The Trump Files: Donald’s War on His Scottish Neighbors

Mother Jones illustration; Shutterstock

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

When Donald Trump was putting together the plans for Trump International Gold Links in Balmedie, Scotland, his vision included buying out the neighbors surrounding the course so he could knock down their houses and have ocean views that weren’t “obliterated by a slum.” But several of those neighbors fought back, kicking off a battle that still hasn’t fully died down.

The most famous of the bunch is Michael Forbes, who lives on a farm adjacent to the course with his mother. Trump at first tried to charm Forbes into selling his land in person. “Trump said to me, ‘What’s this land worth, about twenty dollars an acre?'” Forbes told journalist Michael D’Antonio in D’Antonio’s Trump biography, Never Enough. “I said, ‘Ach, in your dreams.'” Forbes rejected a series of offers from Trump and fought off plans for a compulsory purchase order (Scotland’s equivalent of eminent domain) from the local council. An increasingly irate Trump issued a press release in 2009 calling Forbes “a loser who is seriously damaging the image of both Aberdeenshire and his great country. His property is a disgusting blight on the community and an environmental hazard.”

Trump also sent workers to harass Forbes and the other neighbors who joined his fight, as the Washington Post detailed this year:

In one case, Trump workers blocked in the cottage belonging to Susie and John Munro, constructing a two-story-high hill in their front yard and then adding a fence and locked gate, the couple said. Whenever it rains, they say, their yard fills with water and their steep dirt road turns into a mudslide.

During a dispute over property lines, workers ripped out a fence near the home of David and Moira Milne, who live in a converted coast-guard station on a hill above the golf course. The Trump workers installed their own fence—and then sent the Milnes a bill for it.

Trump’s workers also planted a row of spruce trees that blocked Milne’s house from the ocean, installed a fence on a slice of what Forbes said was his territory, and, according to D’Antonio, allegedly cut off Forbes’ water for 10 days. The protracted fight became the subject of a 2011 documentary, You’ve Been Trumped. Forbes’ stand against Trump made him a national celebrity who was voted “Top Scot” in 2012—Trump claimed the election was rigged—and had his photo placed in the collection of the National Galleries of Scotland.

Trump eventually turned his attention to other things, like trying to block an offshore wind farm and bulldozing some of the site’s rare and ecologically valuable sand dunes. But tensions clearly remain: When Trump visited Scotland in June to plug his latest Scottish course, Forbes and Milne put up Mexican flags “to show solidarity with the Mexican people and everyone else that Trump has derided, insulted and intimidated,” as Milne told the Guardian.

We Recommend


Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.