If there is any figure anywhere in the property development sector that can attract as much attention and criticism as the infamous Donald Trump then they have yet to step forward. Donald Trump’s latest venture sees the American entrepreneur moving to Scotland with a £1 billion golfing project which will also incorporate a number of properties and high class accommodation. However, when you suggest that a £1 billion investment into Scotland at this time of the economic cycle would be well received, this is very much not the case.
So how has Donald Trump managed to split the Scottish nation down the middle?
This golfing venture goes back a few years now when it was first announced that Donald Trump was looking at a number of venues around the world for his new £1 billion golfing development which will incorporate a hotel and more than 500 homes. The American billionaire, who has a history as chequered as a draughts board, finally decided upon a venue on the coast of Aberdeen and put forward his plans for the project.
After a number of submissions and amendments to the original plan a final detailed planning application was put forward at which point the local council was invited to consider the application and vote on the project. After a sustained period of consideration regarding the venture and the impact on the area, the local council voted against the project as it stood citing issues with the local wildlife and a particular site of “special scientific interest”. The casting vote came from the chairman of the local council and while it was very close the project was rejected.
So surely that must be the end of Donald Trump’s £1 billion golfing dream in Scotland?
While it was fair to say that businesses in the area were very much in favour of Donald Trump’s project, as they appreciated the increased trade and income it would attract, the local council had made their decision and it seemed to be final. However, this is where the controversy began with suggestions that both John Swinney, the Scottish finance minister, and Alex Salmond the elected leader of the Scottish parliament received a number for calls from delegates of Donald Trump insisting that the local council decision was reviewed.
The local council was advised to review the project again with the unwritten suggestion that it should be fast tracked through the system. However, the local council refused to review the situation and under intense pressure from the Scottish government the chairman of the local council was forced to resign over the issue. This was the time at which the Scottish government decided to take the project in-house via a special rule and reconsider the project in full.
After a period of reflection when there was much controversy about who phoned who and what was said, this month the project was cleared and Donald Trump has finally got his way yet again. There has disgusted the likes of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds because of the fact the protected area on the coast near Aberdeen will be opened up to a massive development which will change the landscape of the region forever.
While Donald Trump has suggested he will make provisions to ensure that local wildlife is not affected in any material way there are many who do not believe this is possible due to the size and position of the venue. The fact that the oil industry in Aberdeen is undergoing something of a material change may well have something to do with the fact that the government pulled in the project for review. So what next for the £1 billion golfing project which Donald Trump has seemingly fought so hard to push through?
While Scotland still argues about the rights and wrongs of overriding the vote passed by the local council, Donald Trump is suggesting that next year will see the beginning of the venture which will take some time to complete. So is the Scottish government putting their trust in to a man who will deliver and who will bring prosperity to the west coast of Scotland?
New ventures and Donald Trump
Donald Trump is a man with a reputation for getting what he wants and then often changing his mind and moving on to the next venture. There are many many similar situations to the Scottish scenario dotted around the world were Trump has actually put no money down for ventures, pushed for planning permission and then either delayed the project or decided against going through with it. There is a concern that Donald Trump will do the same for his Scottish venture for which no money has actually changed hands as yet, except for the design and planning permission for the project.
What could this golfing venture do for Scotland?
There is no doubt that a successful golfing venture anywhere in the world has proved to be a magnet for property developers, tourists and those looking for second homes. Scotland already has five of the top 100 ranked golf courses in the world (which are St Andrews, Royal Dornoch, Muirfield, Turnberry and Carnoustie) and has a history of excellent golfing facilities in the country and numerous examples of how this has affected both local economies and property markets.
However, even before the project is up and running the potential for increased employment in the area should at some stage filter through into the property market and attract more and more attention to the region. Donald Trump could actually be doing the Aberdeen area a massive favour in attracting the attention of the worldwide press and property investors to some of the most beautiful parts of the world.
Unfortunately, before the Scottish government is able to put itself on the back there is a need to see the colour of Donald Trump’s money and ensure that he is encouraged to fulfil his promise of producing one of the world’s best golf courses. Donald Trump is a man for whom controversy and conflict are never far behind, but he is a property developer who has literally changed the face of many landscapes around the world and while often making a substantial return on his investment, many local communities will confirm the impact his ventures can have on the local economy and local property markets.