MSPs have rejected calls for the Scottish Government to investigate Donald Trump’s business interests in Scotland.
The Scottish Greens brought forward a motion calling for an investigation into the Trump Organisation’s golf courses via an unexplained wealth order (UWO).
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf told MSPs the move would be an “abuse of power fundamentally undermining our entire justice system”.
He added it would be for the Civil Recovery Unit (CIU) – a branch of the Crown Office – to independently undertake the investigatory role associated with civil recovery in Scotland, on behalf of Scottish ministers.
However, Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said the move was “not a proposal for prosecution” but “simply about asking a court to seek answers to reasonable questions”.
He added he thought the SNP would “regret their previous errors in courting Trump”, but “perhaps they didn’t see the scale of the threat he posed, or the damage Scotland’s reputation might suffer, from association with the toxic Trump brand”.
Mr Harvie claimed that Mr Trump “remains a political danger” and that the “threat he brought to Congress is by no means limited to the US”.
The Scottish Greens leader has repeatedly called on the first minister to look into “serious and evidenced concerns” surrounding how the former US President purchased the land required for his first Scottish development, at the Menie Estate in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, and the luxury Turnberry golf resort in Ayrshire.
The party says a legal opinion from Aidan O’Neill QC states that ministers, rather than the chief legal officer, are responsible for UWOs.
Mr Yousaf said that as “a person of colour and a Muslim, I’m exactly the type of person who would be a target of his racist and divisive policies, if I was living in America”.
He added: “However, we rightly have a separation of the political and indeed law enforcement.
“Just because I do not like someone, or indeed simply because something might be to my political advantage, I should not exercise any power that allows me to instigate an investigation or law enforcement processes against such individuals.”
An amendment moved by the justice secretary – which said there “must not be political interference in the enforcement of law” – was supported by SNP and Conservative MSPs.
In concluding, Mr Harvie said: “Let’s clearly assert that Scotland is not the kind of country where anybody with money, no matter how they came by it, can rock up, buy a slice of our country, do what they like with it, trash our environment and keep their business dealings opaque.
“Let us say clearly that they will be held accountable.”
‘Holding Scottish ministers to account’
Avaaz, an online campaign community that has been calling for Scottish ministers to use their power to seek the grant of a UWO since 2019, organised a protest outside the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday morning, with a Donald Trump impersonator drawing attention to the debate.
Nick Flynn, the organisation’s legal director, said: “This isn’t about political interference, this is about holding the Scottish ministers to account for ensuring the good operation of money laundering legislation.
“Riots in the Capitol just puts the dangers of not holding him to account into stark relief. It is absolutely a matter of upholding good order and rule of law for Scottish ministers to uphold the rule of law and stop dodging this.
“The legal advice we’ve had from Aidan O’Neill QC is that this is absolutely (within) Scottish ministers’ power and responsibility to take this decision. They cannot hide behind the Lord Advocate to make this decision.”
Donald Trump’s son Eric hit out ahead of Wednesday’s debate, saying such discussions could deter overseas investors.
He said Mr Harvie is “nothing more than a national embarrassment with his pathetic antics that only serve himself and his political agenda”.
Mr Trump, who is a trustee and executive vice-president of the Trump Organisation, claimed that in both Aberdeen and Turnberry, they have “created thousands of jobs and made an overwhelming contribution to the leisure and tourism industry”.
Sarah Malone, Executive Vice President, Trump International, Scotland said: “Patrick Harvie’s charade today was an utter waste of parliamentary time and was, quite rightly, overwhelmingly rejected by more sensible politicians.
“He has been obsessed with this ridiculous campaign against the Trump Organization for years now, but grandstanding at this critical time in the middle of a global pandemic when all our politicians should be focused on saving lives and dealing with real issues affecting the Scottish people is truly pathetic.
“We thank those MSPs who rejected this nonsense and will, hopefully, now focus on getting the nation vaccinated and all of us – including businesses – back to work and back to normality as soon as possible.”