Tom English: ‘Trump will either win you over.... or run you over’

Donald Trump chats to the press on the thirteenth tee of his golf course on the Menie Estate. Photo: Dan Phillips
Donald Trump chats to the press on the thirteenth tee of his golf course on the Menie Estate. Photo: Dan Phillips
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THE turbines will be located about a mile and a half off the coast of the Menie Estate, 11 of them in total, each one coming in at 640ft high from top to toe.

If they get built – and it looks like they will – Donald Trump will have a majestic view of them from his golf course, from his clubhouse, from his hotel and from the luxury housing he plans – or should that be planned – to build around the site. As he says himself, the turbines are going to be 64 storeys high. They’re going to tower over his links, an undesired backdrop to what he has always argued will be the greatest golf course ever created.

Trump has been concerned for some time about the turbines. Hey, it’s not the golf course he’s worried about, you understand. Lord, no. And it’s not the threat to business at the mooted hotel or the potential calamity he faces when trying to shift all those million-pound houses and the myriad apartments that’s got him bothered.

Yes, his property might have its sea views completely compromised by 11 gigantic whirring monsters, but The Donald is asking us to believe him when he says he’s not thinking about money when he objects to the turbines – he’s thinking about Scotland and its future, he’s thinking about this majestic piece of coastline and how it will be ruined if the turbines are erected, he’s thinking about the damage that will be done to Scottish tourism, how his dear old mother – did he ever mention that she was born here? – would be appalled at the idea.

“Speaking both selfishly and as somebody who loves Scotland, the birthplace of my mother, I hope that the mistake of building these massive and visually destructive power plants is avoided. Don’t be misled. Your coastline will be forever ruined. Your wildlife will be devastated. And your valuable tax revenues wasted.”

The Donald is now interested in wildlife. From capitalist to conservationist. Who’d have thought it? This is a hell of a volte face. For six years he has derided the friends of nature who campaigned against him and what they described as the desperate ecological damage he was likely to cause on this special site and now, suddenly, there is talk of turbines obscuring the view of his hotel, his houses and his apartments and Trump is hugging a Skylark like its his long lost childhood pet.

It’s not an altogether convincing performance, it has to be said.

Since Trump harrumphed his way on to the Aberdeenshire landscape the bulldozers have not just stopped at turning ground and shifting sands. There has been a metaphorical bulldozer at work here, too. A wrecking machine that dismantled anybody who dared get in its way.

It would be hard to catalogue the number of people who have been insulted, threatened and belittled by Trump and his cronies in this whole sorry saga. The intimidation has been on an enormous scale, the downright ignorance of the man at the centre of it all utterly off the charts at times.

Through the sheer weight of his personality and the vastness of his wealth, Trump has built his golf course, if not his ancillary earners like all the real estate which, really, are the meat and drink of the deal as far as making money is concerned.

He has dynamited all protest. Even when he unveiled plans for his clubhouse on the site, described memorably by an opponent, as looking like a “Victorian lunatic asylum”, Trump managed to win the day and get this faux Gothic monstrosity through the planning hearing by eight votes to two.

One of the two who voted against it was then harangued by Trump’s man in Aberdeen, the contemptible George Sorial. “What I said to her is that she is a disgrace and she insults the good taxpayers that elected her,” said Sorial after the meeting. “And there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that she’ll be looking for a new job in May.”

In the business of bullying, Sorial is an expert and he learned at the feet of his master, the king of coercion, Mr Trump.

That, ultimately, is the reason Trump is such a success in his business life. In his dealings with people, he either wins you over or runs you over.

He can berate a councillor, he can badger a resident and try and make fools of the protesters but there’s no talking to a 640ft turbine, now is there?

You can’t bully one of those babies, can you? Or to give the project its correct name, the “European Offshore Wind Development Centre”, which is backed by the European commission as well as many of Trump’s allies up to this point. That’s another problem for Trump: his friends are no longer his friends when it comes to the wind farm.

Renewable energy is also one of the centre-pieces of Alex Salmond’s leadership. Salmond has been a steadfast supporter of Trump in relation to the building of the golf course, but he’s not offering him any backing in his objection to the wind farm. How could he? This is a vision of the future that Salmond believes in.

The current situation was summed up nicely the other day by David Milne, a local resident and enemy of the American. “It goes back to the usual ‘them or us’ argument,” he said. “It is one failing golf course project versus an entire industry; an industry that has allowed Aberdeen to become one of the busiest and most successful cities in the UK for the last 30 years and has the potential to keep Aberdeen thriving for the next hundred years if allowed to develop and grow.”

So the choice is simple: it is between the children of the country growing up to be bed-changers and grass-cutters or growing up with the opportunity to be engineers, designers, developers and builders, along with the slew of unskilled trades that all real industry brings with it.”

Trump has suspended further development on the Menie Estate pending a government decision on the wind farm. For all the talk of his adoration of Scotland would he be interested in retaining the golf course if he felt the wind farm scuppered the property angle? Is he that much in love with golf and the country of his mother’s birth?

There is a feeling among his opponents – and maybe it’s just a hope – that he will cut his losses in that eventuality and run away. Some are convinced that he’ll soon be looking for a way out.

This has been an epic battle from the beginning and it’s too early to say that it’s coming close to end game. But how ironic it would be if the blowhard’s grand vision was undone by a wind farm.