EVER since the name Donald Trump was first uttered in Aberdeen, there has been an ungodly commotion. On both sides of the argument about his golf resort, people have behaved badly – a few spectacularly badly.
For a long time, I agreed with the detractors. Those who did not want Trump’s ambitious £2billion golf resort at the Menie Estate were voluble, to say the least.
As America's most flamboyant businessman and presenter of the US version of The Apprentice, Donald Trump is a household name – at least he is in the US. Not so much in Scotland, however.
Trump hit the north-east about four years ago with his plans to build a development which consisted of an 18-hole golf course, a clubhouse, driving range, practice area, 450-bedroom hotel, 950 holiday apartments, 36 golf villas and 500 residential homes.
There was an immediate uproar from the area's environmental campaigners. When a decision was taken by the council not to give the resort the go-ahead, the Scottish Government interfered.
The minute the nanny state intervened, Aberdeenshire councillors did an about-turn and suddenly decided to give the US property developer's proposals their full support at a special meeting, much in the way of lemmings leaping off a cliff.
However, maybe their cowardice actually stood us in good stead. After all, who in their right mind could turn down such a rich source of work and income for Scotland? It is utter madness.
OK, if he were opening a £2million massage parlour with girls on tap, I would object as well. But this is a respectable golf course and world-class resort. It will create thousands of jobs – exactly at a time when construction, retail and infrastructure projects are all in freefall.
This, I repeat, is not to be sniffed at in a time of international recession.
When The Donald, as his ex-wife Ivana calls him, came to Aberdeen a couple of months ago, I met him for a rare one-to-one.
However much you might want to loathe him for being so rich, it is impossible not to like Mr Trump. He is warm, entertaining, enviably ambitious and very funny – rather an endearing combination.
His only blatant fault, I would say, is an extremely short attention span. His mind leaps from one subject to another, much in the way of a demented grasshopper.
For a start, the man prides himself in being elusive, a proverbial needle in a haystack. The first time I rang his New York office for an interview, he had just left to go golfing with former US President Bill Clinton and Arnold Palmer.
A few days later, he rang me back and I was out – the story of my life.
Once again, I duly rang his gold-plated office in New York. Sorry, they said, the great man had just popped out to meet Tiger Woods and would not be available.
And so it goes on.
He moves in elevated circles and, wherever he goes, he has a cast of thousands.
When I went to meet him at the gorgeous Royal Aberdeen Golf Club, I was told to be there for 9am because he was playing at 8am and might come off the course early. I had to take my chance.
I left home at 4.30am and caught a train to Aberdeen. There was no tea or coffee; not even a glass of water. I was not in a good mood.
When Mr Trump finally arrived, it was nearer noon than 9am. Not even Sir Sean Connery kept me waiting that long. But I ended up happy because, as the well-known cosmetic advert says, he was worth it.
He hotly defended his project, insisting it was very popular. He said his one criticism of the media was that we had failed to say how popular the Menie resort actually was – especially one survey which showed 93% of those questioned were in favour.
You needed to talk to Mr Trump for only a few minutes to know the resort would go ahead. He is not a man who is accustomed to taking no for an answer. I liked that about him – the fact that he is so determined.
The only thing I didn’t like was when he described one of the protester’s homes as a slum. We are individuals, entitled to live where we choose, in the manner in which we choose.
But he was endearing in so many other ways. When I asked him, for example, if his hair and eyebrows were real, I thought he would fly off the handle. He just laughed and told a funny story.
“Of course, it’s real,” he spluttered, “try pulling my hair out, if you like.”
I did, but it wouldn’t budge.
He said that a national newspaper had just described him as a “very smart man”, but the journalist went on to say that his hairpiece was “truly awful”.
“This is my own hair, I swear,” he chuckled. “OK, sometimes I use a little dye, but that’s all.”
I mentioned earlier some spectacularly bad behaviour. I was referring to the group – they know who they are – who destroyed more than 1,000sq m of beautiful marram grass, which was growing on the proposed site.
So-called environmentalists ripped it out of the ground at the 15th green, causing a staggering £50,000-worth of damage.
They tore down fences, damaged diggers and contaminated thousands of litres of diesel fuel.
Anybody, no matter how rich, would have sued the living daylights out of bandits such as these.
Donald Trump has emerged as the victor of this debacle, in more ways than one.
When his triumph was announced, he said he did not intend to pursue the vandals who caused the damage.
I think that is a pity.
By all means object to a plan, but wrecking somebody else’s property is not a legitimate protest.
Mr Trump may have ridden roughshod over the wishes of a handful of people, but he has shown himself to be the better man, by a long chalk.