US golf developer accuses opponents of anti-American bias

A US businessman behind plans to build a world-class golf course on protected sand dunes in the Highlands has hit out at conservationists campaigning to halt the scheme for likening him to Donald Trump and whipping up hatred of Americans.

Todd Warnock wants to build a golf course at Coul Links.

Todd Warnock hails from Michigan in the US but now lives in Dornoch, in Sutherland. He owns three businesses in the town and is now part of a team aiming to create an 18-hole championship golf course at nearby Coul Links, outside Embo.

He believes the venture will bring much-needed jobs and income to the area, which is home to the internationally renowned Royal Dornoch course.

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The proposal has won backing from some locals but has sparked fierce opposition from environmental groups, who fear the development would cause permanent damage and jeopardise the survival of threatened wildlife.

Groups including RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) insist building a course at Coul Links, a designated site of special scientific interest, will destroy one of Scotland’s last areas of pristine dune habitat and harm rare birds, plants and insects.

Now Mr Warnock claims he and his American partners, including billionaire golf mogul Mike Keiser, are being held up as “peas in a pod” with the president, who has caused huge controversy in Scotland over his golf resort in Aberdeenshire and worldwide due to his stance on immigrants and the environment.

He stresses he has “never worked with, supported or agreed with” Mr Trump.

However, he says opposition campaigners have been making parallels between the development team and the US leader just because of their shared nationality. They ignore the substantial environmentalist accomplishments of Mike Keiser and I whilst taking every opportunity to simply label us as ‘American millionaires’, clearly, in my view, endeavouring to whip up anti-American feeling,” he said.

Conservationists have denied the accusations.

Bruce Wilson, senior policy officer for SWT, said: “Our concerns regarding plans for the site are based solely on the impact that building a golf course on these dunes will have on an area whose importance is reflected by several international designations.”

But Aedán Smith, head of planning and development at RSPB Scotland, added: “Given that the last controversial golf course development seen in Scotland was proposed by Mr Trump it is inevitable that comparisons will be made.”

Nearly 1,000 objections have been sent to planners.