Donald Trump's firm to pay £225,000 to Scottish Government to cover legal bills

Donald Trump's company was unsuccessful in its legal attempts to stop the offshore windfarm development near his Aberdeenshire course.
Donald Trump's company was unsuccessful in its legal attempts to stop the offshore windfarm development near his Aberdeenshire course.
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Donald Trump's company is to pay the Scottish Government £225,000 to cover its legal bills after the US president's firm was defeated in a long-running and acrimonious court battle over a windfarm development near his inaugural Scottish golf resort.

The firm behind Mr Trump’s Aberdeenshire property pursued a three year-long battle to block the offshore renewable energy scheme, a fight which saw Mr Trump appear before the Scottish Parliament and led to his company taking its case to the UK's highest court. However, it ended in failure.

Now, nearly four years after Mr Trump's company lost in the Supreme Court, and close to nine months after the Court of Session ruled it was liable for the Scottish Government's costs, the terms of the outstanding legal bill have been agreed, The Scotsman can reveal.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We can confirm that settlement has now been reached - and this has removed the need for the expenses to be determined by the auditor of the Court of Session.

“Expenses amounting to £225,000 will now be paid to Scottish ministers by the petitioners.”

The settlement will see the Scottish Government receive the money from Trump International Golf Club Scotland Limited, the corporate entity behind the Trump International Scotland resort in Balmedie.

Had the matter reached the auditor of the Court of Session - an independent office holder appointed by Scottish ministers on nomination by the Lord Advocate - an additional fee would have applied to the expenses.

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said : “Trump has attempted to avoid any responsibility over the impact of his developments and bullied anyone who has tried to stand in his way, so I’m delighted his business is being forced to compensate Scotland for his failed legal challenges.

“Hopefully this high-profile case will encourage all developers to consult, include and listen to communities rather than bully them.”

Trump International Golf Club Scotland’s latest accounts, published last month by Companies House, show that it posted annual losses of £1.07m in 2018, marking the seventh consecutive year it had failed to turn a profit. Its cumulative losses total more than £9.4m, and it is reliant on interest free loans from Mr Trump worth £40.6m.

The development has long been a source of contention between the Scottish Government and the 73-year-old, who argued it would spoil the view from his golf course.

Mr Trump appeared at Holyrood in April 2012 where he claimed wind energy would lead to the “almost total destruction” of the nation's tourism industry and cause “tremendous damage” to the landscape.

At one point, while being questioned by MSPs over the need for “clinical evidence” instead of opinions, he responded: “First of all, I am the evidence. You know what? I think that I am a lot more of an expert than the people who you would like me to hire, who are doing it to make a paycheck. I am considered a world-class expert in tourism.”

When consent for the offshore development was granted the following March, Mr Trump said he would put his future plans for the resort “on hold” - iit has since secured planning permission for an expansion which will create a second golf course and 550 housing units.

Speaking at the time the windfarm was given the greenlight, Mr described it as a “purely political decision,” and one he would contest.

"We will spend whatever monies are necessary to see to it that these huge and unsightly industrial wind turbines are never constructed,” he promised.

Two months later, Mr Trump instructed his lawyers to take the matter of the North Sea scheme to court.

In an op-ed for the Mail on Sunday newspaper published the same month, he condemned the then First Minister Alex Salmond as “Mad Alex,” and vowed to spend whatever it took to protect the course and the memory of his mother, who hailed from the Hebridean island of Lewis.

“I am going to fight him for as long as it takes - to hell if I have to - and spend as much as it takes to block this useless and grotesque blot on our heritage,” Mr Trump wrote.

“By exposing the fallacy and dan­ger of wind turbines, I will be hon­ouring Mary MacLeod's memory in an even more important way than building the greatest golf course anywhere in the world.”

However, his company was unsuccessful in its attempts, with its initial petition dismissed in February 2014 followed by a second challenge which was rejected the following June.

Mr Trump’s company went on to mount a legal challenge in the Supreme Court. He argued that planning consent for the windfarm was so imprecise as to make it legally invalid. However, judges rejected the legal challenge in a unanimous ruling in December 2015.

In February this year, civil appeal judges Lord Menzies, Lord Malcolm and Lord Drummond Young in the Court of Session ruled that Mr Trump’s firm should pay the legal bills incurred.

The 11 turbine wind power development off the Aberdeen coast began operating last July. Power from the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, which was developed by Swedish energy group, Vattenfall, is being exported to the National Grid. Its turbines are among the most powerful in the world, with a total generating capacity of 93.2 MW.

Welcoming confirmation of the settlement, Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, congratulated the Scottish Government for “resisting repeated attempts” to stop the “popular and much needed” renewable scheme.

He added: “A positive gesture would be for this money recouped from Donald Trump to be committed into programmes which support the growth in community-owned renewables.

“Scotland needs to continue its growth in clean, reliable renewable energy as we transition away from fossil fuels to a zero carbon economy. “

The latest development comes less than a week after Mr Trump was ordered by a New York judge to pay £1.6m for misusing funds from his charity to finance his 2016 political campaign.

Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, said Mr Trump had admitted to "personally misusing funds at the Trump Foundation,” which closed down last year. However, Mr Trump accused her of "deliberately mischaracterising this settlement for political purposes.”

Neither the Trump Organisation nor Trump International Scotland have responded to enquiries from The Scotsman.