‘Ya radge orange barmpot!’ Donald Trump faces thousands of protesters in Scotland
Trump’s return to his ancestral homeland did not go well for him, as protesters in Glasgow, Edinburgh and at his Turnberry golf course let him know he is not welcome in Scotland
It’s not the kind of greeting Scotland’s tourist brochures advertise, let alone what a world leader might expect.
As US President Donald Trump took a short holiday at one of the two golf resorts he owns in the country, protesters amassed in Glasgow, at his Turnberry resort, and in the capital of Edinburgh on Saturday – with around 9,000 in Edinburgh alone, police estimated.
When Trump and his wife, Melania, arrived at Prestwick Airport, near his Turnberry resort, on Friday evening, they were greeted by David Mundell, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s minister for Scotland.
Neither Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon nor any of her government will be meeting him. The semi-autonomous administration even asked the UK to reimburse the cost of policing the visit.
Trump’s stopover is a private visit sandwiched between this week’s Nato summit in Brussels and talks with May and then a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.
The reception – or lack of it – shows how Scotland has soured on Trump, even after he’s poured millions of dollars into the country where his mother was born, and as May tries to build bridges despite the president’s criticism of her policies.
Trump’s meetings with May on Friday were overshadowed by scathing comments about her Brexit plan in an interview with the Sun newspaper.
May sought to limit the political fallout after Trump attacked a blueprint for leaving the European Union she had just delivered to Parliament. He said it looked like hopes of a trade deal with the US were over.
At a news conference, he said he’d apologised to her and assured her that a trade accord was still on track. He said May is “doing a terrific job.”
As Trump was arriving in Scotland, a few thousand protesters gathered in Glasgow’s central George Square. There were “Dump Trump” placards and at least one that said “We Shall Over Comb”. A man dressed in brown held a home-made sign saying “Zen Monks Against Trump”.
The American president wasn’t without some support. Three men in one corner of the square held a banner with the words “Scots for Trump” in large letters.
They were protected by more than a dozen police officers, four on horses, as some protesters taunted them.
In Edinburgh, demonstrators organised by a group called Scotland United Against Trump marched through the city.
They also gathered in a park around a 20-foot-high helium-filled balloon depicting Trump as a baby in a diaper, which had highlighted protests in London.
Trump Baby organiser Leo Murray said a crew of “babysitters” had travelled from London on the sleeper train to fly the balloon at Saturday’s protest.
Murray had originally hoped to fly the balloon at Turnberry, but Police Scotland refused permission on security grounds.
Murray said: “People in Scotland have been so enthusiastic. I’ve been in activism all my life but this has crystallised something in the public mood. It will be the defining image of this disastrous visit.”
He added that the Trump baby was now planning a world tour, starting in Australia.
The atmosphere in Edinburgh was jovial on the unusually warm Scottish summer day, as families mingled with pensioners and activists while a helicopter flew overhead.
Organisers called for a “Carnival of Resistance against Trump,” with games including “Toss the welly at Trump”.
Paula Baker, 35, attended with her partner, Emily, 38, a nurse, and their seven-month-old baby, Fallon. “It’s a very inclusive atmosphere,” said Baker.
“People are willing to make a stand, and we want Americans to see that we are willing to stand by the people who are protesting over there too.”
Gwen Irving, 68, and Rob, 71, had travelled from Glasgow to display their banner reading: “Trump is a disgrace to the office of US President.” “I’ve never been moved to protest before,” said Gwen, “but he is a frightening development, and he is trying to foment division across Europe.
“The atmosphere is good-humoured but serious. It’s inspired some hope. We’ve spoken to a lot of Americans about our banner. They’re pleased to see it because this isn’t anti-American.”
Other protesters objected to Trump outside the golf course itself. Just before 2pm, the US president appeared on the golf course and waved at a gathering of around 50 people on the beach, to be met with booing and chants of “no Trump, no racist USA”.
Meanwhile, police are continuing to search for a paragliding Greenpeace protester who broke through the no-fly zone surrounding Turnberry on Friday evening, to zip past the presidential party as it entered the Scottish hotel.
Despite a £5 million security operation, the paraglider flew past police snipers and in front of the hotel, trailing a banner reading “Trump: well below par #resist”.
Police Scotland said on Saturday morning that “inquiries were ongoing to trace the person responsible”.
Greenpeace said it had alerted police to the protest minutes in advance. The group’s spokesman Ben Stewart said: “Theresa May should not have dignified Trump with a visit to the UK. The vast majority of British people are appalled by his words and deeds.
“He is, simply, the worst president ever. That’s why we flew over him with a message branding him well below par.”
Scottish comic Janey Godley, whose anti-Trump sign (“Trump is a c**t”) went viral on social media when she protested at his last visit to Scotland in 2016, was standing with friends and a more demurely worded placard at the police cordon on the beach on Saturday.
“I’m here to protest Trump because I think it’s important for women’s voices to be heard against someone who shows absolute disrespect for women,” she said.
“His policies are divisive and he has enabled racism and rightwing opinion across Europe as well as in the US.
“The Americans who voted for him have every right to do so, but wait until they get sick and need health care.”
Originally the relationship between Trump and Scotland blossomed when he was a property investor building a golf resort and the nationalists were seeking to make rich friends.
But it turned into a public falling out, first over the country’s pursuit of green energy and then over Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric while running for president.
Scotland’s offshore wind farms threatened to spoil views from the Turnberry golf course, Trump said, so he took legal action.
He also had problems purchasing the land from locals and with environmental activists, the subject of a 2011 documentary called “You’ve Been Trumped”.
In 2015, Sturgeon stripped Trump of his status as a business ambassador following remarks he made about Muslims.
Six months later, he visited Turnberry, landing the day after Britain voted to leave the EU. He declared Brexit a “great thing”, just as Sturgeon was preparing to call the election democratically unacceptable after a majority of Scots voted to stay in the EU.
“Scotland has deep and long-standing ties of family, friendship and business with the US, which will continue to endure,” the Scottish government said in a statement.
“At the same time, we will not compromise our fundamental values of equality, diversity and human rights and we expect these values to be made clear during the presidential visit to the UK.”
In addition to Turnberry in Ayrshire, western Scotland, which has hosted four Open Championships, Trump owns another course near Aberdeen.
They haven’t been the most lucrative of his investments: losses at Trump Turnberry more than doubled to 17.6 million pounds (US$23 million) in 2016 and widened to 1.4 million pounds at the Menie course in Aberdeenshire, according to filings.
Trump said at a press conference on Thursday that despite the expected protests against his presence, people in the UK liked him because of his support for immigration restrictions, a key issue behind the Brexit vote.
“There might be protests, but I believe that the people in the UK – Scotland, Ireland – that those people, they like me a lot,” he said. “And they agree with me on immigration.”
As Air Force One landed at Prestwick, hundreds of people lined the fence around the airport and gathered on a hill overlooking the runway.
Prestwick has a history when it comes to hosting famous Americans. It’s the only place in the UK where Elvis Presley is known to have set foot when his military plane stopped to refuel in 1960.
There’s a bar named after Presley that’s available for people departing from the airport, though Trump doesn’t drink.
Surveillance and satellite vehicles on Friday were parked on standby at the airport, while security agents were on call in case protests became heated, the Daily Record newspaper reported.
The UK government agreed to set aside as much as £5 million to cover costs incurred by Police Scotland after a request by Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf.
He complained that there “should never have been the assumption that the Scottish government would pick up the tab”.