Filmmaker Anthony Baxter has trailed Donald Trump's footsteps in Scotland and Ireland for the last five years, watching as the American developer oversaw the construction of luxury golf courses in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire and Doonbeg in County Clare.
Along the way he has had ample time to take the measure of Trump himself, watching as increasingly bitter struggles erupted between the locals, the legal and governmental authorities and the modern-day mogul.
In Scotland they've learned a hard lesson about trusting in Trump's promises, Baxter says. “His popularity rating here is near zero here. What happened here is a real little example for the world of what could happen on a global scale.”
A petition to ban Trump, 70, from entering the UK was discussed by British MP's this week and he has vowed to retaliate swiftly if it actually comes to a vote (Trump's controversial views on immigrants and Muslims may echo a sizable number of Americans, but in the UK and around the world they're greeted with alarm.)
Baxter, the gadfly director behind the two documentary films "You've Been Trumped" and "A Dangerous Game," has spent more time reflecting on Trump's moves and methods than most in recent years and his conclusions make for illuminating reading.
“Trump may claim that he's good for business, but the truth is he's really selling fool's gold and enriching only himself,” Baxter tells IrishCentral. “People who still dismiss him as a joke haven't grasped how much destruction he can leave in his wake,” he adds.
“Specifically on his recent threat to pull investments out of Scotland, it's an empty threat. He has already said he is not going to invest any more money over here. He originally said he'd pull out if the wind farm overlooking his golf course got the go ahead. It has got the go-ahead. Each time he fights it in the courts and he loses.”
“When he hit the airwaves last week saying that he was withdrawing five hundred million pounds from the Menie Estate in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire and a further two hundred million pounds from Turnberry, a golf course in Ayrshire, it was complete nonsense,” Baxter contends.
But bluster is one of Trump's signature moves, apparently. “Back in 2010 Trump was talking about investing one and a half billion dollars on the Menie estate for a golf course and promising 6,000 jobs, 1,500 houses, two golf courses, a luxury hotel with 450 bedrooms,” Baxter says.
“And here were are in 2016 and there's just 95 jobs, no housing, one golf course, a bed and breakfast with a few outside sheds and a truly hideous fountain.”
The golf course itself has been valued at 30 million pounds, but it has been losing millions since it opened in 2012, Baxter says. So the gap between Trump's rhetoric and reality is immense.
But the perhaps most recurring aspect of Trump's modus operandi is the way he uses his money and fame as a bludgeon to get his own way.
“When I look at Donald Trump's candidacy for the presidency I recall what we have seen in Scotland. What Donald Trump says and what he does are two very different things. When he talks about being the jobs president I would say look what happened in Scotland.”
The one area where Trump's word is usually good is in building walls, Baxter says.
“He does like to build walls. He has bulldozed mounds of earth around people's houses here. I believe him when he says he wants to build a wall across the Mexican border because he's done it here. The walls he built in Scotland were to hide local people's houses from the rich out-of-town guests who visit his course.”
“One of the things he does well is prey on people's hopes and fears. He bewitched our local government with talk of massive investments. They never happened. Now in America he's preying on immigration fears with his comments about Muslims being banned from the United States.”
“Here in Scotland he preyed on the fears of the oil running out in Aberdeen. Politicians were desperate to find someone with money to come in and plug that gap. They thought it would be Donald Trump,” Baxter concludes with a dry laugh.