Donald Trump has threatened to pull £700 million worth of investment from Scotland if MPs ban him from entering the country but locals say investment and job creation have already failed to live up to promises he made almost a decade ago.
The Republican Presidential candidate’s much-hyped Aberdeenshire golf course has been a loss-maker since it opened in 2012. He has also made similar threats of pulling investment after losing fights against local residents and failing to block plans for a local wind farm.
Mr Trump warned this week that he will pull out the vast bulk of investment - £500 million - from the Menie Estate in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire. The other £200 million would be removed from Turnberry, a golf course in Ayrshire that he purchased for £40 million in 2014.
The first project on the coastal Menie estate started almost a decade ago with plans to invest $1.5 (£1.02) billion, numbers that were repeated by former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond in 2009, to build a five star hotel, a golf course and 1,500 houses. Mr Trump also said he would create 6,000 jobs.
There are currently 150 people directly employed on the Menie golf resort. That number doesn’t include anyone employed on a contractual basis as the resort was being built, according to Trump International Golf Links, Scotland.
Anthony Baxter, a documentary maker who lives just outside the Aberdeenshire border in Montrose, told The Independent that Mr Trump had already threatened to pull out after he lost a legal challenge in December at the UK’s Supreme Court to block a planned offshore wind farm near the course.
Some locals had predicted the demise of Mr Trump's Scottish golfing fortunes. David Milne, a key member of local campaign group Tripping Up Trump, told student publication Seaside Business in 2012:
“Trump is primarily a property developer, and his golf course is just tacked onto it. He will make his money through selling houses and time-share flats. Only 3,000 people have signed up for tee times, which equals less than one month of golf. It’s not going to make any money.”
According to documents from UK public database Companies House, the Menie estate golf course has made multi-million pound losses over the last three years. The estate made a loss of £1.3 million in 2014, a loss of £1.8 million in 2013 and a further loss of £1.7 million in 2012.
“The Menie estate has been valued at £30 million - and it has lost millions since it opened in 2012,” Mr Baxter said.
Local councillor Isobel Davidson said there was no evidence in the short term of Trump creating 6,000 jobs.
“It might happen in the long term,” she said, speaking from her office in Aberdeenshire. “There are far more rooms available [in Aberdeenshire hotels] than there were five years ago.”
She added: “As far as I know the course is not as well used as was hoped. Other local courses are considerably cheaper. A large part of that is down to the [poor] economy.” She said however that she and fellow councillors would still welcome further investment, and that if Mr Trump pulled out, he “presumably would find another buyer”.
Councillor Davidson said it would be a “real shame” if Mr Trump pulled out of the Ayrshire golf course as she said it was much more likely to hit international success.
The Republican politician and property tycoon is threatening to pull out investment because MPs are debating whether to ban him from entering the country after he made remarks about prohibiting Muslims from entering the US, which sparked a poll that gathered 568,000 signatures.
Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University also stripped Mr Trump of his honorary degree in December, which had been awarded to him in 2010.
Mr Trump has a long history of clashing with local residents, as illustrated by Mr Baxter’s documentary You’ve Been Trumped.
Michael Forbes refused to move out of his property on the Menie estate. In 2010 Mr Trump threatened to pull out investment in the golf course unless Mr Forbes cleaned up his house, according to Mr Baxter.
A 91-year-old lady who lives in a mobile home on Mr Trump’s estate has also refused to move. She has spent much of the last five years without running water until her neighbour and son, Mr Forbes, helped her. She is ill and unable to speak to the press, according to Mr Baxter.
Mr Trump has also built high earth mounds - called bunds - around residents Susan Munroe, David Milne and Michael Forbes who live on the estate. According to Mr Baxter, Mr Trump has only taken down the bunds from Mr Milne's property.
He acquired 16 approved planning applications from Aberdeenshire council in seven years to 2012. Councillor Davidson said Mr Trump did not stick to the plans that he had approved, to the “irritation” of local councillors, although he did construct “good, comfortable and attractive” buildings.
Mr Trump has applied to build a second golf course on the Menie estate, nearly 2,000 holiday homes, a staff house and a 79-space car park. Despite 10 objections being lodged, councillors have already approved most of these plans, except the golf course.
“The creation of Trump International in the north east of Scotland has been a game changer for the leisure and tourism sector in the region and Scotland as a whole. What's more, we've only just started; there are many more phases to come which will play a major part in the economic future of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire,” Sarah Malone, Executive Vice President of Trump International Golf Links, Scotland. said in a statement.
As the oil price has tumbled around 50% since October 2014, Aberdeenshire’s economy is still heavily reliant on tourism.
“I do find Trump wearing. We get so many letters asking us not to let Trump into Aberdeenshire,” said Councillor Davidson. “But personality has nothing to do with planning permission.“Reuse content