DAY 2

Donald Trump is still a GlobalScot (see my post of yesterday). Early days though. A motion lodged in Parliament today by Patrick Harvie seeking support for revoking Trump’s membership now has three signatories. And the past 24 hours have revealed new information about the GlobalScot network whose membership can be seen here.

Yesterday, my good friend Andrew Thompson had a good look at the 746 names on the list and spotted the name of George Sorial, Trump Organisations’s Vice-President and Legal Counsel. The other name on the list was Donald Trump Jun.

Now, I knew that Donald Trump Sr. had been invited and had accepted an invitation to join by Jack McConnell. But his name was not on the list. I did not know that Trump Jr was a member nor George Sorial. We also know that Alex Salmond had invited Rupert Murdoch who, according to Salmond’s letter, accepted the invitation. His name is not on the list though. But for the moment, let’s stick to the Trumps.

I phoned Scottish Development International and asked them whether Donald Trump (jun. or sr.) and George Sorial were still members. A spokesperson from Scottish Enterprise said,

“We have over 750 GlobalScots – all of whom are respected and successful business leaders around the world. Not all of them will agree on every single aspect of what we do. Donald Trump was asked by the previous First Minister to become a GlobalScot due to his passion and we have no intention of altering Mr Trump or Mr Sorial’s position as GlobalScots.”

I then asked why Donald Trump Sr’s name did not appear on the list but Junior’s did and whether either or both were members. I was told,

Donald Trump Senior and Donald Trump Junior are both GlobalScots.

and

George Sorial is Trump Sr’s representative on the list.

Which is strange because GlobalScot makes very clear on its website that “Membership of GlobalScot is by invitation only, personal and non-transferable.”

That means that Trump Sr’s membership is personal to him and non-transferable and thus Mr Sorial cannot be his “representative”. How many others are “representatives” of other persons unknown?

Scottish Enterprise has not yet responded to this point.

The campaign goes on.

UPDATE 13 November 2013

According to an FoI request submitted to Scottish Enterprise in July 2013, George Sorial is a full GlobalScot – not merely Trump Senior’s representative as Scottish Enterprise claim above. Here is the text of the FoI which includes the information recorded by the assessors as to why Donald Trump Jnr and George Sorial were qualified to be GlobalScots.

Alex Salmond met Rupert Murdoch today for lunch. They talked about future investment in Scotland. I am prepared to give Mr Salmond the benefit of the doubt in terms of the wisdom of aligning himself with Mr Murdoch and I am prepared to give Mr Murdoch the benefit of the doubt when he”gave strong assurances that News International are intent on consigning these matters [phone hacking et al] to the past and emerging a better organisation from it.”

I do both of the above with some difficulty but I do them nevertheless.

It thus follows that Rupert Murdoch is someone who might be entitled to be a GlobalScot.

Might.

Imagine on the other hand if Rupert Murdoch had, instead of meeting with Alex Salmond for soup and talking about future investment plans, announced that he planned to spend millions of pounds to fund a campaign to oppose a central plank of the Government’s economic strategy and was considering launching a legal action in order to “delay it for years to come”.

Would Alex Salmond have met with him?

Would he be considered a fit and proper person to hold exclusive membership of the GlobalScot network?

The fact that one might even hesitate before asserting that the answer must be an emphatic no shows how far out in the deep murky waters of compromise we might be swimming.

But Donald Trump was in much the same situation as Murdoch in the past. Not in terms of presiding over rampant criminality but in being somebody the Scottish Government was obliged to deal with and who managed to convince those in whose gift it was to permit such things that he intended to make serious investment in Scotland.

As a consequence he was appointed a GlobalScot by Jack McConnell and his son was then invited to join by Alex Salmond. Like Murdoch I can (just and with some difficulty) accept the legitimacy of inviting the Trumps to be GlobalScots.

But all that has changed now. If I were to join one of Donald Trump’s golf clubs and announced I would be spending £10 million to campaign against it and launch a lawsuit to frustrate its plans I doubt I would remain a member for very long.

So, yesterday, Patrick Harvie MSP and I called for Trump’s membership of the GlobalScot network to be withdrawn (here and here). For our pains, Trump claimed that we showed “fascistic tendencies”.

Today, I made further investigations into the GlobalScot network and uncovered some interesting new facts – which I will relay in my next blog.

For now, it is enough to know that the monumental disgust and loathing I feel towards Rupert Murdoch and his empire still allows me to understand why Mr Salmond might be justified in meeting for lunch and makes it all the more difficult to understand why Donald Trump is still a valued Scottish Government ambassador.

Westwater plantation in Dumfries-shire – owned by a landowner in Surrey and granted over £1 million in Scottish forestry grants.

Last year I was commissioned by the Forest Policy Group to undertake research into who owns Scotland’s forests. The report of my conclusions is published today and copies can be downloaded here.

It’s a remarkable picture – the most concentrated pattern of private ownership anywhere in Europe. The graphs below illustrate the stark contrast.

An essay published in Scotland on Sunday on 27 February explores some of the background to this and the report of course provides all the background and data. The Scottish Government has budgeted £36 million per year over next 3 years for new forestry. I do not think it too much to ask that this money be used to maximum benefit. Currently much is being handed over to wealthy absentee landlords to boost their tax-free investment portfolio. When I was at University 25 years ago, there was a wonderful geography professor, the late Sandy Mather who wrote in an academic paper in 1987

There has been no stated policy towards ownership structure. Whether by design or by default, the state has exerted an influence of fundamental significance for the structure of forest ownership through its choice of policy instruments. Whether by design or default, the state has facilitated the expansion of financial ownership of forests in Scotland. (1)

That was 25 years ago. Little has changed. But it could yet.

UPDATE 26 MARCH 2012

You can hear an interview I did for BBC Scotland’s Out of Doors programme on the topic here.

(1)  A.S. Mather, 1987. ˜The Structure of Forest Ownership in Scotland: a first approximation Journal of Rural Studies, Vol. 3 (2) pp.175-182. Available here.