Thursday, 27 October 2011

Trump, trump, trump

This week we finally got to Dundee to see the documentary film about Donald Trump's Scottish golf course project - "You've Been Trumped". I had read quite a lot about the film - partly because the site of the course/resort is quite local to here (just over 30 miles north of here in Aberdeenshire) and partly because the film was made by a Montrose-based filmmaker Anthony Baxter (and it can't get much more local than that, Montrose being our nearest town).

“You've Been Trumped” is very interesting and I urge all of you to try and see it when you can (all showing details at the film's website). It's a documentary but quite a gentle artistic one and it shows some great shots of the beautiful north-eastern coast of Scotland. What it tries to do above all, however, is to provide some balance to the whole story of the golf development up there by allowing the wider public to meet the locals whose lives have been most affected by the Trump project at Balmedie/Menie Estate and to see how that project has been carried out to date (no surprise perhaps considering Trump's reputation – the whole thing is an outrage). Trump and his entourage have done their best to paint the locals who opposed him (or you could say 'those who just refused to be bought by him') as the lowest of the low, as slum-dwellers, as people whose opinion means nothing but what the film does, very successfully, is to show these people for what they are - an ordinary mix of extraordinary folk, people who deserve the right to be protected and listened to, people who deserve more (much more!) from their national politicians and agencies.

Below is a photograph of two of the locals taken by Alicia Bruce. The photo is titled "Mike and Sheila Forbes: Mill of Menie" (copyright Alicia Bruce) and, along with others from Bruce's excellent collection "Menie: a portrait of a North East Community in Conflict", it is featured in the film. The full collection of photographs is currently on show at the Moray Art Centre (until 26 November).

Some of you will know the story of the Balmedie golf course but others will not so I will try to provide a quick summary. If any of the facts or order here are wrong please feel free to put an oar in. For some balance Trump's site for the subject is here, wikipedia's is here and a group that opposes Trump's plans is here.

  1. A few years back Donald Trump announces he wants to build “the best golf course in the world” (complete with hotel, luxury houses etc.).
  2. After some umming and ahing he chooses a site in Scotland, just north of Aberdeen. Some of the site is a particular type of dune system and therefore an SSSI (Site of Specific Scientific Interest).
  3. He buys up a lot of land at this site (2005/2006).
  4. Aberdeenshire Council deny permission to build the course/resort (2007).
  5. The Scottish Executive/Government override this decision and permission is granted (2008).
  6. Building commences, locals are treated badly, local police act terribly (even on one occasion locking up the filmmakers for what, looking at Trump's rep in a funny way..?). There is much talk of Compulsory Purchase Orders for people who live adjacent to the site but eventually these are not brought into use.
  7. Trump receives an honorary degree from Aberdeen's Robert Gordon University (autumn 2010). Former Principal of the same institution, Dr. David Kennedy, returns his honorary degree in protest.
  8. Trump announces that whilst the course is still being built the hotel and housing part of the project is on hold because of global recession/economic problems (June 2011).
  9. The film “You've Been Trumped” is released (2011). Trump says it's a “failure” but it starts to win prizes and get very positive reviews.
  10. Recently there is coverage of Trump's objections to a windfarm that is due to be built just offshore near the Balmedie site (it will ruin the view from the 18th hole, apparently). It appears the Scottish Executive may stand firm on the windfarm issue. So what will happen now..?

After watching the film I would really like the answers to some of the following questions:

  • If some of the site is an SSSI how was the Trump golf course project allowed to be built on that area at all? I thought the whole point of an SSSI was to protect the area. I thought Scottish Natural Heritage (at the very least) had the job of protecting such areas. There is some detail here of how SNH were involved in the early stages (advising Aberdeenshire Council). But then what happened?
  • How can the Scottish National Party's Scottish Executive explain their decision to override Aberdeenshire Council's original denial of permission?
  • Do the SNP now realise they made a mistake and is this windfarm debacle a way of avoiding the bad publicity by easing Trump out by another door?

  • What on earth did Robert Gordon University think they were doing giving Trump an honorary degree? (To be honest I find the whole business of honorary degrees baffling – either you get a degree, by working for it, or you don't. The rest is just so much PR. )
  • How much benefit will the Trump project bring to the area of Aberdeenshire? Not much according to some economists. And how much of a “billionaire” is he anyway?

And now some background material and links connected to the story.

Here is an interview with the film makers:

Here is a page from Scottish Natural Heritage on SSSIs. I also read an SNH document called the “North East Coastal Plain” online which refers to the need to “protect, restore and maintain coastal habitats” but I'm not sure how the Trump project fits in with that.

Here is an article from “the Guardian” published when the film came out.

A recent interview with Trump on TV's “Scotland Tonight” is here. In it he calls the windfarm development “ugly and depressing” - interesting for those of us who have seen the film and therefore some of what has been done to the local landscape in the last couple of years. “I've left the dunes largely alone”, he says in this interview. It didn't look like it from what we could see on the film.

Art featured in the film (and on the film's poster) is by Scottish artist David McCue. Bold and startling work it is too.

Music in the film is by Icelandic favourite jónsi.

Scottish singer/songwriter/folk favourite Karine Polwart has a new song (“Cover your Eyes”) that is available to people who donate $100 to the film's distribution costs. There are lots of other perks available to those who support the project for this or smaller/larger amounts (all details here).

And this is a trailer for “You've Been Trumped” (along with an appeal for funds for distribution at the beginning).

To finish this post I would say that watching “You've Been Trumped” made me in turns:

angry about how a “billionaire” can somehow avoid all the rules and regulations that the rest of us have to observe,

angry about how easily the Scottish government and local police force were ready to roll over and obey this same “billionaire”,

repulsed by some of the footage of Donald Trump... and I'm not talking about the infamous hair and gross facial gestures but about sections in the film where he was talking to the media and particularly when he was talking to women (e.g. to one young Miss Scotland). Ugh.

angry about the sand dunes area that has already been torn up to provide this new development,

angry and upset at how local people were treated by the Trump organisation, the Scottish executive and the local police,

pleased to see local people standing together against injustice.

As for what happens next.. apparently the first part of the golf course is due to open July 2012. In the meantime see the film, support the film, write to your politicians... I know I'm going to.


Anonymous said...

Nice one, Rachel!

Rachel Fox said...

Well, not really... it's fairly local and I've done nothing to date! There are so many things that need our attention...

hope said...

I'll keep applauding you from here...had no idea that idiot was trying to ruin Scotland too!

Standing ovation for Dr. Kennedy for returning his degree! I hate when people with money think they should get their way. I know it's easier said than done, but I'd love to know the locals refused to do any of this idiot's dirty work!

Titus said...

I fear that the answer to most of the questions is, as we know, money and/or the promise of money. It seems to be talking louder and louder these days; I'm getting scarily 'eat the rich' (except the royal ones, of course).

I'll do the writing bit, and the arts cinema here has a policy where you can request films to be shown, so I can do that too.

Loved Alicia Bruce's homage to the iconic American painting. What faces!

Good post, ditto that below.

Anonymous said...

Good on you, Rachel. I definitely want to see this. I can't stand Donald Trump and cannot believe how he walked over all those locals just to get a bloomin' golf course. It sickens me the way these wealthy people behave - so selfish. Great post!

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, the part of the film with Dr Kennedy was very moving. Universities should know better... shouldn't they?

Titus - yes, please do ask to get the film shown down your way. And you can see more of Alicia Bruce's photographs at her own website (link in post). Hers was a separate project to the film but made for some very striking images within it. All the photos in that collection recreate classic paintings. Great idea.

He's so ridiculous, Selma, like a caricature of a dreadful, self-centred, rich bore... and yet he's real. And what worries me most is that it all seems so much hot air. I've never watched the US "Apprentice" (and only the British version once) because it's not my idea of entertainment but it certainly seems to allow him to think he can do absolutely anything he wants.

Rachel Fenton said...

He's so unreal he can only be a nightmare, so why don't people just run from him?!

Money talks.

Fantastic call to arms, Rachel.

Rachel Fox said...

If you think that you should see the film!

Rachel Fox said...

And lots more to read about the subject here

Crafty Green Poet said...

Excellent post, i just saw the film yesterday and linked to this post from my review.

By the way, SNH did all they could to protect the area but the Scottish Government have the power to ignore advice from SNH and this wasone of those occasions when they chose to ignore.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, since I wrote this post I have read Martin Ford's long report about the decision! Quite shocking.
I have also written to Alex Salmond one of my points being why bother having experts like the SNH if you're going to completely ignore them when it matters?
Thanks for calling in, Juliet. It is a very moving film in many ways, isn't it?