Scottish Parliament to hold vote on Unexplained Wealth Order into Donald Trump's finances

MSPs will be asked to vote this week on whether the Scottish Government should pursue an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) to investigate the source of financing for Donald Trump’s Scottish resorts.
Donald Trump at his Turnberry resort, which he bought in a £35m cash deal in 2014. Picture: Jan Kruger/GettyDonald Trump at his Turnberry resort, which he bought in a £35m cash deal in 2014. Picture: Jan Kruger/Getty
Donald Trump at his Turnberry resort, which he bought in a £35m cash deal in 2014. Picture: Jan Kruger/Getty

An opposition debate in the Scottish Parliament will set out the arguments for ministers to apply to the Court of Session and act on growing concerns over how the former US president’s holdings in Scotland were acquired.

While the issue has been discussed three times at Holyrood in the past 12 months, the coming debate is significant.

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A vote by MSPs calling on ministers to seek an UWO would not be binding, but it would substantially increase pressure on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to act in line with Holyrood’s will.

Wednesday’s debate is being brought to the chamber by Patrick Harvie, co-convenor of the Scottish Greens, who has repeatedly pressed Ms Sturgeon to look into “serious and evidenced concerns” surrounding Mr Trump’s purchases of the Turnberry resort, and land for his inaugural Scottish property in Aberdeenshire.

The Scotsman revealed last month how Aidan O’Neill QC, one of Scotland’s leading advocates, said Scottish ministers alone had responsibility for pursuing one of the so-called ‘McMafia’ orders, a legal mechanism designed to target suspected corrupt foreign officials who have potentially laundered stolen money through the UK.

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Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly said any decisions around applications for an UWO were the responsibility of the Lord Advocate.

But in his advice, prepared for the activism group Avaaz, Mr O’Neill said that even if the immediate departmental responsibility for seeking an UWO was allocated to the Lord Advocate or the Crown Office, it “does and cannot change the legal responsibilities” of ministers as the “relevant enforcement or competent authority” for the administration of the orders.

Mr Harvie told The Scotsman: “The Scottish Government has tried to avoid the question of investigating Donald Trump’s wealth for far too long. There are serious concerns about how he financed the cash purchases of his Scottish golf courses, but no investigation has ever taken place.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s claims that it has nothing to do with her have been shown to be untrue. It’s long past time the government demonstrated that Scotland cannot be a country where anyone with the money can buy whatever land and property they want, no questions asked.

“That’s why I’m bringing this vote to Parliament. The government must seek an unexplained wealth order to shine a light on Trump’s shadowy dealings.”

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Questioned in Holyrood in January, Ms Sturgeon said she had not read Mr O’Neill’s advice ”in detail,” and the government had its own sources of legal advice.

It is understood she has since been sent Mr O’Neill’s advice in full. This week's debate is expected to challenge Ms Sturgeon to set out the government’s legal reasoning.

Nick Flynn, legal director at Avaaz, has said Ms Sturgeon has been “avoiding” questions around Mr Trump’s purchase of Turnberry for nearly two years.

Questions surrounding Mr Trump’s £35m cash acquisition of Turnberry – a four-time host of golf’s Open championship – predate his single term in office.

The Trump Organisation did not respond to a request for comment, but Mr Trump and his company have always denied they used outside financing for their Scottish properties, which are yet to turn a profit under his ownership.

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