HE ONCE dubbed him “Mad Alex” and then turned his back on Scotland.
But American business magnate Donald Trump, 68, appeared to have set aside any ill-feeling with First Minister Alex Salmond as he touched down at Turnberry to view his sprawling new acquisition.
He used his second visit to Turnberry since completing the purchase of the Ayrshire resort to say that he had “respect” for Mr Salmond and described their fall-out as “a little argument”.
He said: “Other than the fact we disagree over one element – wind, which is obsolete – I like Alex Salmond.”
Trump’s comments were a far cry from the tirade he unleashed two years ago when the First Minister announced plans to streamline the planning process for offshore wind farms. At that time, the tycoon accused Mr Salmond of being “hell-bent on destroying Scotland’s coastline and therefore Scotland itself”.
In a letter to Mr Salmond, Trump said: “You will single-handedly have done more damage to Scotland than virtually any event in Scottish history!”
He called the development of wind farms “reckless” and insisted he would never be on board.
A development off the coast of Aberdeenshire is the reason Trump’s plans for a second golf course and hotel at his property at Menie remain on hold.
But, speaking as he revealed his plans for “Trump Turnberry”, the tycoon appeared to have softened his tone towards the First Minister, if not his “windmills”.
He vowed to continue opposing wind farms, having already managed to persuade a proposed development off the Irish coast close to Doonbeg – another recent addition to his portfolio – to be scrapped.
“I have to fight them because I have created a masterpiece,” he said in reference to Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen, “and don’t want it to be hurt by an obsolete source of energy.
“I hope this area [South Ayrshire] is as smart as Doonbeg, where they realised that wind farms would be very destructive and were very smart because they terminated it.”
Trump, who is to spend “at least £100 million” renovating the hotel alone at Turnberry, admitted he was more concerned about wind farms than the possibility of Scotland becoming independent.
Asked about September’s vote, he said: “I don’t have any views and it would not be appropriate for me to take a position on it.
“However, I have heard bad things about it from smart people. They say it is not good and think it is negative for Scotland because taxes will go up.
“In two years’ time, if Scotland has become independent, then I may think it was a great mistake. At the moment, though, it would have no impact going forward as far as any investment by me in Scotland is concerned. Wind farms would have an impact; independence would have no impact.”
Work on the hotel, which will be managed by the Trump organisation, will start straight away but changes to the Ailsa course, venue for four Open Championships in the past, will not begin until after next summer’s Women’s British Open.
“There has been a lot of confusion,” said Trump in reference to a long-term management contract reported to be in place with Starwood Hotels. “I own the hotel. There is no debt and no mortgage on it and I’m proud of that.”
On adding his name to the title, he added: “I spoke to people in Scotland who are powerfully political, as well as people high up in the golf world, and they said, ‘We love it’.
“It used to be called Westin Turnberry when the Japanese owned it and I think this sounds better. I’m not doing it for my ego; I’m doing it because it is going to be more successful.
“I’m an artist with things like this and here at Turnberry I have the greatest canvas in all of golf.”
Mr Trump’s initial plans for the Ailsa course involve changes to two of its more spectacular holes – the 10th and 11th – while he will use the iconic lighthouse beside the ninth as a new halfway house.