Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond asked for New York real estate entrepreneur Donald Trump’s support over his decision to free convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi in 2009 on compassionate grounds.
Trump, who started building a golf resort in Salmond’s constituency that year after gaining government approval, rejected the request on a telephone conference call with Salmond, George Sorial, the Trump Organization’s head of international development, said in an phone interview yesterday.
“Salmond felt because he had expressed support for Donald Trump’s application, it was his turn to support him,” said Sorial, who participated in the call. “We don’t owe Salmond anything, we chose to make a significant investment in his country at a very difficult economic time.”
Trump is at loggerheads with the government over proposals to build an experimental offshore wind farm in Aberdeen Bay opposite his course on the Menie Estate. Trump has stalled development on a 450-room hotel, 500 homes and 950 short-term rental apartments until the outcome of the planning application is known.
“As New Yorkers, it was insulting and offensive,” Sorial said. “It was unthinkable that he would defend one of the stupidest political decisions ever made.”
Salmond had been very “forceful” on the conference call after Trump refused to accede to his request, Sorial said. He had behaved the same way in an earlier conference call with Donald Trump Jr. and himself, Sorial said.
Al-Megrahi, the only person convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, was released by the Scottish government in August 2009 on the grounds that he was expected to die within three months from prostate cancer. He died on May 20, 2012.
Salmond’s special adviser Geoff Aberdein drafted a press release to be released in Trump’s name, Sorial said.
“I would like to hope that it might help break the cycle of violence around the world and replace it with reciprocal gestures,” the draft said. “In any event, it won’t stop my love affair with the Scotland and the Scots.”
The Trump Organization decided to release the e-mail following the decision by a number of organizations last week to drop their opposition over several years to the proposed offshore wind farm subject to environmental protection conditions, Sorial said. They included the Ministry of Defence, National Air Traffic Services and Scottish Natural Heritage.
“Salmond has been out there putting pressure on people who objected to the application,” Sorial said. “We understand how he works, it is becoming a pattern of practice with him. There is a link between the deterioration in the relationship with Salmond and Donald Trump’s refusal to support the release of a mass murderer.”
The Scottish government was entitled to hope for support from international stakeholders, an unidentified spokeswoman told the Herald newspaper.
The Scottish government must detail who else it asked to welcome Al-Megrahi’s release, Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said in an e-mailed statement today.
“People will have been shocked by the behavior of the SNP in trying to seek celebrity approval for such an appalling decision,” he said. “What we now need to know is, were they pro-actively approached by the SNP, and who else was asked but chose not to get involved?”
The Scottish government didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, a venture between Vattenfall AB, Technip SA and Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group, applied 14 months ago for planning consent to build 11 next-generation offshore wind turbines in Aberdeen Bay. The turbines are 195 meters (640 feet) high to the tip of the blade and will be 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) out at sea, David Rodger, a spokesman for the venture, said in April. Since then the developers have proposed adding another 11 feet to the height of the turbines.