Donald Trump fails to deliver on golf resort jobs pledge

First Minister Alex Salmond is left in the rough over  ‘Great Dunes of Scotland’ investment

The American entrepreneur Donald Trump has failed to deliver on pledges to create thousands of jobs through a supposed billion-pound investment that were key to planning approval for his hugely controversial Scottish golf resort, an investigation has found.

By his own admission, Mr Trump has created no more than 200 of his promised 6,000 jobs and is thought to have spent just £25m on the scheme while bulldozing environmentally sensitive areas of the Scottish coast, according to a new analysis of the scheme’s finances.

The striking shortfall between Mr Trump’s pipe dream and the realities of the venture, uncovered by the BBC’s Panorama team, leaves Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, facing questions over his judgement in intervening – while Mr Trump continues to be under scrutiny himself concerning business links in the United States with a violent ex-convict who has previous Mafia links.

The row centres on Mr Trump’s ambitions to create a vast golfing complex in an area he has rebaptised the “Great Dunes of Scotland”, claiming to create the best course in the world but greatly angering some residents. They had resisted the plans drawn up by Mr Trump – whose signature “You’re fired!” catchphrase from the original US Apprentice TV show has been adopted by Sir Alan Sugar in the British version.

As local MSP, Mr Salmond personally rang Scotland’s chief planning officer while he was with the Trump lawyer after the plan was rejected by the local infrastructure committee in his Aberdeenshire constituency.

The man leading Scotland’s drive for independence has seen little political or economic reward for his efforts, however. Mr Trump’s plans for the Menie estate should have created thousands of jobs by building two golf courses, a five-star 450-bed hotel,  500 homes and 950 short-term lets.

To date, Mr Trump’s own representatives put the number at only 200 new jobs – and Panorama estimates on the basis of the latest accounts (to December 2011), that only £25m has been spent with just one golf course and a temporary clubhouse to show for it so far.

In 2008, Mr Salmond boasted: “The balance of opinion among people in the north-east of Scotland and among my constituents is very strongly in favour. And that’s because we can see the social and economic benefits.

“I mean, 6,000 jobs across Scotland, 1,400 local and permanent jobs here in the north-east of Scotland – that’s a very powerful argument which outweighs the environmental concerns.”

Mr Salmond admits that the lack of progress on the Trump estate has been a major setback given his support. He told Panorama: “I’m disappointed that the plans haven’t gone ahead as originally envisaged, I hope they will do.”

Mr Trump’s failure so far to deliver his vision does not appear to have harmed his own interests. It is believed the planning permissions for the land have helped boost the value of his Scottish estate, bought for £7m, by at least £100m.

This has led some to suspect that  Mr Trump may have embarked on the scheme with an eye to the land’s potential resale value. But Mr Trump says the reason the development has stalled is the prospect of 11 offshore wind turbines being built within sight of his golf courses. He claims Mr Salmond had assured him such a scheme would not go ahead – he has since labelled Mr Salmond “Mad Alex” and launched legal action to prevent the wind farm being built.

Mr Salmond rejects Mr Trump’s claims about a wind farm promise, adding that no investor can expect to dictate Scotland’s energy policy.

Asked whether he was calling the First Minister a liar, Mr Trump said: “Maybe he has a bad memory.”

The First Minister’s intervention in the planning application came in December 2007 – the same month as news broke in the US that one of  Mr Trump’s associates was connected to the Mafia – but the blowback for the two men continues to the present.

Back then, Mr Trump had a problem. The plans for the golf complex had been blocked by a key committee of Aberdeenshire Council.

Mr Salmond, who serves as the local constituency MSP as well as leading the devolved assembly in Holyrood, met Mr Trump’s team in an Aberdeen hotel on a Monday, phoned Scotland’s chief planner and then handed the phone to Trump’s lawyer. The chief planner and the lawyer arranged to meet the next day. That same day, the Scottish government “called in” Aberdeenshire’s decision to block the Trump plan. It was ultimately overturned by ministers after a public inquiry.

Jed Griffiths, former president of the Royal Town Planning Institute and in planning for 40 years, was asked if he had come across a case like it. “Never, not in my entire career,” he said.

A Scottish parliamentary committee in 2008 found the “call in” technically competent but judged  Mr Salmond’s actions “extremely unwise” and “cavalier”, displaying “exceptionally poor judgement” – and to suggest any MSP could set up a meeting at 24 hours’ notice “stretches credibility to breaking point”.

Mr Salmond told Panorama: “I was there as the constituency member of the Scottish Parliament. I’d no government decision role in the planning. I was taken out of that when it was a project in the constituency. No, I don’t regret it.”

‘Panorama: The Trouble With Trump’ will be shown on BBC1 on Monday night at 8.30pm

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Recruitment Genius: PA

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert