Positively shocking: Trump's boasts of help from Sean Connery fall apart

President claimed Bond actor helped him get planning permission for Scottish resort

It was less licence to kill and more dramatic licence. Donald Trump’s claim that the late Sean Connery assisted him in getting planning applications passed in Scotland fell apart quickly on Sunday when the chair of the planning committee said the James Bond star was not involved.

In a series of tweets, two days prior to the US election, Trump paid tribute to Connery, saying he was “highly regarded and respected in Scotland and beyond”. It was announced on Saturday the James Bond actor had died aged 90.

But his claim that Connery stepped in and shouted “let him build the damn thing” in connection with a big development raised eyebrows in Scotland.

....all I needed, everything went swimmingly from there. He was so highly regarded & respected in Scotland and beyond that years of future turmoil was avoided. Sean was a great actor and an even greater man. Sincere condolences to his family!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2020

He tweeted that “everything went swimmingly” with his development plans after initially “having a very hard time getting approvals”.

In 2008 Connery is reported as saying of the project: “During tough economic times, this is a major vote of confidence in Scotland’s tourist industry and our ability to rise to the challenge. I look forward to seeing a new gem in the north-east that is good for Aberdeenshire and good for Scotland.”

But Martin Ford, the Aberdeenshire councillor who was chair of the planning committee that initially refused Trump’s application to build the resort, told the Guardian: “Mr Connery was not involved in the due process that led to the granting of planning permission for a golf resort at Menie. He did not submit a letter of representation to the council, appear at the planning hearing, or at the public local inquiry.”

Ford added: “Opinions offered in press articles are not material considerations in decisions on planning applications.”

Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond said: “Scotland and much of the world is mourning the loss of a great spirit. Sean Connery’s contribution and life’s work was immense, real and lasting and everyone with an ounce of class is reflecting upon just that today. Tributes are great from all sources but this is not a time for tweeting silly claims or indeed responding to them.”

David Milne, a near neighbour of the Trump golf course in Scotland, and the US president’s most vocal local critic, said the claim that Connery helped him land planning permission for his golf resort was “utter bollocks”.

Milne said Connery had never played the course, despite Trump’s invites.

The actor was offered the honour of becoming the first member of Trump’s golf resort at Menie, north of Aberdeen, with membership number 007, which the property mogul built after bulldozing a very rare dune habitat as well as overriding local planning rules.

Trump had said that he wanted the star to play the first shot on the course. But when the resort was opened two years later, Trump played first balls with former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie instead.

The pair did know each other, however. Connery and Trump were photographed together at several events in New York, including the Johnnie Walker Dressed to Kilt fashion show in the early 2000s.


Martin Belam and Libby Brooks

The GuardianTramp

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