Farmer who took on Trump triumphs in Spirit awards

Michael Forbes receives his Top Scot award last night. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Michael Forbes receives his Top Scot award last night. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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HE IS the previously unknown farmer whose David and Goliath battles with one of the world’s richest men helped put a corner of Aberdeenshire on the global map.

Now Michael Forbes, whose tussles with Donald Trump were captured on film in an award-winning documentary, has been named the “Top Scot” of the year, ahead of other contenders like Billy Connolly, Andy Murray and Sir Chris Hoy.

Michael Forbes at his estate in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire. Picture: Ed Jones

Michael Forbes at his estate in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire. Picture: Ed Jones

Mr Forbes – who won the award after an open public ballot – had consistently refused to move out of his crofter’s house and sell his land, which was ­famously branded a “pigsty” by Trump, to make way for the tycoon’s golf course development.

Last night Mr Forbes, 60, who says he still lives with the threat of eviction by Trump ­International, was honoured at the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Awards, along with Scotland’s Olympic heroes, film actress Kelly Macdonald, Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis and author Ewan Morrison.

Mr Trump’s organisation did not respond to a request from The Scotsman for a comment on Mr Forbes’ success.

Mr Forbes’ refusal to sell to Trump drew parallels with the 29-year-old film Local Hero, whose director Bill Forsyth last month accused Trump of ­“malign, egotistical bullying” of the residents of the Menie estate.

The winning citation said Mr Forbes, the unlikely star of the film You’ve Been Trumped, was “a real people’s choice” who was known more for his actions than by his name.

It added: “Michael was resolute in his determination to stand his ground. His story and the unfolding battle attracted international coverage and the recent documentary brought his plight to an even greater ­audience.”

Mr Forbes told The Scotsman, which runs the awards at Prestonfield House hotel in Edinburgh in partnership with Glenfiddich: “I can’t believe it ­really, I was amazed when I heard I’d been put forward for the award.

“This whole carry-on has been going on for eight years, since I was approached when I was out walking on the beach and asked if I knew about Donald Trump’s golf course.

“I had no idea who he was at that point. I might have kept my mouth shut, but I went right off him the first time I met him.

“He was being all nicey, nicey and talking about how successful he was and how much money he had. That was it for me. I took an instant dislike to him. He called me a village idiot and accused me of living in a pigsty but I think everyone knows by now that he’s the clown of New York.

“I’m still crofting but have had to stop salmon fishing as I don’t have direct access to the beach anymore, but there’s no way I’ll ever sell up to Trump.

“I have 23 acres of land, which he says he needs for his second golf course, and there are 15 homes which still have the threat of a compulsory purchase order over them.”

The award for Mr Forbes comes just weeks after the network premiere of the documentary, which sparked fresh controversy over Alex Salmond’s backing for the project, the behaviour of police officers captured on film, and how Forbes and his neighbours were treated by Trump.

The screening of the documentary sparked an angry ­tirade from Trump against the project and film-maker Anthony Baxter.

Trump said at the time: “All the morons that cause the controversy in Scotland have made my development more successful than anticipated.”

Mr Forbes won the top honour after organisers put it out to a public vote and he found himself at the centre of an online campaign.

Mr Baxter said: “We are absolutely delighted for Michael Forbes, who has conducted himself with such dignity.”


Sports: Shared between Olympic gold winners Tim Baillie (canoeing), Scott Brash (equestrian), Katherine Grainger (rowing), Sir Chris Hoy (cycling), Andy Murray (tennis) and Heather Stanning (rowing) and Paralympic gold winners Neil Fachie (cycling), Craig MacLean (cycling) and David Smith (rowing).

Art: Robert McDowell, the man behind Summerhall, the acclaimed new arts venue created at the former vet school in Edinburgh.

Writing: Ewan Morrison. The Glasgow author has published two acclaimed books and is about to see his best-seller Swung turned into a big-screen film.

Environment: Allan Watson Featherstone, the executive director of the charity Trees for Life.

Food: Gustavo Pardo, the founder of the celebrated Edinburgh coffee emporium Artisan Roast.

Business: Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne. Inspired by her son being diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, which led to writing the book How To Cook For Food Allergies, the entrepreneur went on to to create a gluten-free bread.

Music: Julie Fowlis. The Gaelic singer from North Uist reached a whole new audience after being chosen for the soundtrack of the hit Disney-Pixar film Brave.

Screen: Kelly Macdonald. After a hugely varied career, the actress shone in the lead role of rebellious princess Merida in Brave.