Donald Trump’s project to build the “world’s greatest golf course” on Scotland’s Aberdeenshire Coast has hit the headlines again, this time for allegedly failing to create the jobs which helped convince the government to grant planning approval.
Trump Golf Links opened in July 2012, amid a whirlwind of controversy, and possibly the biggest media hype ever surrounding the opening of a new golf course.
Environmental objections and clashes with neighbours
First objections came from environmental campaigners keen to preserve some of Scotland’s rarest and most precious coastal dunes. Then, there were the allegations that Trump tried to bully and intimidate his neighbours and local landowners into giving up their land close to his development.
Most famous of these spats was Trump’s battle with farmer Michael Forbes who refused to sell his property and land in the middle of the Menie Estate where the course is built.
Donald described his home as a “slum” and a “pigsty” and at one point the water to his home was turned off for six days, something explained by the Trump Organisation as an accidental consequence of construction work.
Critical film reaches global audience
Film maker Anthony Baxter chronicled the conflicts, arrests and insults in his film, “You’ve Been Trumped,” which has received critical acclaim globally.
Despite all of this controversy, the course opened in July last year, with a huge media contingent present and Former Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie hailing it as a “marvel.”
Watch BBC Scotland’s news report of the opening of Trump International Golf Links.
Actor Sean Connery was named as the club’s first member.
The golf media joined the furore with many commentators agreeing that architect Martin Hawtree had created a landmark golf course.
Controversy never far away
Then, the story took on the look of a Shakespearean tragedy, as the formerly friendly relationship between Donald Trump and Alex Salmond MP, first minister of Scotland, soured – this time over Scotland’s energy policy – and wind farms.
When it became clear that wind farms would be built off the coast of Aberdeen, in sight of Trump International Golf Links, Donald Trump was quick to pull the plug on plans to build a multi-million pound hotel, holiday lodges and residential homes.
Global Golfer reported on this in a previous blog Trump Full of Wind in Scotland, read it here.
The decision means that the project is now unlikely to deliver the 6,000 jobs and vast economic boost from visitor spend and hotel guests that were promised in the original plans.
Anger at Parliament
This has led to anger in Scotland, among local government in Aberdeenshire and left egg on Alex Salmond’s face at Holyrood – home of the Scottish Parliament.
Only 200 of the promised 6,000 jobs have so far materialised.
The shortfall between Trump’s vision and the realities of the venture have been investigated by the BBC’s Panorama team and were broadcast on BBC One in a documentary called “The Trouble with Trump.”
Trump’s promise of a jobs boost for the Scottish economy was a major factor in persuading the Scottish government to back his plans.
This is bad news for Alex Salmond, especially as he personally intervened when the plan was rejected by the local infrastructure committee in his Aberdeenshire consistency.
In 2008, Salmond said: “The balance of opinion among people in the north-east of Scotland and among my constituents is very strongly in favour. And that’s because we can see the social and economic benefits.
“I mean, 6,000 jobs across Scotland, 1,400 local and permanent jobs here in the north-east of Scotland – that’s a very powerful argument which outweighs the environmental concerns.”
Trump’s representatives say that only 200 new jobs have been created and Panorama estimates that only £25m has been spent with just one golf course and a temporary clubhouse developed so far.
As is stands, Scotland is left with one more golf course – a special one at that – but something it hardly needed, and one that looks to be the private preserve of the rich and famous. It certainly hasn’t delivered the predicted jobs and tourism boom which helped bring it to life in the first place.