Nazi golf balls, Swiss cheese and ‘one big love fest’: Trump’s visit to Scotland
We got harassed by secret servicemen for making a cup of tea
On Friday we were expected to arrive at Turnberry Golf Resort in the early hours of the morning. We weren’t there for an early game of golf though. We were heading to the world famous course, set on the picturesque western coast of Scotland, to cover the arrival of the potential future President of the United States. Donald Trump.
We arrived at the press entrance at 07:30 to collect our passes and be given an itinerary of the day. It was clear from the start the excessive amount of security present. G4S goons at every point, police vans constantly driving past and secret serviceman lurking in every corner.
As we were bossed around by thick guys with thick American accents, our bags were ruthlessly searched and discarded on the muddy floor. After being frisked and searched extensively, we were then pushed onto a bus full of the world’s press. The excited journalists were feverishly working out what question they were going to ask the infamous tycoon.
Once, there was a time when Donald Trump could arrive in Scotland and would be welcomed with open arms. He would clamber out of Trump Force One and be met by crowds of avid Scots, delighted to see the international entrepreneur of Outer Hebrides decent. In 2006 he was made a business ambassador by the Scottish government and was awarded an honorary degree by Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen in 2010.
Now if you ask any true Scot what they think of the potential leader of the free world you won’t be met with kind words. With his recent comments on Muslims, and his controversially buying up of the golf course and renaming it to Trump Turnberry, the businessman’s arrival is met with protests and widespread rage. We were here to cover the protests and the rest of obscene spectacle of Trump’s reopening of the refurbished golf resort.
The coach took us to the lavish hotel up a long drive and past the helipad where Trump would land on. The world’s media scrambled off the bus onto the lawn in front of the hotel to be in the best spot to catch his grand entrance by helicopter. Everyone was fighting for the best spot to set up their cameras. CNN and FOX had a feud over “tripod placing” and we were asked to “get out the way” several times. One guy took an interest in where we were from.
Halfway through chatting to the correspondent for a major broadsheet he was pulled aside by a Trump staff member. I overheard him saying “you can have an interview with Trump but you can’t ask any difficult questions”. After their consultation I asked whether he would actually get an interview. He replied: “I highly doubt it”
I asked about what he thought of the day so far: “The security guards are more worried about walking in the grass than protesters”
The wait began. After an hour of standing around I decided to get a drink for Caitlin and I. I went around the side of the hotel to the press room where they were serving tea.
As I walked back with the drinks I was stopped by a secret serviceman with a long coat, big shades and official badge. “You can’t go this way! Head back the way you came”. I tried to head back through the hotel to the front. Another agent stop me “You can’t go this way! Head back the way you came”. I just went that way! I had been trapped in the hotel. I was only trying to get a cup of tea! I wasn’t the only one. A BBC guy and CNN women were trapped with me.
We were going to miss Trump’s arrival unless they let us through. The BBC guy was getting angry, the serviceman replying “I am only following orders, sir”. After a lot of arguing we managed to get an escort back to the front. You could tell the tension was high. It was only a few weeks ago that a British citizen had tried to ‘assassinate’ Trump.
After making back to the front of the hotel with two cold cups of tea, we saw a hundred or so red cap wearing Trump supporters line up on the stairs leading to entrance, ready to give the American a heartfelt welcome. There were a pair of bagpipe players tuning up too with police horses trotting along on the main road.
As we waited for another hour, there was one question on everyone’s minds, where are the protesters? People were expecting thousands, but there was nobody in sight. An Australian reporter blamed the lack of protesters on the “Brits being so unorganised all the time”.
Suddenly we heard the faint rippling of rotor blades in the distance. Trump was in the clouds – not only mentally but physically – as his chopper appeared in the sky. Just in case you didn’t know who’s helicopter it was, Trump’s name was emblazoned on the side.
The landing was smooth and the loud rotors came to a gradual silence. Serviceman cleared the area and everyone braced for him to climb out. The moment we had been waiting hours for had finally arrived.
Slightly out of tune bagpipes began blurting out ‘Scotland the Brave’ and Trump popped out wearing his iconic ‘Make America Great Again’ cap. Following him was his blonde daughter and young granddaughter. They bathed in the attention as the crowd of supporters and Turnberry staff applauded as they graced the stairs. The press scrambled to the entrance to get a picture and question.
We could get nowhere near. The mass of journalists, supporters, bodyguards, servicemen and staff that swarmed around him made it impossible to see him, let alone get close. He managed to get into the hotel swiftly though, and had time to say a few words to the media.
“The British people have taken back control” was his main message.
We all rushed back onto another coach which would take us all to the press conference for the grand opening. The conference was to take place on the edge of a cliff near the famous lighthouse. Was it some kind of metaphor? Is Trump trying to say he is leading us out of the dark and into the night?
After waiting another two hours in the baking midday sun Trump finally arrived, once again to the racket of out of tune bagpipes. The instrument was acting as a strong representation of the great man himself. Full of air and incredibly noisy.
The press conference got off to an unconventional start though when comedian Lee Nelson interrupted Trump’s speech by trying to hand out golf balls with a swastika on them, remarking “these are the new balls available from the clubhouse as part of the new Trump Turnberry range. I forgot to hand them out”. I put my hand out to get one but he got manhandled away by secret service before he could throw it to me.
Trump started by commenting on how high the standard of the hotel is now, saying that there has been “no complaints…we haven’t had anything”. I had a little look at TripAdvisor reviews in the hope that I could prove him wrong.
It seemed that the theme of the day did not sway very much from the topic of the EU referendum with Trump saying: “People want to control their borders, people just flow across the border like Swiss cheese. I love to see people taking their country back.” This is in line with the tweet that Trump posted earlier that morning, showing how unobservant he was to the “remain” majority in Scotland.
No games? I think you’re forgetting the Mexican flags that were raised, the swastika golf balls and this particular protester
We managed to sprint past all of the television reporters and get a seat very near the front. Every time Trump moved his arm during his speech this was met by a chorus of camera shutters – you know just in case they missed him blowing his nose or fixing his on point hair.
When asked if he believed that anything he said with regards to the referendum affected people’s views in the UK, he remarked “if I said yes, total influence, then they’ll all say ‘that’s terrible, his ego is terrible’, so I will never say that”. We didn’t know Trump was so conscious of keeping his ego under wraps.
So he refused to comment on his possible influence on Brexit, however, did not hold back when questioned if Obama’s opinion to remain in the EU had had an impact: “I think that people don’t like him. If he had not said it I think your result might have been different. I think that his recommendation perhaps caused it to fail. He came in and tried to convince people to stay and I thought it was really inappropriate”.
The most surprising aspect of the day was the lack or protesters. It was thought that there was going to be at least 2000 but Trump said that he only counted 43, thanking the police for keeping them away. Trump took the time to thank people for the support that he received when renovating the hotel and golf course: “the members love us, Scotland loves us, the council. It’s just been a big love fest”
Press questioned Trump on this “love fest” as he had invited David Cameron and Nicola Sturgeon to the event but they both refused to show up.
Completely out of tune with this understated ego of his he ended his speech by stating: “one thing about politics: everybody liked me but once you run for politics you’ll have 55 for you and 45 against you. I’ve never had that before”.