Donald Trump says he was 'lured' into building £1bn golf resort

From Democracy Live: Donald Trump took part in a media conference after the committee met

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Tycoon Donald Trump has said he was "lured" into building a £1bn golf resort in Scotland with assurances that a nearby wind farm would not go ahead.

The US businessman is strongly opposing plans for an offshore development near his golf course in Aberdeenshire.

Mr Trump said he was assured by the former and current first ministers, Jack McConnell and Alex Salmond, that the project would not happen.

Lord McConnell and Mr Salmond have denied the claims.

Mr Trump's comments came as he appeared in person before the Scottish Parliament's economy, energy and tourism committee, which is conducting an inquiry into whether the Scottish government can meet its green energy targets.

Ministers want to see Scotland generating the equivalent of 100% of its own electricity demand from renewable resources by 2020.

Start Quote

At Holyrood, Donald Trump expresses his considerable disquiet at proposals to site an offshore wind development in a proximity to his golf course which he regards as uncomfortably close”

End Quote

As the committee sat inside the Edinburgh parliament, two groups of pro and anti-wind farm activists faced each other outside the building, separated by police officers.

Mr Trump said he supported renewable developments like wave and tidal power, but said the use of wind farms was "one of the most serious problems Scotland will have or has had".

The entrepreneur said they were inefficient, could not operate without big subsides, "killed massive amounts of wildlife" and would damage tourism.

When challenged to provide statistical evidence for his arguments, Mr Trump told the committee: "I am the evidence."

His comments are at odds with the Scottish government's drive to turn the country into Europe's green capital.

Mr Trump first mooted his plans for the resort, at Menie, as far back as 2006, when Labour politician Lord McConnell was Scottish first minister and Mr Salmond was SNP leader. Mr Salmond's party went on to win the May 2007 Scottish election.

Mr Trump told MSPs that when he heard of plans for 11 turbines off Aberdeen Bay, 2km (1.2 miles) from his golf resort, he considered moving the development to Ireland.

"Jack McConnell said it won't be built," Mr Trump told the committee.

protesters Protesters on both sides of the wind farm debate gathered outside the parliament

"His people were telling my people that it won't happen. They talked about the Ministry of Defence would never approve it, because it had something to do with radar, and they talked about the shipping lanes, especially because it's near Aberdeen.

"They said it won't happen. It was very prevalent for a short period of time and then it totally disappeared."

Mr Trump went on: "Based on that, I decided, I'll go forward."

He also said that, during a dinner attended by Mr Salmond in New York in October 2007, he was "led to believe" there would be no wind farm.

Mr Trump told the committee: "In the meantime, Alex Salmond, when I discussed it with him towards the beginning, he poo-pooed it and said: 'You have a Ministry of Defence problem, you have all sorts of shipping lane problems, I wouldn't worry about that', and I continued to go forward.

Start Quote

What they did is they lured me in, I spent this money, and now I might regret it”

End Quote Donald Trump

"Now I invested tens of millions of pounds, I've completed my site ahead of schedule. I built something that is spectacular - even my enemies say the most spectacular - and really good."

Mr Trump went on: "I felt betrayed, because I invested my money based on statements that were made to me.

"Lots of very smart people with a lot of money are looking to invest in different parts of the world - when they see what happened to me and the way I've been treated, they're not going to be investing in Scotland."

"If Jack McConnell says to me and his representatives say to us that that won't happen and then it goes away, and then I build and invest all this money and then it re-emerges - I don't think that's fair to an investor.

"What they did is they lured me in, I spent this money, and now I might regret it."

'Not given'

Mr Salmond later told the BBC that he had given no assurances to Mr Trump and his organisation.

He said: "I spoke to Donald Trump a few weeks ago where he accepted on the phone that this administration had not given them assurances about offshore wind - it was the previous administration. They were arguing that we were bound by the policies of the previous administration, which in itself is a nonsense."

Lord McConnell added: "Mr Trump was treated with the same respect and courtesy that I and my government treated all potential inward investors.

Analysis

donald trump and alex salmond

As men of the world, Donald Trump and Alex Salmond aren't all that dissimilar.

The US tycoon and the first minister of Scotland both like to get things done with minimal messing about - even if noses are sometimes put slightly out of joint.

Mr Trump's decision to build a £1bn golf resort in Aberdeenshire - billed as the most luxurious of its kind - was a good news story for the government, given one of the world's wealthiest entrepreneurs wanted to do business in Scotland.

But plans for a nearby offshore wind development - literally too close for comfort as far as Mr Trump is concerned - seem to have soured that relationship.

Subsequent events have found the two engaging in a sort-of war of words - Mr Trump's increasingly inflammatory attacks on wind power have been met with Mr Salmond's more measured response on the importance of green energy to Scotland's economic future.

This parliamentary inquiry is not a showdown between Mr Salmond and Mr Trump, it is a probing of the government's renewable energy targets - but exchanges between the two have become a big part of the story.

The first minister says he doesn't expect Mr Trump to back offshore wind, but he does want a little understanding about the government's ambitious renewable energy aims.

It has created a tricky situation for Mr Salmond, who wants to balance major investments like the Trump resort along with his drive to make Scotland Europe's green energy capital.

Either way, the first minister has made clear to Mr Trump - and others - that investment in Scotland doesn't imply ownership of Scotland.

"It is a pity that he doesn't return that courtesy now.

"He was encouraged to be interested in Scotland, but always told that we had procedures about planning applications and consents that must be followed, and about which he could receive no prior guarantees."

Mr Trump also used the evidence session to attack the concept of wind farms, telling MSPs: "Many countries have decided they don't want wind because it doesn't work without massive subsidies - it kills massive amounts of birds and wildlife and there are lots of other reasons.

"It's a very inefficient form of energy. It's an energy that, when you need it most, you don't get it because the wind isn't blowing.

"They are so unattractive, so ugly, so noisy and so dangerous that, if Scotland does this, I think Scotland will be in serious trouble - I think you'll lose your tourism industry to Ireland and lots of other places that are laughing at what Scotland is doing."

The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, which Mr Trump is objecting to, is a £150m joint venture by utility company Vattenfall, engineering firm Technip and Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group.

Scottish ministers have yet to make a decision on whether to approve the project.

Mr Trump, whose organisation said it would be prepared to spend up to £10m fighting such developments, argued it would spoil the sea views for his customers at the Menie resort.

Mr Trump said he did not want to see his resort "destroyed by having 11 monstrosities built looming over it, literally one mile away".

The Scottish government said offshore wind was worth £30bn of investment to Scotland, and could create up to 28,000 Scottish jobs.

Ministers have also disputed Mr Trump's claims over wind farms damaging tourism, saying visitor numbers - including those from North America - were on the rise.

When challenged to back up his claims with clinical evidence, Mr Trump said: "I am the evidence", adding: "I am considered a world-class expert in tourism, so when you say, 'where is the expert and where is the evidence', I'm the evidence."

Responding to the first minister's comments that he gave no assurance to Mr Trump, the tycoon said: "Mr Salmond's denying other things today on the front page," which was a reference to the first minister's alleged dealings with News Corp and its planned BSkyB takeover.

Mr Trump also brought up the Scottish government's decision to release the terminally-ill Lockerbie bomber, in relation to his claims that the SNP had not given the full facts about renewable energy during the Holyrood election campaign.

He said: "This is the same thinking that gave you Megrahi, where they let him out of prison because he'd be dead within two weeks - well, guess what, he was seen running in the park last week."

Mr Trump said his golf course was due to open in July, but his plans for a hotel and hundreds of homes on the site have been put on hold.

David Rodger, spokesman for the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, said: "The project partners are disappointed by the disproportionate campaign against the EOWDC and Scotland's wind energy industry.

"The Scottish planning process should be allowed to deliver the right outcome for the proposal."

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