The man may be a buffoon, but at least one part of his letter raises a question sorely lacking from domestic debate
Donald Trump is an idiot; it’s probably best to get that out the way from the beginning. Everything about him seems to have been dreamed up by a satirist – his self-importance, his catchphrases, his media stunts, his political interventions and obviously his hair are all enough to imagine that he is the creation of a 21st American Dickens.
The next important thing to be said is that almost everything about his golf course seems quite abhorrent to me. I wouldn’t even care if it was the right golf course in the right place – the way he has gone about bullying and manipulating his way through the project is enough in itself to make me wish Scotland would just say ‘no’. And no, dear CBI, not ‘closed for business’, just an ‘aversion to arrogant fools’.
Finally, his deep-rooted love for the Scottish coastline doesn’t convince me. My guess is that he probably doesn’t like the financial picture presented by the project in 2012 and wants out, picking a barking-mad fight for the purpose. And being a neoliberal American, renewable energy is a perfect target. I rather suspect he wouldn’t be as upset if they were oil rigs. Either way, I don’t care – and can’t decide whether his overriding attribute is to be wrong or to be irrelevant.
However, in his hysterical teenage-strop letter he did manage three sentences consecutively at which I do find myself nodding. Well, almost:
“For the record, taxing your citizens to subsidise wind projects owned by foreign energy companies will destroy your country and its economy. Jobs will not be created in Scotland because these ugly monstrosities known as turbines are manufactured in other countries such as China. These countries, who so benefit from your billions of pounds in payments, are laughing at you.”
Perhaps it takes a chancer to recognise just how cynical modern business is. But his question is right – it is Scotland’s coastline, making it all a prime Scottish natural resource. But it is not being exploited in a way that particularly benefits Scotland. Most of the wind farms in Scotland are owned by overseas companies. They gain the right to put up the turbines then buy the turbines from overseas manufacturers. Local people are employed to erect the turbines. Then there is a very technical pipeline that is put in place – one which takes almost all the profits from our resources and transfers it quickly and efficiently out of the country and into the waiting arms of largely overseas shareholders.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the countries are laughing at us – more smiling contentedly. These sorts of economic capitulation are expected of us, so no need to mock. But in everything else there is much in this brief analysis which really ought to give us pause for thought. The Scottish Government at least has some sort of story about what the future Scottish economy should be about and the exploitation of renewable resources being at the heart of it is spot on. It’s just that we have to start differentiating between Spanish/Chinese/US/Irish exploitation of Scottish resources and domestic economic development.
This is the perfect place for an interventionist economic policy. These are our resources and they’re here for the long term. We should be using them as a tool to develop our own industrial and manufacturing base, not handing them over in return for short-term jobs with no long-term industry to support them.
Soon it will be too late. We will have signed all the contracts negotiated by a corporate sector which seems always able to outfox the public sector negotiators. Or more accurately, the public sector will hand most of the decision-making over to a messy network of consultants and corporates who will tie the deal up on our behalf. And then, rather than an industry, we will need to be content with marginal tax being taken from overseas profits.
But here it ends. Trump may well have stumbled upon one half-cogent argument but we can probably write that off as fluke and get back to normal service.