Why these silly Trump stunts are not in the national interest
By Graham Grant
YOU may not have heard of the Patrick Harvie Principle, but it’s stood me in good stead for years: whatever the Greens’ co-convener supports, back the opposite.
On Donald Trump, Mr Harvie believes the UK Government will ‘pay the political cost of their friendship with this dangerous, delusional bully’, and his hateful ideology.
Naturally, there’s no room for hate among the Greens, of course, unless it’s a loathing of private schools, Catholic education – and the ‘racist and apartheid state’ of Israel.
According to Mr Harvie, the ‘increasingly fascist’ Mr Trump is a ‘vile xenophobe’, and – inevitably – the Greens will be enthusiastically participating in the protests against the President’s visit.
Nicola Sturgeon is in a more awkward position: after all, she has spent much of her time denigrating Mr Trump, branding him ‘deeply abhorrent’, and she stripped him of his role as business ambassador for Scotland.
‘Abhorrent’ he may be, but when it comes to a quick selfie to prove that she is taken seriously on the international stage, well, perhaps an exception can be made – though many of her social media followers may not thank her for it.
Adding to Miss Sturgeon’s discomfort is the disclosure that Scottish Secretary David Mundell will meet Mr Trump when he lands in Scotland, leaving Miss Sturgeon to follow events on her Twitter feed.
It’s sad that it should come to this because as we know Mr Trump was once on good terms with Alex Salmond, who these days never misses a chance to pour scorn on his former chum, after a falling-out over wind farms.
You might recall they were close enough once, Mr Trump has claimed, for Mr Salmond to ask the tycoon to speak out publicly in favour of the release of the Lockerbie bomber – a request the billionaire wisely rejected.
(In the spirit of open government, ‘there was no record to show either way’ whether the call happened, though a draft statement, backing the move to free the bomber, was drawn up by an SNP special adviser, and released to the media by Mr Trump’s camp).
Well, if I were Mr Trump, I’d resist the doubtless fairly limited urge to arrange a sit-down with Miss Sturgeon this weekend: why should he interrupt his golf to entertain someone who prioritises virtue-signalling over astute diplomacy?
The career MSPs with negligible hinterland who dominate the benches at Holyrood (including the First Minister) have never been able to rationalise the appeal of Mr Trump – who won precisely because he wasn’t a professional politician.
And yet there’s much Miss Sturgeon could learn from the President, were she to engineer an invite to supper at Turnberry, and if she could set aside her sixth-form soundbites long enough to listen, particularly on the economy.
Perhaps she should take Finance Secretary Derek Mackay along with her – what, one wonders, would Mr Trump make of the former leader of Renfrewshire Council, currently presiding over tax hikes and the rapid demise of the High Street?
By contrast, Mr Trump’s tax cuts have allowed bosses to hand out bonuses to employees, and per-person gross domestic product in the US, adjusted for inflation, is at its highest level on record – while the unemployment level is the lowest in 18 years.
In Scotland, economic growth is lagging behind Colombia, though the SNP says it’s all Westminster’s fault, and nothing whatsoever to do with its own spectacular incompetence, such as snapping up money-pit Prestwick Airport – and rejecting the potential riches of fracking (which led to economic revival in the US).
There’s also something to learn from Mr Trump’s action in areas where his predecessor feared to tread, from the intervention in Syria after children were gassed, to the denuclearisation summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Meanwhile at Holyrood, reform is either delayed – for example the yet-to-materialise Education Bill – rescinded, like the move to ban sectarian chanting at football matches – or bogged down in the endlessly circular and paralysing ‘debate’ on Scottish independence.
It’s far easier to focus on Mr Trump’s alleged misogyny (strange that serial adulterer JFK’s sexual morality doesn’t come in for quite so much criticism), and snigger at the typos in his tweets, than to recognise the genuine achievements of his administration.
And it’s far easier to align oneself with the placard-bearers protesting in the streets than to accept that Mr Trump is the democratically elected leader of the free world – and, importantly, has a strong bond with Scotland that goes far beyond his business interests.
With the exception of George W Bush – who came to Gleneagles for a gathering of the G8 nations – and Eisenhower, who stayed at Culzean Castle in 1959, serving US presidents haven’t bothered to visit Scotland – they tend to turn up once their term of office is up.
Interestingly, it was following Mr Trump’s objections that outrageous plans for eight giant wind turbines nearly twice as tall as the Wallace Monument next to Culzean Castle were scrapped – averting what would have amounted to an appalling act of cultural and environmental vandalism.
At the weekend, Miss Sturgeon – perhaps having given up on any invite to Turnberry – joked at an energy conference about the wind farm row which soured the love-in between the SNP and Mr Trump.
She said: ‘A few years ago, you might have heard of these turbines because a famous golf course owner from America who, I think, has now turned his hand to politics, decided to take the Scottish Government to court to try to block these wind turbines because he thought they spoiled the view from his new golf course.
‘I’m very pleased to tell you today the Scottish Government beat that American golf course owner in court.’
There aren’t many such court victories for the SNP – remember its flagship Named Person plan for state surveillance of all children was ruled largely unlawful by the Supreme Court – so you can’t begrudge Miss Sturgeon her rather self-satisfied quip.
But I’m with Mr Trump: wind farms, heavily promoted by the SNP, have scarred swathes of Scotland, and aren’t worth the crazy sums invested in them (by bill-payers).
In a parallel universe, we could be celebrating Mr Trump’s familial links with Scotland – his mother emigrated from the Hebridean island of Lewis to New York to work as a domestic servant – and his obvious love of our country, building a mutually beneficial relationship and cementing commercial ties.
Instead we have politicians endorsing juvenile stunts aimed at embarrassing a man with infinitely more power than they will ever wield, propelled to the highest office in the world by nearly 63million voters (and bear in mind, Mr Harvie has never won a constituency vote and relies on the ‘list’ system to remain at Holyrood).
The ‘xenophobe’ due to take temporary residence in Ayrshire in a few days’ time will doubtless lose little sleep either way.
But the rest of us should worry that our political class allowed its judgment to be so monumentally skewed, prioritising frenzied virtue-signalling ahead of the national interest.
*This column appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail on July 10, 2018.