Trump Plans Golf Resort in Scotland; Reaction Mixed
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The developer Donald Trump has appeared before a public inquiry in Aberdeen, Scotland over something that would not seem to be that controversial at first glance. He wants to build a golf course, a golf resort, in Scotland. However, he wants to do it on an environmentally sensitive stretch of Scottish coastline.
The plan at the Menie Estate has pitted environmental groups and locals against regional officials. And we have more today from reporter Vicki Barker.
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VICKI BARKER: His trademark hairstyle disarranged by the Scottish winds, Donald Trump strode into the hall where the inquiry is being held like a prizefighter, full of pre-match bravado. Far from despoiling Scotland's largest and wildest sand-dune system, Trump told the panel that his mega golf resort would actually help preserve it.
Mr. DONALD TRUMP (Real Estate Developer): Well, we're saving the dunes. We're stabilizing and saving the dunes, and I think I'm doing a great service. A lot of governments pay a tremendous amount of money to stabilize dunes. I'm doing it for nothing, meaning I'm spending the money myself.
BARKER: The dunes are home to some of Scotland's rarest wildlife, including skylarks, kittiwakes, badgers and otters.
Mr. DAVID MILNE (Sustainable Aberdeenshire): Just a few folk of us on their walk, or maybe it's actually more like the couple of hundred walking to show the disgust and distaste at this unacceptable development.
BARKER: David Milne, of the action group Sustainable Aberdeenshire. He's posted a series of videos on YouTube as part of a local campaign against building on this wild and wind-swept shore.
Mr. MILNE: This is a force of nature they are trying to stop. Anyone ever hear of King Canute? He didn't succeed. Neither is this one. King Donald ain't going to succeed controlling the forces of nature.
BARKER: National environmental groups have weighed in, too. Ian Francis is with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Mr. IAN FRANCIS (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds): The objections are based on the unnecessary destruction of a significant part of this really valuable part of our coastal heritage. It impacts on the sand dunes, the wild natural sand dunes. And it also affects the habitats, plant communities and birds, which live on this site. It's a stunning place, and it's pretty much unique in Northwest Europe.
BARKER: Trump's project, though, has had strong backing from many locals and local officials. They believe the two golf courses, luxury hotel and 1,400 homes and condos will bring jobs and money to the area, just as work on the North Sea oil platforms is drying up.
The same kind of high feelings and unproven accusations of skullduggery which dog so many big development projects have dogged this one. After the plan was narrowly defeated in the local council, the chairman who cast the deciding vote was ousted, and then the Scottish government announced it would revisit the proposal in its special inquiry.
Mr. MICHAEL FORBES (Farmer): I think it should have been thrown out. It should never have reached the table, for a start.
BARKER: This is the man who may yet prove Trump's nemesis, local Michael Forbes, whose ramshackle farm sits smack in the middle of Trump's site. He's already refused $700,000. He says he'll never sell.
Mr. FORBES: No. I'm not very happy, but the fight goes on. I'm not finished yet.
BARKER: As for Donald Trump, he says he would probably have walked away from the entire project by now if his mother hadn't been from Scotland. For NPR News, I'm Vicki Barker in London.
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