Police strategy at the Aberdeenshire golf resort being build by US property tycoon, Donald Trump, was targeted against protestors – but that was a mistake, according to an internal police report obtained by the Sunday Herald.
Grampian Police confessed to an “admin error” in recording that its aim was to “deter, detect, detain and report those responsible for unlawful protest” against the controversial development. It should have said “unlawful behaviour”.
A hand-written note in a senior police management file released under freedom of information legislation warned that this could lead to accusations that the police were biased in favour of Trump.
"Emphasis on ‘protest’ could be seen as an imbalance in terms of neutrality,” it said. “‘Behaviour’ is more appropriate and was original strategy.”
The revelation has resurrected claims that Grampian Police have acted as Trump’s private security force in protecting the billionaire’s £750 million golf course and hotel complex on the Menie Estate. Last year, two documentary filmmakers were arrested and imprisoned after interviewing a member of Trump’s staff on the estate, but then had charges dropped.
The internal file also reveals that reports earlier this year that Trump might run for US president created anxiety within Grampian Police. This could have a “potential significant impact on local policing deployment,” said one note.
The Metropolitan Police in London and US intelligence agencies were asked for their advice. A Grampian officer was "in contact with Met and American Intel to obtain updates in this regard,” the note said.
Anthony Baxter, one of the filmmakers arrested in July 2010, described as “deeply troubling” the suggestion that protestors should be detained. “Grampian Police should know that there's nothing unlawful about the legitimate right to protest over the destruction of one of Britain's last remaining wilderness areas,” he said.
“Local residents and those with legitimate and heartfelt objections to the destruction of a Site of Special Scientific Interest on the Menie Estate have long complained about being branded 'protestors' and 'parasites' by the Trump Organisation - a view they feel has been echoed by the behaviour of the police.”
Baxter’s film, ‘You’ve Been Trumped’, has won a series of awards and is due to show again at Edinburgh Filmhouse from 18 November. “It's alarming to learn that Trump's supposed contemplation of a presidential bid had a direct impact on the way Grampian Police do their job,” he added.
David Milne, a local resident who opposes Trump’s development, pointed out that there was a “huge and significant difference” between unlawful protest and unlawful behaviour. There was a “perception of collusion” between the police and the Trump Organisation, he said.
A spokeswoman for the Trump Organisation described the criticisms of the police as “irresponsible and unjustified”. She added: “We have been subject to numerous acts of vandalism and were quite within our rights to call for police intervention.”
But the Green MSP, Patrick Harvie, urged the police to protect the right to protest. “Over recent months we've seen numerous examples of police attempts to undermine and intimidate peaceful protest movements, in utterly unacceptable ways,” he said.
“Grampian Police appear to have decided in advance that peaceful protestors are criminals, but to ignore the bullying and vandalism perpetrated by Trump and his associates. This is yet another worrying installment in this sorry saga.”
Grampian Police decline to comment.
Download the report released by Grampian Police here (7.8MB pdf).
Read an earlier story about Grampian Police and the Trump Organisation here.