US tycoon Donald Trump has denied being a “bullionaire bully” as he visited the site of his £750 million golf complex in Scotland.
The US Apprentice host said he wanted Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and veteran actor Sean Connery to open the complex on the Menie estate on the north-east Aberdeenshire coast.
Mr Trump has forged ahead with plans despite coming under fire from local residents and environmentalists, and visited the site this week to plan the location of the clubhouse.
He told Channel 4 News the venture represented an “environmental enhancement” that would preserve the area’s rugged sand dunes and protect the lives of thousands of wild birds from lead poisoning.
Mr Trump, a keen golfer who claims Scottish ancestry on his mother’s side, has long dreamed of creating a challenging “links” course capable of hosting major tournaments.
We’re not the bully. We have a population that loves what we’re doing. Donald Trump
He plans to build a five-star hotel as well as new homes and holiday apartments on the 500-hectare site.
The project ran into difficulties when residents living on the edge of the site said the property developer was resorting to “dirty tricks” and the threat of compulsory purchase orders to try to force them out.
The residents claimed victory earlier this year when Mr Trump declared that he would not be pursuing compulsory purchase orders on their properties.
Asked about the claims of bullying, Mr Trump said: “We’re not the bully. We have a population that loves what we’re doing.”
He said more than 90 per cent of local people were behind the development and claimed to have won the support of some environmentalists.
Mr Trump confirmed that he wanted Mr Salmond and the James Bond star to launch the new course, which is due to be completed next year.
Wearing a baseball cap to keep his normally carefully-groomed hair in place on a windswept afternoon, Mr Trump insisted: “I love the weather here”, before taking off the hat and adding: “It’s all my hair. I have lots of witnesses. It may not be pretty but it’s mine.”