PICKING the right goals and having the confidence to go for them are important factors in business success.
Donald Trump, who has made billions from buying, developing, and selling property, particularly in the leisure business, clearly has oodles of self-confidence. But the line between being supremely self-confident and being overbearing and arrogant is a fine one, and Mr Trump, in his latest anti-wind farm outburst, has blundered right through it.
The latest to face his wrath are the MSPs on Holyrood’s economy committee who have reported that they are unable to find any robust evidence that renewable energy developments, ie: wind farms, are damaging Scotland’s tourism industry. Yes, they said, there are anecdotes and some opinion to that effect, but hard evidence, such as proof of a decline of visitor numbers because of proliferating wind turbines has not been provided to them.
“Whitewash!” Mr Trump has bellowed, having told the MSPs that he was the evidence. Sorry, sir, but yours is an opinion – evidence is a matter of hard facts and figures, and not the kind of numbers measuring the decibel count with which opinions are voiced.
Yes, there is a legitimate debate to be had on the pluses and minuses of wind farms in particular areas, and whether they produce cheap or expensive electricity. But the evidence (that’s facts and figures, Mr Trump) is that the landscape impacts and costs are less than is often supposed. And where the balance of assessment suggests the overall impact is negative, such developments do not go ahead.
Mr Trump, of course, is a highly partial witness. His main preoccupation is not with Scotland’s energy supply or the health of its economy, but with the few acres of Aberdeenshire coastline where he has built his golf course. He believes that the construction of a relatively small number of offshore turbines that will be visible to visiting golfers will severely devalue his project. That seems most unlikely. If his course really is, as he claims it to be, the finest in the world, the distant presence of some whirling blades is unlikely to put any golfer off. Global recession plus bad weather, as any golf club dependent on a large amount of visitor income will testify, are worse problems by far.
It remains to be seen now what the Scottish Government, as the ultimate planning arbiter, will do with the Aberdeenshire offshore wind farm proposal. If it finds some reason to reject it, the suspicion will arise that it pliantly prefers to be in the pockets of rich loudmouths than steadfast in pursuit of its policy aims of boosting renewable energy.
Dignity, we fear, is not a word in Mr Trump’s vocabulary. But we earnestly counsel him to be a little bit more circumspect and respectful in striving to fulfil his goals. He might find he earns more respect back that way. All he is achieving with his current strategy is annoying everyone.
Back to Hogmanay roots
Hogmanay this year, it seems, is going to be more like it used to be. The big outdoor events with music, dancing and fireworks have been abandoned by many councils leaving, this year, just four of them in Edinburgh, Inverness, Stirling and Stonehaven. Will greeting the New Year in Scotland be better or worse for this scaling back?
The reasons are not hard to find. Putting on a big bash just so that people can enjoy a spectacle for a few hours costs a lot of money. That might be fine when budgets are relaxed, but it is a questionable use of taxpayers’ money when it is stretched. It is very hard to argue that putting on what is essentially no more than a party should be a priority at a time when essential services are under threat because of lack of money.
The expense isn’t just in buying a few fireworks (which will still be loosed off in Glasgow) and hiring some staging and a couple of bands. It also comes in the organisation, making sure the venues are safe, and finding all the volunteers needed to supplement the policing of such events. That is a huge drain on staffing resources which can be better employed elsewhere.
The festivities which remain – from the traditional parade of fireball swingers in Stonehaven to the more lavish production in Edinburgh – have the dual purpose of bringing visitors and income to local businesses. As such, they represent more an investment which brings a return than is the case in most places.
But for the rest of Scotland, perhaps it is a time to take Hogmanay back to what it was, and still is, for many people – a time to greet neighbours and relatives in festive friendship.