Top Scot vs. Donald Trump -

Top Scot vs. Donald Trump

John Geddes on the serious issues behind an oddball story


Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

An amusingly oddball story this week pits Donald Trump against a Scottish farmer named Michael Forbes. The distinctively coiffed American tycoon is fuming over Forbes being named “Top Scot,” an annual prize sponsored by the distillers of Glenfiddich whisky, for his refusal to sell his little piece of Aberdeenshire property to Trump for a controversial golf course development.

By way of retribution, Trump is vowing never to sell any products from William Grant & Sons, the company that owns Glenfiddich, at his resorts. He calls the award “a terrible embarrassment to Scotland.” In fact, Scotland seems increasingly proud of Forbes. And that’s largely because of the way he is depicted in an acclaimed documentary called You’ve Been Trumped, which chronicles how, in making his golf course, Trump marred an environmentally sensitive seaside and clashed with local landowners.

The film’s British director is Anthony Baxter and its producer is Richard Phinney, who happens to be Canadian. (Full disclosure, he’s an old friend of mine.) I called Phinney at his home in Kingston, Ont. to ask about the latest burst of publicity, and some more serious issues.

Q When did you first meet Michael Forbes and what sort of a guy is he?

A We met him in early 2010. He’s quite a private man really. He doesn’t give his phone number out and he doesn’t seek publicity. He’s become famous if you like but not through any of his own efforts—almost the opposite of Donald Trump, if you know what I mean. He means what he says and he’s rooted where he lives. There’s no artifice about him at all.

Q That clash between Trump and the farmers is at the core of your film. It would be easy to caricature both sides.

A When we first started exploring the film we’d seen reports of Trump vs. the stubborn farmers. It seemed cartoonish. We soon found that they are real, authentic individuals, who didn’t really know who Donald Trump was.

Q Your film and the related publicity has made Forbes a bit of a celebrity. That obviously wasn’t your intent. What do you make of it?

A I wouldn’t want the film to take all the credit. It’s been a long process. The film certainly created a burst of momentum for the Top Scot award. I think all along one of the things Anthony Baxter wanted to do was give voice to people whose view wasn’t being articulated. So having the publicity for Michael Forbes and this well-justified award is gratifying. But it doesn’t wipe away the difficulties they’ve had over the past few years.

Q Where does their battle stand, beyond the matter of public opinion?

A Well, the first golf course is there. Certainly the development is proceeding in a way that’s out of the [nearby residents’] control. There’s plans for another golf course next to the one that has been built. You know, it’s more of the same. More of dealing with an enterprise that has shown a lot of animosity towards them.

Q Is there a danger that the troubling issue your film explores—development proceeding with little regard for environmental and local concerns—might be lost in the entertaining contrast between Trump and Forbes, and diversions like the Trump’s boycotting of Glenfiddich?

A I think it’s important to remember that there was a serious environmental calamity here. In Scotland there’s an understanding that there’s something deeper underneath this. I think when people see the film they understand this. Every single screening where we do a question-and-answer session, someone will bring up a local example of a development that people felt they never than any input on.

Q That’s a concern that resonates far beyond the picturesque Scottish seaside.

A It may be different in different parts of the worlds, but these are often planning processes where those with inside information, contacts and money are able to sustain the pressure and lobbying and all of what makes these things happen. People don’t even know what happened, how that all works. That’s why we wanted to make this film.


Top Scot vs. Donald Trump

  1. Shouldn’t the second sentence read “sell his land to Trump?”

    • You`re becoming increasingly anal—get it checked out.

  2. Also it’s a ‘tract’ of land, not a ‘track’ of land.

    • As evidenced by the astute philosophers of Monty Python:
      “Don’t like her?! What’s wrong with her? She’s beautiful, she’s rich, she’s got huge… tracts of land.”

    • it still sounds the same, chill….

  3. Any way to discern who is golfing on the course(s) and boycott whatever it is they do?

  4. I’ve heard that Michael Forbes wasn’t even born in Scotland. He needs to reveal his birth certificate right now!

    • LOL

    • I hope you are poking fun at the right-wingers of certain North American country?!

  5. “refusal to sell his little piece of Aberdeenshire property” – as in, his home.

    Refusal to leave his home.

    From the outset it’s not very fun as stories go – and it certainly doesn’t get funnier.

  6. well I guess I’m buying Glenfiddich this xmas

  7. good for Forbes. Trump thinks he can do whatever he wants, no questions asked, because nobody has ever stood up to him before. Its time rich Americans learned they aren’t the laws of the land wherever they stop over. and Glenfiddich is too good for the likes of Trump anyway!

  8. Re: Donald Trump vs. Top Scot

    We have all witnessed Donald Trump pouring his semi-literate scorn over an honest, down to earth and principled Scottish community with all the hatred, contempt and dullness of wit of a bully picking on those much smaller whom he desperately needs to believe are below him in order to obviate his world wide humiliation at their hands – a wound felt more keenly than ever since Michael Forbes was awarded the accolade of Top Scot.

    Now, just when one couldn’t imagine that Trump could get any more invidious, to see him sucking up to Andy Murray whilst trying to leech a share of his Olympic victory in a last ditch and vain attempt to ingratiate himself with the Scottish people is an utterly pitiful and sickening spectacle. What a pathetic, obsequious and cowardly excuse for a man – has he really so little dignity left?.. If he weren’t such a vile, slimy, grasping toad, I might almost pity him. I will, instead, buy a bottle of Glenfiddich and toast his early demise.

    The fact is that Michael Forbes won the award of Top Scot because the Scottish people voted for him. It really is that simple. The award reflects the fact that he embodies so much of what we admire – modesty, resolve, compassion and courage in the face of a powerful bully…. who cares that he’s not some rich celebrity? Trump completely fails to understand this because he attaches no value to these things, instead worshipping his own brash self-importance, bare-faced greed and convoluted self-righteousness – eat your heart out Holy Willie!

    I would not be at all surprised if, in what remains of his black shriveled heart, Trump was a deeply lonely individual struggling with the realisation that those around him would not be there but for his wealth, waiting for the day they can pick over his remains when he dies – sharpening his jealous fury at a modest man like Forbes who’s wealth can be measured instead by his friendships and the admiration he has come to engender so reluctantly.

    On the other hand though, and despite the fact that it beggars belief, I’m more convinced that Trump does actually believe and find comfort in his own vitriolic nonsense with all the mindlessness of some bloated creature revelling and rolling in the squalid warmth of its own excrement. Now that he has been given a taste of how this country feels about him, I’d like to say that perhaps we should just ignore him in the hope that he’ll take the hint but, like an obstinate jobby that won’t flush away, he keeps reappearing. Surely it’s time we filled a bucket of water and washed him away for good.

    • Wow – well put. I agree. I have no time for such bullies