To say that US President elect Donald Trump is a controversial character would be an understatement. Not so widely known, he is also 50% Scottish, his mother Mary Anne Macleod being born in Stornaway on the Island of Lewis on May 10th 1912. This makes him, after Andy Murray, one of Scotland’s most famous sons alive today.
His Scottish ancestry and love of golf brought Trump to NE Scotland in 2006 where he bought the greater part of the Menie Estate just N of Aberdeen with plans to build a links golf course on the great sand dunes of this beautiful area.
The Menie Estate lies at the north end of a sandy beach and dune system that stretches for 23 kms north from Aberdeen. Part of the site was designated a site of special scientific interest and for this reason I privately opposed the plans but did not hold strong views. I was however surprised at the reaction of the local business and political communities who drooled over Mr Trump and his promise of billions and a local fantasy grew that golf may somehow replace oil as the cornerstone of Aberdeen’s economy. The Scottish Government appointed Mr Trump as GlobalScot Trade Ambassador in 2006. And the Robert Gordon University awarded him an honorary degree as Doctor of Business Administration in September 2010.
A sequence of unfortunate events were set in motion that has set the Scottish Government in conflict with who is about to become commander in chief of the most powerful military force the planet has ever known. That is the tale of wind turbines that I will get to shortly. But first I want to fill in more background on how we came to be US enemy number one 🙁
The Menie golf course proposals were controversial from the start with opinion split between those who believed it was good business and those who did not want to see this area of exceptional beauty despoiled. The first bump on the road for Trump was when his planning application was declined in a vote that was split down the middle. The planning application was handled by the Planning Committee of Aberdeenshire Council that was chaired by environmental activist Martin Ford. With the vote split 50:50 Dr Ford was left with the casting vote that rules dictate must be cast in favour of the status quo and the application was denied.
In time honoured democratic tradition, the Scottish Government stepped in and overturned the ruling which in light of subsequent events was probably a bad idea. Dr Ford was sacked from his position on the Planning Committee the following year. He resigned from the Liberal Democrats to join The Greens.
The second bump on the road that threatened to derail the project was in the form of local farmer and fisherman Michael Forbes. Forbes owned a piece of land by the Menie Estate that Trump wanted to buy and Mr Forbes declined an offer reported by Wikipedia to be £450,000 + £50,000 per annum for life. Forbes became a local hero and champion of those who opposed the scheme. This developed into a very ugly battle – if only the Scottish Government had not over ruled the local decision in the first place, none of this would have happened.
The golf course and club house was built and a wall was built around the Forbes property. It opened in 2012, and is rated as the fourth best golf course in Scotland. But the second course, the hotel and all the houses and jobs that were promised never materialised because of the dispute that would arise over the offshore wind farm. I guess Mr Trump discovered that NE Scotland is not the sort of place that is open for business.
And so to the third bump which is the reason for relating this story. For as long as any of us can remember, there has been a plan to build a wind farm offshore Aberdeen. The saga began in 2003 when Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG) first announced proposals for an offshore wind farm. With Trump coming to town in 2006, his organisation was of course aware of these plans. Mr Trump alleges:
he had been “lured” into building the golf resort upon assurances by the former and current first ministers, Jack McConnel and Alex Salmond*, that the wind farm would not be built.
* Alex Salmond has since been replaced by Nicola Sturgeon.
Both McConnell and Salmond deny this. Regardless of where the truth lies Mr Trump feels betrayed and plans for the second course, the hotel, the houses and all those jobs have been put on ice. Meanwhile plans for the wind farm have progressed, starting with a €40 million grant from the EU offered in 2009 and the Scottish Government granted consent to proceed in March 2013, 10 years after the plan was conceived.
Needless to say Mr Trump was not pleased by the decision and has taken the Scottish Ministers to court on three occassions in an effort to overturn the decision in an action titled:
Trump International Golf Club Scotland Ltd & Anor v The Scottish Ministers (Scotland)  UKSC 74
The Trump organisation lost in The Court of Session, they lost their appeal in The Court of Session and they lost in the Supreme Court leading Alex Salmond to brand Mr Trump three times a loser. Well he’s not a loser now and the dispute may have escalated by a few orders of magnitude.
Eight Reasons Why the Scottish Government Should Not Have Backed the Aberdeen Bay Wind Farm
- The site offshore Aberdeen is one of the busiest shipping lanes in Europe and the development must inevitably create and increase safety risks
- Scotland is gagging on wind power and quite simply does not need this offshore facility
- The Scottish government pursuit of renewable energy has created risks to the stability of the Scottish grid
- The Scottish government pursuit of renewable energy has created an absurd and ironic dependency on electricity imports from England
- It will make no significant difference to the local or Scottish economies
- It will make no measurable difference to global CO2 emissions and Man made global warming
- Offshore wind remains one of the most expensive forms of electricity generation ever invented and higher electricity prices may actually harm the economy
- It will kill seabirds and could potentially interfere with already stressed marine mammals and fish stocks like migrating salmon.
This is a £300 million, 11 turbine, 92 MW white elephant where it is hard to document benefits. Those good at arithmetic will already have spotted that the giant Vestas V164 turbines are rated at 8.4MW. Confronted with these arguments, the question does need to be asked why consent was granted in the first place? The answer is of course dogmatic adherence to energy policy born out of Green Thinking. We can now add a ninth reason and that is The Scottish Ministers may now have severely antagonised and alienated the next president of the USA.
Playing the Trump Card
From here on I can see 4 outcomes that I have named 1) Got Lucky 2) Pragmatic 3) Expedient and 4) Suicide
Got Lucky: Is where President Elect Trump is so distracted by the affairs of State that he decides to forgive and forget his Scottish opponents 🙂
Pragmatic: Is where lead developer Vattenfall (100% owned by the Swedish State) decide that the risks of alienating the President of the USA are too large and they simply cancel the project now while it has barely got under way.
Expedient: Is where the Scottish Government reviews their decision in light of new circumstances (and they are new) and finds a way to cancel the project which I strongly argue should never have been consented in the first place. This might also encourage Mr Trump to complete his luxury resort. Perhaps golf can replace oil after all 😉
Suicide: Is where none of the preceding options occur and Mr Trump finds time to ensure that his opponents in the Scottish government are punished. Don’t be surprised to find a 100% tariff imposed on Scotch and to wake up one morning to find the turbines lying in the sea.
[Footnote: In wake of comments made about Muslims’ freedom to travel to the USA, The Robert Gordon University stripped Mr Trump of his honorary Doctorate in December 2015. Also in December 2015:
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “Mr Trump’s recent remarks have shown that he is no longer fit to be a business ambassador for Scotland and the First Minister has decided his membership of the respected GlobalScot business network should be withdrawn with immediate effect.”
What a mess!]
Note that comments will be moderated in accordance with the fact that Mr Trump is President Elect of the United States of America.