Donald Trump is to fund an international crusade against “monstrous” windfarm developments around Scotland’s coast, after launching an astonishing broadside over First Minister Alex Salmond’s plans to streamline the offshore planning process.
In a furious attack, the billionaire US businessman accused Mr Salmond of being “hell-bent on destroying Scotland’s coastline and therefore Scotland itself”.
In a letter to Mr Salmond, Mr Trump said: “You will single-handedly have done more damage to Scotland than virtually any event in Scottish history!”
Only four years ago, the two men appeared to be best of golfing friends, when Mr Trump invited the First Minister and actor Sir Sean Connery to join him on the first tee at the opening of what he called the “world’s greatest golf course”, after the Scottish Government stepped in to rescue his £750 million luxury resort in Aberdeenshire.
But yesterday, there was a spectacular fall-out between the two as Mr Trump launched his blistering tirade against the First Minister’s refusal to intervene and block plans for an “eyesore” offshore wind farm in Aberdeen Bay he claims is jeopardising his future investment in Scotland.
He fired off a letter from Trump Tower in New York after Mr Salmond announced plans to speed up the approval of offshore renewable developments and said: “As we re-industrialise this nation then, eventually, just about everybody will get on board – even Donald Trump”.
The tycoon’s tirade was condemned by political leaders and pro-renewable energy groups. But one anti-windfarm group praised Mr Trump’s stance, saying such projects would “destroy the tourism industry”.
The businessman warned last month he would not spend “another penny” on his £750 million golf resort at the Menie Estate until it had been confirmed the planned 11-turbine European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre was being moved away from the coastline flanking the site of his main championship course.
The development, spearheaded by Swedish electricity company Vattenfall, will stretch from Aberdeen to an area off Blackdog, an estimated mile and a half from the Menie links. The turbines will be up to 640ft high, and the Trump Organisation claims the “ugly industrial park” will ruin the coastline.
In his letter sent yesterday, Mr Trump told Mr Salmond: “I have read your recent comments about so called ‘wind power.’ For the record, taxing your citizens to subsidise wind projects owned by foreign energy companies will destroy your country and its economy.”
He warned investment in renewables would not create jobs in Scotland because these “ugly monstrosities known as turbines” were made overseas. “These countries, who so benefit from your billions in pounds in payments, are laughing at you,” he wrote.
Describing the drive to install wind turbines as “reckless”, Mr Trump said he would “never be ‘on board’ as you have stated I would be, with this insanity. You will be long gone, but the people of Scotland will forever suffer.”
He warned that, in a campaign to “save Scotland and honour my mother, Mary MacLeod”, he had authorised his staff to “allocate a substantial sum of money to launch an international campaign to fight your plan to surround Scotland’s coast with many thousands of wind turbines”.
In the letter, Trump said the offshore turbines would mean that looking out to sea from the shore would be like looking “through the bars of a prison”.
He went on: “Luckily, tourists will not suffer because there will be none as they will be going to other countries that had the foresight to use other forms of energy.”
Mr Salmond declined to respond personally to Mr Trump’s remarks. A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “An application for consent for the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre has been submitted to Marine Scotland, and we are currently considering the views of consultees, interested parties and the public.
“Scottish waters are estimated to have as much as a quarter of Europe’s potential offshore wind energy. A recent study suggests that harnessing just a third of the practical resource off our coast by 2050 would enable us to generate enough electricity to power Scotland seven times over.
“An independent Scotland will be able to take full responsibility for this renewables revolution, along with the investment and thousands of jobs it brings.”
But opposition MSPs rounded on the billionaire businessman.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie branded the letter a “desperate attempt by a rich man” to get his own way.
He said: “First, Mr Trump accuses Scotland of being the laughing stock of the world, now he threatens to launch an international campaign.
“What Mr Trump needs to understand is that Scotland will live up to our responsibilities to tackle climate change. This letter is a rather desperate attempt by a rich man who is used to getting his own way, but his latest tizzy is embarrassing.
“Instead of the world laughing at Scotland, Scotland is laughing at Mr Trump.”
Mr Rennie went on: “Mr Trump’s dislike for turbines several miles from his golf course should not derail Scotland’s ambition. I would urge the First Minister to listen to Mr Trump, but no more and no less than anyone else. We won’t be bullied by Mr Trump and his millions.”
North East Scotland Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald accused the businessman of “bully-boy tactics”, saying: “This is an extraordinary piece of political theatre. Donald Trump needs to realise that simply because he is investing in one project, it does not give him a veto on any other project.
“Alex Salmond needs to make a choice. The right choice for the North-east is to support the offshore renewables development – a crucially important industry for our part of Scotland.
“Alex Salmond will no doubt recognise the bully-boy tactics that are being applied to him, but I hope he will also recognise that the right thing to do is to stand up to the bullies.”
David Milne, a Menie estate resident and a long-standing opponent of the Trump resort, said: “It’s a rather extreme and childish rant, rather than a letter. This is the sort of letter you would expect to be written by a 14-year-old who would then normally have the gumption not to actually send it.”
Environmental bodies also attacked the tycoon’s outburst. Niall Stuart, the chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “Who is Donald Trump to tell Scotland what is good for our economy and our environment? He completely overblows the impact of the proposed windfarm and, to be honest, there are so many mistakes in the ‘trumped-up’ nonsense that it’s difficult to know where to begin.
“There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that these two developments cannot exist side by side.”
But Kim Terry, a spokeswoman for the campaign group Communities Against Turbines Scotland, backed the tycoon.
“I think he’s right,” she said. “Offshore windfarms are going to destroy the tourism industry. These turbines are going to make it difficult to navigate and difficult for fishermen, and it is going to make the coastline unattractive to look at.”
She added: “I don’t care what anybody says – they are eyesores. They are grotesque and they are destroying our most beautiful landscapes onshore and offshore as well now.”