Last week, the UK Supreme Court unanimously rejected an appeal by Donald Trump to scrap a planned wind farm near his golf course
Many locals opposed the construction of the course, which was built in part on a place designated for conservation
On the windswept Aberdeenshire coast, the gusts are strong enough to disrupt even the most determined comb-over. But the gale-force winds aren’t the only element on the horizon here that can ruffle Donald Trump.
Strong, gusty winds that create unique coastal conditions are a crucial factor for a links style golf course, but it seems those same winds are working against Trump and his desire for an unspoiled view for golfers on his luxury course in the northeast corner of Scotland. The brouhaha over construction of a nearby wind farm and his ambitious course has divided opinion on the real estate developer on the British Isles, just as in the United States.
Last week, the UK Supreme Court unanimously rejected an appeal by the mogul to scrap the planned £230 million European Offshore Wind Development Centre, an 11-turbine offshore wind farm. It just happens to be 2 miles from – and in direct line of sight of – Trump’s extensive golf development to the north of Aberdeen, an oil-rich city on Scotland’s rugged coast.
Trump maintained that the turbines would spoil the view from the course, and his legal team mounted a number of – ultimately unsuccessful – challenges arguing that planning consent for the multimillion-pound project was so imprecise it was rendered invalid.
Trump’s representative for the suit, George Sorial, lambasted the decision in a statement, calling it an “extremely unfortunate verdict” and describing the Scottish government as “foolish, small-minded and parochial” and “on the wrong side of history.”
Neither the Trump organization in New York nor the golf course management responded to CNN requests for comment.
The decision comes after a protracted and unseemly tangle over the development in which many Aberdonians voiced their opposition to the creation of Trump International Golf Links, which opened in 2012.
Locals opposed the construction of the course, which was built partially on a local Site of Special Scientific Interest, a legal designation designed to protect conservation areas.
Residents, including David Milne, a landowner who refused to sell to Trump, accuse the organization of “ongoing harassment and intimidation” toward the farmers living on the land, including the building of high fences and earth berms around properties to restrict their views.
Milne accused the golf course of having cut his water supply accidentally while planting trees and cutting the power supply while erecting a new fence by his property.
But not everyone on this side of the Atlantic is opposed to the development or Trump, whose mother hailed from the Scottish island of Lewis.
Bill Bremner, a local golfer who was at the course on Monday, said Trump had brought a “superb product” here.
“From that point of view, everything you can say about him is positive,” Bremner said. “His personality is what puts people against him, but what he does for the area is just fantastic.”
Another local visitor, Darren Sutherland, who had taken his young daughter to Trump’s Aberdeenshire course for a Christmas celebration, was sanguine about the Republican presidential front-runner’s vitriol on the campaign trail.
“(His comments) don’t impact me at all – I think what he’s done for Aberdeen is pretty good, bringing in tourism,” Sutherland explained. “I think he goes about things the wrong way, but he’s perfectly entitled to voice his opinion.”
So would he be happy to see a Trump presidency? “I wouldn’t go that far,” Sutherland noted.
Others were not so positive.
When the course was under development, “there were a lot of people against it, including me,” said Bernard Martin, an Aberdeen resident of 35 years at the course Monday to have lunch with his wife and adult daughter.
Now, he said, there’s divided opinion on Trump, but many are turned off.
“He’s pretty much the same as he is in the States,” Martin said. “There are local businesses that support him, but I think it’s pretty much the bullying tactics that put people off him.”
Trump’s campaign trail rhetoric has also reverberated beyond the golf course. Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University earlier this month rescinded an honorary degree it awarded Trump in 2010 in “recognition of his achievements as an entrepreneur and businessman,” according to a statement from Robert Gordon University seen by CNN.
The RGU statement explained that the degree had since been revoked after “a number of statements” made by Trump during the course of the U.S. election campaign “that are wholly incompatible with the ethos and values of the university.”
Around the same time, the Scottish government stripped him of a business ambassador role in the GlobalScot business network, an advocacy group to promote Scottish business interests.
While many students from the university wholeheartedly support the decision to strip Trump of the honor, others support him – at least his message, if not delivery.
At the university’s Garthdee campus in the city, an Indian graduate student who asked to remain anonymous said he felt RGU had removed the degree for “the way that Trump made those statements” about banning Muslims from entering the United States, but he said he supported the Republican’s hard-line stance on “extremism.”
In contrast, Esraa Aboufandi, a hijab-wearing Dutch student studying international business management, said Trump’s comments about Muslims on the campaign trail were “very rude, very offensive actually.”
She continued, “I didn’t know that he had a degree from RGU, but the university was absolutely right to rescind his degree. Before I had some respect for Trump as a businessman and a public figure, but that has all since disappeared.”
The view is shared by faculty members, who overwhelmingly supported the university’s decision to rescind the degree.
“The way that he has come out and spoken so viciously about minorities in the United States proves that he wasn’t a good candidate and after some lobbying and an online petition he has, rightfully, been stripped of this degree,” said one, who asked not to be named.
Another, David Crossen, a lecturer at the university’s art school, said the decision “came rather too late.”
“I wish he hadn’t been awarded a degree in the first place. I haven’t really seen any good coming out of his ties with the area,” he said. “I think he is making more money than is being put into the local economy.”
It’s not only Aberdeen that stands to lose from Trump, he added: “I think a Trump presidency could be a disaster for the world.”