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Showing posts with label Glasgow granny. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Glasgow granny. Show all posts

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Margaret Jaconelli case–another Crichel Down in the making?

I have done my best in blogging and twittering to raise some political and media interest in the Margaret Jaconelli case – the Glasgow grandmother who is apparently being forced out of her home by a compulsory purchase order that does not recognise the true value of her property before it was hit by the Commonwealth Games redevelopment.  I say apparently because I have never met Margaret, and have had only two short telephone conversations with her. I therefore only have her version of events, but she seems sincere to me, and under acute emotional and financial pressure, and I believe that she has told me the truth as she knows it.

I have already contacted the two SNP councillors involved, Bob Doris and Alison Thewliss. Bob Doris has replied to me - so far Alison Thewliss has not. I have sent the details as I know them to people who at the very least should know what is happening, and who may be able to help.

Based on an admittedly partial, and perhaps superficial knowledge of the case, I have offered Margaret Jaconelli the following advice -

1. You cannot fight your corner on the law alone. The law does not guarantee justice - it is a process that sometimes delivers justice and equity, but often doesn't.

2. You must raise the positive media profile for your case by regular press releases to the main Scottish media outlets - The Herald, the Scotsman, the Record, (and maybe the Sunday Post), STV, BBC Scotland and Radio Scotland.

3. Your case can be won if the media perceives firstly, a story 'with legs' and secondly, can present it as an injustice - the bullying might and legal clout of Glasgow City Council and the developers against one vulnerable Glasgow granny, fighting for a fair deal. There must be sufficient embarrassment for all concerned, including the political parties facing a Holyrood election in May 2011, to make them reach a no-precedent equitable settlement that ideally recognises

a) a fair price for your home


b) a fair price to compensate you for stress and loss incurred, including meeting all legal costs and expenses.

4. Your strong sound-bite elements include -

a) the value placed by the CP process appears ridiculous, and has been pulled down by the very process of planning blight caused by the development.

b) your personal circumstances - woman with ill husband and terminally ill brother fighting for justice and the future of her family (sorry to put it so starkly, Margaret, but you must use the reality of this to help your case.)

c) the apparent misrepresentation by Glasgow City Council and the planners - according to your account - of a meeting, presented to the Press as a hearing when in fact it was an informal meeting, and the apparent misrepresentation to you of it as being one where you didn't require legal representation, when, in fact, the Council were legally represented.

d) correction of the apparent error in the press and media claims that you have been offered alternative accommodation four or more times, when you say you have not, and have only been offered temporary accommodation for 12 weeks, and that offer made under an acceptance ultimatum just before you entered a meeting.

e) the fact that Scottish Enterprise, a publicly funded body, set up to encourage enterprise has recently been paying thousands of pounds to Scottish media presenters to front up meetings aimed at business development, when you and your husband have been entrepreneurs and have run your own business for years.

f) Emphasise strongly that you are not refusing to move, not blocking a necessary development, but seeking a fair deal for events that have disrupted and come close to destroying you and your family's life.

g) Refer to the fact that the Crichel Down Affair of some sixty years ago was a gross injustice over compulsory purchase and land valuations that caused a major political scandal that led directly to the reform of the legislation to its present form.


If there are still investigative journalists out there with a nose for a story and some human concern for the little person facing the might of government and big finance, please give some time to examining the fact of this case. If you have already looked at the facts, please look again – don’t wait for a human tragedy to make your story …


Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Donald Trump, a Glesca Granny and the Scope-Severity Paradox

I am indebted to the always pertinent Ben Goldacre of the ‘Guardian’ (Bad Science column) for initially calling my attention to a recent study from the Kellogg School of Management (no, it’s not about rice krispies or cornflakes) at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.

As reported in  ScienceDaily 

The new study, entitled "The Scope-Severity Paradox: Why doing more harm is judged to be less harmful," has been published in the current issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science (published by SAGE) and was conducted by Loran Nordgren of the Kellogg School of Management and Mary-Hunter Morris of Harvard Law School. The researchers found that a "scope-severity paradox" exists in which judgment of harm tends to be based on emotional reactions, and thus people have a stronger emotional response to singular identifiable victims rather than to an entire crowd of sufferers.”

This accords entirely with my own lifetime experience of people’s reactions to suffering. It is understandable, but dangerous, and in its worst manifestations, genuine sympathy is replaced by self-indulgent sentimentality.

Charities attempting to solicit donations for humanitarian cries involving hundreds of thousands of people have little choice but to recognise this, and their appeals has to be directed through the prism of heart-rending individual pictures and films, rather than at the enormity and magnitude of the devastation and hardships caused and being endured by large numbers of victims.

Politicians, of course, or at least politicians of a certain type – we have a few notorious example on the opposition benches in Holyrood – exploit individual cases to divert attention from much wider issues affecting large numbers of people.

Perhaps the roots of the problem lie in Matthew 11For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always”, used for millennia to justify the riches and profligacy of churches and organised religion while their followers languish in abject poverty.

And so to Donald Trump and the Commonwealth Games, an unlikely pairing.

I received an email from 38 Degrees, a campaigning organisation whose petitions I normally support, asking me to sign a petition against Donald Trump receiving an honorary doctorate, because he was forcing people out of their homes. I declined, and advised them that they were being politically exploited by the opponents of the Scottish Government as a anti-SNP ploy.

People have been forced out of their homes throughout human history, usually for profit or greed for land. From the Highland Clearances, the dispossession of the Native Americans in the US, through to Israel’s profoundly inhuman and immoral actions on the West bank, such actions have been and still are crimes against humanity.

But there is another kind of dispossession, with much more difficult moral and social choices involved. In discussing these, I get on to some very tricky ethical territory, not least for my own conscience, and I do not claim that there are simple answers.

Crichel Down – there’s a trigger for the memory of those old enough to remember it – a political scandal in 1954 that led subsequently to rules on compulsory purchase by government, and which probably led indirectly to the Ombudsman concept.

(There was also the tragic case of Edward Pilgrim in 1954, who committed suicide over a compulsory purchase incident.)

The fact is that roads have to be built (some of them, anyway) and economic development has to be permitted – providing appropriate safeguards for people and the environment are maintained and applied. That’s why we have planning enquiries, and that’s why Swampy dug tunnels in the woods and why people chain themselves to trees, and so on.

But we would have no industrial society, no infrastructure of roads, airports, rail terminals, commerce and industry, no cities and no road system, no hospital, no schools, etc. if every person insisted on hanging on to their home and their land. We would all be living in primitive, harsh conditions in an overpopulated set of islands, and probably engaged in perpetual conflict with our fellow human beings for food and shelter.

We do this by consultation, by pubic enquiries, and ultimately by recognising the right of property owners and landowners to get a fair price for what they own, and compensation for related losses.

No society can, however, maintain a right for someone to block major and necessary developments for the greater good by refusing to sell, refusing to move. Such a position is just not tenable.

But there’s the rub – what constitutes a fair price and equitable compensation for giving up property rights and perhaps a place and a home with deep emotional significance to the dispossessed individual?


Let me nail my colours to the mast – I believe that if a development – international golf and hotel complex or Commonwealth games facilities are manifestly in the wider public interest, some people may have to lose their homes, property and land if they stand in the way of that, providing there has been full consultation and all relevant environmental, social, economic and personal arguments have been properly heard and adjudicated on.

If it happened to me, I would be sad, but I would recognise its inevitability and focus on getting the best price.

The objectors in Aberdeen on environmental grounds have been heard, and they have lost the argument. If such arguments had been accepted throughout the centuries, we would have no cities, no roads, no industry and no modern infrastructure in Scotland.

God knows, we are not short of wild unspoiled places, vibrant with animals, fish game and species in abundance, much of it regrettably in the grip of private landowners. I have no wish to turn Scotland into a concreted-over theme park, but neither do I want to see thousands of families condemned to unemployment and penury because of lack of work.

Those who are refusing to sell their homes are in another category entirely. I sympathise with them and I want them to get a price that reflects the hardship and emotional upheaval that the loss of their homes will visit on them, but I do not support their right to veto a major project by refusing outright to sell. So I have little sympathy for the Aberdeen protesters.

But I do stand up for Margaret Jaconelli, the Glasgow grandmother who has fought to get her idea of a fair price for over a decade for her two-bedroom flat in Dalmarnock. Unlike the Aberdeen protesters, who appear to have elicited public sympathy by virtue of the Scope-Severity Paradox (see above), she is well on her way to being demonised, together with her lawyer, for asking £300,000 for the land the Games authority wants to acquire and £60,000 for the inconvenience of being evicted.

Glasgow City Council plans to evict her for refusing to accept the £30,000 figure assessed by the District Valuer, a UK government agency under the compulsory purchase order.

When I was teaching negotiating skills in the early 1990s to managers and businesses of all kinds, I was introduced by Professor Gavin Kennedy, an international expert and best-selling author on negotiation, to the concept of ransom strips in property dealing, i.e. often small piece of land, privately owned, that stood in the way of a large, multi-million development. I used one of Gavin’s cases when I worked for him as director of Negotiate Ltd. to show how both ends of such a negotiation worked, the clear objective of the seller being to maximise the sale price and the buyer to minimise it.

No one, then or now, ever suggested that there was something immoral in recognising that the value of the land was determined, not by comparison with similar plots that were not the object of development, but by the particular circumstances of them being positional goods in the development context.

Governments don’t like such negotiating clout and good fortune to be in the hands of small property and landowners, however, hence the compulsory purchase legislation. While the UK government is totally reconciled to paying enormously inflated prices for armaments, defence contract, consultancy and IT projects based on market circumstances and leverage, they don’t like the idea of a Glesca granny trying to exploit her once in a lifetime opportunity.

Well, I do – go for it, Granny Margaret (she’s 23 years younger than me!) – get the best deal you can.

Do I think £300,000 for the land and £60,000 for the inconvenience excessive? Well, it’s an opening bid, and Margaret and her lawyer would, I’m sure, settle for a smaller amount in negotiation if she and her lawyer are permitted to bargain. But of course, they won’t be – the steamroller of local government and UK law will roll over them, in a city where municipal corruption has been endemic for generations, where dirty land and property deals have been the order of the day and where corrupt council officials who would have been sacked in any just society have been quietly retired with massive settlements and pensions over the decades.

But you’ve lost nothing by trying, Granny Margaret, and if there is any justice, you’ll still get the price offered, a new home, and with luck, tell your story to the tabloids and media and make a few bob.

Meanwhile, if there is a petition to protect you, I’ll sign it most willingly. But I won’t support your Aberdeen counterparts in their efforts to stay put.