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09.28.11

The Donald vs. the Scots

The latest scuffle over the mogul’s Aberdeenshire golf resort reveals a deep national disgust for all things Trump.

For America’s brashest billionaire, building “the world’s greatest golf course” in Scotland must seem like the most thankless task imaginable.

It doesn’t matter what Donald Trump says or does; always on the Scottish sidelines, there have been bunches of whining cynics, mocking his tastes and ridiculing his comb-over. How much easier his development projects must appear when they’re built in America. But when it comes to dealing with the dour, Presbyterian Scots, Trump has an uncanny knack for rubbing them the wrong way. The tussles of the past week, over the design of the new clubhouse, have been no exception.

For his part, Trump has only ever laid claim to wanting to build a $1.2 billion, 1,200-acre championship golf course on the Menie Estate, thereby pumping some much-needed cash into rundown Aberdeenshire. Along the way, he’d also hoped to honor his doughty Scottish mother, Mary MacLeod, who died in 2000 at the age of 88. And if, at the end of it all, there was some money left over for The Donald, then all well and good.

Unfortunately for Trump, there are quite a number of people in Scotland who won’t believe a word he utters—with one Menie Estate neighbor, 86-year-old Molly Forbes, saying recently, “We laugh at everything he says.”

Some skeptics have even questioned Trump’s motives. The rows have been endless, and last week’s flare-up over the clubhouse is absolutely typical of their tone. The clubhouse plans—for a Victorian Gothic-style mansion made of granite and slate—have been described by Trump’s team as “luxurious” and “second to none.” True to form, the Scots have quickly savaged the real-estate mogul from all sides.

One critic described the clubhouse as "a holiday home for Gaddafi."

One critic described the clubhouse as “a holiday home for Gaddafi,” while a neighbor on the Menie Estate, Susan Munro, said: “It looks like an institution. It is huge. You shouldn’t see a monstrosity like that in the middle of the dunes.”

Local politicians have been similarly scathing, with Patrick Harvie, a member of the Scottish Parliament, saying, “It doesn’t much matter whether Trump builds the most beautiful clubhouse in the world or a tacky little Disney World sham. Most people on ordinary incomes won’t even see inside—this development is not being built for them. Trump’s vision is one where the super-rich fly in for a round of golf and drinks at the bar before jetting off again.”

There has, however, been a rich irony in the latest rumpus, given that only a week before, it was Trump himself who was bitterly complaining about another kind of eyesore altogether. Trump was incandescent at the prospect of 11 offshore wind turbines being built just adjacent to the Menie Estate. Along with protesting about the “terrible screeching sounds” and the threat the turbines posed to bird life, Trump concluded, “Its adverse visual impact on my development and the beautiful Aberdeen coastline would be disastrous.”

Some uncharitable souls might say that Trump has finally been hoist with his own petard. But in order to comprehend the size of the reaction against Trump, it is necessary to understand the huge problem that Scots have with The Donald. Put simply, it is this: on the one hand, they love Trump’s dollars; on the other, they loath the man himself—and everything he stands for. Although his private jet, his limos, and his flashy clothes may go over well in America, in Scotland, Trump’s irrepressible bullishness is seen as nothing more or less than the most shameless grandstanding.

When the course eventually opens next July, visiting golfers will have to pay an eye-watering £200 ($311) to play over a weekend—some £50 more than the Old Course at St Andrews. Doubtless the locals will be complaining, just as they always do, but by then Trump will have his eyes set on a much more grandiose project: he’s hoping to bag the 2022 Ryder Cup for his Scottish resort—and that, he hopes, will finally cut his critics’ cackle.