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Trump scheme to expand empire in Scotland for wealthy golf fans and pensioners angers residents

‘We should be very wary of allowing Scotland’s reputation to be further associated with this toxic brand,’ says Green MSP

Jane Dalton
Sunday 12 July 2020 17:36 BST
President Trump at his Turnberry resort, where his company wants to build up to 225 homes
President Trump at his Turnberry resort, where his company wants to build up to 225 homes (Getty)

Donald Trump’s sons are planning a huge expansion of his empire in Scotland, building hundreds of private homes, retirement villas and shops beside the golf courses they already own.

The US president’s family business has drawn up a masterplan for a new “world-class coastal retreat”, which has already prompted anger from local people who oppose more development.

One critic warned against “allowing Scotland’s reputation to be further associated with the toxic Trump brand”.

The scheme, revealed by Scotland on Sunday, involves up to 225 holiday and retirement homes, as well as leisure facilities and shops, on rolling farmland next to the Trump Turnberry golf resort.

It would be one of the most ambitious and expensive foreign projects undertaken by the Trump family business since he became president, the paper said.

The Trump Organization has not yet submitted a planning application, but the plan handed to South Ayrshire council argues that the scheme would “generate further opportunities and growth for the local economy”.

The architects’ document describes “high-end private residential homes for retirement living”, which would offer “permanent tranquillity and respite” and address a social need among an ageing population.

It also says it would help meet “an ever-increasing demand for investment opportunities” and bolster employment.

The company bought Turnberry’s hotel and three golf courses in 2014 for $60m but Mr Trump resigned his directorship of the companies that own them in 2017, handing control to his sons, Eric and Donald Jr. The 114-year-old resort includes the Ailsa golf course, a four-time host of golf’s Open Championship.

Jane Lutz, secretary of Turnberry’s community council, told Scotland on Sunday there was no need for housing, and that there was a “narcissistic” dimension to what is “just another real estate development”.

Hundreds of new properties would put pressure on health and social services, and infrastructure, she said. “It’s not just the condition of the A77, there is a major problem with flooding on the A719. Who would pay for those improvements?”

“Nobody here knows anything about this development, despite the fact the community council has to be consulted in law about planning issues,” she said. “The Trump Organization has never asked to give a presentation here.”

Patrick Harvie MSP, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, questioned President Trump’s openness. “His personal finances have never been transparent, and rather than letting him help himself to another piece of Scotland’s tourism industry, we should be going to court to seek an Unobtained Wealth Order, to start casting some light on his business dealings,” he added.

The firm had shown itself to be “an irresponsible and environmentally damaging developer”, as well as a “bad neighbour”, he told the paper, urging officials to reject the scheme.

“Beyond this particular development, we should be very wary of allowing Scotland’s reputation to be further associated with the toxic Trump brand. The man himself is a delusional bully, an advocate of climate denial and other dangerous conspiracy theories, and he has actively promoted the views of fascists, including in the UK.”

The Trump Organization’s Scottish investment has remained stubbornly in the red. Companies House accounts show Turnberry’s corporate vehicle, Golf Recreation Scotland Limited, has lost nearly £43m ($54m) since Mr Trump bought it, the paper revealed.

Executives in Scotland admitted last month they had used coronavirus emergency funding schemes but it's not known how much it has received.

The masterplan will be considered during a consultation on the council’s new local development plan, which will guide where development should and should not take place.

The Independent has asked the Trump Organization to confirm details of the plans and respond to the criticism.

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