manager Brian Woodcock. And he claimed Mr Woodcock then asked him “would you like a cup of tea and a piece of cake?” when he spotted him.

Mr McNeil reported both incidents to his bosses, including the chief executive of Aberdeen City Council – Douglas Paterson, but claimed he was then the victim of a witch hunt. Mr McNeil, who worked with the council for 32 years, has been awarded £26,028 after taking the council to an employment tribunal in Aberdeen.

Today he described his win as “absolutely brilliant”. He said: “The council has caused themselves damage yet again and the tax payers will be left to foot the bill for this 20-day tribunal. I was asked to run Garthdee Ski Slope and was then bullied into getting the centre to make a profit. But it was in financial difficulties, I told them but they wouldn’t listen. There’s a bullying culture at the council from the top down, if you don’t believe their point of view you get kicked out. The staff are not to blame, they work really hard – this comes right from the top. This woman went to all costs to protect her lover, and she is still there when she should have been investigated. I had no choice but to leave. The allegations against me were scandalous. This has never been about the money, I just wanted to clear my name.”

The tribunal found that the relationship between the two managers, who were married to other partners at the time, was “well-known” to every senior manager and “probably to more than 90 per cent of their employees”. And it was described by one witness as being “the talk of the steamie”.

Mr Woodcock, who was in charge of the Garthdee Ski Centre, was later suspended and investigated after allegations relating to financial matters but the other senior manager remains in employment at the council. Woodcock was then sacked from his post after allegedly sending “inappropriate” emails to the owner of the Garthdee Sports and Alpine Adventure centre in the city. He later sued Aberdeen City Council and was awarded more than £100,000 in a settlement.

When Mr McNeil was given his role, he advised the council chief executive the £2.3 million ski centre would always run at a loss but was told to make it work.

The tribunal ruled that evidence given by chief executive Douglas Paterson was truthful but criticised him for his lack of recollection of crucial matters that he might have been expected to remember.

The tribunal heard how the council was involved in a “sex for favours” scandal and council solicitor, Mary Kearns, claimed Mr McNeil was one of the managers involved. But Mr McNeil, now a business development manager, said he was subjected to a witch hunt because the chief executive wanted to get rid of him.

It was alleged he had breached the confidentiality of an investigation and had made “defamatory” remarks against the woman while expressing his concerns about the conduct of her relationship with Brian Woodcock in the workplace. The female manager had also alleged that Mr McNeil was a “sexual harasser”.

The tribunal found that Mr McNeil should not have discussed a confidential report but held that his remarks were not defamatory due to the council not having investigated his claims the woman and Woodcock engaged in a sexual act in the council office. It held that Mr McNeil was unfairly constructively dismissed by the council but awarded him half the compensation he was entitled to because he had contributed 50 per cent to his dismissal because of his conduct.

http://www.careappointments.co.uk/care-news/scotland/item/19758-Aberdeen/Council/Sex/Case/Manager/Wins/Case

 

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2006-2008: Aberdeen City Council – Performance Inspection of Social Work Services by the Social Work Inspection Agency (SWIA)

A performance Inspection of Aberdeen City Council’s social work service was commissioned early and completed late 2007 and published in a report in June 2008.

Main findings were;

1. The Council’s performance failed to rate above ‘adequate’ against any of ten areas for evaluation. ‘Resources and capacity building’ and ‘leadership and direction’ were both evaluated as ‘unsatisfactory’.

2. The report also contained findings from a follow-up inspection of criminal justice social work in the city, following an earlier inspection in 2006. There was a lack of progress in improving service performance and scrutiny of the service by senior operational, strategic and corporate managers was rated unsatisfactory.

3. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) published a report of a joint inspection of services to protect children and young people in the Aberdeen City Council area in November 2008. The reports were critical of the performance of Aberdeen City Council, across the range of services inspected. Each inspection was due to be followed up during 2009. Because the findings were so serious, the audit and inspection agencies agreed to co-ordinate timetables and activities.

http://www.scie-socialcareonline.org.uk/performance-inspection-of-social-work-services-aberdeen-city-council-follow-up-report/r/a11G00000017xYSIAY

 

 

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August 2013: Aberdeen City Council gets £100,000 penalty for IT security failings

The ICO said information included details relating to the care of vulnerable children by social services. The information was released after a council employee accessed council documents, including meeting minutes and detailed reports, from a home computer. A file transfer program on the machine automatically uploaded the documents to a website, publishing sensitive information about several vulnerable children and their families.

The council was informed and the original documents were removed, before the incident was reported to the ICO. The ICO’s investigation found that the council had no relevant home working policy in place for staff and did not have sufficient measures to restrict the downloading of sensitive information from the council’s network.

Ken Macdonald, assistant commissioner for Scotland at the ICO, said: “In this case Aberdeen City Council failed to monitor how personal information was being used and had no guidance to help home workers look after the information. The council also had no checks in place to see whether existing data protection guidance was being followed. The result was a serious data breach that left the sensitive information of a vulnerable young child freely available online for three months. We would urge all social work departments to sit up and take notice of this case by taking the time to check their home working setup is up to scratch.”

The council is currently in the processes of agreeing an undertaking with the ICO, which commits the organisation to improving its compliance with the Data Protection Act.

http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240204497/Aberdeen-City-Council-gets-100000-penalty-for-IT-security-failings

 

 

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Council cutbacks

 

 

2014: Capital Allocation underspend

Aberdeen City Council reported that they had underspent by 45% against their 2013/14 capital budgets.

Reasons offered for the underspend included unexpected withdrawal of, or delays caused by, external partners in projects to develop new waste management facilities, build a new bypass (the Western Peripheral Route) and introduce hydrogen-powered buses.

Ongoing underspending will result in the council not having the most appropriate assets in place to deliver services effectively.

 

 

Willie Young, labour candidate for Aberdeen Donside by-election

Aberdeen city council’s finance convenor Willie Young

 

 

 

2016: 38degrees have placed a petition on line castigating the Councils performance

If you think that the current Labour Conservative administration at Aberdeen City Council is not fit for purpose can I ask that you sign this petition please? The intention is to confront them with a vote of No Confidence and to have them removed from office.

Why is this important?

The current Labour and Conservative administration at Aberdeen City Council took office in May 2012. Almost immediately they awarded senior council executives (themselves) a 5% pay increase while most other council staff were given nothing. Up until then the Labour Party had been opposed to pay increases for management at the council.

http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-politics/5005-labour-group-in-aberdeen-council-accused-of-hypocrisy-over-pay-award

In February 2014, Willie Young offered the First Minister of Scotland a train ticket to visit him, claiming Aberdeen wasn’t getting it’s fair share of public money and wanted to discuss it.

http://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/news/local/councillor-makes-fare-offer-to-salmond-1.235340

Later that month Willie Young voted NOT to accept £7.3 million boost in funding for Aberdeen City Council, why? Was it to make the Scottish Government, First Minister and the SNP look bad? Wouldn’t this extra funding have given Aberdeen it’s fair share as Mr Young wanted? Unsurprisingly the First Minister accused the ruling Labour Party of incompetence and in response to that on the 3rd March 2014 Willie Young and Aberdeen City Council proposed to ban Scotland’s democratically elected First Minister from all Council Buildings. The administration are having a vote on this on Wednesday 5th March.

http://www.falkirkherald.co.uk/news/scottish-news/council-votes-on-salmond-city-ban-1-3326999

What is clear is that these officials, Willie Young in particular, spend more time, energy and money (public money at that) hating our First Minister and the SNP than they do doing their jobs.

What the Labour Party fail to realise is that the money they awarded themselves is public money. All property owned by Aberdeen City Council is public property and owned by the people of Aberdeen and NOT the administration or the Labour Party so they have no right to ban anyone because of their politics. The £7.3 million Willie Young should have accepted would, if used properly, have benefited the City.

The Labour Conservative admin in Aberdeen seem more interested in playing politics with attempts to discredit and oppose the First Minister and the SNP at every opportunity regardless of the cost to the city and as a result are neglecting their duties to serve the people of Aberdeen.

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/vote-of-no-confidence-in-aberdeen-city-council

 

 

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Categories
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controversial land deals and the Labour party – A wee gander at the Grampian Region

 

 

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Lord Jack and Lady Bridget McConnell

 

 

 

29 May 2006: Scotland’s First Minister Jack McConnell  was facing demands last night to set up an inquiry into a controversial land deal involving his brother-in-law.

A company part-owned by Robert McLuckie, the brother of Jack McConnell’s wife, Bridget, bought three quarters of an acre of land for £1 as well as five houses on the site of a former hospital in Banff, also for £1. Details of the sale have been met with widespread local anger.

Councillor John Cox, from Banff, said that news of the deal had come as a complete shock and added that the community had been devastated by the closure of the hospital. “How could this ever happen? A full public investigation needs to be launched to find out why the land was allowed to be sold for that price,” he said.

Ladysbridge Hospital in Banff, which cared for people with learning difficulties, closed its doors in 2003. A local developer bought most of the grounds at market value so that the site could be transformed into a village.

But Camvo 37, the property development firm of which Mr McLuckie is co-owner, was able to buy part of the site for the token price of £1 in August 2004. It also acquired four semi-detached houses and one detached house, all former nurses’ homes, for the same sum.

The sale, which was not made on the open market, came after lawyers acting for the Scottish Executive took over negotiations from the owners of the hospital, NHS Grampian. It was decided to sell it for the peppercorn sum because the buyer was said to be a community care provider and part of the contract demanded that the site be used only for the care of people with learning disabilities.

After 20 years the contract allows the company to do what it likes with the property. If the company decides to break the contract before then, it will have to pay £255,000 to the Scottish Executive, a figure said to be well below the market value for the houses and land.

Stewart Stevenson, the Scottish National Party MSP for Banff and Buchan, said that he planned to look into the sale. “It’s very important that matters like this are dealt with in an open and transparent way,” he said. “I certainly want to know more about this deal and intend to talk to the health authority.”

Murdo Fraser, the Scottish Conservative deputy leader, challenged Mr McConnell to confirm that the transaction was conducted within the rules. “We need assurances from the Executive that the proper procedures were followed. If they were and this is the market value for this property, then there’s not any problem with the fact that Jack McConnell’s relative is the buyer. But if there is a discrepancy, then it is a matter for serious concern and it may be appropriate for the Auditor-General to investigate.”

A spokesman for Mr McConnell said: “He has no interest whatsoever in his brother-in-law’s trading arrangements or in decisions that NHS Grampian makes — it is a matter for them.”

A spokesman for Camvo 37 said: “The purchase of Ladysbridge was done in a proper manner.”

An NHS Grampian spokesman commented: “The sale fully complied with national transaction guidelines and external professional advice was used throughout the negotiations. We are satisfied that the terms of the sale benefited both the ex-patients and the NHS, which had the substantial burden removed of upkeep and maintenance of an unused site.”

Until recently Mr McLuckie was involved in the care industry as owner of Choices Community Care, a company based in Livingston. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,170-2201390,00.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 2006: What the Press wrote:

1. Paul Gilbride, ‘McConnell’s relative faces probe into £2 property deal,’ The Express, 26 March 2007.

2. Mark Howarth, ‘Police probe into £2 land deal by McConnell in-law,’ Mail on Sunday, 25 March 2007.

3. Maggie Barry, ‘New Quiz over £1m Hospital Land Deal: Minister under fire after Holyrood answer,’ The Mirror, 5 March 2007.

4. Mark Howarth, ‘Probe call over £1m land Jack’s brother-in-law was given for £2: Demand for Auditor General to investigate sale to McConnell’s millionaire relative,’ Mail on Sunday, 4 March 2007.

5. Mark Howarth, ‘Revealed, the cash handout to Jack’s millionaire in-law: Property company was given £100,000,’ Mail on Sunday, 4 June2006.

6. ‘McConnell grilled after in-law buys £1m land for £2,’ The Express, 29 May 2006.

7. Tim Pauling, ‘Ladysbridge sale process gets all-clear,’ AberdeenPress and Journal, 13 June 2006.

8. Patricia Kane, ‘The First Minister’s brother-in-law, the infamous Red Rose dinner and the contracts worth £337,000 in McConnell’s own constituency,’ Daily Mail, 22 November 2002.

 

 

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29 May 2006: Brother-in-law of the former First Minister, Jack McConnell, McLuckie is the millionaire owner of property company Camvo 37.

In 2007, retired detective sergeant, Alistair Watson – the officer behind the ‘cash for honours’ enquiry that dogged Tony Blair – sparked an investigation into McLuckie’s dealings with the Scottish Executive by writing to the Metropolitan Police.

Apparently, five houses and a plot of prime building land had been sold to Camvo 37 by the Executive for just £2 in 2004 on the site of the former Ladysbridge Hospital, near Banff, Aberdeenshire, is now worth upwards of £1million. Mr. Watson is quoted as saying:

There is something which appears not quite above board about this deal. It raises a number of serious questions about the relationships between all those involved and the Labour Party.

What I want to know is why was this sale of what had been a public asset not put out to tender? Like any other public asset it should have been put up for sale in public. Also why is it that property worth supposedly only £2 is now worth one million just three years after-wards?

And the NHS Grampian official responsible for the sale to Mr McLuckie’s company was at one time a prospective Labour Party MSP. He is now a Labour councillor. It would appear to the average man in the street that spending £2 and making a million from it is quite a bit of luck no matter how expert the property speculator behind it. It smells and not just a little.

It was also reported that ‘six months before negotiations over the Ladysbridge deal opened, another company he owned, Choices Community Care, donated more than £2,000 to Mr McConnell’s election funds

 

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Ladysbridge Hospital Building

 

 

 

 
Follow-up:

The Inland Revenue tried to stall the sale after discovering Camvo 37 was benefiting from public cash being used to develop the site.

But it was pushed through by NHS Grampian property transaction manager * Ramsay Milne, who was on a list of prospective MSP candidates selected by Labour in 1998. He is also a Labour councillor in Aberdeen.

This refers to the fact that ‘Inland Revenue district valuer (DV) Jim Campbell tried to halt the deal in 2004 when he discovered Camvo 37, the firm run by the First Minister’s brother-in- law Robert McLuckie, was to receive £120,000 from an Executive quango, Communities Scotland, to help build new homes on the land.

Another £230,000 of NHS and council cash was spent renovating the existing houses even though the DV said the company should pay. Paperwork relating to the deal had explicitly stated that Camvo 37 should cover all costs associated with the development rather than relying on grants.

Further, ‘Camvo agreed to use its new acquisitions solely to care for adults with learning difficulties for the subsequent 20 years. It built four homes on the site, and rented them out to ‘Choices, a Livingston-based firm which provides care facilities for people with learning disabilities. Mr McLuckie was on the board of Choices until February this year when he sold his stake as part of a £10 million management buyout.

Records for the 2004/05 financial year show that Camvo 37 had debts of £1.4 million. It made a loss of £2,044 from a turnover of £141,239, making the grant Camvo gained from Communities Scotland three-quarters of its annual turnover. The strictest penalty the company faced was £255,000 for paying less than the market value of the site and failing to keep its promise.

At one point, Jack McConnell was questioned about his brother-in-law’s financial dealings but refused to be drawn in to the argument. As it turned out, in June 2007, the deal was given the all-clear by Health Minister Andy Kerr.

Earlier, in 2002, Choices Community Care, which largely provides community care services in Motherwell and Wishaw, secured £337,000 worth of business in Mr McConnell’s constituency, which was brought to the public’s attention by SNP council leader Richard Lyle. http://powerbase.info/index.php/Robert_McLuckie
* At August 2016 Ramsey Milne is the convener of the Aberdeen City Council Planning and Development Management Committee. The Aberdeen Council blog (to follow) makes further mention of him.

 

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22 August 2016: Ladysbridge Hospital – The ugly duckling now a very lucrative swan

The hospital, which once cared for people with learning disabilities, closed in 2003. A local building company (Ladysbridge Village Limited) bought part of the site at market rates,thought to be around £1.5m. Hospital buildings and associated land was sold to Choices Community Care for a peppercorn cost of £2.

This peaceful rural haven has since been turned into a small rural village. The site offers various housing options. The original substantial stone building has been lovingly restored, with character and original period features, providing spacious townhouses and a series of traditionally built customised houses are available set in ample plots in the surrounding woodland. Approximate value of land and property £30M!!!!!!!! http://www.ladysbridgevillage.co.uk/siteplan.html

 

 

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9 June 1999:  Pregnant Woman wins unfair dismissal sacking claim

A mother-to-be who claimed she lost her job because of her condition has won her sex discrimination claim and #3000 compensation.

Senior care assistant Rhonda Roy, from Maryfield, Edinburgh, was told her temperament and disposition made her incompatible for the job by Livingston-based Choices Community Care Services Ltd, which denied sex discrimination.

The tribunal heard she discovered she was pregnant three months after starting work on a day care project for adults with severe learning disabilities.

She went off sick and wrote seeking assurances she would not be placed at any risk and would not have to work on nights alone.

After a series of letters was exchanged, managing director Robert McLuckie finally dismissed her, saying that her natural temperament and disposition were incompatible with the stress associated with the job. The tribunal said there was nothing to support this and ruled that Ms Roy was unfairly dismissed and ordered the company, of Craigshill, Livingston, to pay her a total of £3000 including £700 for injury to her feelings. But the tribunal also found she played a part in events by the consistently sharp and uncompromising tone of her letters.  http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/12268147.Pregnant_woman_wins_unfair_sacking_claim/

 

 

 

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Robert McLuckie

 

 

 

 

17 June 2008: Millionaires airport rage – Jack McConnell’s brother-in-law in flight delay bust-up.

The boozed-up brother-in-law of former first minister Jack McConnell spent the night in cells after an airport bust-up. Millionaire businessman Robert McLuckie hurled abuse at airline staff and police after guzzling white wine as he waited for a Globespan flight at Edinburgh airport.

Yesterday, he was fined £200 at the city’s sheriff court after he admitted breach of the peace.  The court heard McLuckie had snapped after a delay of more than six hours and launched into a foul – mouthed tirade as other passengers looked on.

The brother of McConnell’s wife Bridget bellowed: “I’ll never fly Globespan again” and told airport staff to “get to f***” and “f*** off”. They called police and McLuckie was arrested when he told officers: “F*** off. I am leaving.”

The aircraft eventually took off at 1.20am yesterday – but without the care home millionaire who was on his way to a cell at Drylaw police station in Edinburgh. McLuckie – who has no previous convictions – lost it on Sunday after the 16.30 Globespan flight from Edinburgh to Barcelona was delayed until yesterday morning.

The court heard McLuckie, 47, of Livingston, West Lothian, is the director of a company who provide care homes for the elderly and deals in property. He does not pick up a salary but receives share dividends.

Sheriff Elizabeth Jarvie asked what McLuckie’s annual income was and he replied: “£100,000 in a bad year and pounds 1million in a good year”. The sheriff asked if it had been a good year or a bad year and McLuckie replied: “A bad year.”

McLuckie’s lawyer said the businessman regretted the incident, which had upset his wife and children and other passengers. He said his client planned to write to Globespan staff to say sorry. McLuckie denied a charge of struggling with police, which was accepted by the Crown.

McLuckie hit the headlines last December after causing a disturbance at a posh charity bash.  The property millionaire also hurled sectarian abuse at two singers after booing their tribute to soldiers killed in Iraq.  http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/businessman-arrested-after-ediburgh-airport-2633604

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