THE £5 million bill for policing Donald Trump’s flying visit to Scotland was questioned yesterday after activists got within yards of the president inside his Turnberry resort.
The cost to taxpayers of his weekend in Ayrshire was under renewed scrutiny after Mr Trump enjoyed a round of golf but conducted no official business.
As thousands of Scots protested his arrival, critics claimed millions of pounds of public money had been squandered to help the president promote his luxury Turnberry resort around the world.
The cost of the security operation was under particular scrutiny after it emerged that environmental campaign group Greenpeace not only managed to fly a paraglider close to the president outside the hotel but had a number of activists booked in as guests.
It filmed the stunt on Friday night as the president was ushered inside Trump Turnberry while US secret service agents stood yards away and hundreds of police officers formed a ring of steel around the five-star golf resort.
The hundreds of police officers at Ayrshire – some posted selfies of themselves with the president’s helicopter – vastly outnumbered the number of protesters, with the biggest demonstration taking place 90 miles away in Edinburgh.
Security experts and Greenpeace, who were protesting the US’s stance on climate change and fossil fuels, voiced surprise at how easy it was to get close to one of the most powerful men in the world.
Two activists were able to get round the security by simply booking a room at the hotel. The pair – who have been involved with the environmental group for a number of years – used their own names to book the rooms, raising questions about whether guests were screened before the president arrived in Scotland.
Greenpeace says it told the authorities the paraglider was heading for Turnberry 10 minutes before he took off.
Police Scotland said yesterday it had launched an investigation to try to trace the pilot because he had breached an air exclusion zone.
But it is understood the paraglider, who had trailed a banner stating “Trump Well Below Par”, flew another three miles, landed the aircraft then travelled to a nearby hotel to stay the night while police officers made no attempts to contact him.
Greenpeace said it was keeping his identity secret but he had been involved in a number of previous stunts.
Ben Spencer, of the environmental charity, said: “He’s an experienced pilot and he’s done stuff like this before although this would be the most high-profile.
“As far as I’m aware, there has been no contact from Police Scotland to Greenpeace asking to help trace him.
“We were a little surprised at how easy it all was.
“We have experience of these sorts of things and this took a couple of weeks to prepare for but nothing too much.
“We had people inside the hotel who booked in using their own names.
“There was a search on them before checking in but apart from that there was nothing.
“I have no idea if the activists are known to authorities but they have been involved with Greenpeace for a number of years.”
Police Scotland refused to say what steps officers had taken as part of its investigation into the incident.
But security experts have voiced concerns. Will Geddes, an international security specialist who has been involved in past state visit planning, said: “I’m frankly shocked by all of this.
“The security brief on this would be a joint project between the US team and Police Scotland.
“If I had been heading up the security on this, I would have been asking the hotel for a list of the guests staying and cross-referencing who they were.
“It’s obviously a lot easier if you own the hotel, like President Trump does.
“You’d be looking for people who had the potential to embarrass and humiliate the president and if these people are known Greenpeace activists, they’d fall into that bracket.
“I’m a little gobsmacked about Police Scotland’s reaction as well.
“It is embarrassing for them if they have made little or no efforts to track down someone who they say has broken the law in such a high-profile way.”
It was reported police marksmen were trained on the pilot during the incident and sources said securing airspace was notoriously difficult.
Terrorism experts said the stunt could have backfired, with the pilot lucky to escape with his life.
Chris Phillips, former head of the UK National Counter-Terrorism Security Office, said: “The pilot could have been shot.
“People forget that – they take these risks and in most countries in the world they would end up getting shot out of the sky.
“Was it a threat? Of course it could have been. The threat of drones and aircraft is very real.
“It is a little bit of a failure, you don’t want anyone to get that close without authority and you don’t know whether the guy has got a gun.
“I think there will be meetings going on to work out what happened and how to stop it in the future. They may have been monitoring and realised he wasn’t threat – that is feasible as well.”
Meanwhile, police officers involved in protecting the president as he took to the golf course posted pictures on social media yesterday after they posed by his private helicopter.
Fellow guests at upmarket Turnberry also posted pictures of them freely mingling with President Trump and his wife, Melania as they enjoyed a meal.
A senior police source defended the force’s handling of the security and insisted that the president’s life was at no stage in danger.
They said: “The only person whose life was at risk was the pilot.”
Police Scotland said the £5m cost was for the entire operation, which included policing a number of demonstrations over the weekend.
The cost will be paid by Westminster as part of the overall bill for Mr Trump’s visit to Britain. He leaves Scotland today before a crucial summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin tomorrow.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams said: “There is a robust security plan in place and we are working closely with the United States Secret Service and other police forces to protect the president. This plan includes an air exclusion zone and breaching it is a criminal offence.
“There was no direct threat to the president and anyone with any information about the incident on Friday evening should contact Police Scotland on 101.”