Donald Trump vs. Environmentalists

Trump opened his $150 million golf course in Scotland Tuesday despite protests and the premiere of a documentary that condemns him.

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Andy Buchanan / AFP / GettyImages

US tycoon Donald Trump is escorted by Scottish pipers as he officially opens his new multi-million pound Trump International Golf Links course in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, on July 10, 2012. Work on the course began in July 2010, four years after the plans were originally submitted.

Donald Trump teed off with top golfers on Tuesday at his controversial Trump International Golf Links course in Scotland to inaugurate its opening. “It’s been worth it,” he said to CNN. “This is the truly greatest golf course anywhere in the world. Everybody knows it.” He was joined by top Scottish golfers Colin Montgomerie and Martin Laird, despite conservationists’ calls for a boycott of the course.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust had written open letters addressed to Montgomerie, Laird, and a third golfer, Paul Lawrie, asking them not to play the back nine holes of the 18-hole course, the construction of which “killed the scientific interest of the dunes, and led to the loss of very rare dune wetland habitats.” Lawrie did not attend the opening of the course due to bad weather.

Trump built the course on a stretch of 4000-year-old coastal sand dunes in Aberdeenshire that were supposed to be protected by the Foveran Links Site of Special Scientific Interest. Both the government-funded body Scottish Natural Heritage and Trump’s own ecologists protested that the construction of the course was unnecessarily destructive, according to the Guardian.

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But both Trump and the Scottish government chose to ignore these warnings. The billionaire entrepreneur told the planning inquiry in June 2008 that he didn’t do “half-assed.” Then, in November 2008, Scottish ministers granted the billionaire permission to build the course, concluding that any possible damage to the environment was outweighed by the potential economic value of the resort.

And, indeed, Trump will probably bring in the big bucks to Scotland. The golf course is just the first feature of Trump’s planned resort, which will include two 18-hold championship courses, 950 timeshare condos, 500 private homes, 36 villas, a golf academy, and housing for the 400 staff members at the resort. And the course itself is a tour de force. Trump has poured so much money into the project that golf architect Martin Hawtree has been able to construct and manipulate the land in ways unprecedented in golf construction. “This is one of the most extraordinary golf links sites you have seen or will ever see,” Hawtree said at the opening ceremony. “There is no doubt in my mind that it will be in the top three in the world. I just don’t know who’ll be number two or three.” Trump hopes to eventually bring a major tournament to the course, which would spike tourism in the area.

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Some Scottish politicians, however, objected to the plan from the outset. Marin Ford, a Liberal Democrat councilor, cast a vote against the development when the issue was originally discussed in 2008. “This is a very, very bad precedent indeed and sends out a bad message about the protection in Scotland of our natural heritage sites,” Ford said. “It appears to me to be a vanity project. I don’t think we can claim this is a nationally important development, and it certainly did not need to be built on this site.”

Parliament’s go-ahead was met with a myriad of protests. The action group, Tripping Up Trump, established itself in order to support residents opposed to construction. Meanwhile, Montrose Pictures film company produced a documentary called You’ve Been Trumped about the course’s development, taking aim at Trump for his bullying of locals and politicians. The film premiered in theaters in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and London last weekend shortly before the course opened. The film trailer features Trump vainly asking how his hair looks before claiming to a camera crew that this project is the best thing he has done for the environment.

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But even after enduring all the turmoil surrounding the resort thus far, Trump says he is considering moving the course to Ireland. The tycoon claims that if plans to construct an offshore wind farm three miles from the site go through, he will move “the world’s greatest golf course” elsewhere. Trump appeared before Scottish parliaments’ economy, energy and tourism committee in April to testify that wind turbines in Scotland are detrimental to tourism. When asked to back up that claim, Trump responded, “I am the evidence.” Outside parliament, Trump’s appearance caused a near-riot: Anti-wind activists cheered him while environmentalists jeered.

The course opens to the public this Sunday.

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