The US billionaire, Donald Trump, is demanding tens of thousands of pounds in legal costs from an 86-year-old Aberdeenshire pensioner who has been trying to protect her home from his luxury golf development.
Molly Forbes, who is worried about paying her next electricity bill, is being pursued in court this week by the New York property tycoon in an effort to recover his legal bills.
“It’s very unfair,” she told the Sunday Herald. “If he’s a billionaire, what’s he need money for from little people like me? He’s unbelievable."
Forbes, a widow, is one of several local residents who have been resisting eviction to make way for Trump’s controversial £750 million resort at Menie on the Aberdeenshire coast. She has been threatened with compulsory purchase of her home.
Last year she made headlines by launching a legal challenge against Trump and Aberdeenshire Council, asking for a judicial review of the decision to give the development the go-ahead. But she has had to drop the action because she was refused legal aid.
On Tuesday there is a hearing due in the Court of Session in Edinburgh at which Trump and the council are insisting that Forbes pay their expenses. Insiders say these could amount to between £20,000 and £50,000.
Trump is also seeking an “additional fee” to compensate for the inconvenience he has allegedly been caused by the legal action. If agreed, the court would determine the amount.
Forbes said that demanding money through the courts seemed very aggressive. “But that’s the kind of man he is,” she said. “Because he’s so rich, he doesn’t need it does he? He could pay my expenses.”
She insisted that she was not going to be intimated, but admitted to being worried about the money. “I’m not a rich person. I just enjoy living here, with what I’ve got,” she said.
She is anxious about whether she will have enough to pay her bills. Her electricity meter has just been read and she’s expecting the bill to be high. Her car insurance is due next month, plus her washing machine needs replacing.
Forbes was born and bred in Aberdeenshire. She talked proudly of her 15 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, most of whom still live in the area.
She has a view of the sea from her bedroom window, looks after two greenhouses, with clematis, fuchsia and grapes, and keeps a few hens. “It was very, very peaceful here before Trump came,” she said. “I wish he’d go. I wish he’d up and away.”
Pursuing her for legal costs would not make him seem great in the eyes of others, she argued. “Going after me, a little person, a pensioner, it must make him look terrible.”
She insisted she will keep on fighting to stay in her house. “This is my home and I love it,” she declared. “He’ll have to carry me out.”
Trump has been condemned by Martin Ford, an independent Aberdeenshire councillor and member of the Scottish Green Party. “All Mrs Forbes has done is to try and defend her home against Mr Trump's demands,” he said.
Forbes’ failure to win legal aid showed how difficult it was for ordinary people to take on powerful, vested interests, contended Mike Dailly, convener of the Law Society of Scotland's Access to Justice Committee.
"It's symptomatic of the urgent need to reform the Scottish legal aid system that an 86-year-old trying to protect her home should find herself threatened by a billionaire for crippling legal costs,” he said.
“The possibility of Mrs Forbes ultimately losing her home through sequestration for legal expenses will not be seen as fair by most Scots".
The Trump Organisation did not respond to a request by the Sunday Herald for a comment.