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

For years, he harassed and insulted people living next to one of his golf courses.

Ivylise Simones

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Until the election, we’re bringing you “The Trump Files,” a daily dose of telling episodes, strange but true stories, or curious scenes from the life of GOP nominee Donald Trump.

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.

Read the rest of “The Trump Files”:


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend