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10 years ago, Trump promised us a £1 billion investment and the world’s best golf course: Critic says US President owes Scotland an apology

Donald Trump visiting the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire before his golf resort was built (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)
Donald Trump visiting the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire before his golf resort was built (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

DONALD TRUMP promised Scotland a lot. Ten years on, his critics say he has delivered little.

The world’s greatest golf course, a £1 billion investment, a five-star hotel with 450 bedrooms, 950 luxury flats and the creation of 6000 jobs were to be delivered to the north east by the man who would be president.

For many in Aberdeenshire, the destruction of sand dunes along the coast, a protected conservation site of special scientific interest (SSSI), to make way for Trump’s resort seemed a price worth paying.

A decade on, the project has delivered only a fraction of what was promised and there seems to be little prospect that it ever will.

Aberdeenshire councillor Martin Ford was against the project and paid a heavy personal price for his dissent. With the casting vote as chairman of the infrastructure services committee which was charged with deciding the application, he broke a 7-7 deadlock by refusing Trump’s proposal.

He was to endure a barrage of criticism from around the world, and police advising him to stay at home with the door bolted. The furore was so strong that within two weeks he was ousted as chairman by his council colleagues on December 12, 2007.

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Trump’s proposal was later called in by the Scottish Government as a matter of national importance and in 2008, the green light was given.

Cllr Ford has always maintained he made the right decision and, in the week of the 10th anniversary of his removal as a committee chairman, said: “There are around 100 employees working there now, nowhere near the 6000 promised.

“The resort outlined was two golf courses, a clubhouse, 36 golf villas, 950 timeshare flats, practice areas and a new-build 450 bedroom five-star hotel. And he made it clear he had to have everything or he’d walk.

“Ten years later, he’s built one golf course. A much smaller clubhouse than anticipated, and converted an existing building into a 16-bed hotel.

“No timeshare flats, no five-star hotel, a minute fraction of what was promised. The economic benefits are minuscule. We’ve lost our irreplaceable nature conservation site and for what? We’ve been done, basically.”

He added: “I think the whole thing here was a dry run for his presidential campaign. He made ridiculous claims and gross exaggerations which he established by repetition. He said he was going to build the greatest golf resort in the world. How do you measure a golf course’s greatness?

“He’s going to make America great again. Come re-election time, he’ll say he’s done it and how can you measure how great it is? He said 93% of people in the area were in favour of his plans. He produced no evidence, he made it up and kept repeating it.

“It was the same kind of dishonesty and ridiculous claims when he ran for president, but on a grander scale.”

Councillors who rejected the application found themselves at the centre of a media storm.

Much of the ire centred on Cllr Ford. His removal as a committee chairman was pushed through even though most councillors agreed he was following planning policy.

“He has harsh words for those who turned their back on him a decade ago.

Cllr Ford said: “If you believed everything Trump said, you were pretty gullible. There were those who didn’t really believe him but felt there was too much pressure on them to say it was a mistake.

“The people who supported it then were either gullible or cowards. There isn’t another option.”

Eric Trump, son of the US President, said earlier this year there were still “huge plans for future investment” at the resort in Balmedie.

Aberdeenshire Council leader Jim Gifford, who supported the application from the outset, recently said it had not been worth it.

Despite the tide of opinion turning in recent years, Cllr Ford hasn’t received any apologies.

“I never had any apology but I don’t think that’s important,” he said.

“The council appeared at a public inquiry in support of the plan even though one of their own committees had rejected it. They owe the people of Aberdeenshire an apology.”

The Trump Organisation responded: “95% of the SSSI remains completely untouched and we have planted grass on less than 5% to create our award-winning golf course, which drives tens of thousands of golfers and much needed leisure visitors to the region.

“Aberdeenshire has lost nothing and gained immeasurably, even at this stage in our multi-phased project.

“It’s also well documented that Trump invested £200 million in Turnberry while we were forced to challenge an industrial wind plant next to our Aberdeenshire property.

“Trump has invested over £300 million in the Scottish economy and is set to continue spending hundreds of millions more in the coming years.”