Scottish ministers urged to launch review into Trump and Prestwick

The Scottish Government has been urged to launch a review into a state-owned airport's ties with the Trump Organisation and the US military after the US Air Force confirmed scores of its crews have stayed at the US president's loss making Turnberry  resort during layovers in Scotland.
US Air Force crews have stayed at Trump Turnberry around 40 times since 2015.US Air Force crews have stayed at Trump Turnberry around 40 times since 2015.
US Air Force crews have stayed at Trump Turnberry around 40 times since 2015.

Personnel from the USAF routed through Prestwick Airport stayed at Trump Turnberry on approximately 40 separate instances over the past four years, according to preliminary fundings of a USAF internal review.

That number is around ten times the number of stays previously identified through reporting by Politico, and is likely to increase pressure on the USAF to curb the use of the US president's property for crews on refuelling stops at the South Ayrshire airport.

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Ross Greer, the Scottish Greens MSP, said: "The US constitution, through its emoluments clause, forbids a president from enriching themselves from their office. Donald Trump seems to be profiting from the increasingly close relationship between Prestwick airport and his hotel, particularly by US military personnel.

"Given that the US Congress has launched an investigation into these activities, there is now a clear and substantial risk to both Prestwick and Scotland’s global reputation. We could well see airport managers or even Scottish Government officials asked to testify before a Congressional committee investigating a potential breach of the law by their president."

He added: “Before this happens, the Scottish Government must launch its own review and suspend all links between the airport and both the US military and the Trump organisation. They cannot afford to be dragged into the swamp of corruption which surrounds Donald Trump.”

According to the internal review, which scrutinised 659 overnight stays by USAF crews in the vicinity of Prestwick between 2015 and 2019, approximately six per cent were booked at Turnberry.

The airport is responsible for the bookings. Scotland’s transport secretary, Michael Matheson, told Holyrood earlier this week that Turnberry was booked if other hotels were full, or if it was specifically requested.

The review indicated that three quarters (75%) of the overall overnight stays took place in the immediate vicinity of the airport.

It is understood the Mercure hotel in Ayr is among the most popular accommodation options, but that Turnberry has been requested by aircrews, in line with the protocol detailed by the Mr Mathewson.

Around a fifth (18%) of the overnight stays were at hotels in Glasgow. It is believed these are predominantly for aircrew on longer layovers.

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The figures only cover USAF crew, and not other branches of the US military.

It comes as the House Oversight Committee continues to pursue an investigation into US Defence Department spending at Prestwick and Turnberry amid concerns of “serious conflicts of interest” and potential violations of the foreign emoluments clause of the US constitution.

The investigation is looking into a raft of payments to Prestwick's parent company by the Defence Logistics Agency (DLA), a Virginia based US Defence Department agency which deals with the global supply chain for the US military.

The Scotsman revealed in June - the same month the House committee launched its investigation - how the airport had received more than £9.02m from the DLA for the refuelling of military aircraft between October 2017 and March this year. It has received approximately £4.8m in the six months since for hundreds more orders.

As The Scotsman revealed earlier this week, extension to the DLA refuelling deal which was due to come into force next month has been postponed until the beginning of December at the earliest.

The DLA said the decision had nothing to do with the Congressional investigation or USAF review, and that it was ratified on 28 August. The House Oversight Committee first wrote to the Pentagon questioning the DLA deal with Prestwick on 21 June.

According to Air Force statistics between 2015 and 2019, Air Mobility Command aircraft stopped at Prestwick a total of 936 times.

The number of overnight stays has risen sharply over the period, up from 40 over the course of 2015 to 220 in the first eight months of 2019.

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The USAF said standardised routing planning which identified Prestwick as a “top” location, and the fact the airport’s fixed base operation services are available around the clock, were factors in the increased traffic.

A new owner of Prestwick is expected to be announced shortly. The airport was put up for sale earlier this year. Mr Matheson has refused to rule out the sale of the heavily indebted hub to the US military, telling the Scottish Parliament that to comment on the identity of bidders would impinge on the integrity of the sale process.