A Scottish council is designing a £3 million rates relief scheme to try and avoid giving money to Donald Trump and other big businesses.
Aberdeenshire Council is planning to reduce rates increases for hard-pressed small businesses, but not for the US president’s golf resort at Menie on the northeast coast and oil companies. It will target relief where it can have the “greatest positive effect”.
Rates for some businesses are due to rise on 1 April, following a revaluation. This has prompted complaints, a campaign by The Herald and the promise of further relief from the Scottish Government.
According to official records, Trump’s controversial golf course has a current rateable value of £205,000, which is due to rise to £235,000 on 1 April. This means that he is facing a £11,070 increase bringing his annual rates bill to £115,620.
But he is not likely to benefit from the £3m given by the Scottish Government to the council, and set aside for business rates relief. “Council officers have been tasked with working up a series of models on how a suitable scheme could be implemented,” said SNP councillor and Aberdeenshire Council co-leader, Richard Thomson.
“Key to the success of any scheme will be how the support is actually distributed. I’m certain councillors will want to be sure that any scheme they approve is one which targets this important resource where it can have the greatest positive effect.”
Richard Openshaw, a Green candidate for councillor in Aberdeenshire’s West Garioch, argued that it would be “completely inappropriate” to give Trump rates relief. He supported the relief scheme, but insisted it should not help someone “who certainly doesn’t need or deserve it”.
Openshaw said: “Whatever scheme Aberdeenshire comes up with, the council should not be helping out Mr Trump with his tax bill. I do not believe public money should be used to subsidise a billionaire, especially given that paying business rates is one of the very few economic benefits the UK has ever got from Mr Trump.”
During a presidential campaign debate with his Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton in September 2016, Trump claimed that not paying federal taxes “makes me smart”. Trump reportedly does not pay corporation tax on his businesses in Scotland.
Although Trump no longer manages the Menie golf course, he has retained ownership of the company, Trump International Golf Links Scotland. It could have been in line for rates relief.
Aberdeenshire Green councillor and veteran Trump critic Martin Ford said: “Very few people would see Mr Trump as a deserving recipient of public money from Aberdeenshire Council.”
The Ferret reported in December 2016 that Trump had come under fire from the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, for ditching a legal agreement with the Scottish Government to prevent his golf course from damaging the environment. In January we revealed that Police Scotland was concerned that the Trump organisation failed to understand Scotland’s land reform law giving the public the right to roam across golf courses.
The Trump organisation did not respond to a request to comment.
A version of this story was published in the Sunday Herald on 19 February 2017.