EDINBURGH—Scotland has long prided itself on the warm welcome it gives to visitors, but that’s before a pandemic erupted around the world, and it’s never included President Donald Trump anyway.
It’s been well-documented that Trump was reviled and ridiculed in Scotland long before he got anywhere near the White House. Now, with rumors flying around that he’s plotting an escape to his flagship Scottish golf resort the day before Joe Biden’s inauguration, leaders in his ancestral homeland of Scotland are in no mood to forgive and forget. In fact, it seems there’s only one condition on which they’d welcome him—if he brings a full list of accounts to help explain his murky business dealings there.
The flight rumor originates from an article in the Scottish newspaper The Sunday Post, which quoted a source at Prestwick airport, located about 40 minutes away from the Trump Turnberry resort, saying that a U.S. presidential plane is scheduled to land there on Jan. 19. The report also states that surveillance planes have been spotted at the golf course, almost as if a very important guest is expected there sometime soon.
The country’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on Tuesday addressed the unverified rumors that Trump is heading to Scotland. Sturgeon, who has previously warned that Trump will face “due accountability” in Scotland if evidence is discovered proving that his Scottish golf courses have been used for money laundering and fraud, said the idea that Trump would visit during a massive coronavirus surge was unthinkable.
Sturgeon said she hoped Trump’s only immediate travel plans were to “exit the White House,” and the first minister added: “We are not allowing people to come into Scotland without an essential purpose right now, and that would apply to him just as applies to anybody else, and coming to play golf is not what I would consider to be an essential purpose.”
Patrick Harvie, the co-leader of the Scottish Green Party, has had a run-in with Trump before. The future president formally accused him of blasphemy during a bizarre hearing at the Scottish parliament in 2012. Harvie has been urging the Scottish government to investigate the Trump Organization’s financial dealings in Scotland—a call which earlier this year caused Donald Trump Jr. to describe him as “irrelevant and spineless.”
“It's a relief that Donald Trump has been sent packing by the U.S. electorate, but the last place we want him running for cover is Scotland,” Harvie told The Daily Beast when asked about the rumors. “While many people would enjoy seeing Police Scotland arrest him for breaching the law on non-essential travel, it would be better for everyone if he was arrested in the U.S. for the far more serious crimes he has committed there.”
Harvie’s colleague, Ross Greer MSP, told The Daily Beast, “The only circumstance in which I'd want to see Trump in Scotland is if he's here to hand over an unvarnished set of accounts and financial disclosures for his Scottish businesses, given the pretty credible evidence submitted to the U.S. Congress linking their purchase to potential money laundering. Otherwise, he can stay stateside to sulk about his crushing defeat.”
Even Scottish lawmakers who have previously defended Trump and what his courses bring to the economy are skeptical about the rumored trip. Brian Whittle, a member of the Scottish parliament who represents the area where Trump Turnberry lies, told The Daily Beast, “The rules are that it must be essential travel only. I would hope that politicians, especially senior politicians, would lead by example. I would strongly suggest that now is not the time for President Trump to travel to Turnberry.”
Another area MSP, Colin Smyth, said that Trump and his security team landing in Scotland during a coronavirus surge would be the “height of irresponsibility,” adding, “Our police and others frankly have enough to do without the added burden of coping with Donald Trump’s election sulk... We need a categoric guarantee from both the U.K. and Scottish governments that if there is even the slightest shred of truth in these rumors they will nip this in the bud now.”
Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP told The Daily Beast, “Scotland welcomes in comers of all backgrounds and beliefs, but that stops short of providing safe harbor for criminals. We’ve got enough on our plate right now than having to deal with the arrival of a delinquent former president.”
As for the veracity of the trip rumors, it’s far from clear.
A spokesperson for Prestwick airport downplayed the speculation on Tuesday, saying, “We can confirm that we are not expecting a visit from Donald Trump in January.” The Scottish government told The Daily Beast it wasn’t currently aware of any plans for a presidential visit, and the British government’s Foreign Office, which would handle arrangements for any such trip, didn’t return a request for comment.
The Scottish government wouldn’t be drawn out on whether Trump’s visit would be considered illegal under its new lockdown rules.
Meanwhile, local plane-spotting Facebook groups are abuzz with the rumors, with some posting pictures of U.S. Navy planes flying around Prestwick—but that in itself is not unusual, the spotters say. “The American Navy have been training out of Prestwick for months,” one spotter said. Another wrote, “So much frenetic conjecture, hope he’s not coming, the sooner he retires the better, good riddance to bad rubbish.”
It has, however, been noted that Trump Turnberry has had the entire month of January booked out since November. The resort didn’t respond to a request for an explanation as to why that may be.
The White House downplayed but did not deny that there is a plan to head to Scotland. Judd Deere, deputy White House press secretary, told Fox News, “Anonymous sources who claim to know what the president is or is not considering have no idea. When President Trump has an announcement about his plans for Jan. 20, he will let you know.”