TYCOON Donald Trump last night turned his back on Scotland after he lost his court battle against the Scottish Government’s approval of the offshore wind farm he claims will blight his luxury Scottish golf resort.
He announced that his global organisation would instead be focusing “all of our investment and energy” on a new golf course development on the Atlantic coast of the Republic of Ireland.
His organisation wasted no time announcing the purchase of the Doonbeg Golf Club in County Clare, the 16th golf club in the Trump portfolio and the first Trump hotel in Ireland.
The flamboyant billionaire has already called a halt to any future major investment at his Menie golf resort in Aberdeenshire, including the development of a luxury 140-bedroom hotel.
This was due to the Scottish Government’s decision to give the green light to the £230 million European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) in Aberdeen Bay, which will lie within sight of his championship links course.
Mr Trump’s hopes of blocking the development through the Scottish courts were dealt a devastating blow yesterday when Lord Doherty, in a Court of Session judgment, rejected his petition for a judicial review of the government’s decision to give the wind farm development the go-ahead.
Environment campaigners last night welcomed the decision, calling it “great news” for Scotland.
But Mr Trump declared in a brief statement from New York: “We will appeal this decision and in the meantime we will be focusing all of our investment and energy towards our new acquisition on the Atlantic Ocean in Ireland.”
Just minutes earlier, the Trump Organisation had issued a press release announcing the acquisition of the Doonbeg Golf Club with a links course designed by Open champion Greg Norman.
In the statement, the tycoon said: “I am thrilled to announce we have purchased yet another incredible golf resort. From Trump National Doral, Miami, to Trump International Golf Links, Scotland, known as the greatest golf course in the world, we only have the best. Doonbeg is an already terrific property that we will make even better.”
Lawyers acting for the American had raised an action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh last year, calling for a judicial review of the EOWDC development. They claimed the Trump Organisation was denied a fair hearing as result of Scottish ministers’ refusal to hold a public inquiry and that their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights were breached.
Mr Trump’s lawyers also claimed the subsequent approval of the EOWDC was unlawful and there had been “bias” on the part of ministers who approved the offshore development.
Lawyers for the Trump Organisation argued during the hearing that remarks allegedly made by First Minister Alex Salmond during the 2012 Scottish Open, in which he said he was “absolutely” certain the wind farm would go ahead, had raised a “real possibility that the Scottish ministers as decision-makers were biased”.
The “absolutely” remark had been relayed by US golf blogger, Keil Christianson, an associate professor of psychology at the Beckman Institute in Illinois.
But Lord Doherty rejected the claim. He said: “The context was an informal conversation at a private lunch. The First Minister took no part in the consent process. The responsibility for determining the application fell within the portfolio of the minister for enterprise, energy and tourism [Fergus Ewing], who took the decision complained of.
“I am not persuaded that any of the factors relied upon by the petitioners, individually or cumulatively, would raise in the mind of the fair-minded and informed observer a real possibility of bias on the part of the decision-maker.
“It is clear on the material before me that neither the Scottish Government nor the decision-maker had any financial stake in the outcome of the project.”
The Trump Organisation said in a statement yesterday that it was considering an appeal. A spokesman said: “Today’s decision has not altered our unwavering commitment to protect our investment in Scotland. We are reviewing Lord Doherty’s decision and will pursue the legal options available to us.
“Communities worldwide continue to challenge the destructive proliferation of wind turbines and we will remain a fierce opponent at the forefront of this battle.”
It added: “Despite today’s decision, the EOWDC proposal has numerous economic and legal obstacles that will ultimately prevent its construction.”
Environmental groups last night joined the developers of the offshore wind farm in welcoming the judge’s decision.
The EOWDC is being spearheaded by Swedish company Vattenfall – Europe’s sixth-largest generator of electricity – together with the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG), and engineering company Technip Offshore Wind.
Iain Todd, spokesman for the EOWDC project, said the law lord’s decision was a “major milestone”.
He said: “The project underwent a thorough examination and extensive consultation to gain consent and the decision-making process has been scrutinised by the Court of Session.
“The EOWDC is widely accepted as a much-needed centre of significant European importance with a pivotal role to play in helping the Scottish and UK Governments meet their ambitious renewable energy targets.”
Asked if he hoped the court ruling would end Trump’s attempts to block the development, he said: “The Trump Organisation have had every opportunity to present their evidence to the Scottish Government and they did that. The Scottish Government weighed it all up and came to their decision to consent the project. That process has now been further validated by the Court of Session.”
Mary Church, head of campaigns at green group Friends of the Earth Scotland, said it was a victory for the environment against a “billionaire bully”.
She said: “Not only can this important wind farm go ahead and help pave the way to a low-carbon future for Scotland, but it will give some hope to the communities whose rights Trump has trampled on, that the government and courts can stand up to the billionaire bully.”
Lang Banks, director of environmental group WWF Scotland, said: “It’s good to know despite all his bluster, the courts saw right through Trump’s flimsy, misguided attempts to frustrate Scotland’s ambition to create clean power and green jobs. We hope Mr Trump will now stop wasting any more time and money on this case.”
Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, also called on Trump to abandon any further attempts to block the wind farm development. He said: “This is the correct decision which is in best economic interests of Aberdeen and Scotland. I absolutely welcome the court’s ruling.
“Donald Trump should now stop wasting everyone’s time and his own money. He should now accept the benefits of this project to Scotland and the north-east in particular.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Scottish ministers are pleased that the court has found in their favour.”
Links course created by Australian legend
The name Doonbeg is derived from “Dun Beag”, which translates to “small fort”.
The course was created by Australian golfer Greg Norman. He is said to have visited the site – which covers a mile and a half around Doughmore Bay – 23 times when he was building it.
Experts say the look and feel of the course is old-fashioned, with the routing following an out-and-back style from traditional links architecture.
It opened in July 2002 with an exhibition match between Padraig Harrington and Norman, dubbed the “Great White Shark”. According to local legend, officers of the Scottish Black Watch regiment planned to turn these dunes into a golf course in the early 1890s, but they settled for another site, Lahinch, as it was located nearer to a railway station.
The layout of the course is unusual as it has a combination of five par-3s and five par-5s. The par-72 course measures 6,885 yards from the back tees.
Wind farm conversation was interrupted by a ‘mouthwatering cheese plate’
The testimony of an American academic who met the First Minister over a platter of cheese was held up by the Trump team as demonstrating bias at the very heart of the nation’s government.
Keil Christianson, an associate professor of psychology at Beckman Institute, Illinois, and a golf blogger was introduced to Alex Salmond in a hospitality tent during the 2012 Scottish Open championship at Castle Stuart.
According to the writer, the Scottish leader revealed to him then the Aberdeen Bay offshore wind farm would “absolutely” be built and he would not allow Donald Trump to “dictate” his energy policy.
In a blog post dated 2 August 2012, Prof Christianson wrote: “While I was covering the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, I had the honour and good fortune to have lunch with Mr Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland. When asked whether the wind farm would be built the First Minister responded unequivocally, ‘Absolutely’. Unbidden, the First Minister continued to stress, in no uncertain terms, that he did not appreciate ‘Mr Trump trying to dictate my energy policy’.”
The professor recalled Mr Salmond’s words, despite initially being unaware who he was, due to being temporarily “preoccupied with a mouthwatering cheese plate”. In his sworn affidavit, he said he only reported the parts of the conversation he could clearly remember, but other subjects were discussed “off the record”.
Mr Trump’s team maintained that Mr Salmond’s words constituted a public statement made to the press at a public event and so raised questions over whether Scottish ministers, as decision-makers, were biased.