Michael Kelly: Defacing a degree is far from playing a Trump card

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DR DAVID Kennedy was an academic that few of the public had heard of. Now he has made his name, not for any learned article he has just written but for vandalising the honorary degree scroll that Robert Gordon University had awarded him. His problem? The university said it would offer Donald Trump an honorary degree too.

It was a rude and insulting gesture to an institution that has enhanced its reputation by being committed, among other vocational teaching, to business and enterprise. An intellectual should use reason, facts and analysis to persuade, not indulge in the gesture politics so favoured by a green lobby which appeal to the emotions when it knows that its rational arguments won't stand up to examination.

One wonders how a man with such contempt for Donald Trump could have lasted as vice-chancellor of the pragmatic Robert Gordon University (RGU) for five long years. This institution was founded by a Scottish merchant who did to the Poles in the early 18th century what the Donald is trying to do to Scotland today - make himself a fortune. And RGU has long offered courses in Drilling and Well Engineering and Oil and Gas Law to allow students to find jobs wrecking the environment of the Gulf of Mexico and avoiding the worst legal consequences of their actions. Why did Kennedy not tear up the textbooks?

The Trump's plan is not risk-free. Anyone promising to build the best golf course in the world in the home of great golf courses is setting himself up for a fall. And his complex would make much more economic sense if it were located on either the east or west coast of the centre belt - if not the south-east of England where the real money is. He may think he can fly sufficient numbers into Aberdeen airport to make his 750 million investment pay. Many are doubtful. So there is a risk that a scenic but redundant part of Scotland is despoiled by a deserted leisure village.

Trump is a deal maker. He turns bad real estate into sound money. But he has spectacular failures too. His businesses went bust in 1990 and he accumulated personal debts of $900 million. He has turned this around and is now worth at least $2.7 billion. So Aberdeenshire can expect a roller-coaster of a ride.

But that is entrepreneurs for you. They take risks, many of which fail, sometimes leaving society to pick up the cost. Our own hero-entrepreneur, Jim McColl makes parts for Chinese coal-fired power stations. And Tom Hunter made his money helping homogenise our high streets.

Yet we make a virtue of their enterprise. We try to restore that spirit to Scotland. We exhort school kids to enter business rather than the professions.Scotland has declared itself to be an enterprise economy increasingly determined to reap the rewards that risk offers.

Yet when a super-entrepreneur arrives he meets the sort of petty resistance that David Kennedy personifies. Certainly the relevant local authorities have done their best. But the activities of the odd anti-business crypto-green councillor, the local nimby pressure group and the hostility of one or two entrenched property owners have slowed the whole project down when that part of the country is desperate for the investment and the jobs that it will bring.

One member of the infantile Trip Up Trump campaign joined because she enjoys walking her dog on the Menie beach. Grampian's unemployed will sympathise with and support her priorities. Of more concern to those trying to revive the Scottish economy is the impact this cussedness will have on other prospective foreign investors.

The excesses of the green lobby militate against a buoyant, healthy economy. Activists climbing the anchor chains of oil ships and throwing themselves in front of supply boats like suffragettes against the King's horse invite investment to look elsewhere.

The Scottish Government itself is guilty. Not of discouraging Trump. Its record there is brave. But successful private investment needs a sensible public environment in which to operate. And the government's energy policy is anything but smart.

It is based on a rejection of the cleanest, greenest and most domestic of sources - nuclear. This rejection forces it to aim at supplying all of our electricity needs from renewables within 15 years - even although much of the technology is yet unproven on an industrial scale and many of the sources it relies on - wind, for example - are intermittent and unreliable. And for all this uncertainty consumers are being asked to pay 100 a year more for their electricity. How is that going to sit with the investors and entrepreneurs who have the world - including nuclear England (where, incidentally, we will be buying our fuel) - to choose from? Despite this additional cost burden Alex Salmond thinks he's going to be able to export this power. That enterprise has got less chance of success than Donald Trump's golf course.

Holyrood uses its quasi-economic powers like planning in ways that are bad for business. It follows rather than leads public opinion which appears to be schizophrenic about both energy and enterprise. It doesn't want nasty nuclear power or business changing the natural environment. But neither does it believe renewables are the whole answer and it wants to increase the proportion of employment in the private sector.

These issues need informed debate. Aberdeen may be the place to have it. At one time the city could boast as many universities as the whole of England put together. It has a fine tradition of scientific thought.That is what is needed to deal with the distortions that the green lobby has inflicted on society.

Never forget the lies Greenpeace told about the contaminants aboard Brent Spar to stop its being scuttled. A subsequent inquiry found, not only that the number of pollutants on board had been distorted but that sinking the facility would have been the most environmentally safe option. Discussion based on verifiable data is what is called for.

But if academics start defacing degrees the greens could end up burning books - in an enclosed but well ventilated space, of course.

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