Author and humourist PG Wodehouse once wrote that “it is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine”. He was absolutely right when it came to American presidential hopeful and property mogul Donald Trump’s attempts to insinuate himself into the Scottish culture with his £750 million (R15.9 billion) golf estate on the environmentally sensitive east coast of Aberdeenshire.
One of the most aggrieved was a salmon fisherman, farmer and quarry worker called Michael Forbes who refused to sell his 23-acre neighbouring farm to the belligerent billionaire. In fact, his steadfast resistance probably contributed substantially to the downfall of former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond’s attempt to break away from the United Kingdom. Salmond had annoyed the voters when he overruled the local council and gave Trump the go-ahead for his unpopular project in 2007.
Trump should have known better — the Romans and the English were all put sharply in their places when they tried to force their wills upon the Caledonians, so why would one addlepated American big-buck bully fare any better? He tried to win Forbes over with money, offering him £450 000 (R9.5 million) for the land and a salary for an unspecified “job”, but Forbes responded by painting NO GOLF COURSE in massive letters on the side of a barn. Trump came back with “It’s disgusting – he’s got stuff thrown all over the place. He lives like a pig!” to which Forbes suggested an uncomfortable place for Trump to shove his money.
Scottish fisherman Michael Forbes on his estate near Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, in Scotland, November 27 2007. (AFP)
Trump then fenced in a piece of Forbes’s land. When that failed residents feared Trump would apply to the council for a compulsory purchase order that would force Forbes and his family off the land, because it was a “slum” that would spoil the view from his new hotel.
Although Salmond’s government remained irritatingly silent on the matter, the annoyed Scottish folk didn’t. In 2012 Trump was incensed when the public vote awarded Forbes the annual Top Scot prize at the Spirit of Scotland Awards in Edinburgh, as the man who’d “made the biggest impact in furthering Scotland’s reputation at home and abroad”. An infuriated Trump then banned the sponsors, Glenfiddich whisky, from all of his resorts, claiming that they’d humiliated him because they were jealous of his own in-house whisky brand. “I call for a boycott on drinking Glenfiddich products,” he yelped, “because there is no way a result such as this could have been made by Scottish people.”
The estate of Scottish fisherman Michael Forbes, November 27 2007. (AFP)
Things got worse for the irascible billionaire when he featured in an award-winning television documentary called You’ve been Trumped, and the pop group Queen authorised a group of protestors to create a satirical musical spoof of Bohemian Rhapsody, featuring a Trump puppet and telling the whole sorry saga. Then the government approved the erection of an offshore wind farm within sight of his golf estate, despite his objections. He finally lost much of his enthusiasm for his “World’s Greatest Golf Estate” and Scotland, shifting focus to a golf estate he bought in Ireland just before the referendum that ousted his mate Salmond from his seat in government. Perhaps the last straw was when a portrait of Forbes and his wife, Sheila, found its way into the National Galleries of Scotland collection.
Trump is an avid self-promoter who uses social media to spread his gospel. This often backfires, though. Last year a comedian sent Trump a picture of a middle-aged couple, telling him his deceased parents had always found the billionaire inspirational and asking him to re-tweet it to his Twitter followers. Trump did so within seconds and the whole world howled with mirth. The photograph was of Britain’s most reviled serial sex killers, Fred and Rose West. Trump later tweeted “I guess this teaches you not to be nice and trusting.”
You aren’t Donald. You aren’t.