ALEX SALMOND joked about his relationship with US business tycoon Donald Trump while continuing to celebrate Europe’s Ryder Cup victory saying “this game is bigger than me, its even bigger than Donald”.
The First Minister and the billionaire famously fell out two years ago after Mr Trump claimed Mr Salmond had interfered in a decision to approve the building of a wind farm near his Menie Golf Club in Aberdeenshire.
This led to Mr Trump losing a court battle against the Scottish Government’s approval of the windfarm in February and led him to turn his back on Scotland only to return two months later to buy the Turnberry Hotel.
Speaking from Gleneagles Mr Salmond said: “I keep getting nice messages from Mr Trump saying what a wonderful guy I am after all.
“I have been a long-term supporter of Menie Golf Club and I was right to support it.
“I have not played it although one of the letters asked me if I would like to go and play it. By all accounts, despite its difficulty and penchant for losing golf balls, it is a wonderful golf course. I hope and believe he will make a significant investment in Turnberry Hotel which is necessary as it is probably the one great golf hotel that has not been successful in the last few years.”
Mr Trump now owns two golf resorts in Scotland, Menie Golf Club and the Turnberry Hotel in Ayrshire.
He recently appeared to bury the hatchet with Mr Salmond saying - “Other than the fact we disagree over one element – wind, which is obsolete – I like Alex Salmond.”
The First Minister added: “Donald has this habit of sending me articles which have him saying nice things about me and he writes over them ‘Very true’ in big black pen.
“I can only welcome this rapprochement as we move forward.
“This game is bigger than me, it is even bigger than Donald. “
Mr Salmond paid tribute to his predecessor Henry McLeish for bringing the Ryder Cup to Gleneagles as tourism bosses said holding the event was the equivalent of a £40 million free advert for visitng Scotland.
And he heaped praise on Gleneagles and Perthshire saying “it is very important Gleneagles uses the platform for a very special golf tournament”.
His advisers later confirmed the First Minister is speaking to the European Tour about another major event coming to the course.
Mr Salmond said: “Let’s have a bit of credit here, Henry McLeish was the first minister who secured the Ryder Cup. And got panned for it by less-informed journalists that he hadn’t got it for four years earlier; in hindsight it was the best thing that could have happened because this Ryder Cup is worth twice, three times what it was four years ago. It was Henry who was FM when the cup was secured and the commitments given, which we then followed through on.”
Meanwhile, details of the benefits of staging the Ryder Cup in Scotland have emerged - with accomodation providers, transport operators and airports reported an increase in business as a result of the golfing showdown. Carnoustie Golf Club in Angus estimated they raked in around £15,000 a day during the week of the event and had to introduce special twilight tee times in order to meet demand because earlier slots had been fully-booked for a year.
VisitScotland chairman Mike Cantlay said: “Scotland has proved it is the perfect stage for events in the world.
“The Ryder Cup and the Commonwealth Games have been winners for Scottish tourism, putting Scotland on the map like never before and building a confidence that will affect tourism businesses for ever.”
Patrick Elsmie, Managing Director of The Gleneagles Hotel, said: “Hosting the 40th Ryder Cup Matches has been an incredible experience for everyone at The Gleneagles Hotel. After 13 years of meticulous planning alongside Ryder Cup Europe and other partners, we couldn’t be happier with how the week has gone. “
VisitScotland has developed a worldwide £2m marketing campaign to reinforce the country’s status as the “home of golf” in the wake of the tournament.
It is estimated hosting the event at Gleneagles created jobs for 5,000 people, while the images of Scotland beamed out across the world were worth up to £40m in direct marketing benefit.
Mr Cantlay said the event could be a “launchpad” for future success.
He added: “After this week, more Americans than ever see Scotland as the home of golf, and increasingly, their home from home.”
Scotland currently attracts 220,000 golf tourists a year, while 92,000 other visitors play golf while on holiday, figures show.