A Standoff in Scotland Over Donald Trump's Golf Resort Ambitions

Michael Forbes says his 23 acres on the Scottish coast are not for sale. Developer Donald Trump wants the land as part of a $2 billion project.
Michael Forbes says his 23 acres on the Scottish coast are not for sale. Developer Donald Trump wants the land as part of a $2 billion project. (By Angus Blackburn -- Bloomberg News)
By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, December 7, 2007

LONDON, Dec. 6 -- When fisherman and farmer Michael Forbes looks at his 23 acres on the wind-scoured coastline of northeastern Scotland, he sees home, a humble jumble of a place where the salmon fishing is good and his 83-year-old mother lives in a cozy trailer.

When Donald Trump looks at Forbes's land, he sees a sliver of his latest mega-development plan: Europe's largest golf and housing resort, a 1,400-acre, $2 billion complex of two championship courses and hundreds of hotel rooms, houses and time-share villas a few miles north of Aberdeen.

The vastly different views of the down-home Scotsman and the flamboyant New Yorker came to a head in October when Trump offered Forbes about $790,000 for his property -- well above market value.

The Scot said no. "This place is not for sale," Forbes, 55, said in a telephone interview. "He seems to think everything is for sale."

The standoff is at the center of a controversy over Trump's latest megaproject that is firing passions so deep that a British businessman this week offered to pay more than $1.5 million for the land just to stand in Trump's way.

When local government officials rejected the project last week, Trump threatened to walk away -- perhaps to go over to Northern Ireland, where government ministers said they would welcome his big-bucks development.

As Trump was meeting in New York this week with the Rev. Ian Paisley, head of the government of Northern Ireland, the Scottish government took control of Trump's application. Scottish leader Alex Salmond, whose constituency includes the proposed development, issued a statement saying Trump's plan "raises issues of importance" that require consideration at his level.

That move reflected the eagerness of much of the local Aberdeen business community to proceed with Trump's economy-charging project.

More than 12,000 people have signed a petition on the Web site of 10 Downing Street, the British prime minister's office, supporting Trump. And officials at Aberdeen's Evening Express newspaper said they had received 5,000 online petition signatures and 1,000 handwritten letters of support, swamping opposition.

"It's a great project; it will be the greatest golf course anywhere in the world," Trump said in a telephone interview, adding that he was confident that the Scottish government would approve his plan.

Trump, whose mother was born in Scotland, said he chose the site near Aberdeen because "it's the most beautiful piece of land I've seen, ever."

But Sustainable Aberdeenshire, an environmental group opposed to what it calls the "Trump steamroller," argues on its Web site that the case against the project is so strong that Salmond's government will reject it.

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