When I interviewed Martin Ebert at Turnberry in reviewing his awesome transformation of a much loved course into a masterpiece, one of the best in the world, I was intrigued at how much credit he insisted on giving to his client.
Not only did he want to make clear how good the client-relationship had been, with Mr Trump deferring to Martin’s proposals even when not completely convinced about them, he also stressed how much the Donald had contributed to the design, citing in particular the new ninth hole and the path to the new sixth tee, which opens up the most stunning coastal golf view in Scotland.
Other members of the Turnberry team told me how the new owner followed up his first tour of the course with presenting his head greenkeeper the next day with drawing after drawing which he had prepared overnight with ideas for improving the course, and following this up with a cheque for £1,000,000 for new course machinery.
So, how could I equate these, and many other positive stories, with some of the extraordinary promises made by Donald Trump in his rope as candidate for the nomination of the Republican Party, to build a wall between the USA and Mexico and to ban ALL Muslims?
Well, unlike the moralising Nicola Sturgeon, who immediately declared him persona non grata in Scotland, I responded, frankly, with amusement, being unable to take such lunatic proposals seriously.
I also viewed such a cynical approach to a redneck electorate as probably justified if he wanted to win the presidency. Having done so, he is now, of course, conciliatory, (the equivalent of “just joking folks”), a pantomime villain rather than a true prince of darkness.
So, what should we do about Donald? My view, for what it’s worth, echoes that of Mrs. Clinton, who with great grace, urged that “we owe him an open mind and a chance to lead”. To me, the more interesting question is “what should Scotland do about Donald”, whom, to date, it has treated abysmally. Let us examine the evidence.
Firstly, Trump, in the face of entrenched opposition, invested more than a million pounds in building a magnificent golf course near Aberdeen, enhancing not only the local economy but also the environment. His reward; to be reviled in press and biased documentary and his foremost opponent, Michael Forbes, voted, in a national poll, as Scot of the Year.
Mr. Forbes owns a property by the course which Mr Trump described as a “pigsty”; a phrase which those of us who have seen it can only regard as an understatement.
Donald Trump, understandably didn’t want such visual blight and made Mr Forbes a generous offer for the property, which was rejected. Now Mr Forbes is what is known in Scotland as “thrawn”, (dictionary definition: perverse, stubborn), a quality which many Scots regard as admirable, hence Forbes’ elevation to national hero.
At Turnberry there was virtually no local opposition and Martin Ebert has received widespread praise for his work, but the SNP administration remains unsupportive and, it is charged, has briefed against the resort in the media – indeed, one influential Scottish sportswriter regularly exercises his moral superiority in advocating a boycott of the resort.
It is clearly of no importance to this paragon of virtue that Trump has invested some £200m in providing a now world-famous resort for Scotland, one whose success sustains 300 jobs in Ayrshire.
With respect to Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, it is her job, on behalf of the Scottish people, to make the very best of the opportunity presented by having the most powerful man in the world, a half-Scot who has already substantially invested in a country he loves and continues to talk up despite the slights, as a potential partner.
It goes without saying that Holyrood should be encouraging the R&A to return the Open to Turnberry as soon as possible; TV coverage of a Turnberry Open would do more for Scottish tourism than the whole of the Scottish Tourism budget. Sturgeon should also be encouraging him to press strongly with the UK government for the projected space station to be located at Prestwick, as he has already advocated.
In short, it is time for Scotland to bring Donald Trump on board to Scotland’s benefit. I believe that his wilder views should be challenged, and hopefully consequently ditched, but treating Trump simply as a pariah is not the most positive way forward, particularly if supporting Scottish golf is an objective.
When I think of Donald Trump I’m always reminded of the Orson Welles/Harry Lime character in “the Third Man” and his famous quote: “In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock!”