You’ve Been Trumped! Director Anthony Baxter speaks about his new documentary
‘We’ve saved the dunes, and from an environmental stand point it’s a much better situation than it was before we bought the site,’ claimed Donald Trump, hair blowing in the stiff northerly breeze at a news conference in 2010, on the sand dunes of the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
The billionaire was busy announcing detailed plans to build a luxury golf resort on one of Europe’s last remaining coastal wilderness areas: a rare and shifting series of sand dunes north of Aberdeen. He had been given permission to do so, by Scotland’s Government led by Alex Salmond.
What was a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) was now to be turned over for an enormous development for wealthy golfers consisting of a skyscraper hotel, 1,500 houses and hundreds of golf villas. Six thousand jobs were promised. And now Mr Trump was explaining how he was bolting down the dunes with marram grass, so they would not move and shift in the unforgiving Scottish wind.
After 15 years of working as a journalist for the BBC, ITN and other broadcasters, I moved from London to my late mother’s home town in Montrose, Angus – 50 miles south of the land earmarked for Mr Trump’s golf resort. One of my first documentaries was for BBC Radio 4’s Face the Facts about the destruction of our town’s once beautiful sand dunes, due to deep water dredging of the town’s port, and the local authority’s failure to do anything about it. That was how I became interested in the rare dunes further up the coast that had been purchased by Mr Trump. I was astonished to read in Aberdeen’s newspapers the Trump course would ‘put Scotland on the map for golf’ – despite the fact the country is the birthplace of golf, and stuffed full of historic courses, (and needs a new one about as much as Seattle needs another branch of Starbucks).
Aberdeen’s powerful Press and Journal and Evening Express newspapers apparently failed to question the environmental impact of Mr Trump’s development. But my own journalistic instinct was overpowering, and I felt a desire to get to the truth. Denied funding by executives in Scotland and elsewhere, I was left with no option – I remortgaged my home.
I began work, by speaking with the local residents and filming the tycoon’s visit to Aberdeenshire in 2010. Mr Trump had publicly said local resident and farmer Michael Forbes lived like ‘a pig’ and slated his home as a ‘slum.’ But Aberdeen’s newspapers had more pressing questions for the billionaire. ‘Is this turning out better than you’d imagined?’ ‘It’s better than I could have hoped in my wildest dreams,’ replied Mr Trump. And later on the dunes, ‘Is my hair OK? Give me a mirror.’ The words ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ were never recorded on my camera’s microphone that day. This was clearly a man used to getting his way. And it appeared to me, Mr Trump was determined to flatten anything standing in his path.
Shortly after the bulldozers moved in to destroy the Menie Estate dunes, we discovered Mr Trump’s workers had cut off the water supply to 86-year-old Molly Forbes – Michael’s elderly mother – for nearly a week, and so my Producer Richard Phinney and I went to interview Mr Trump’s chief greenkeeper who also doubled as head of building works.
After the interview, Richard and I were both suddenly arrested on the property of another local resident – Susan Munro. We were then driven miles to Aberdeen, banged up in separate prison cells for several hours and stripped of our possessions. DNA, fingerprints and photos were all taken and camera equipment and footage impounded. We were both charged with ‘a breach of the peace’ a criminal offence which you can go to jail for in Scotland.
The National Union of Journalists was furious and called our arrest ‘a blatant example of police interference stopping bona fide journalists from doing their job.’ The criminal charges were eventually thrown out by the Crown Office. But my arrest was a turning point, in what had become an extraordinary journey. I was now unwittingly part of a deeply disturbing and troubling story. And what had begun as an exercise to purely document what was happening, had now become a feature film – and I was in it.
The broadcast of You’ve Been Trumped on BBC Two this Sunday is a landmark event for the families on the Menie Estate. Donald Trump has called You’ve Been Trumped ‘a failure’ and the local residents featured in the film have been branded ‘a national embarrassment for Scotland’. But they have inspired sold out cinema audiences around the world with their extraordinary dignity, and determination to stand up for Scotland’s environment and our planet. These Local Heroes are not impressed or blinded by celebrity, money or power. To them, (and in the immortal words of resident Susan Munro in the film), Donald Trump is just a man with “a bit of a name” and “a few pounds they reckon in his pocket”.
‘You’ve Been Trumped’ will be aired on Sunday 21st October at 10pm on BBC Two
Tagged in: Aberdeen, Alex Salmond, donald trump, golf, Menie, Scotland, You've Been Trumped!
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