- By Region
Donald Trump, the New York real estate developer, has accused the Scottish government of betrayal, saying it “lured” him into investing millions of pounds in a golf resort near Aberdeen by assuring him that an offshore wind farm near the site would not go ahead.
An emotional Mr Trump told MSPs in Edinburgh he had received assurances from Alex Salmond, first minister, and Jack McConnell, Mr Salmond’s predecessor, that the wind power project would not proceed.
“They lured me in, I spent this money and now I might regret it,” he said.
Mr Trump was giving evidence to the Scottish parliament’s economy, energy and tourism committee, which is conducting an inquiry into whether Scotland can meet its green energy targets.
Murdo Fraser, a member of parliament’s economy committee, asked whether Mr Trump had simply changed his mind about the wisdom of the golf resort in the light of the worsening economic situation and was now looking for an excuse to back out. Mr Fraser called Mr Trump’s opposition to the wind farm a “face-saving exercise”.
Describing Scotland as the “Saudi Arabia of clean energy”, Mr Salmond has said the country will generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, with wind power a large part of that. Officials say the offshore wind industry could attract about £30bn worth of investment in Scotland and lead to the creation of up to 28,000 Scottish jobs.
But wind power projects across the UK are increasingly being targeted by local campaigners who complain they blight the landscape and could damage local tourism.
The wind farm in Mr Trump’s sights is the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, an 11-turbine, £230m joint venture between the utility Vattenfall, engineering firm Technip and the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group. The businessman says it will spoil the view of visitors to his golf course on the Aberdeenshire coast, which is due to open in July.
David Rodger, spokesman for the project, said the partners were “disappointed by the disproportionate campaign” against it and Scotland’s wind energy industry. Any failure to go ahead “puts at risk the development of Scotland’s, the UK’s and Europe’s ambitions for low cost energy from offshore wind and a £7bn boost to the UK economy,” he said.
The 65-year-old Mr Trump, whose mother Mary Macleod was born on the Isle of Lewis in 1912, first suggested his plans for a resort on the Menie estate in Aberdeenshire in 2006, when Lord McConnell was first minister. It would be among the largest resorts in Europe, with two golf courses, a luxury hotel, 500 houses and 950 holiday homes.
Mr Trump told MSPs that when he heard plans for the wind farm, he considered moving the development to Ireland.
But he said that Lord McConnell’s administration assured him that it would not be built because it would interfere with shipping lanes out of Aberdeen harbour and Ministry of Defence radar installations. He also said Mr Salmond, at the time the leader of the SNP opposition, “pooh-poohed” the wind farm and told him not to worry about it. Meanwhile, Vattenfall said it would not be visible from the shore.
Based on those assurances, Mr Trump said he had decided to proceed. “After I’ve invested this tremendous amount of money, all of a sudden this really obnoxious and ugly wind farm appears,” he said.
“I think you’ll lose your tourism industry to Ireland and lots of other places that are laughing at what Scotland’s doing,” he added.
A spokesman for Mr Salmond dismissed the claims as “total nonsense”. “Absolutely no assurances have been given at any time by the first minister or anyone in this administration to Mr Trump or his organisation and any claims to the contrary are wrong,” he said in a statement.
Lord McConnell said Mr Trump was “encouraged to be interested in Scotland but [was] always told that we had procedures about planning applications and consents that must be followed and about which he could receive no prior guarantees”.