Could Scotland Benefit From President Trump?
If any issue has defined Scottish public life in recent times it is the question of Scotland’s place in the world. Twice in the space of three years Scots have been asked where our beautiful green plot ought to sit, both in terms of the United Kingdom and our soon to be ex-colleagues (but hopefully eternal friends) in the European Union. Both times, first by voting No to independence in 2014 and then by voting to remain in the European Union, the people of Scotland were persuaded by arguments based on being part of something bigger.
With this in mind, Scots have hopefully have gained a renewed appreciation of where we sit in the broader context – even if it has come at the cost of ignoring our domestic issues – and can use this newfound appreciation of context to be better global actors. To do this, we need to address the elephant in the room; which is easy for us because it owns a golf course here.
Donald J. Trump, the Republican candidate for President of the United States, is not exactly well liked in Scottish politics. He has been denounced by politicians from across the divide, including having his membership of the GlobalScot business network and title of ‘GlobalScot Ambassador’ revoked by First Minster Nicola Sturgeon. He has been taunted by Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie who has challenged him to visit a Mosque and has been the object of ridicule from several other high profile Scottish political figures. If further evidence were needed of the distain with which the Scottish political class holds the GOP candidate then we might consider the fact that all of Scotland’s political party leaders were invited to the re-opening of Trump’s Turnberry golf resort… and none showed up. Scotland is not Trump country.
This might have to change if, in the political game of Pokémon Go, Apprentice Trump (who evolved into Candidate Trump) reaches his final form… President Trump.
With Trump in the White House this attitude would have to change. Gone would be the days of “get off my phone!”, “Can I have fries with that?”, and “stop preaching hate!” which were suggested as responses to Donald Trump telephoning Bute House during a live televised debate featuring Scotland’s party leaders. They would no longer be able to make cheap political capital out of the man who would be the most powerful in the world and in charge of a country which, in the context of Brexit, would move from important to absolutely vital in Scotland’s global outlook. Scotland’s politicians would have to get aboard the Trump train, grab a seat, and enjoy the ride.
Under these circumstances (Scotland in the UK, not in the EU, and with President Trump in office) it is likely that – should they retain their jobs – Nicola Sturgeon, Willie Rennie, David Coburn, Kezia Dugdale, Ruth Davidson, and Patrick Harvie could find their comments coming back to haunt them. Mr Trump has already indicated that his approach to dealing with foreigners is the kind of reductionist “America First” policy that is more at typical of a 1920’s Democrat than a 2016 Republican so Scotland would already risk losing the understated but excellent relationship we have with our American friends. Mr Trump has also proven himself to be a holder grudges and willing to do almost anything to prove a point. The prospect of him responding to the snub he has received from our politicians in the past by punishing Scotland is too dreadful to comprehend.
All of our Scottish politicians should be prepared to apologise to President Trump and to mean it. If they refuse then they run the risk of putting the future of Scottish-American relations in jeopardy for their own pride, political points, or ideologies. If Scottish politicians are as proud of their ability to get along and maintain an amicable atmosphere as they appear to be then they would have to include President Trump. It would be real politick at its most pure and brutal, with Mr Trump holding the all the power.
This would be difficult for many Scots and our political leaders to swallow. However, the benefits of good relations with the Trump White House could be significant for Scotland. The real estate mogul has an affinity for Scotland and even has roots here. Moreover, Mr Trump’s previously mentioned golf resort and other interests in Scotland clearly show that he has a willingness to invest and do business here. If Scots are able to present a friendly face to the Trump administration then what is to say that this business interest wouldn’t transfer to a political one at a time when it would be most welcome. We Scots have a well-deserved reputation for being canny and there’s no reason to suppose that we couldn’t use a magnanimous President Trump to our advantage. It would be ‘strictly business’ – which Mr Trump would surely appreciate.
If Donald Trump is the next President of the United States then we Scots will have had nothing to do with it. We will have cast no votes, done no fundraising, or given much moral support at all to his campaign. However, given his interest in us, combined with the consequences of continuing to be hostile, the choice would seem obvious. It would be silly not to let a Trump presidency work to our advantage and suicidal to have it works against us – we must choose wisely.
Robert Blackley is a recent graduate of Law from the University of Edinburgh