Monday, 22 October 2012

Donald Trump, Alex Salmond and a load of balls

The bulldozers have moved in and acres of once-unspoilt rugged Scottish land have been destroyed so that Donald Trump can build what he claims will be "the world's best golf course."

Except this allegedly amazing course in Aberdeenshire only sort-of opened on July 10, 2012. It's just one of two planned courses, it's served by a temporary clubhouse and the rest of the development, which was to include a hotel, holiday villas and luxury homes, is now on hold. Apparently, Trump is upset that the rest of the course will have to suffer with views of a proposed wind farm if construction continues. In his world, a sustainable source of energy is uglier than flattening a glorious landscape of scientific significance.*

Determined residents are still living on the Menie Estate amid the half-done development, constantly under threat of eviction by compulsory purchase orders. Trump decided not to build a hotel with a view of what he called "a slum". Obviously, Trump has never been to an actual slum because then he would realise that Michael Forbes' farm, with assorted outbuildings and machinery that is either operational or set aside for recycled parts, is not a slum. Indeed, plenty of people who live in real slums can only dream of living in such a property.

Over the course of the development, residents were deprived of electricity and water, earth was moved to build massive berms to both hide the houses from the sensitivities of rich golfers and to obscure any shreds of remaining pleasant views from the recalcitrant residents.

The 6,000 jobs that were supposed to be created have not materialised.

Trump took it upon himself to rename the Menie Dunes "the Great Dunes of Scotland." That would be the dunes that have been bulldozed beyond recognition and turned into Technicolor golfing greens.

The website for the development** features a gallery of idyllic, heavily PhotoShopped images of golf courses by the sea. There are some images featuring earthmoving equipment, parked alongside greens that are being wastefully watered or sitting by flattened out sand. They look like Matchbox toys rather than brutal beasts of ecological destruction. There are pictures of smooth stretches of sand with footprints - they look like those cheesy "Footprints" posters you get in Christian bookshops, only they are shots of areas where only the privileged can leave footprints these days.

Kevin Cameron, the photographer, should be ashamed of himself but he was probably paid well enough to abandon the luxury of principles. Just as Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, abandoned any pretence of respect for the natural environment or the rights of residents when he let this whole shameful development go ahead unchecked, when he did nothing about journalists being arrested on the site for trying to do their job, for maintaining a lack of transparency by refusing requests for interviews about the development.

But Trump has now bitten Salmond on the bum. A tacky image of battered wind turbines is the only blatant propaganda on the website - with Trump's spruikers saying that Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond wants to build "8,750 of these monstrosities". This is how Trump rewards loyalty.

Salmond is too busy these days flying the flag for Scottish independence - but he is in charge of a country he is not fit to run.


* To see more on this complete and utter disgrace, here is the excellent BBC2 documentary You've Been Trumped

For people outside the UK, here are some helpful links to the You've Been Trumped documentary

The documentary on YouTube:

How to buy the DVD:

** In case you feel like being a little bit ill, here is the golf course website in all its glory:

Image courtesy of


  1. I watched the BBC2 documentary last night with growing anger at what I saw. I am astounded that this development was allowed on an SSI. I gather this particular site has (or had) the highest SSI protection status of all.

    I was appalled at the sight of gangs of dark suited ‘security’ staff roaming the countryside in black Range Rovers with darkened windows. They reminded me of the thugs one sees protecting some despot in a foreign land, right down to the sunglasses. They gave every appearance of menace, which was the intention of Donald Trump. This is Britain, and these things should never ever be allowed to happen here.

    Donald Trump is only interested in one thing, money. When he was interviewed on the David Letterman show on prime time US TV he did not even know if this development was on the East or West coast of Scotland, so for him to claim he was so sensitive to the welfare of the local population and the ecology was, and still is a joke.

    The harassment that local residents have suffered beggars belief. Their steadfast resolve to stay put, and their courage speaks volumes.

    WHY was this ever allowed to happen? WHO sanctioned it in the first place? Those people should hang their heads in shame. I have no doubt at all that if a local farmer had wanted to build a few holiday cottages in this area it would have been turned down flat.

    Yep, money talks, but the big question is, to whom was it talking on the planning committee, or further up the food chain.......

  2. There were always two sides to this story. Those rushing to condemn the Scottish Government should bear this in mind instead of trying to give the impression that there is and always was massive opposition to this development. I believe the Scottish Government made its decision in good faith.

    Having said that, there can now be no doubt that the decision was a mistake. But is is seen as such as clearly as it is only with the benefit of hindsight. Had Trump delivered on all he promised, and done so without his appalling treatment of local residents, then it might have been possible to defend that decision even now. It isn't!

    I think it is time for people to stop using this matter as a stick with which to beat the SNP. But I also think that the Scottish Government needs to admit that they were wrong to put their trust in a scurrilous rogue like Trump. He has betrayed that trust in every way imaginable. It is time for the Scottish Government to get to grips with this. However belatedly, Alex Salmond needs to take a tough line. I don't think his political opponents do the country any service by making that more difficult for him than it needs to be.

    Sign the petition to strip Trump of his Global Scot status -

  3. Putting a golf course of any description on that land was always a completely awful idea and anyone who thought a man with Donald Trump's track record was going to act in good faith is completely deluded.

    I'm not sure how else Alex Salmond is going to be pressured into reversing the damage and admitting it was a mistake unless his political opponents keep up the pressure on him. He has been a complete disgrace, especially with no action on the arrest of journalists and refusing to give interviews. That is a total disregard for a free press and for transparency, which is essential in the case of any development that is going to impact severely on people's lives.

    1. The high emotion may be understandable. Particularly after last night's screening of the film, "You've been Trumped". But facts matter. and it remains a fact that there was a great deal of support for the project.

      This is politics we are talking about. If you want politicians to act in a certain way then you clear a path for them. You do not throw up obstacles. People need to ask themselves what is more important to them. Having a pop at Salmond? Or getting the Scottish Government to act? Taking on Trump's formidable organisation is no trivial matter. If they are going to subject to the same castigation anyway, what possible incentive is there to take action?

      If I considered that Scottish Ministers had been derelict in this matter I would be the first to condemn that. I just don't believe that case is proven. Behaving as if it was is more of a hindrance than a help. I believe the best way forward is to take a no-blame approach while insisting that the Scottish Government now look at their legal options regarding the development on the basis of Trump's failure to meet his contractual obligations.

      Let's not lose sight of who the real bad-guy is in all this.

      As a separate, if related matter, there should be a full public inquiry into the conduct of Grampian Police.

  4. There definitely needs to be a full public inquiry into the conduct of the Grampian police.

    And yes, Trump is indeed the baddest of the bad guys here, but Alex Salmond and indeed anyone who gave the green light to the project and, as it became apparent that the contract was being disregarded, anyone who was complicit in letting that happen all have to shoulder some of the blame, admit mistakes were made and finally try and reverse the awful damage. If this brings down Alex Salmond or any officials along the food chain who have been complicit, whether by act or omission, then so be it.

    Just because there was some support for the project at the outset, that does not make it right. The way it has been handled, the lack of respect for the people most directly affected and the lack of consultation have all been appalling.

    The opportunities to stop the rot have been numerous and they have been repeatedly ignored.

  5. And, yes, Peter A, Bell, there is definitely plenty of fuel for an inquiry into the conduct of the police:

  6. It is correct that the appalling decision by the Scottish Government to overturn the local refusal of planning permission should not be a stick to beat the SNP with. But only because the Trump development was supported by Labour, LibDems and Tories alike.
    The only political party to consistently oppose Trump is the Scottish Greens. All others have shown that they will put cash before conviction, and all will sell out not just the land but the people.