Donald Trump waded into the constitutional debate over a second referendum on Scottish independence, claiming it would would be “terrible” for the country.
In an apparent reference to the Brexit vote, the US President said Scotland “just went through hell” and that there was no appetite for a re-run of 2014’s referendum.
Mr Trump made the comments during an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week, but they have only just been published after the full transcript was leaked online.
In a bizarre exchange with the newspaper’s editor in chief Gerard Baker, the billionaire appeared to be most concerned about what would happen to the British Open if Scotland chose to leave the Union.
“Is Scotland going to go for the vote, by the way? You don’t see it. It would be terrible. They just went through hell,” he said.
After Mr Baker agreed, he continued: “One little thing, what would they do with the British Open if they ever got out? They’d no longer have the British Open. Scotland. Keep it in Scotland.”
Mr Trump’s late mother Mary Anne MacLeod was born and raised on Lewis and he has long taken an interest in Scotland’s affairs.
The businessman owns two golf resorts at Turnberry in Ayrshire and Menie in Aberdeenshire and his organisation is in the process of investing £700 million in the facilities.
It is not the first time that Mr Trump has expressed a view on Scottish independence. In 2015 he said: “I didn’t want to get involved in it, but people asked me and I think Scotland is better being unified as opposed to being independent.”
He has also described the idea of holding another referendum as “crazy”, arguing that David Cameron should have placed a 50-year ban on a second vote when he signed the Edinburgh Agreement with former first minister Alex Salmond.
Responding to Mr Trump’s comments, Mr Salmond described the president as “a complete and utter nincompoop”.
“Donald Trump’s opposition to independence should seal the deal for the SNP – and to do it on the basis of Scotland losing the ‘British Open’ is typical,” he added.
“The tournament is actually called The Open and the headquarters of the R&A is in St Andrews which last time I checked was in Scotland.
“The Grand Canyon is a minor crevice compared to the vast chasm of ignorance of that man.”
In the Wall Street Journal interview, Mr Trump also suggested that he wanted to do a trade deal with the UK after Brexit – partly to revive Britain’s standing in the world.
“I can say that we’re going to be very involved with the UK. I mean, you don’t hear the word Britain any more. It’s very interesting. It’s like, nope,” he said.
The President said he hoped to sign a deal “as soon as it’s appropriate” after the UK leaves the EU, which he accused of being a “protectionist” organisation.
“I have a very good relationship with the Prime Minister. And we are absolutely looking to do a major trade deal,” he added. “It’ll be a big trade deal – much, much more business than we do right now, many, many times.”
Mr Trump spoke to the newspaper on 25 July, when he tweeted: “Working on major Trade Deal with the United Kingdom. Could be very big & exciting. JOBS! The E.U. is very protectionist with the U.S. STOP!”
His comments came as International Trade Secretary Liam Fox was in Washington for talks with US trade representative Robert Lighthizer.
The meeting came after critics raised fears that British markets could be opened up to US agricultural products currently blocked by EU food standards rules, including controversial chlorine-washed chicken.