Donald Trump today launched his legal challenge against the Scottish Government’s decision to give the go-ahead to the controversial offshore wind farm he claims forced him to pull the plug on future investment in his luxury Scottish golf resort.
Lawyers acting for the Trump Organisation and Trump International Golf Links Scotland lodged a petition at the Court of Session in Edinburgh this afternoon at the start of what is expected to be a lengthy legal dispute over the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) in Aberdeen Bay.
The petition asks the Court to declare that the decisions not to hold a public inquiry and the subsequent approval of the EOWDC were unlawful. And the American tycoon is seeking to have both decisions reversed.
The EOWDC is being spearheaded by Swedish company Vattenfall – Europe’s sixth-largest generator of electricity – together with the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG), and engineering company Technip Offshore Wind. .
Earlier this week Trump vowed to take First Minister Alex Salmond “to hell if I have to” to block the wind farm development close to his Menie golf resort, branding the 11 turbine scheme a “useless and grotesque blot on our heritage.”
And today he said in statement: “The legal process started yesterday and I plan on proceeding for as long as required, irrespective of cost. It’s unfortunate that we have been forced to seek judicial intervention following the recent decision of the Scottish Ministers. Vattenfall, AREG and Technip were wrong to propose a project that would totally destroy Aberdeen Bay and Vattenfall’s withdrawal clearly indicates their complete lack of confidence in the economic viability of the facility. “
The billionaire vowed: “We will not allow the Scottish Government or any other party to undermine what we have created at Trump International Golf Links and look forward to progressing the development further once this battle is behind us.”
A spokeswoman for the Trump Organisation said: “We have served our petition on the Scottish Government as well as Aberdeenshire Council, Aberdeen City, Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm Limited and Vattenfall.
“The main grounds of challenge include the following:
1. We were denied a fair hearing as Scottish Ministers refused to hold a public inquiry.
2. Bias – it appears that the Scottish Government, as well as Aberdeen City Council have financial involvement in the project.
3. Both Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City Council have a councillor on the board of directors of AREG, a 25 per cent shareholder in the wind farm project.
4. The Ministers made up their mind to grant consent within 24hrs of receiving the report – it’s difficult to see how they could have given careful consideration to the issues in that timescale.
5. Our rights under the European Convention on Human Rights have been breached – we have a right to a fair and impartial hearing which was denied.
6. The Minister failed to take into account the public benefits of our resort which were findings of fact at our inquiry and endorsed by the Ministers just a few years ago – these benefits will be lost if EOWDC goes ahead, and 7. An inquiry should have been held to see if both EOWDC and our project could go ahead.”
The petition claims that “full members” of AREG include Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council. AREG’s board of directors also includes one city and one shire councillor.
The petition continues: “AREG is financially supported by Aberdeen City Council. AREG has been supported by the Energising Aberdeen Fund of Aberdeen City Council. The fund represents a £22.5 million investment in the future of Aberdeen over five years by the Scottish Government. That statement gives the impression that the respondents (the Government) have a financial involvement in the application.”
It claims: “The appearance of financial involvement of the respondents in the application, their apparent pre-existing policy support, the comments of the Minister (Alex Salmond) which appeared to be in support of the development, the decision not to hold a public inquiry and the short time taken to consider the (Marine Scotland) report before issuing the decision each, and in combination, raise in the mind of a fair minded and informed observer that in the determination of the application there was a real possibility that the decision- taker was biased, not impartial or approached the decision with a closed mind.”
According to the petition the Trump development “had been found to be of national significance” and the Trump Organisation had a “legitimate expectation” that the wind farm application would be the subject of a public inquiry.
It argues: “The holding of public inquiry would provide a procedural safeguard against the appearance of bias in the decision- taking process. It was even more critical to hold an inquiry given that the respondents (the Government) and the two local authorities appear to have a financial involvement in the project.
“A public inquiry would have afforded the petitioners, the respondents and others the opportunity to obtain further information on the likely outcome for the Menie Estate.”
The petition argues: “By refusing to hold a public inquiry the respondents have accepted the economic advantages of the Trump development will be lost without having allowed the opportunity of exploring through evidence and cross-examination from all parties whether there were possible options in terms of the re-siting or other mitigation of the EOWDC, or the use of Menie Estate that would have ensured that both nationally important developments could have proceeded together.”
Commenting on the legal challenge, a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government is committed to the successful and sustainable development of an offshore wind sector, which could lead to a potential generation of over £7 billion to Scotland’s economy and support up to 28,000 direct jobs and a further 20,000 indirect jobs by 2020.
“The decision on the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre application was made following thorough consideration of all material issues connected with the application, taking into account views of consultees, stakeholders and members of the public.”
She added: ““This development offers a significant and strategic opportunity to drive the harnessing of Scotland’s vast offshore renewables resources forward by providing a site for developers to prove new and innovative solutions in a real time environment.”