Lawyers acting for the Scottish Government have denied claims that the decision to approve an offshore windfarm in sight of Donald Trump’s Aberdeenshire golf course was biased.
The US property tycoon’s legal team say a number of factors suggest Scottish Government officials were predisposed to back the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC).
Mr Trump opposes the 11-turbine scheme, claiming it will spoil the view from his coastal golf course.
His challenge to the legality of the Scottish Government’s approval of the windfarm is being heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
Mr Trump’s legal team, led by Gordon Steele QC, argued that the failure of government officials to visit the golf resort was one of several factors that could be seen as an indication of bias.
”Why was it that all the other viewpoints were visited and yet nothing was done in relation to our site, a site approved in the national interest and in relation to which there has been an objection from us?” Mr Steele said.
”What impression does it leave on the fair-minded informed observer, that one, if not the single main objector, to this proposal does not have the site visited?
”We were not at the site visits, so we cannot know exactly what happened, we are utterly reliant on what we are told.
”We don’t know precisely who was there, we don’t know what was done. We do know that no entry was made on to our land.
”These are further factors that require to be taken into consideration, which should loom large when considering whether or not there is an appearance of bias.”
But James Mure QC, for the Scottish Government, said there was nothing in the decision-making process to raise any suspicion of partiality.
”When fairly read in context, nothing here would raise in the observer’s mind any natural suspicion of apparent bias,” he said.
Mr Mure said he was not aware that a visit to the golf course had been sought by those acting for Mr Trump and added that visits to the surrounding area demonstrate “that some care was taken to understand what the scheme was and what its impact would be”.
Officials were “well equipped” to assess the full impact of the turbines on the surrounding area.
“As we have seen, at the viewpoint closest to the development, the impact is clearly assessed as major in terms of visual impact,” Mr Mure added.
Yesterday, Mr Trump’s lawyers argued that the ”cart was put before the horse” in granting consent for the windfarm without a licence to generate electricity.
Mr Mure said it was not necessary for a licence to be issued prior to consent being granted.
He refuted a suggestion that the Scottish Government had a financial involvement in the scheme because some parties had received public funds.
‘ ”There’s no evidence that the government holds any stake in the project or indeed in any party owning the project,” he said.
”The short answer on financial involvement is that there is no financial involvement.”
He also dismissed a reference to a blog on a golf website where First Minister Alex Salmond is quoted as saying the windfarm will “absolutely” be built.
Mr Mure said the reported statement was “clearly” a private conversation which had been overheard and was not a public statement that could place another minister under pressure.
A petition lodged by Trump International Golf Links and the Trump Organisation earlier this year asks the court to declare that the Scottish Government’s decision to approve the windfarm on March 26 was unlawful.
It also challenges the decision not to hold a public inquiry into the project in Aberdeen Bay.
Mr Trump has said he will pull the plug on his own controversial plans to finish his proposed luxury resort with a large hotel, holiday homes and a residential village if the windfarm goes ahead.
Senior members of Mr Trump’s executive team, including his son Donald Trump Jr and George Sorial, were in court for a second day.
The petition for judicial review hearing is expected to last until Friday before Lord Doherty.
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