Trump lands in the rough on visit to Scottish golf course | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 23.06.2016
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Trump lands in the rough on visit to Scottish golf course

In Scotland to visit a golf course he owns, Donald Trump finds himself dogged by the same issues that dominate his presidential campaign in the US. Many Scots aren't looking forward to the presumptive nominee's trip.

"The world asked me to be here," Donald Trump declared last July, when asked why he had left the presidential campaign trail to attend the Women's British Open, at Turnberry on Scotland's west coast.

Back then Trump was still a political outsider, expected by many to fade away. This week he returns to Turnberry - a golf course he bought in 2014 for an undisclosed sum - as the presumptive Republican candidate in November's US election.

"I own it, and I am very proud of it," Trump said recently of Turnberry, which he is due to visit on Friday, as it reopens following a 200 million pound (260 million euros, $293 million) restoration. From there he will travel north to Aberdeen.

Controversial course development

Many Scots, however, are less enamored with Trump's business empire in his mother's native land.

The controversial entrepreneur turned businessman turned politician showed little interest in Scotland until the early 2000s, when he decided to build a massive luxury golfing complex in Aberdeenshire.

Today, the Trump International logo adorns the front of the Menie estate, a few miles north of Aberdeen. Amateur golfers play on lush green fairways framed by the wild North Sea and a giant blue and white Scottish flag.

But such idyllic scenes stand at odds with the controversial history of Trump's flagship Scottish development.

In 2008, Aberdeenshire Council rejected Trump's bid for planning permission for his 1 billion euro luxury golfing complex. The Scottish government stepped in to overturn the decision, using planning powers previously only used to block successful applications.

Construction of the sprawling development on the scenic Aberdeenshire coast began in the face of vociferous local opposition. Residents near the course accused Trump of employing bully tactics to force them to leave their homes, including planting pine trees to block their views of the sea and surrounding their homes with huge mounds of sand.

Lush fairways, livid neighbors

"Under no circumstances could I have imagined that Trump would be a presidential candidate," said David Milne, who lives on the edge of the Trump course, and he said he remembers the massive earth banks that appeared around his two-story house during the development of the golf course.

Schottland David Milne mit schottischer und mexikanischer Flagge

Milne said the flag was to show solidarity with the Mexican people

To protest Trump's trip to Scotland, Milne hoisted a Mexican flag below the Scottish one on a flagpole clearly visible from the Turnberry course. Trump has proposed forcing Mexico to pay for a wall the United States would build along its southern border.

"[Trump] is quite smart but he is dangerous with it," added Milne. "I can think of 12-year-old children I'd be happier to see as president."

'He had no arguments'

Scottish Green party co-convener Patrick Harvie agreed. The member of the Scottish parliament for Glasgow clashed with Trump when the Republican presidential candidate appeared before a Holyrood committee back in 2012.

"He was invited to give his opinion on links between tourism and wind turbines. When asked for his evidence he pointed at himself and said 'I am the evidence,'" Harvie recalled.

"I found him bombastic and egotistical, much as I thought he would be," Harvie said. "But I expected he might have made some effort to make a reasoned argument on the issue at hand, but he hadn't. He had no arguments."

Trump's appearance in the Holyrood parliament followed a very public falling out with the Scottish National Party government in Edinburgh.

Trump and then Scottish first minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond were initially on good terms, with the pair photographed together on a number of occasions. But the relationship turned sour after a decision was made to build 11 wind turbines near the Aberdeen golf course.

Trump didn't hold back, accusing Salmond of being "hell-bent on destroying Scotland's coastline and therefore Scotland itself."

Wind power to destroy Scotland?

The star of the reality TV casting show "The Apprentice" went on to take out adverts comparing the development of wind farms to the Lockerbie bombing, which killed 259 passengers on board Pan Am Flight 103 and 11 residents of the Scottish town in 1989.

Schottland Schloss am Golfplatz von Donald Trump

Residents and lawmakers tried, unsuccessfully, to block Trump's golf course

Last year, an Edinburgh court dismissed Trump's request for a public inquiry into what he said was the Scottish government's unfair approval for the wind power project. Scottish judges concluded Trump's lawyers had not come "anywhere near" substantiating his suspicions.

Here too, Trump claimed that the wind farm project, which is intended to test offshore wind technologies while producing electricity for commercial sale, threatened "the destruction of Aberdeen and Scotland itself."

Trump's investment in Aberdeenshire has so far been much less substantial than originally billed, and he has repeatedly declined to say when he might start planned construction on a second golf course, hotel expansion and more than 2,000 holiday and residential homes.

Scots: Trump should meet Muslims

In December, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister, announced that she was withdrawing the US mogul's membership of GlobalScot, an international business network, after Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."

Trump's statement led British lawmakers to debate banning him from entering the UK. In the end, however, no vote was made on whether to prevent him from visiting.

Now, instead of keeping Trump out, thousands of people signed petition urging him to visit a Scottish mosque after he repeated his call for Muslims to be banned from the United States in the wake of the Orlando shootings.

"It is no surprise that the crass, self-serving response that we saw from Donald Trump to the tragedy in Orlando has inspired more people to back calls for him to meet with Muslims while he is in Scotland," said Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie.

"Donald Trump's reaction to the Orlando shootings underlines the urgent need for him to meet some of those that he is demonizing while he is in the UK," Rennie said.