A Hopeless Cause: Donald Trump’s War against the Wind

Donald Trump (caricature by DonkeyHotey, Flickr)

Aside from the personal spat with Alex Salmond over the issue, was it ever right, or possible, for Donald Trump to wage his own one-man war against a wind farm project, off the coast of Scotland?

The Supreme Court blasted Trump’s legal case well and truly out of the water in December last year, causing Salmond to refer to him as a ‘three times loser’ and bringing the whole crazy affair, which has been raging since the wind farm was approved in 2013, to a sudden end. A reminder of the circumstances surrounding the case seems appropriate.

The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC), a wind farm consisting of 11 turbines is being developed by Vattenfall Wind Power and Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group two miles off the coast of Ayrshire, Scotland, north of the city of Aberdeen. The wind farm will generate enough power for 68,000 homes and will give the wind sector an important facility for the testing and demonstration of new turbine technology. According to Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing, this will in turn “help to drive the cost of wind-generated electricity downwards”. Mr Ewing also argues, convincingly, that the facility will further position Aberdeen as “the energy capital of Europe”, given that the city is already an important base for the oil and gas industries.

However, Donald Trump’s Trump International Golf Links course, one of two such resorts owned by Trump in Scotland, is situated on the coast within a direct line of sight of the proposed wind farm. Trump bought the course in 2006 and in that year also began to express concerns about the wind farm development, claiming that it will spoil the views from the course. In 2011, The Trump Organisation launched a legal bid to stop the development, while Trump himself wrote to Alex Salmond claiming that the development was “environmentally irresponsible” and that he was “fighting for the benefit of Scotland”.

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Trump International Golf Links course near Aberdeen (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Trump stopped the development of the golf course in 2012, awaiting a decision on the wind farm. In April of that year, he appeared before the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism committee where he claimed that he had been “lured” into building the golf course by assurances from former First Ministers Jack McConnell and Alex Salmond that the wind farm would never be built. However, both McConnell and Salmond deny these claims.

In October 2012, Trump turned on the RSPB Scotland, condemning their decision to drop their opposition to the wind farm. Trump’s lawyers subsequently called for a public inquiry into the development.

Planning consent for the wind farm was granted by the Scottish government in March 2013, causing Trump to vow to spend “whatever monies are necessary to see to it that these huge and unsightly industrial wind turbines are never constructed”. May of that year saw Trump launch a legal challenge against the planning consent, the hearing held at the Court of Session in November 2013. Trump’s challenge was rejected by the court in February 2014 and Trump launched an appeal which was heard at the Court of Session in January 2015. That appeal was rejected in June 2015, causing Trump to state that he would appeal before the Supreme Court and the European Courts. The Supreme Court rejected Trump’s appeal in December.

In waging his personal war against the wind farm, given the support for wind power in Scotland, Trump de facto declared war against the Scottish Government. Trump isn’t the only critic of wind farms in Scotland, or wind farms anywhere for that matter, but his claim, among those of other anti-wind critics, that wind energy has destroyed Scotland’s natural beauty is certainly open to criticism.

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Vattenfall’s Lillgrund wind farm off the coast of Sweden (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Trump’s case wasn’t helped by the fact that he failed to deliver the ‘thousands of jobs’ or the billions of pounds of investment he promised the course would attract. Neither was it helped by his threat to halt development of the course if the wind farm is built. Alex Salmond believes that Trump’s aggression, resulting in an excessive legal wrangle, the outcome of which was probably obvious to many right from the start, postponed and possibly jeopardised a project that is/was worth an estimated £200 million (US $286 million) to the economy of north east Scotland. With regard to the golf course itself, Salmond said that the episode has in effect “condemned Turnberry, one of the outstanding golf courses on the planet, and the scene of two of the greatest Open Championships since the war, to Open Championship oblivion”.

“There is no way the R&A [The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews] will go near the Ayrshire course while Trump is in charge” Salmond said, speaking to The Telegraph in December. “As a result Scotland stands to lose the £100m (US $143 million) economic return from a Turnberry Open.”

Trump’s foolishness has been compounded by his very public hostility against Muslims, culminating in his widely condemned call for all Muslims to be banned from entering the US. The Trump International course could have become the prime venue for The Open in either 2020 or 2021, but it seems very unlikely that will happen now.

The Supreme Court ruling was decided by a panel of justices and it unanimously dismissed Trump’s appeal. The Trump Organisation has said the fight isn’t over, but it’s somewhat difficult to see what Trump can do about it. If Alex Salmond is correct in his claim that Scots-Americans have joined the “ever growing list of people alienated by Trump”, he’s certainly not going to attract any support from that quarter. Neither is he likely to win many fans in Scotland itself, after having called the Scottish Government “foolish, small-minded and parochial”.

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Donald Trump (Image: Mark Nozell, Flickr)

Support for wind power has remained strong. Even in 2003, according to MORI Scotland, 82 percent of Scottish citizens approved the deployment of wind, as well as wanting to see the enlargement of existing wind farms. Further surveys, in 2005 and 2010, obtained similar results. A YouGov survey in 2013 found that:

“Scots are twice as likely to favour wind power over nuclear or shale gas Over six in ten (62%) people in Scotland say they would support large scale wind projects in their local area, more than double the number who said they would be generally for shale gas (24%) and almost twice as much as nuclear (32%). Hydro power is the most popular energy source for large scale projects in Scotland, with an overwhelming majority (80%) being in favour.”

So that’s the end of that, much to the relief of many people around the world passionately interesting in curbing climate change through a transition to clean energy.

Not least the Scots themselves, whose energy policy Trump arguably attempted to manipulate. Trump was never going to win this case, it was doomed from the start. The only reason it lasted so long was because of Trump’s own tremendous ego. And that has now been firmly flung back in his face.

Except that Trump now intends to go to the European Court of Justice – perhaps its Luxembourg’s turn to deliver the final coup de grâce to Trump’s over-inflated ambitions for Scotland.

About Robin Whitlock
I am an experienced freelance journalist with a wide and varied portfolio to my credit including web content, magazine articles, reporting, features, interviews, reviews and blogs. My special interests include environmental issues, particularly climate change, renewable energy, transport, green building and sustainable infrastructure. I have numerous secondary interests ranging from politics and current affairs to social justice, science, technology and innovation, historical topics and lifestyle subjects such as literature, psychology, contemporary spirituality and culture.


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