Carol Craig | Trumped or duped?
By Carol Craig
March 30th, 2012
Introduction: This post was written by Carol Craig, chief executive of the Centre for Confidence & Wellbeing
If you’ve ever wondered what the unfettered pursuit of economic growth looks like, and the damage it can create, go and see an independent film that’s doing the rounds at the moment ‘You’ve been trumped‘.
I had the chance to see it last week when I was in Ullapool. Most of the folk who attended the screening were shocked by what they saw. My sons and their partners watched it too and they could not believe that the film was about their country – Scotland.
The film quickly fills us in on Donald Trump’s plan to build ‘the best golf course in the world’, a luxury hotel and lots of luxury housing on a site containing sand dunes in the north east of Scotland: a site which was so important environmentally that it was designated a ‘site of special scientific interest’ and had the highest environmental designation from the European Union. One scientist interviewed in the film refers to it as ‘Scotland’s Amazon rain forest’.
Local authority Aberdeenshire Council narrowly voted against the development and the planning application was then ‘called in’ by the Scottish Government. Their view was that the economic benefits to the area, and the jobs it would create, outweighed environmental considerations.
Much of the publicity surrounding the planning application in the media arose because the local residents did not want to sell their houses or land to facilitate the development. A farmer, Michael Forbes (pictured right), received huge media attention because an irate Donald Trump said that his place was so messy that ‘he lived like a pig’ and other officials in the area claimed the farmer was a ‘national embarrassment’.
This is where film maker Anthony Baxter decided to step in. He lives in Montrose and became interested, not just in the environmental angle, but also in finding out more about the locals and telling their story. ‘You’ve been trumped’ is the result.
What emerges is the story of ordinary basic humanity versus greed and hubris. The local people value their heritage, community and environment but are pitted against those who are enthralled to wealth, fame, and power. The locals act with integrity and decency; the best that can be said about Trump is that he is a man who cannot be trusted.
Watching this film, the ordinary people of Scotland (and some local artists) are a credit to the country. But institutional Scotland comes out of it very badly. It isn’t simply Trump, and by extension, the politicians who supported him that are shown in a negative light: the local police, local university (who gave Trump an honorary degree), and Scottish arts organisations, who refused to fund or show the film, are also discredited. The mainstream Scottish media who failed to cover the story adequately are also shamed by this film.
‘You’ve been trumped’ has had very little profile in Scotland, yet it is doing very well in the rest of the UK and internationally. It has won a string of environmental and film documentary awards. It is being seen in cinemas right round the world.
But am I not being too hasty here? After all folk have to live; jobs are important for well-being and this is an area that needed some economic boost. Surely the politicians were right to favour the development? I’m not so sure. What’s the point in having designations such as ‘site of special scientific interest’ if they can be brushed aside when there is the prospect of investment and jobs? What’s the point of talking about ‘sustainable’ economic growth and then give planning permission to a project which is essentially about international tourism – and a far cry from anything that could be called ‘sustainable’.
Watching the film and listening to the discussion afterwards it seems that the Scottish political parties (as this isn’t only about the SNP Government’s actions) were duped by Trump – conned in one way or another about the economic benefits that would flow from this development.
This is certainly the view of one London School of Economics economist interviewed in the film. He is incredibly sceptical about the jobs Trump claimed his development would create and the boost to the economy. He thought the figures were hugely inflated yet they were taken at face value by politicians. As he pointed out many of the hotel jobs would go to migrant workers who send much of the cash they make back home.
But from an economic point of view it’s even worse than this: Trump is now saying he is not going ahead with the rest of the development. First he blamed this on the recession and then on the Scottish Government’s plans for a wind farm in the sea near the golf course.
If the hotel and houses don’t go ahead then this means that Scotland’s Amazon rain forest has been trashed for a few million pounds and just a handful of jobs. And Scotland’s reputation similarly damaged. What’s more, we didn’t need Trump to put Scotland on the map for golf; we were there anyway.
Carol Craig is chief executive of the Centre for Confidence & Wellbeing. She is author of numerous books including The Scots’ Crisis of Confidence, and The Tears that Made the Clyde. Carol’s blogs on topics including confidence, wellbeing, inequality, everyday life and the great challenges of our time are available at the Centre’s website
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