Donald Trump Kicked off the Scottish Green

GLASGOW, Scotland — “My mother was born in the Hebrides, in Stornoway, so that’s serious Scotland,” Donald Trump told an interviewer in 2010.

The U.S. presidential candidate has long made much of his Scottish roots. He likes Scotland so much that he chose Aberdeenshire as the location for a controversial £1 billion golfing complex.

But the plutocrat’s relationship with his adopted home has been a rocky one. The Scots appear to be turning on him in the wake of this week’s call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

The Herald, one of Scotland’s largest newspapers, carried a front page advert Tuesday for another of Trump’s Scottish golfing interests, at Turnberry. By Wednesday, almost all of Scotland’s political establishment, and even its universities, had made clear their disapproval of Trump’s latest outburst.

US tycoon Donald Trump (C) 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.  AFP PHOTO / Andy Buchanan        (Photo credit should read Andy Buchanan/AFP/GettyImages)
US tycoon Donald Trump (C) 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. AFP PHOTO / Andy Buchanan (Photo credit should read Andy Buchanan/AFP/GettyImages)

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, announced she was withdrawing the U.S. mogul’s membership of GlobalScot, an international business network, with “immediate effect.”

Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen stripped Trump of an honorary degree awarded in 2010, describing his comments as “wholly incompatible” with its values.

The Scottish government’s International Development Minister Humza Yousaf, himself a Muslim, called Trump’s comments “hate speech” and warned that his proposed policy, if implemented, would transform the U.S. into an “apartheid state.”

By Wednesday, almost all of Scotland’s political establishment, and even its universities, had made clear their disapproval of Trump’s latest outburst.
Trump’s comments were “divisive, hateful and designed to cause division between communities,” Yousaf said.

Patrick Harvie, a Scottish Green MSP, lodged a motion at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, condemning Trump for comments which he said appear “increasingly fascist.”

“This bigoted blowhard of a man is being rightly condemned far and wide, and I’m confident that Scotland will reject his extremist rhetoric,” said Harvie, who had previously clashed with Trump over a proposed wind farm near the Aberdeenshire golf course.

In light of the Republican hopeful’s latest remarks, Harvie said he could not imagine any “self-respecting person wanting to spend money” in any of Trump’s business interests in Scotland.

Scottish ministers and Scottish National Party MPs urged Theresa May, the U.K. home secretary, to consider banning Trump from traveling to the U.K.

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, the SNP’s trade and investment spokeswoman at Westminster, said Trump should be barred for “hate preaching.”

“While we cannot control what he says on U.S. soil, we can demonstrate leadership in relation to this issue and say: Not in the United Kingdom do we want people making Islamophobic, racist, anti-Muslim remarks that are completely unfounded and unhelpful when we continue our fight against terrorism,” the Scottish MP, who is Muslim, said.

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The Scottish government, and the Scottish National Party, have not always held Trump in such low esteem. Back in 2008, the Edinburgh administration stepped in when Aberdeenshire Council rejected Trump’s bid for planning permission for his £1 billion luxury golfing complex.

Construction of the sprawling development on the scenic Aberdeenshire coast went ahead in the face of vociferous local opposition.

In 2012, Michael Forbes, a farmer who refused to sell his land to Trump, won the Top Scot award at the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Awards. Trump responded by calling the awards a “terrible embarrassment to Scotland.”

Forbes’ struggle with Trump became the centerpiece of an award-winning documentary by the name of “You’ve Been Trumped.”

Trump and then Scottish first minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond were on good terms, with the pair photographed together on a number of occasions. But the relationship turned sour after a decision was made to build 11 wind turbines near the golf course.

Trump didn’t hold back, and accused Salmond of being “hell-bent on destroying Scotland’s coastline and therefore Scotland itself.”

The Apprentice star went on to take out adverts comparing the development of wind farms to the Lockerbie bombing, which killed 259 passengers on board Pan Am Flight 103 and 11 residents of the Scottish town in 1989.

In June, an Edinburgh court dismissed Trump’s request for a public inquiry into what he says was the Scottish government’s unfair approval for the wind power project.

Scottish judges concluded Trump’s lawyers had not come “anywhere near” substantiating his suspicions.

Here too, Trump claimed that the wind farm project — which is intended to test offshore wind technologies while producing electricity for commercial sale — threatened “the destruction of Aberdeen and Scotland itself.”

Trump’s investment in Aberdeenshire has so far been much less substantial than originally billed and he has repeatedly declined to say when he might start planned construction on a second golf course, hotel expansion and more than 2,000 holiday and residential homes.

Following the June judgement, Salmond, now MP for Gordon in Aberdeenshire, said he was “delighted by the decision of the highest court in Scotland to turn down Mr. Trump’s case.”

“The Trump organization has now been beaten twice in the Scottish courts and I hope that he will now accept the decision with good grace,” he said.

This piece originally appeared on Politico Europe.

Scotland Rallies for Independence

How George Robertson must regret saying in 1995 that ‘Devolution will kill Nationalism stone dead.’ Robertson, then the shadow secretary of state for Scotland, was trying to appease sceptical unionists. Last weekend, 13 years after a devolved parliament was established at Holyrood, somewhere between 4000 and 10,000 people attended a ‘March and Rally for Scottish Independence’ in Edinburgh. Organisers said that it will be an annual event until the independence referendum in 2014.

Squabbling over numbers – whether of crowds, revenue or voters – has been a feature of a campaign that has so far managed to be both shrill and low-key. ‘Seriously, is this #indyrally a secret gathering? I have seen better turnouts at bowls tournaments,’ the Labour press officer James Mills tweeted. Writing in the Scotsman, the former Conservative MSP Brian Monteith said nationalists had scored ‘the mother of all own-goals’. Whether either of them attended the event is unclear.

The SNP and the Yes Scotland campaign have gone in for some raucous hyperbole, too, but Saturday was hardly a disaster. Indeed, in the mix of people and perspectives on show, the rally marked a refreshing departure from dreary tribalism. Among the sea of Saltires assembled on a bright, warm morning on the Meadows there were Welsh flags, Senyeras and a huge banner carrying the face of the Edinburgh-born Irish Republican hero James Connolly.

‘Scottish independence would be the best thing for Scotland, the best thing for women, the best thing for everyone,’ said Sarah Currier fromVillage Aunties, a socialist feminist collective (‘We are vigilantes. We are village aunties’). Venetian nationalists in full military regalia marched on the spot. In the background a mix of Orange Juice and Tartan rock (Yes Scotland’s theme song is Big Country’s ‘One Great Thing’) blared out of a campaign bus.

As the march got underway, activists filed behind their standards. There were SNP groups from Leith, Clydebank and elsewhere; Socialist Party members handed out leaflets and asked for signatures for a petition to have Tony Blair charged with war crimes; a small group of Scottish Labour supporters marched behind a ‘Labour for Independence’ banner. Alan Grogan, a bookmaker from Angus, started the group ‘because I was told every time I mentioned it that a vote for independence was a vote for the SNP.’

‘People have realised that Scottish Labour is essentially a puppet of Westminster,’ the writer Alan Bissett told me as we walked past Greyfriars Kirkyard and along George IV Bridge. In January, Bissett released a caustic monologue called ‘Vote Britain’: ‘Vote for being told you’re the only country in the world that could not possibly survive and that without us you’d fall to pieces like children abandoned in the wild, caked in faeces.’

Our destination was the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens. With Edinburgh Castle in the background, Alex Salmond led the crowd in a call-and-response (‘What do we want?’ ‘Independence!’ ‘How we gonnae vote?’ ‘Yes!’); the Scottish Socialist leader Colin Fox talked hopefully of ‘the beginning of a Scottish spring’; the independent MSP Margo MacDonald called for a popular front in favour of independence, echoing the Scotland United campaign that followed the 1992 Conservative general election victory, but warned that ‘after the independence vote has been won, then party politics come back into play.’

Whether independence can be achieved without a more fully articulated policy platform remains to be seen. Many in Scotland – I’m one of them – would like to see the tabula rasa of an independent Scotland shaded in, however lightly, before committing ourselves. The SNP has been sending out mixed signals; talking about keeping the queen and the pound on the one hand, while on the other saying that it will be up to ‘the people of Scotland’ to decide policy after independence. As the ‘No to Nato’ and ‘Believe in a Nuclear Free Scotland’ placards at Saturday’s march attested, for many people independence isn’t only about self-determination, but about what we do with it.

The Unionist cause meanwhile is far less coherent than its defenders claim. Better Together, the No campaign, is an unhappy marriage of Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem supporters and unionist-minded civil society that is unlikely to rub along entirely harmoniously (especially while rogue elements such as the Orange Order in Northern Ireland put forward uninvited proposals on how the referendum should be conducted).

Although polls suggest the appetite for independence is flagging – only 32 per cent of Scots are in favour, according to the recent British Social Attitudes Survey – the ballot is still more than two years away. As the late Stephen Maxwell notes in Arguing for Independence, more than £40 billion is due to be stripped from the Scottish budget by 2025. Swingeing cuts, an unpopular Tory-led coalition and a faltering recovery north of the border could yet provide the impetus for the break-up of Britain. ‘This was always going to be a bad year for us, with the Olympics and the Jubilee,’ a veteran independence supporter said. ‘But Cameron will see that it gets a whole lot better from now on.’

This piece originally appeared on the London Review of Books blog

LRB Blog: Yes Scotland

‘Go on, Dougie,’ the man beside me shouted. His silver and blue lapel pin twinkled in the wan light of Screen 7 at Cineworld in Edinburgh. To my left, a woman beat her foot as Dougie MacLean shuffled with his guitar across the makeshift stage at the launch of Yes Scotland last Friday. In the front row, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s deputy first minister sang along to ‘Caledonia’; Alex Salmond grew lachrymose, or at least appeared to in the footage broadcast on the evening news.

Half an hour earlier, the first minister, in an uncharacteristically subdued speech, had told around 500 cheering supporters packed into the multiplex that he wanted one million Scots to sign a rather bland declaration of support for independence before autumn 2014: ‘I believe that it is fundamentally better for us all if decisions about Scotland’s future are taken by the people who care most about Scotland, that is, by the people of Scotland’. Salmond was the first to put his name to it, signing a ten-foot high replica of the declaration at the front of the stage before a scrum of photographers.

Young volunteers in light blue ‘Yes’ T-shirts shepherded press and supporters past the ticket booth and concession stand and into the cinema. From behind a blue lectern, assorted well-known Scottish phizogs made impassioned calls for independence. The political rhetoric was interspersed with singers, poets, playwrights and a short film featuring shots of Edinburgh Castle, Scottish rivers and children at play, all set to the sound of Big Country’s ‘One Great Thing’ (previously used, like ‘Caledonia’, in an ad campaign for Tennent’s lager).

The biggest challenge facing the SNP and the Yes campaign – the two are practically synonymous, although the Green leader Patrick Harvie, who shared the stage with Salmond, was among the morning’s most impressive speakers – is that the party is more popular than its flagship policy: the SNP holds 69 of 129 seats in Holyrood, but a recent YouGov poll (commissioned by Alistair Darling, a fervent opponent of independence) found only 33 per cent of Scots in favour of secession.

Yes campaigners evidently hope a post-national appeal to Labour values and voters will reverse this trend. Half a dozen speakers invoked Thatcher. For Dennis Canavan, the former Labour MP for Falkirk West, who won a seat in the Scottish Parliament in 1999 as an independent after New Labour mandarins rejected his candidacy as far too old Labour, independence is ‘a means of achieving greater social justice here in Scotland’.

Among the new supporters unveiled by Yes Scotland, Tommy Brennan, a former shop steward at Ravenscraig steelworks in Motherwell, spoke most directly to the former industrial heartlands that are still largely the bailiwick of Scottish Labour: ‘As a life-long trade union member with no political affiliation and speaking in a personal capacity, I am happy and comfortable to say yes to an independent Scotland.’ Brian Cox was less circumspect. ‘I come to this campaign as a democratic socialist,’ he said, before berating the ‘betrayal’ of ‘the self-serving Ramsay MacDonald’, and lauding Keir Hardie and the Independent Labour Party he founded.

Business voices were muffled, if they were heard at all: I recognised only George Mathewson, the former CEO of RBS, among a plethora of artists, athletes, environmentalists and socialists in a lengthy endorsements video. There was no mention of the SNP’s long-stated desire to lower corporation tax in Scotland (although, in fairness, there was little substantive policy discussion of any kind); no name check for such multimillionaire backers as Brian Souter, the owner of Stagecoach.

‘That was great, really great,’ said Paul, a retired social worker from Perth, as we stood in the cinema aisle waiting to leave. Paul is that rare thing: a Scottish Tory. He campaigned for Thatcher in Finchley, supported Hague and Howard, but last year gave his vote to Salmond. I asked if he was worried by all the talk of socialism. ‘Oh no, not at all. We’ll just need a healthy, active centre-right party after independence. But first we need to get independence.’

This blog originally appeared on the London Review of Books blog.

 

Talking Scottish Independence with Pat Kenny

I appeared on the excellent Today with Pat Kenny program on RTE on January 12, talking about Scottish independence referendum vote and what an independent Scotland might look like. As the Today with PK site says, ‘This is shaping up to be the UK’s most serious constitution crisis since southern Ireland quit the union in 1922.’ I’m on for 10 mins or so, c. 1.05 in.

Today with Pat Kenny