Donald Trump, climate change denier and anti-wind campaigners’ best chum, has been described by political pundits as sexist, racist, a moron and a bully. The Pope says he is not Christian. Amen to that. Add to this the charge of hypocrite as he has invested thousands of dollars in wind power generation with the Florida firm, Nextera Energy.
Donald’s visit to Scotland on the day after the EU referendum was, ostensibly, to shout about the £200 million upgrade to make “Turnberry Great Again”. Is this how Scotland will remember him in the decades and centuries to come; the Lighthouse luxury suites at £3500 night, low season of course, that none but the mega-rich can take advantage of? Notwithstanding the prospect of Donald being the 45th President of the United States and the fallout thereafter, Donald’s legacy for Scots will be for altogether different reasons and measured in geological timescales.
Trump's true legacy will be that of rural vandalism on a colossal scale. A unique wilderness at Menie destroyed for a golf course. This was a site of Special Scientific Interest, the highest accolade that can be bestowed on our environment . A dynamic dune system, wetlands, trees and shrubs gone forever. Opposition to the destruction of this priceless landscape came from the RSPB, SEPA, SNH, Ramblers Association and the SWT. No credible environmental organisation supported Trump. Add to this the harassment of local residents, heavy handed policing and the challenges made to our planning regulations. Martin Ford, Scottish Green Party councilor, correctly made the point that Trump “has in turn either bullied or ignored the Scottish planning system”.
The economic benefits were also vastly overestimated. The Scottish Government were duped by the estimates given in the Economic Impact Study. Incredibly, this document, a well-crafted piece of sophistry, was not scrutinised properly by the Scottish Government. In 2008, Alex Salmond said that “we can see the social and economic benefits: 6000 jobs across Scotland, 1400 local and permanent jobs here in the North East of Scotland that outweighs the environmental concerns”. At the time, Professor Paul Cheshire of the London School of Economics, questioned the number of local jobs that would be created and that the estimates made in the Economic Impact Study were wildly optimistic. This has become all too true. No golf “resort” was ever built, nor, thankfully, the second golf course. The 450- bedroom hotel and 1500 houses have also not appeared.
Fast forwarding to 2016, The Independent reported that the much-hyped Aberdeen golf course has been loss making since it opened in 2012 and that “there are currently 150 people directly employed in the Menie golf resort”.
This issue runs deep and goes to the heart of our broken centralised democracy. It is a perfect example by which ‘local’ authorities are once again trumped by central government whereby citizens are left powerless and alienated from the system. Is it any wonder that so few of us vote in council elections. This is a clarion call for the reform of local democracy.
Politicians come and go. Some despised, most forgotten but rarely revered or loved. But what of our beautiful landscape, irrevocably changed. So how will oor Donald be remembered: the sand bunkers on the 4th hole at Turnberry or the erstwhile dynamic sand dunes at Menie? Now, let me think…..