Saturday, 11 February 2012

Donald Trump: No, really, I like Mr Salmond

The winds of change have  blown across the “Great Dunes of Scotland”. This morning, Donald Trump and Alex Salmond, two of the most substantial egos in the Northern Hemisphere, are at war with each other over the fate of an as-yet-unfinished Aberdeenshire golf resort.

At issue is an  array of 11 giant off shore turbines that, subject to planning approval, soon could overlook Mr Trump’s golf resort in Aberdeenshire, to the businessman’s horror.   

Last night, one of the protagonists, high in Trump Tower, shouted insults from across an ocean. The world is “laughing at you” bellowed the billionaire.   The  other, the politician, stuck to his  conviction that wind energy would remain forever at the core of the Scottish Government’s energy policy, golf course or not.  

Hostilities opened on Wednesday, when, with a characteristic note of self-satisfaction, Mr Salmond told a conference that Mr Trump would  “get on board” as soon as  Scotland was established as a world leader in renewable energy.

That intervention   brought an  almost apocalyptic response from  Mr Trump’s New York headquarters, in a letter addressed to “Dear First Minister Salmond”. 

Mr Trump wrote:  “You seem hell bent on destroying Scotland’s coastline and therefore, Scotland itself - but I will never be on board’, as you have stated I would be, with this insanity.

“As a matter of fact, I have just authorised my staff to allocate a substantial amount of money to launch an international campaign to fight your plan to surround Scotland’s coast with many thousands of wind turbines —  it will be like looking through the bars of a prison and the Scottish citizens will be the prisoners.”

Last night, in an interview with The Times, Mr Trump  made clear that his anger had deep roots, founded on what he regarded as a breach of faith by  Scottish ministers.  While his first golf course would open in June, he insisted the remainder of the resort — including a luxury hotel and hundreds of houses — would be halted if  the wind farm went ahead. 

“Hey, would you build a hotel that looks directly into a turbine?” said Mr Trump.  “The turbines are right outside the windows practically. I’ve made myself clear. Those turbines will destroy Scotland and destroy the tourism industry. There won’t be any reason to build a hotel.” 

Mr Trump insisted his argument was not about personalities — “just the opposite, I like Alex Salmond” — but was based on a point of principle. 

Seven years ago, when he was considering options in Scotland and Northern Ireland for a  £1 billion golf resort  he was given assurances by the then Scottish Executive that there would be no offshore wind farm near his Menie estate, the businessman said.  

 “The previous government — I assume it is one government and not  just a series of people —   said ‘We want you to build this’,” recalled Mr Trump.  “I’ve spent £100 million in Scotland and I don’t even have a mortgage on it — it’s not a lot of money for me. II was going to spend £1 billion over the whole job, but not any more. 

Mr  Trump added that  Jack McConnell, the former First Minister, had promised the wind turbines would not be built.  He recalled: “I said: ‘Do I have your word?’ They said: ‘You have our word. We are not going to build the windmills.’ I didn’t get it down in writing. I didn’t think I needed to.” 

Ironically, it was the first SNP administration who finally granted Mr Trump approval for his   resort in 2008, even though it is being built on a Site of Special Scientific Interest.  At the time Mr Salmond endorsed the development and said it was “entirely right and proper” that his government should support a scheme that would provide 6,000 jobs. 

Now the same ministers have to decide whether the wind farm  goes ahead.  Supporters of renewable energy say it could create 130,000 jobs in Scotland, and Aberdeen is seen as its natural home. 

Last night, a Scottish Government official stressed its enthusiasm for off shore wind, which could  “enable us to generate enough electricity to power Scotland seven times over” by 2050. 

He added: “Claims made by Mr Trump refer to the position some six years ago, when he was submitting his Menie planning application  – before the current administration took office – and therefore we have no record or knowledge of what was said then.”

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