Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Donald and the Saga of Trumptown

Donald J Trump - reality TV star, real estate developer, entertainment mogul, casino owner, the hairdresser’s friend, and son of a Scottish woman from the Isle of Lewis. He’s also a man who, as almost everyone in Scotland knows, is planning to build the best golf course in the world right here in Scotland. Move over St Andrews; move over Loch Lomond, and all you other jumped up Scottish, so called, golf courses, ‘the Donald’, as his former wife used to call him, is, much like Santa Claus, coming to town. A man who is not so much eye-candy and candy floss hair.

Trump is a brand, why even the BBC news is referring to ‘his people’ as Team Trump. Have you ever heard anything so daft? Every time his name is mentioned it’s preceded by the word – billionaire, in order to make us all believe that here is a man who can do no wrong. Of course that’s not quite true. Back in the early 1990s he almost went to the wall when his Atlantic City casino, it too cost a billion (do all his developments cost a billion?) and was built with money from high-interest junk bonds ran into trouble. Such was the level of debt servicing that was required that it ate through most of his companies cash and almost finished him. Trump had to file for bankruptcy protection.

Since then it’s true that his building projects, many of which are called ‘The Trump International Hotel and Tower’, followed by the name of the place where they’ve been built, seem to be successful. However, that too is not entirely true. Several in the USA are struggling and may not make money. On another there are a number of lawsuits pending. Now of course these are the everyday occurrences in the world of mega business where it’s not all about profit, there’s always a cost line and no such thing as a certainty.

The trouble here in Scotland is the way most everyone is behaving; from, Alex (no I met him in my capacity as a constituency MSP) Salmond to ordinary folk the BBC doorstep for a comment. You’d think that Trump only has to say he’s going to build something and it will just be a runaway success. How many of them know that it’s not all the Donald’s money that finances these projects, it’s done with borrowings and investors. Trump is a risk taker – yes, but he’s also a salesman first and foremost.

Trump has a number of golf resorts around the USA and at least one in the Caribbean. One of his US developments in Westchester County, New York took four years to get under way due to local opposition; another one didn’t even get off the ground. The fact is the Aberdeenshire development is a big departure for the Trumpies. It’s a long way from home and the rules of engagement are different here. So far he’s managed to wow just about everyone. Not though Mr Ford, who was the councillor whose casting vote carried the planning group’s objection to the project. Ford has now been voted off that committee by 26 votes to 10, although it should be pointed out that 29 councillors didn’t vote. It makes you wonder what they really think? How are they feeling today?

The plan to build all these houses and the huge hotel and the two best golf courses in the world may look great on paper but there’s a big question mark against it working in Scotland. The whole mentality of the market here in Britain is different from the USA. And just who is going to buy those 500 homes? And are any of the houses going to be ‘affordable homes’ in his gated community?

Donald Trump may be able to walk on the water, but does he blow-dry his own hair? We may well know the answer to the first question in due course, the second probably never. But whatever way you look at the Trumptown saga, whichever side of the argument you’re on, there’s little doubt that it damages the credibility of the local planning mechanism. Add to this the fact that the whole sorry mess is one built on ego and greed. John Swinney is going to have to think long and hard about all this, at least you’d like to think he will, because he’s not only the Minister for Finance he’s also Minister for Sustainable Growth.

I wonder if, once the housing development is finished and the golf course too, locals and tourists will be able to wander freely across the area. The right to roam is something that cowboys understand; let’s hope the Donald does too.


Richard Evans said...

Interesting to see in today's Telegraph that the Aberdeen Councilor who cast the deciding vote against this project was sacked from office yesterday.

Richard Havers said...

That's the Mr Ford I mentioned. He's definitely been picked as the fall guy although he may well go from zero to hero. It's a watch this space story that has many twists and turns to go.

r morris said...

If the US gets lucky, maybe Donald Trump AND Paris Hilton will become expatriates and move to Scotland.

Roger Thomas said...


Have to agree it's a watch this space story. Have been following it from the week the Scottih media flashed the images around the world of his private airliner landing at Aberdeen the same time week as climate change G8 talks in Germany. Just the global leading edge image Scotland needed.

Roger Thomas said...

Sorry I have been misreading everything. I thought Swinney was Minister for Sustainable DEVELOPMENT as well as finance. Of course it's growth.

Roger Thomas said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Richard Havers said...

Development is a word that has v=come, like news, to mean something entirely different over the last few decades. Development does not necessarily mean more, although clearly the SNP believe that that's the case as far as Trumptown is concerned.

Richard Havers said...

The Donald and Paris living in Scotland? Rob, please, no more! :)

Roger Thomas said...

Just Googled Trump and this appeared tonight, don't remember seeing it before. Check it out!

The letter is written in the 3rd person but signed by Trump, which is not correct grammar.

Scotland is being sold as unspolit dunes, which he is going to build on.

major opening shot in PR battle