Doing business the Donald Trump way

This is a guest column; ‘Mihael Willman’ is the pseudonym for a concerned Canadian -JG.

by Mihael Willman

“From the moment the wind farm was approved, Trump has carried on a raging feud with the Scottish government. His actions certainly don’t back up the claim that his business record is of benefit on the world stage. Unfortunately, because it is an issue which directly affects Scotland, probably very few Americans are even aware of what is going on and how Trump is behaving.”

“I’m a world class businessman,” is a favorite statement of Trump’s. Similarly, during the September Republican debate, Trump claimed that his business record would help him on the world stage. However, an examination of just how he conducts his business brings these statements into question.

When local authorities rejected his development plans for a resort complex, including a hotel, 1,500 luxury homes and two golf courses on a protected part of Aberdeenshire coast, because of concerns over environmental damage, Trump simply turned to the Scottish government. The latter overruled the local council in 2008 and granted approval because of the promise of hundreds of tourism jobs that would be created.

Reality is something else. The documentary “You’ve Been Trumped,” by film-maker Anthony Baxter, documents the damage done to the Aberdeenshire coast and just how poorly Trump and his son Donald Jr. treated the locals, whose families have lived for generations there.

Both he and his son bullied local residents whose property bordered the development and threatened them with “compulsory purchase” if they refused to sell their land. People who objected to the development were belittled and called “pigs” and “slum” dwellers. These same people whom Trump disparaged and ridiculed, film-maker Anthony Baxter found to have a passion for the environment and a desire to protect their homes and way of life. In other words, people like the rest of us, fighting to preserve the beauty and uniqueness of their corner of the world.

Locals watched helplessly as their property lines were redrawn, and their fences and buildings were demolished. Hundreds of acres of rare sand dunes, home to many different species of birds and wildlife, were covered with grass to anchor them in place and prevent them from moving. Wetlands and forests were destroyed to create what Trump calls “the world’s greatest golf course”. As if the world has a shortage of golf courses. According to Trump, his development was going to make the area “better than it is now” while also creating more than 6,000 jobs. Sorry, Donald, but the beauty of Mother Nature trumps your developments hands down.

Two individuals who have suffered the wrath of “The Donald”, are clear examples of how Trump and his organization treat ordinary people. This is something supporters of his presidential bid should consider carefully. David Milne, whose only “crime” is protecting his property rights, was threatened with legal action by Trump’s lawyers in a boundary dispute, and a demand that he demolish his garage which Trump claimed was on his land! Milne, who had proof of his title to the land was accused by Trump’s local manager of taking “an aggressive stance.” Andy Wightman, an expert in land rights, confirmed Milnes’ title to the land and commented on the threats by Trump’s lawyers: “It is totally out of order for them to issue threats of legal action to demolish other people’s property. I am dismayed that a Scottish law firm has been persuaded to follow through and issue such threats to people who simply wish to live in peace.”

As if these threats were not enough, Trump’s contractors then built a fence around Milne’s property and planted dozens of trees, sending him a bill for half of the cost – $4,600! Adding insult to injury, Trump even went so far as to apply for planning permission for the land on which Milne’s home stands! Talk about arrogance, hubris and a total disregard for other people’s rights.

Another victim of Trump’s “world class” business tactics is Michael Forbes, a local farmer and salmon fisherman. The latter refused to sell his land even though he was offered £450,000 as well as an annual salary of £50,000 for some future job. He was then threatened with a “compulsory purchase order” (expropriation?) to remove him from his land. According to Trump the properties are “disgusting eyesores that no one should have to look at,” and would spoil the view from his future hotel. Cultivating good neighbor policies is something Trump and his organization definitely don’t know how to do.

All is not quite idyllic in Trump’s golf paradise. Unfortunately, for “The Donald,” who bought the land in 2006, three years earlier plans began to be formulated for the Aberdeen Bay Wind Farm. The project, which originally called for 20 turbines, is part of the Scottish government’s goal to produce all its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Later reduced to 11 turbines, the wind farm was given government approval in 2013.

In January 2012, Trump announced that work on his development had stopped until a decision was made on the wind farm proposal. This goes contrary to earlier statements, in June 2011, when he said that “the world has crashed” and that due to the recession work on the luxury hotel, houses and second golf course was on hold. At this time the development was said to be worth £750 million, while in other reports it is placed at £1.3 billion. Then in October, 2012, he stated that the hotel would not be built until the wind farm application was rejected. He went on to warn Scottish leaders not to: “destroy your coastlines and your countryside with the monstrous turbines. Your country will become a third world wasteland that global investors will avoid.”

In April 2012 Trump appeared before a Scottish parliamentary committee on economy, energy and tourism, at which time he claimed that government leaders had promised him that the wind farm would not be built. He went on to accuse them of luring him: “they lured me in, I spent this money, and now I might regret it.” Challenged to provide evidence to support his claims that wind turbines were inefficient, would damage tourism, needed enormous subsidies and “killed massive amounts of wildlife,” Trump arrogantly replied: “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.” Clearly Trump believes that his opinion and words carry greater weight than any possible study or evidence does.

A few weeks before this appearance, and a few months before the golf course was to open, Trump issued an open letter to protest against the plans to build the wind farm. After destroying the area’s natural beauty to create his playground for the super rich, Trump threatened to sue if the project went ahead. He accused Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, of being “hell bent on destroying Scotland’s coast line and therefore Scotland itself.” Don’t you just love Trump’s blinkered, double-standard? This is the same person whose development, according to a June 2011 news report, “has involved heavily altering the legally protected rare dunes.” It gets even better. He continued: “With the reckless installation of these monsters, you will single-handedly have done more damage to Scotland than any event in Scottish history!”

Trump then warned that he would use his wealth to fight Edinburgh’s plan for renewable energy and would “allocate a substantial amount of money (£10 million according to some reports) to launch an international campaign to fight your plan to surround Scotland’s coast with many thousands of wind turbines — it will be like looking through the bars of a prison and Scottish citizens will be like prisoners!” He concluded the letter with: “I’m doing this to save Scotland and honor my mother…” Wonder just how honored his mother would be to know how his golf course destroyed the uniqueness of the countryside and how he treated her fellow countrymen?

Trump claimed “I have been told by our attorneys, our lawyers, that we can bring a very large lawsuit and probably win the lawsuit based on the harm that these horrible things will do to Scotland. I’ve been told we have a very good lawsuit, and we can delay it for years to come.”

A few months earlier, in September 2011, he had claimed that he wasn’t fighting “merely for the benefit of Trump International Golf Links. Instead I am fighting for the benefit of Scotland…. I think that my mother, Mary MacLeod, who was born in Stornoway, would be very proud of what I am doing for Scotland. It is not only for my project, it is more to preserve Scotland’s beautiful coastline and natural heritage.” The same coastline and natural heritage he singlehandedly destroyed? At that time he also said that he’d been “repeatedly promised” that wind farms wouldn’t be “destroying and distorting Aberdeen’s magnificent coastline.”

Milne, whose view was destroyed when trees were planted to “beautify” the course, commented: “He has destroyed an area of outstanding natural beauty, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and now he’s arguing about something that’s a mile away and will barely be visible.”

The next step in Trump’s campaign against the wind farms involved newspaper ads picturing broken and rusting turbines with the headline “Welcome to Scotland.” Brought to the attention of the Advertising Standards Authority, the body declared that the ad gave “a misleading impression of the possible consequences of the Scottish government’s plans to use wind turbines,” and shouldn’t be used in that form.

Trump appealed to Court of Session that the approval of the wind farm was “illegal.” When the decision went against him in June 2015 he announced that he would appeal to the UK Supreme Court and the European court because: “Today’s written judgment is no surprise – it’s impossible to have a fair hearing challenging wind farm applications in Scotland.” In December, the Supreme Court rejected his challenge, but the Trump Organization announced it would continue fighting. George Sorial, executive vice president of the Trump Organization called the decision “an extremely unfortunate verdict for the residents of Aberdeen and anyone who cares about Scotland’s economic future.” He went on to state: “The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre will completely destroy the bucolic Aberdeen Bay and cast a terrible shadow upon the future of tourism for the area. History will judge those involved unfavorably and the outcome demonstrates the foolish, small minded and parochial mentality which dominates the current Scottish Government’s dangerous experiment with wind energy.”

Following the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Trump’s legal challenge, Salmond commented that, while Trump had “created a fine golf course” it didn’t have a permanent clubhouse as yet, nor did it fulfill “the claims of thousands of jobs and billions of investment.”

A spokesman for the Trump Organization countered that Salmond was wrong, the course had a permanent clubhouse, while the business was flourishing. He then shot back with: “Does anyone care what this man thinks? He’s a has-been and totally irrelevant… He should go back to doing what he does best – unveiling pompous portraits of himself that pander to his already overinflated ego.” Clearly Trump’s manners and way of talking has rubbed off on the people around him. This is a far cry from Trump’s own statement in February 2012 when he said: “I had a very good relationship with Alex Salmond, and I like Alex Salmond.” As long as Trump needed Salmond to override local council opposition to his development, he was a friend, now he is a “has-been and totally irrelevant.”

In January 2016, Salmond was challenged that he could have rejected Trump’s development plans. His reply: “If I’d known eight years ago what I know now, I would have done.” The words of a typical politician, blinded by the promise of thousands of jobs and taken in by “The Donald’s” bluster and enormous wealth. Salmond should have listened to his own people, those who have to live with the results of his terrible decision and not some foreigner full of empty and destructive promises. With his lawsuits, Trump has certainly created jobs, but for well-paid lawyers, not the thousands he claimed would result from his investment.

From the moment the wind farm was approved, Trump has carried on a raging feud with the Scottish government. His actions certainly don’t back up the claim that his business record is of benefit on the world stage. Unfortunately, because it is an issue which directly affects Scotland, probably very few Americans are even aware of what is going on and how Trump is behaving. Then again, in the eyes of his supporters, it appears that no matter how obnoxious he is or how he behaves, they will continue to back him. If this is an example of his behavior on the world stage, one can only say “God help America,” if voters are so stupid as to nominate him as the Republican candidate, and God forbid, elect him president. The proverbial “Ugly American” is an angel compared to Trump. And, rather than making America great again, he will make it hated instead.

Following his controversial statements about banning all Muslims from America, Trump was stripped of his honorary doctorate of business administration from Robert Gordon University and removed as a business ambassador. His response? “I should be thanked for investing in Scotland,” while accusing UK politicians of “pandering to political correctness.” It appears that quite a number of Scottish politicians, as well as citizens, consider Trump’s investment a curse, not a blessing. Let us hope that wisdom prevails and Americans will not be cursing their decision to support him in the years to come.