CONSIDERING that it was First Minister Alex Salmond who supported Donald Trump’s controversial luxury golf resort in Aberdeenshire and argued the case for its economic benefits in the teeth of widespread local opposition, the latest letter from the tycoon is astonishing in both content and tone.
This insulting and nasty attack shows a disrespect, not just to Mr Salmond personally, but to the office he holds and the government he represents. Those who opposed the Trump development from the start will delight in his self-exposure as a cavalier and unpleasant bully. And those critical of wind farm development in Scotland will be embarrassed to have this ranting tycoon as an ally.
However much the resort developer may resent the visual intrusion of a row of offshore turbines visible from his clubhouse, his ill-tempered outburst will win no sympathy for his case and indeed is more likely to alienate opinion. Indeed, this is less a missive of persuasion than, with its revelation that he intends to allocate “a substantial amount of money to launch an international campaign to fight your plan”, a declaration of war.
It may well be that the offshore pylons can be seen from Mr Trump’s resort, that they are vulnerable to corrosion and that more are being planned around Scotland’s coast. But even sceptics of renewable energy recognise that offshore wind power has a place in the energy mix. And the fact that these installations are offshore speaks to a widespread public preference to site them there rather than onshore.
Offshore wind and tidal schemes are seen as the least intrusive means by which Scotland can secure a significant amount of renewable energy. The cost of this option has been strongly challenged. But this is viewed by many in Scotland as preferable to the wholesale development of onshore wind farms across the landscape and the infringement of sites such as the very one on which Mr Trump secured, in the face of strong opposition and by virtue of a successful appeal to Scottish Government in Edinburgh, permission to build his golf course.
Mr Trump’s letter of bluster, bullying and threat does his argument no favours while allowing no room for compromise or discussion. And the lesson that many will inevitably draw from this is that the First Minister should never develop any form of support for tycoons who are as likely to bite his head off than maintain any positive embrace. As for response, the First Minister is no slouch in the bullying stakes himself. He may well be tempted to reply in kind. But the mature response in the face of such a provocative outburst would be a terse one line acknowledgement and pro forma assurance that the contents have been noted. As for Mr Trump, he should learn to sleep on such anger before firing off letters. With this reckless missive, he has single-handedly done more damage to his own credibility than virtually anything before.
Risky policy storing up problems for future
Quantitative easing is already the biggest monetary gamble taken by the Bank of England. Yesterday it raised the stakes by announcing it will create a further £50 billion to buy in more financial assets – government debt mainly – in return for cash. This is on top of the £275bn pumped in so far, a figure equivalent to almost 20 per cent of the UK’s GDP.
With all other stimulus options exhausted, this is a remarkable admission of how weak our debt-soaked economy is and the evident lack of recovery for as far ahead as it can see. The Bank fears a further slowdown and believes that QE will provide the stimulus necessary to avoid a slide into deflation.
However, it is a policy riddled with risks. It is predicated on a Bank forecast of inflation falling to the target rate of two per cent. But the Bank’s recent inflation forecasting has not been good – it has missed this target in 59 of the past 68 months. The Bank has no clear idea of how much more QE it will need or for how long. And this is a policy that is already making life miserable for millions dependent on income from their lifetime savings. QE artificially depresses the yields on longer-dated government stock where pension funds are heavily invested. The policy has been largely responsible for the 25 per cent fall in annuity rates over the past three years.
Long-term savers and pensioners are having to bear the cost of making life more comfortable for borrowers. A central bank can pursue this dangerous course only for so long. For the more it undercuts the return from savings, the greater the risk that it will destroy the very pillar of capital on which tomorrow’s economy depends.
Awash with millions, but nearly money down drain
What a lucky break for Cassey and Matt Topham that their random Lucky Dip lottery ticket was not saturated to extinction when their washing machine broke down. They have just won a cool £45 million – or more exactly £45,160,170.50 – in the EuroMillions draw. This is direct quantitative easing with a vengeance and with the rich benefit that it will greatly enlarge rather than destroy their pension pot.
Such staggering wins will inevitably attract a deluge of begging letters. Perhaps the post may bring a missive from the SNP, already flush with £1 million from a party supporter who struck massively lucky in the EuroMillions last year. Might the Tophams have a Scottish connection? Are they not really Mr and Mrs MacTopham of Aberfeldy? Did not their great grandparents have Scottish roots? Alternatively, Mr Ed Miliband could be dispatched to knock on the door with the persuasive Johann Lamont in tow.
The EuroMillions win places the couple seventh in the list of largest jackpots ever to be won in the UK and followed hard on the heels of a £10,000 prize shared among work colleagues at the local Iceland store. Arguably the most pleasant feature of all is that the taxman won’t get a penny of it – or at least not until the interest income starts pouring in.