Trump Will Face Scottish Scorn on His Golf Trip
Bagpipes often appear at some point on Donald Trump’s visits to Scotland, but on his first foreign trip since becoming the presumptive Republican presidential nominee a less welcome fanfare awaits.
Protesters decrying his comments on Muslims and Hispanics will greet Trump on Friday, when he arrives to reopen his luxury golf resort at Turnberry on Scotland’s west coast with a plane full of American media. Adding to the acrimony, the U.K. will be digesting the results of its referendum on European Union membership, another issue where he has courted controversy by saying he thinks the country is better off with a vote to leave.
The decision to interrupt his presidential campaign to visit his business in Scotland comes as he trails in the polls and fundraising. A Bloomberg survey last week had him 12 percentage points behind Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton. And while Trump likes to talk about his Scottish roots -- his mother emigrated from the Isle of Lewis to the U.S. in the 1930s -- the Scottish establishment now wants nothing to do with him.
"We welcome all Americans -- minus Trump," Alex Salmond, a member of parliament for the Scottish National Party and the former leader of Scotland’s semi-autonomous government, said in an interview this week. "He’s not a popular person in Scotland, but the way Trump talks you’d think he owned the country."
Scotland’s relationship with Trump has blown hot and cold ever since 2006, when he announced plans to build a 1 billion-pound ($1.5 billion) new golf resort on the Aberdeenshire coast, about 200 miles northeast of Turnberry, something Salmond initially backed. Trump then fought environmental groups and local residents opposed to the project for years before opening the new course in 2012.
A legal battle to block a wind farm development off the coast led to a war of words between Salmond and Trump, who in December called the Scottish government "foolish, small minded and parochial" for pursuing the project. At the time, Salmond called Trump a "three-time loser" who was having a "damaging impact on the Scottish economy." Trump shot back by calling Salmond a "has-been."
After promising to create thousands of jobs, Trump now employs 150 people north of Aberdeen and has invested 100 million pounds in the resort, a fraction of his initial pledge. It hasn’t made a profit since it opened. In December, Trump lost his court case to stop the wind farm.
Last year, British opposition to Trump reached fever pitch after 587,000 people signed a petition calling for him to be blocked from coming to the U.K. because of his comments about banning Muslims from entering the U.S.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stripped Trump from his role as business ambassador for Scotland. While U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said at the time Trump shouldn’t be blocked, he called his comments "stupid and wrong." "If he came to visit our country, I think he would unite us all against him," Cameron said last year.
While Trump has been campaigning across the U.S. for the Republican nomination, he’s also been busy quietly redesigning the Turnberry golf course, one of three he owns outright in Europe. He’s spruced up the hotel, replete with a new ballroom, replaced the drafty windows overlooking the Irish Sea, and turned the iconic lighthouse on the ninth hole into a presidential suite that costs 3,500 pounds a night.
After paying 40 million pounds to buy the resort in 2014 from Leisurecorp, a unit of the Dubai government, Trump is spending another 160 million pounds on its revamp, making it one of his largest investments in the past few years.
Following the official ribbon-cutting, Trump is due to fly by helicopter on Saturday morning from Turnberry to Aberdeen with his family -- Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr., together with their spouses -- for a private lunch. They will be greeted by Mexican flags planted on the border of Trump’s course by local residents, Michael Forbes and David Milne, who have sparred with the billionaire investor over building the resort.
Scottish leader Sturgeon won’t be meeting Trump on his visit. “I wish Turnberry golf course very well,” she told Bloomberg Television. When it comes to the U.S. presidential race, “I’d much prefer Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump.”
—With assistance from Francine Lacqua