Donald Trump has said he may leave the United States if he loses the White House to Joe Biden next month. If so, he has just been handed the perfect place to condemn his last days – by playing golf on a new course in Aberdeenshire, his second in the area.
If Trump chooses such an option, however, he can expect a robust welcome from nature conservation. They say last week’s decision by Aberdeenshire council planners to approve the course could have a catastrophic impact on the area̵
Trump International Golf Links Scotland built a course on the Menie property north of Aberdeen in 2012, and its construction has been accused of severely damaging the spectacular dune system at nearby Foveran Links, an official site of special scientific interest (SSSI).
As a result, conservation experts had called on the Aberdeenshire Council to withhold planning permission for the second golf course in Menie that Trump had asked to be built. But in September last year, the municipal councils ignored their warnings and recommended that the proposal be given the go-ahead.
Since then, campaigns had pressured the Aberdeenshire Council’s planning service to overturn this decision, but on Friday it announced that they had decided to go ahead and give full planning permission for the new course. It claimed that the new course “will contribute to the significant social and economic benefits that are expected to be provided by the broader development proposals within the Menie property”.
This optimism is not shared by nature conservation. They say the decision means that Foveran’s SSSI status – given its unusually changing sand and diverse plant life – must be completely removed in the next few months.
“This decision gives the Trump organization a green light to further ravage and destroy Scotland’s natural heritage,” said Bob Ward, political director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. The Aberdeenshire Council and the Scottish Government have ignored objections from Scottish Natural Heritage about the potential for further damage to world-famous dunes that are believed to be protected as a site of particular scientific interest but have already been partially destroyed by the construction of the first golf course. ”
The new 18-hole course will be known as the MacLeod course after Mr. Trump’s mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, who was born and raised on the Hebrew island of Lewis before emigrating to New York. The track will be built south and west of the original.
Trump originally won approval for his “Trump property” that included the protected dunes because he promised to create up to 6,000 jobs by building a five-star hotel with 450 rooms, shops, a sports complex, timeshare apartments, two golf courses and housing . However, so far he has only constructed an 18-hole course, which is open seven months a year, a practice area and a small clubhouse with a restaurant and a shop; he also converted Menie’s mansion into a 16-room boutique hotel.
With just over fourteen days until election day, the chances of Trump spending more time on his golf courses appear to be rising. His Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, leads by 17 points in the latest Opinium Research /Guardian vote. More than 18 million votes have already been cast.
In addition to leading national polls, Biden is also consistently at the forefront of a number of important swing states. Last week, he even won the rating war – more Americans were willing to watch his Q&A session on ABC than Trump’s version on NBC.
Aberdeenshire residents may be able to see Trump soon, win or lose. According to www.trumpgolfcount.com, Trump has played more rounds of golf as president than any other White House resident. He has visited his golf clubs 280 times during his presidency and played on 140 occasions.