The Scottish Government has given the green-light to the huge £1bn golf resort that US billionaire Donald Trump wants to build in Aberdeenshire. Since part of the proposed course is currently a natural heritage site, environmentalists have been up in arms about the plan. But clearly the Government has decided it can't afford to be too idealistic - with 6,000 jobs likely to be created, First Minister Alex Salmond said today that ‘the economic and social benefits for the north-east of Scotland substantially outweigh any environmental impact'. Now there's a precedent...
Trump's new resort will include ‘the greatest golf course in the world' (according to Trump), a five-star hotel, up to 500 private homes and presumably, on past form, a road named after himself. The huge development will do wonders for local unemployment figures, but the same can't be said for the protected sand dunes north of Aberdeen that form part of the proposed site - hence why the RSPB and the Scottish Wildlife Trust are so against the idea.
In fact, the plan was actually rejected by the local council back in November, only for business leaders to kick up such a stink that the Scottish government decided to step in and commission a public enquiry (you might think Salmond of all people would be a fan of locally-devolved decision-making, but obviously not). To nobody's great surprise, it concluded that the scheme was too good an opportunity to pass up - even if it does mean selling off a big chunk of your land to Donald Trump...
Naturally the environmental lobby aren't happy, bemoaning the fact that ‘the development will cause the destruction of a dune system, with its precious wildlife, on a site which is protected by law and should continue to be available for future generations to enjoy'. Trump will apparently be compelled to make sure the dunes are protected (and that doesn't mean turning them into hazard on the way up the 13th fairway), but the RSPB and co still think it's too high a price to pay.
On the other hand, it's not all over yet. Now's not a great time to be a property developer, so Trump may still have problems raising funds (especially as he's rapidly running out of solvent Scottish banks to back him). In addition, a farmer who lives slap-bang in the middle of the site continues to insist that there's no way he's selling up to Trump. And you can't really blame him for that...
In today's bulletin:
RBS takes another hit ahead of £20bn cash call
No news is good news for Marks & Spencer
MT's Little Ray of Sunshine: Diageo the cream of the crop
Reckitt Benckiser distances itself from Tesco row
Jobs Trump the environment