Turnberry braced for Trump arrival

Brian Taylor
Political editor, Scotland
@tannadiceladon Twitter

  • Published
Armed police at Turnberry
Image caption,
A massive police operation is under way around Turnberry, where Mr Trump will spend the weekend

Here at Turnberry, they are ready. The preparations have all been made. The weather is looking fine and settled, albeit a fraction short of the tropical conditions of the last fortnight or so.

Yes, at Trump Turnberry, all is set for the big weekend wedding.

Meanwhile, the golfers are out on the famous links. I have played them myself in the past and can readily attest that they are notably challenging - with ankle-biting gorse and scarcely an accessible fairway on the course. But then my handicap is a little higher than three.

What's that? You're expecting me to write about Donald Trump? Well, firstly, the foregoing tosh is what is known to the wicked media as colour.

Secondly, I would plead that I am merely - and metaphorically - reflecting the faintly surreal nature of the entire visit thus far.

As evidence, I offer the news conference which President Trump conducted alongside a somewhat nervous prime minister. (Hey, you'd be nervous too if you were wondering each and every second what your neighbour was about to say or do.)

The president offered ample and amplified reassurance about his attitude towards Theresa May - as if it had been an entirely different Donald John Trump who had trashed her Brexit deal and praised her biggest internal rival, Boris Johnson, in an interview with The Sun.

Shared breakfast

At one point, he even said he had noted reports to the effect that Brexit negotiations would be difficult. Reports, perhaps, of his own comments, taped by the newspaper and used by broadcasters around the globe.

At Chequers - where the Brexit deal was reached - Mr Trump was emollient, even gushing. Theresa May was a wonderful woman. Terrific. Great, altogether. They had shared breakfast, lunch and dinner. (His engagement with the Queen is a cup of tea, albeit in the best Windsor china.)

And the substance? Still seemingly nervous, Mrs May repeatedly quoted President Trump as saying that talks to secure an "ambitious" trade deal between the UK and the US were still on.

He had suggested in The Sun that such a deal might be jeopardised in that Mrs May's Brexit proposals were tantamount to requiring the US to deal with the EU. Up with which he would not put.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The prime minister was visibly nervous during a joint media conference with the president

In response to questions, Mrs May sidestepped the comments about Mr Johnson, deferring to the president. Mr Trump confirmed that he had indeed suggested that the erstwhile foreign secretary would make a fine prime minister.

But this had been nothing to do with his views about the current incumbent. Who was, lest we had missed the point, wonderful, excellent, superb…..ach, you get the concept by now.

Onwards then, eventually, to Ayrshire. And Trump Turnberry. At which point the issue arises of the welcome - or otherwise - to be afforded to the president in the land of his mother's birth.

Nearly every political leader has found something to criticise - although, of course, the range has varied very substantially.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Huge protests against Mr Trump have been held in London, with more planned when he arrives in Scotland

Labour's Richard Leonard and Patrick Harvie of the Greens have been competing in vitriol. Eventually, they combined to demand that Prestwick should be closed to Mr Trump on the grounds that it is presently owned by the public.

David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, who will meet the president at the airport, disagrees. Mr Mundell says he dissents from elements of the Trump policy package, such as Iran. But he says it is important to offer a greeting to the incumbent holder of the office of US president.

He notes further that the US is Scotland's largest overseas export market - and that it would scarcely enhance trade to insult the office of the presidency.

Others, such as Christine Jardine of the Liberal Democrats, argue, nevertheless, that it is vital to protest against sundry elements of the Trump personality and programme. Such protests will be on the streets of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and elsewhere.

Conundrum for Sturgeon

Which leaves the SNP. Their leaders, their elected tribunes, have been to the fore in criticising President Trump. Decidedly to the fore. But they face an additional conundrum which liberated opposition politicians escape.

Nicola Sturgeon, of course, is more than the leader of the SNP. She is the elected first minister of Scotland, required to represent this devolved nation in building and sustaining global connections.

She can only go so far in criticising an individual politician. Go too far and it risks tipping over into contumely for the office of president, perhaps even for the US itself.

That is why it is Keith Brown who will attend the Glasgow anti-Trump protest. Mr Brown is Ms Sturgeon's deputy - which gives him party political clout and signals the stance of the SNP.

But he is now, to his intense personal regret, shorn of governmental office. Which distances him from Bute House and the Scottish Cabinet.

At Turnberry, all the best to the happy couple and to those intrepid souls who venture onto the links.