Let it be understood that, in the realms of pressmen everywhere, the sight of two blowhards hammering away at one another is worth the silent stoicism of a thousand sensible folk.
Let it also be understood that Henry Kissinger’s evaluation of the Iran-Iraq war also applies to the increasingly intemperate – by which I mean entertaining – stramash between Donald Trump and Alex Salmond: It’s a shame they can’t both lose.
Today, Alex Salmond* branded Trump a “three-time loser” as the American
megalomaniac mogul’s latest challenge to an offshore wind farm that will, he implausibly claims, ruin the views from his Aberdeenshire golf course, was rejected by the Supreme Court.
In response, Trump fired-back: “Does anyone care what this man thinks? He’s a has-been and totally irrelevant. […] He should go back to doing what he does best – unveiling pompous portraits** of himself that pander to his already overinflated ego.”
Scenes. Mainly joyous ones; some civic too.
It is always sad when friends fall out like this. If only we could instead preserve the sweet memory of happier times. Like when the Scottish government – presided over by one Alexander Salmond – did its very best to ensure Trump’s grandiose golf project on the Menie estate went ahead.
It is true that most political parties (the Greens excepted) and a good number of local residents supported Trump’s plans for a golf course on the Aberdeenshire coast (even though the location was, notionally, protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest). Nonetheless, the manner in which it went ahead was, well, unusual.
The tick-tock went like this:
Thursday 29th November 2007, Aberdeenshire council’s infrastructure committee dismissed Trump’s application.
Monday 3rd December, the Trump organisation decides not to appeal the decision.
Also on Monday 3rd December, Alex Salmond meets Trump’s representatives in Aberdeen. Salmond, the local MSP, also calls the Scottish government’s chief planning officer.
Tuesday 4th December, Scottish government calls in the application, citing “issues of importance that require consideration at a national level”. The precise nature of these issues is never made clear. Nor is it ever made clear why a still-live planning application needed to be decided by central government before local government had even finished with it.
To no-one’s surprise, however, the Scottish government gives the plans two big thumbs-up. Trump will build two golf courses, a couple of dozen ‘executive villas’ and 950 holiday homes. As Salmond says: “I mean, 6,000 jobs across Scotland, 1,400 local and permanent jobs here in the north-east of Scotland – that’s a very powerful argument which outweighs the environmental concerns.”
[Actual number of homes built, as of 2015: zero. Number of jobs created: fewer than 200. Hmmm.]
Still, back then Trump had the measure of Alex Salmond: “He’s an amazing man. […] I know for a fact that he – and anyone else who’s representing Scotland, unless they’re the enemy – wants billions of pounds to come into Aberdeenshire and Scotland.”
Granted, Salmond wasn’t the first Scottish politician entranced by Trump. It was his predecessor, Labour’s Jack McConnell, who first appointed Trump a so-called business ‘ambassador’ for Scotland. Still, if that was embarrassing it was as nothing compared to the nadir to come.
In 2009, Salmond’s government released Abdelbaset ali al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, on compassionate grounds believing (erroneously as it turned out) the cancer-stricken Libyan had only months to live. This proved a controversial decision and one that left the Scottish government scurrying around looking for whatever support it could find.
All of which prompted Salmond’s chief-of-staff to send an email to Trump asking for his support and suggesting Trump could issue a statement reading:
“It (releasing Megrahi) must have been a hugely difficult decision for the Scottish Government to make and, of course, for most of our own United States families who lost loved ones, it would always be impossible to accept.
“Their reaction is entirely understandable and, as an American, I personally would sympathise with the US families. However I am certain that the Scots issued this release for good reasons and I would hope that it might break the cycle of violence around the world, and replace it with reciprocal gestures.
“In any event it won’t stop my love affair with Scotland and the Scots. No one should ever demean that country.”
Trump refused. That refusal seems less notable – less jaw-droppingly astonishing – than the fact Salmond and his office thought this sort of approach was sensible in the first place.
Equally, there is something grim about seeing all these people divesting themselves of their associations with Trump (in the light of his recent comments on muslims visiting the United States) when, as has always been clear, the Donald Trump of today is no different from the Donald Trump of old.
Why, as recently as November last year the Scottish-government owned Prestwick Airport enthusiastically welcomed Trump’s announcement he intended to use the (failing) airport as the base for something called Trump Aviation Operations.
Ah well. Those were the days.
But if Trump is an ignorant buffoon and a bigoted nincompoop at that, what does that say about the people who so cheerfully welcomed him to Scotland?
*Note that Alex Salmond’s website isn’t just Alex Salmond’s website, it is THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE, presumably to distinguish it from all the unofficial, fan-curated, Alex Salmond websites.
**Note too that Trump’s own portrait game is strong.