As someone who has experienced Scotland’s breathtaking beauty and decadent history, the Scottish government’s decision to overturn its own environmental policy to allow Donald Trump to build a golf course on Europe’s most environmentally sensitive stretches of coast, described by one leading scientist as Scotland’s Amazon rain forest, is certainly intriguing. After all, this is a fiercely nationalistic country with a Freedom to Roam policy and a strong record for preserving its environmental landscape and natural heritage.
But tough economic times call for tough economic decisions.
Trump’s development proposal “to build the world’s greatest golf course” was initially rejected in 2007 by a local subcommittee of elected members; however, in 2008, John Swinney, the Scottish cabinet secretary for finance and sustainable growth, overturned the council’s decision by announcing permission for the development, as Trump promised to create over 6,000 jobs:
With latest official statistics showing unemployment in Scotland has risen to 7.6 percent, the move has been welcomed by the country’s government who are anxious to bring investment to the area.
A spokesman for the ruling Scottish Nationalist Party told CNN: “Ministers agreed with the public inquiry conclusion that there was significant economic and social benefit to be gained from the application by Trump International Golf Links Scotland to develop a golf resort at Balmedie.” (via CNN)
Many economists, nonetheless, have been challenging Trump on his economic estimates:
Paul Cheshire, professor emeritus of economic geography at London School of Economics and Political Science, carried out his own assessment of the economic case for the development of the Menie Estate. He was surprised to find that the Scottish government had not commissioned its own independent analysis of the likely benefits – instead, the government relied on an economic impact assessment carried out for TIGL by Strathclyde University.
Professor Cheshire describes that assessment as “wildly optimistic” because of its assumptions about the creation of new jobs for local people. He points out that constructing a golf course is not like building houses because very few specialist companies are capable of doing it. As it turns out, an Irish company is managing the construction of the resort, using mainly its own labour. (via The Guardian)
Trump also promised to leave the dunes in better shape and condition than they were before. Evidence, thus far, however, has proven otherwise as documented by local residents and You’ve Been Trumped filmmaker, Anthony Baxter:
In an interesting twist, Trump is now embroiled in a fight to prevent the building of an offshore windfarm near his luxury golf resort which he deems will be “an eyesore.”
Whatever the outcome, You’ve Been Trumped (funded via @IndieGoGo) was a tremendous start to the festival. I’m looking forward to checking out more films in the coming two weeks (March 13-25): http://www.dcenvironmentalfilmfest.org/