Scotland politics

President-elect Donald Trump and his uneasy relationship with Scotland

Trump in Scotland Image copyright Reuters

Donald Trump, who will become the 45th President of the United States of America, has a strong connection to Scotland.

He is half Scottish; he owns two Scottish golf courses and was involved in a long-running legal battle over wind turbines off the Scottish coast.

This is a man who gave evidence at Holyrood slamming the Scottish government's environmental policies, and engaged in a furious feud with former first minister Alex Salmond.

Even in Presidential campaign mode, Mr Trump's first foreign trip as Republican nominee was to Scotland to his refurbished Trump Turnberry resort.

It's fair to say he hasn't made many friends at Holyrood; every party leader has spoken out against him, and they fairly uniformly backed his rival Hillary Clinton.

Here, I look at President-elect Trump's relationship with Scotland over the years.


Golf courses and wind farms

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Trump International course in Aberdeenshire was mired in controversy for years

The 45th President is the (extremely) proud owner of two Scottish golf courses, at Menie and Trump Turnberry.

The Aberdeenshire course was the subject of years of controversy after clashes with local residents, environmental agencies, wind farm manufacturers and council leaders.

The Scottish government stepped in to give the green light to the scheme, deciding it was a project of national importance, and when it eventually opened in 2012 Mr Trump said it was "the greatest golf course anywhere in the world".

But the businessman was infuriated by plans for a wind farm off the coast within view of the course, fighting the decision all the way through to the UK Supreme Court.

Then in April 2014 Mr Trump bought Turnberry, one of Scotland's most famous golf courses.

Never short on a rhetorical flourish, Mr Trump also suggested the new championship course might be "the world's best"; "the greatest canvas in all of golf".

The President-elect was later accused of "blackmail" when he threatened to withhold £700m of investment from the two courses during a campaign to have him banned from entering the UK.


The Holyrood inquiry

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A protestor managed to attract Mr Trump's famously coiffured hair with a balloon

Donald Trump appeared before Holyrood's economy, energy and environment committee in April 2012 as part of a probe into the Scottish government's green targets.

The day got off to a telling start when a protestor outside the Scottish Parliament attempted to attach a balloon to the businessman's famous barnet.

Inside, perhaps the most infamous exchange saw SNP member Chic Brodie ask Mr Trump if he had any evidence to support his claims about tourism, drawing the response: "I am the evidence".

He also offered MSPs a stark image of a UK without wind farm subsidies: "Scotland, if you pursue this goal of having these monsters all over Scotland, Scotland will go broke. As sure as you are sitting there, Scotland will go broke."

On the whole, Mr Trump didn't offer a ringing endorsement of the Scottish government's policies. "From a practical standpoint, I think that your CO2 targets are absolutely ridiculous," he said.

Image caption Mr Trump gave evidence to MSPs in April 2012

"Here you are, destroying the financial wellbeing of Scotland to meet phoney and totally random CO2 targets, and a country that is making your turbines - by the way, China loves making turbines for Scotland and getting Scotland to pay it a lot of money - is doing so much damage to the atmosphere that there is nothing at all that you can do to bring it back through your so-called wind initiative."

Mr Trump and his team clashed in particular with Green MSP Patrick Harvie, who was subsequently terrifically proud to have been the subject of a complaint from the billionaire. Hard feelings clearly remain, with Mr Harvie dismissing the newly-elected President as "an arrogant and racist bully".

The committee session closed with convener Murdo Fraser asking Mr Trump if he had thought of putting in an offer to buy Rangers Football Club.

"Can I tell you that I may be thinking about it" Mr Trump replied, to laughter.


Referendum excitement

Image copyright Donald Trump / Twitter

Despite a growing rift with its politicians, Mr Trump continued to take a keen interest in Scotland's politics.

On the eve of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, he tweeted "good luck" to the people of Scotland, "whatever their decision may be".

"The whole world is watching - really exciting!"

The day after the No vote, he said it was "a great decision". And while he said he looked forward to a round of golf with the then-first minister, he opined that "if Alex Salmond had not pushed ugly wind turbines all over Scotland, the vote would have been much better for him!"

And in January 2015, following the collapse in the price of oil, Mr Trump was back on Twitter to opine that "If Scotland would have gone independent predicated on $100 - $150 oil, they would now be bust!"

He also touched down in Scotland during his Presidential campaign, in the hours after the Brexit referendum. Shortly before stepping on Trump Turnberry soil, the billionaire tweeted that the "place is going wild over the vote".

"They took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!"


The Salmond spat

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Donald Trump had a swipe at former SNP leader Alex Salmond unveiling a portrait of himself

Mr Trump's tumultuous relationship with Scotland is perhaps summed up by that with its former first minister, Alex Salmond.

There were happier times; the pair were pictured grinning together in New York, where they dined out as part of the GlobalScot business ambassador programme which the American was later ejected from by Mr Salmond's successor Nicola Sturgeon.

Their long-running feud stemmed from the controversy over the Menie golf course and the wind farm lawsuits; Mr Trump spent several years trolling Mr Salmond about "disgusting and inappropriate" wind farms via the medium of Twitter.

He also took to social media to criticise Mr Salmond for the decision to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi. He claimed Mr Salmond had sought his support for the move; "I said 'no way!'"

Image copyright Donald Trump / Twitter

At one point in 2013 Mr Trump said the then-first minister "may be the dumbest leader of the free world", before the following year retreating somewhat: "I have to admit Alex Salmond is a tough, smart guy".

Things came to a head late in 2015, when Mr Salmond described Mr Trump as a "three-time loser" who was having a "damaging impact" on the Scottish economy by "condemning" Turnberry to "Open Championship oblivion".

Mr Trump shot back that the former first minister was "a has-been and totally irrelevant", adding: "Does anyone care what this man thinks?

"He should go back to doing what he does best - unveiling pompous portraits of himself that pander to his already overinflated ego."

Mr Salmond responded by attempting to call out "Chicken Donald" on his weekly radio chat show. Disappointingly, the President-elect never found the time to call in, but did issue a statement describing the SNP MP as "an embarrassment to Scotland".


A lack of endorsements

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Media captionThe leaders of the main political parties in Scotland elaborate on how they would handle a phone call from US presidential hopeful Donald Trump

The Trump Presidential campaign featured repeatedly during the Scottish Parliament elections of 2016, with candidates quizzed on the topic by authorities ranging from BBC politics correspondent Glenn Campbell to funnyman Gary: Tank Commander.

None of the Scottish politicians seemed particularly convinced that Mr Trump could triumph.

Nicola Sturgeon - who stripped Mr Trump of his GlobalScot status over his comments about Muslims - said in March that if President Trump came calling, she would be "on the other line". Willie Rennie said he would say "get off my phone".

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said: "I think if Donald Trump phoned me my question would be 'can I have fries with that', because I don't think he'll have a job because I don't think he'll be President of the United States. I have too much faith in the people of the United States to ever let that man near the White House."

Not to be outdone, Kezia Dugdale told Gary that Mr Trump was an "arse", later urging him to "stop preaching hate".

Only UKIP Scotland leader David Coburn offered Mr Trump a ray of hope during the Holyrood leaders debate, by saying he would invite him for a round of golf. But then, he also described a Trump presidency as a "terrifying prospect" which "makes Dr Strangelove, the movie about nuclear war, seem more like fact than fiction".

Mr Coburn has subsequently voiced confidence that Mr Trump will make "a great President", while Ms Sturgeon has congratulated him on his win.

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