RARELY has a warm relationship turned so sour so quickly as that between the Scottish Government and US businessman and presidential hopeful Donald Trump. When Trump announced plans to build a golf resort in Aberdeenshire, SNP ministers could not, it appeared, do enough to help him. After councillors rejected the tycoon’s proposals in 2007, the Scottish Government called in the application and, before long, the resort was back on course.
According to Trump, then first minister Alex Salmond was “an amazing man”.
But the days when the businessman might speak of his great respect for Salmond are long gone. Now, neither man makes any attempt to conceal his contempt for the other. Trump’s demand that the US should prevent Muslims from entering the country may have played well with angry American voters but a number of SNP politicians, including Salmond and his MP colleague, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, called for him to be banned from the UK. However, despite appearances, relations between Trump and the Scottish Government would appear not to have broken down completely. Documents show that officials from the government-owned Glasgow Prestwick Airport have discussed collaborating on business deals with the Trump Organisation.
The apparent cosiness of this relationship is puzzling. Some of the SNP’s most senior figures have made it clear – in public – that they do not consider Trump a decent or honourable man. Yet in private the view seems to be that he’s someone with whom business can be done.
Scottish taxpayers have a particular interest in Glasgow Prestwick Airport, which was taken into public ownership when it faced closure in 2013. We should certainly expect airport management to be actively pursuing business opportunities. Whether those opportunities should be sought with Trump is another matter.
Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone accuses the SNP of hypocrisy over its relationship with the businessman and calls for openness. That seems a reasonable request. It’s time for the Scottish Government to explain the nature of its dealings with the presidential hopeful.