Donald Trump sandwiched his Aberdeenshire golf resort into the Scottish countryside with apparent little regard for the environmental impacts on the surrounding, fragile ecosystem of dunes and plant life, according to reports unearthed through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
As a result, the Aberdeenshire ecosystem has been “partially destroyed,” since the course opened in 2012, says Scottish Natural Heritage, a group that oversees Scotland’s historic “sites of special scientific interest, or SSSI.
“Construction of the new golf course involved earthworks, planting of trees, greens and fairways, drainage, irrigation and grass planting,” states one of the reports released by SNH inspectors.
“This has affected the natural morphology of the dunes and interfered with natural processes. Most of its important geomorphological features have been lost or reduced to fragments. Nearby marine terraces have also been reduced to fragments.”
Bob Ward, the policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, unearthed the reports through the FOIA request, according to London’s Guardian newspaper.
Ward has since asked the Scottish government to investigate whether proper environmental monitoring has been carried out at the site
“These documents show that considerable damage has been done to Foveran Links,” he said.
Trump unveiled the project in 2008 and promised to protect the dunes. At the time, his grandiose plans called for a five-star hotel with 450 rooms, shops, a sports complex, timeshare apartments, two golf courses and housing developments. In all, he said the project would create 6,000 jobs.
To date, however, the site only includes the 18-hole course, open seven months a year, a practice range, and a small clubhouse with a restaurant and shop; an expansive manor house has also been converted into a 16-room boutique hotel.
The project has always been shrouded in mystery and may have a connection to allegations that Trump used the project to launder money for Russian mobsters and oligarchs close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump reportedly paid more than $16 million in cash for the site. Other all-cash transactions have been tied to the project when began at a time when the Trump Organization was struggling to borrow money.
In 2008 and 2009, a major Scottish bank rejected a loan application to buy and redevelop a landmark hotel in St. Andrews, Scotland, according to The Scotsman newspaper.
Yet, in 2014, he bought his larger and better known golf resort and hotel at Turnberry in Ayrshire, for $63 million, again, all in cash. Turnberry lost $36.1 million in 2016 (the most recent figure available) on revenue of just $12 million, according to Bloomberg.
Trump International Golf Links Scotland, lost nearly $1.8 million in 2016. Trump was forced to increase his interest-free loans to the resort to nearly $54 million, according to reports.
In all, the Trump Organization spent $400 million in cash on real estate acquisitions between 2006 and 2015, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.
The Trump Organization invested around $120 million in the first phase of development at Aberdeenshire and has pledged nearly $1 billion to build 500 homes, 50 hotel cottages and a sports centre along with retail, equestrian and commercial spaces.
Eric Trump and brother Donald Jr, who now run the family business, said in a statement earlier this month, that groundbreaking on the next phase of the project is set for 2019.
Trump’s plans have raised eyebrows because his Scottish golf resorts have been hemorrhaging money since they opened. The Trump Organization was forced to loan his resorts nearly $200 million to cover losses, according to The Guardian.
The Trumps claim the money comes from the organization’s “tremendous cash flow” from its various real estate holdings, despite his string of commercial bankruptcies and the collapse of real estate during the Great Recession.
Local residents have become wary of Trump’s grandiose plans ever since he reneged on promises to protect the environment around his Aberdeenshire course.
“It’s been ruined from a virgin, undeveloped wilderness site into something that’s relatively manicured,” Dr Jim Hansom, a specialist in coastal ecology at Glasgow University, told the BBC in a recent documentary.
“It appears that the desires of one high-profile overseas developer, who refused to compromise one inch, have been allowed to override the legal protection of this important site. And we fear this sets a precedent that will undermine the whole protected-sites network in Scotland,” Aedán Smith, head of planning and development at RSPB Scotland, told The Times of London.