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Feb 23, 2012

Trump to bankroll Scots wind farm war


Donald Trump is to throw the full might of the Trump organisation behind a Scottish anti-wind farm group after escalating his fight with Alex Salmond over his plans to build turbines to meet green energy targets.

The tycoon's staff, based at Trump Towers in New York, are to work on a daily basis with Communities Against Turbines Scotland (Cats).

Mr Trump is also sending his executive vice-president and legal counsel, George Sorial, to an anti-wind farm meeting to be held by the group in St Andrews, Fife, next Thursday.

Mr Sorial said the billionaire would use all of the resources at his disposal to do "whatever it takes" to prevent Scotland being "encircled by these monstrous turbines".

It came after Mr Trump pledged this month to launch an international campaign against the Scottish Government's keystone offshore renewable energy policy to meet 100% of the country's electricity consumption from renewables by 2020.

He had written to Mr Salmond, accusing him of "single-handedly" doing more damage to the country than "any event" in its history.

Mr Sorial also said Mr Trump hoped to give evidence to Holyrood's Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee during its inquiry into the ambitious green targets.

Mr Sorial told The Herald: "I will be meeting with Cats next week and, along with other members of the Trump organisation, will attend the event at St Andrews on March 1.

"We have agreed to provide financial support to Cats. We have agreed to assist them with marketing and PR. We have agreed to provide them with staff, with some of our team at our New York office working with them on a daily basis, but the details will be worked out over the coming week."

Mr Sorial could not put a figure on the financial support, but added: "As Mr Trump said earlier, it really is whatever it takes. We are very serious about our position and our concern that Scotland is being encircled with these monstrous turbines. We intend to use all our resources to fight these proposals.

"All the great links golf courses, that people from all over the world have enjoyed for centuries, are now being threatened. Another proposal we were shocked to find is at Loch Ness.

"If you stop 90% of the people in the street in New York they would associate Scotland with Loch Ness. It is an iconic part of Scotland.

"We were shocked to find out there is a proposal to put 150 turbines above it. It is complete madness. What we found was there is tremendous local opposition to many of these proposals."

When asked whether he accepted Mr Salmond's SNP Government had been given a mandate by Scottish voters, he replied: "Understood, but there is a growing voice in Scotland against the plans. I think one thing we have managed to achieve in the last few weeks is to galvanise the opposition, and the opposition is substantial.

"We will be participating in the committee's hearings through written submissions and, most importantly, the testimony of Mr Trump and other members of the Trump organisation should the committee want that."

He said work was continuing at the £750 million Balmedie golf resort north of Aberdeen.

The championship course is projected to open on June 26, but work on the hotel has stopped while there is still a chance the offshore wind farm will be approved.

Mr Sorial added: "No sane developer would build a hotel that looks into what is essentially an industrial plant.

"Until this issue is resolved, as much as we would like to build the hotel, we will not."

As regards the proposed 950 holiday homes and 500 houses, he said: "Let's just wait and see. We are very fortunate we do not have loans so we do not have the formal monthly debt service that puts a lot of pressure on developers."

He said the downturn in the housing market was not crucial and when the time was right they would go forward with that element, and the same with the second golf course. He also repeated earlier claims that the previous Liberal Democrat/Labour Scottish Executive had said the wind farm would not be a problem.

A Government spokesman said an application for consent for the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre would be assessed by ministers on its merits, adding they had "no knowledge" of Mr Trump's planning application in 2006, the year before the SNP came to power.

Source: The Herald.