[What follows is an excerpt from the coverage (behind the paywall) in today’s edition of The Times of the revelation that First Minister Alex Salmond solicited a statement of support from Donald Trump after the release of Abdelbaset Megrahi:]
Alex Salmond has been accused of “acting like a dictator” after it emerged that he rang Donald Trump to “demand” he endorse the release of the Lockerbie bomber.
The First Minister then had his aides concoct a statement in which the US tycoon praised the SNP administration’s decision to free Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds as a gesture that “might break the cycle of violence around the world”.
In the statement, apparently drafted by Geoff Aberdein, Mr Salmond’s special adviser, it was suggested that Mr Trump should sympathise with Americans who lost family in the 1988 atrocity but conclude that al-Megrahi’s release “won’t stop my love affair with Scotland and the Scots. “No one should ever demean that country. Too many Scottish soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan for the head of the FBI to lecture Scots on fighting terrorism”, he was urged to say.
Mr Trump refused to endorse the statement. Last night his son, Donald Jnr, said it was inconceivable that the businessman could ever have signed. “We are New Yorkers, we have experienced terrorism at an extraordinary level,” said Mr Trump Jr, who works alongside his father.
“I think there was an element that we thought it must be a joke initially, had it not been so atrocious. No one in their right mind could have possibly asked someone to come out in favour of this decision.”
According to the Trump Organisation, the stand-off had profound consequences for the tycoon’s £750 million golf resort, planned for the Aberdeenshire coast.
After years of cosying up to Mr Trump, the First Minister suddenly turned his back on his scheme, encouraging the siting of 11 giant offshore wind turbines within a mile of the links, as part of the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre.
Mr Trump’s team accuses Mr Salmond of subsequently lobbying other organisations, including the Ministry of Defence and the RSPB, to withdraw their objections to the wind farm.
George Sorial, the executive vice-president of the Trump Organisation, said: “It is not acceptable for the First Minister to be running around acting like a dictator. This is not Cuba, not Iraq under Saddam Hussain.”
Both Mr Sorial and Mr Trump Jr were privy to the conference call in August 2009 when Mr Salmond rang to ask for assistance. The terrorist’s release had provoked a wave of anger in America, and Mr Sorial said he could recall the First Minister’s words.
“He was calling to ask us, but he was really making a demand,” said Mr Sorial. “(Salmond) said: ‘This is one of the low points in my political career, seeing this guy arrive in Tripoli to waving saltires. This is such an embarrassment for me. I need your help, I need your support. I am going to send you a statement and we expect that you will release it’.”
Mr Trump Jr added: “It was almost an expected quid pro quo, because he had supported our development, that we would support every aspect of his policies, even policies that no sane person could support, specifically the release of Megrahi. The First Minister was upset that we couldn’t do it.” (...)
Last night, Mr Trump used Twitter to insist that his refusal to support the release of al-Megrahi had prompted Mr Salmond to withdrawn his support for the golf resort.
“If Alex Salmond had not stupidly released terrorist al-Megrahi (PanAm flight 103) to his friends, there would be no Trump wind farm dispute,” he said.
[Other media reports are to be found today in The Scotsman here; in The Herald here; in the Daily Record here; in the Daily Express here; and in the Daily Telegraph here. This last contains the following reaction from the Scottish Government:]
A spokesman for Mr Salmond claimed the approach broke no rules and the Scottish Government was “perfectly entitled to hope for support from international stakeholders”.
He added: "Indeed, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, among many others around the world, supported this decision."