Trump firm 'refusing to pay' legal bill for windfarm case

Severin Carrell Scotland editor
Photograph: David Moir/Reuters

Donald Trump’s family firm is refusing to accept a legal bill worth tens of thousands of pounds after he lost a lengthy court battle against a windfarm near his Aberdeenshire golf course, according to the Scottish government.

A Scottish court ruled in February this year the Trump Organization had to pay the Scottish government’s legal costs after his attempt to block an 11-turbine windfarm in Aberdeen Bay ended with defeat in the UK supreme court in 2015.

The Scottish government has said Trump’s firm has refused to accept the sum it had put forward or reach an agreement on costs, so the case is now in the hands of a court-appointed adjudicator.

“As the amount of expenses has not been agreed, we are awaiting a date for the auditor of the court of session to determine the account. We expect payment when this has been completed,” a government spokeswoman said.

The case is expected to be heard quickly. Sarah Malone, executive vice-president of the Trump golf resort, said claims the firm had refused to pay the sum sought by the government are incorrect. “This is not in our control,” she said. “The matter is in the hands of the auditors of the court of session and the Scottish ministers.”

Trump launched his campaign against the Aberdeen Bay windfarm in 2012 after claiming the “monstrous” project, a scheme to test wind turbine technologies, would ruin the view from his golf resort at Menie, north of Aberdeen, and dissuade guests from playing there.

He took his battle to the Scottish parliament, claiming the country’s heavy investment in onshore windfarms would ruin its tourism industry. In one famous exchange with MSPs, Trump insisted the committee did not need to call any witnesses to verify his claims.

“I am the evidence,” he said. “I’m an expert in tourism. I have won many, many awards … if you dot your landscape with these horrible, horrible structures, you will do tremendous damage.”

Trump fell out with Alex Salmond, the then first minister, who had championed Trump’s claims the economic benefits of his Aberdeenshire resort justified bulldozing a very rare dune habitat he was building it on, as well as overriding local planning rules.

After Trump lost the supreme court case in 2015, Salmond branded him a “loser” and Trump retaliated by describing the then former first minister as a “has-been”.

Trump alleged Salmond promised him the windfarm would never be built when the pair met for dinner in New York in 2007, before Trump won planning permission for the resort. Salmond denied doing so.

Trump made good his promise to fight the windfarm, which was backed by the Scottish government, the European Union and prominent major business leaders in Aberdeen who had previously championed his golf resort application, by launching a court challenge against it in 2013.

Trump’s lawyers alleged in court in 2014 that Salmond had illegally interfered with the windfarm project to ensure it was approved. Those claims were rejected by Scottish civil court judge Lord Doherty. Trump had also tried but failed to become a party in a separate legal battle to stop the Viking wind project, involving 107 turbines, being built on Shetland.

Trump’s critics claimed the property mogul was complaining about the windfarm to deflect attention from his financial problems in Aberdeenshire, and the dire impact of the 2008 global recession on its prospects.

Last month the company admitted the 2008 recession and the collapse in oil prices in 2014 had been the reason the resort was never developed in line with Trump’s original plans. The Trump International Golf Club posted a £1m annual loss for 2018 last week, the seventh loss in a row. Trump and his family firm have now loaned the business £43m and it has yet to turn a profit.

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