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Fri, 27 November 2020

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Scotland and the first-generation Scottish-American president have always been an uncomfortable fit

Scotland and the first-generation Scottish-American president have always been an uncomfortable fit

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4 min read

Donald Trump's relationship with his homeland, like his relationship with everyone, is entirely transactional

The slightly alarming news for Scots from the US election was the New Yorker magazine revelation that on the eve of the 2016 result Donald Trump had a Learjet on standby to fly him to Turnberry if he lost to Hilary Clinton.

With the 2020 election still disputed, it may be that Trump has similar plans to escape to one of the two Scottish golf courses he owns this time round.

“Fore more years” is how we summed up Trump’s prospects on the front page of the Daily Record, neatly nailing the Scottish reaction to his defeat, from the historic to the hysterical.

No warm welcome awaits this prodigal son, whose mother left Scotland in the 1920s as part of the great European migration across the Atlantic.

A pre-election poll showed Scotland to have the most anti-Trump constituencies in the UK. Sure, in Banff and Buchan, close to the Trump International golf links on the north-east coast, support ran at 28 per cent.

But over on his mother’s native Isle of Lewis fewer than one in five people could be found to back Donald John, to translate the full Gaelic diminutive we islanders grant him.

Trump claims his mother gave him his flair for showmanship

Scotland and this first-generation Scottish-American president have always been an uncomfortable fit. 

The Donald's relationship with his homeland, like his relationship with everyone, is entirely transactional.

He’s visited his mother’s island twice, once as a child and again in 2008 in a publicity drive for his Aberdeenshire golf course on the other coast, a bit like going to Canada to promote California. 

His late mother, Mary Anne MacLeod hails from the same crofting village of Tong as my own mother grew up in. Her journey, which I traced from rural poverty on Lewis to the heights of Trump Tower, is the exalted American Dream come true. 

Immigrant women like Mary Anne and her siblings, men like Trump’s paternal German grandfather, made America great. It is a story Donald Trump, with all his “build a wall” rhetoric, could not tell.

Trump claims his mother gave him his flair for showmanship. Her bouffant, grande dame looks in later life certainly appear to have influenced his hair style. However, it was his tyrannical father, Fred, who instilled the narcissistic “killer and king” personality which cannot deal with losing.

Of all the books on Trump the well-written revenge biography by his vanquished brother’s daughter, Mary L Trump, explains the most. She combines the intimacy of family detail with the observation of a trained psychologist. Mary L predicts her uncle will lash out, pass pardons and continue to wreck America’s handling of the pandemic until his last day in office.

Afterwards a cold January awaits him. He faces $400 million of debt. These Scottish golf courses also run at a loss. Our next Daily Record pun might be “fore sale”. 

But Trumpism has not been repudiated. His vote went up, and look at how populist movements in Europe re-invent themselves after a silverback leader is vanquished, in a more moderate, feminine style. Not looking at anyone in particular here, Nicola.

Scotland can only reflect on what a missed opportunity the last four years were and how different things might have been with any other “Scottish” President. It’s back to the luck of the Irish now. 

Islanders, at least, are fatalistic about the end of the Trump era. As author and wit John Neil Munro, a (distant) cousin of Donald John, put it: “Let’s hope the next person from the Isle of Lewis to make it to the White House does a better job of it.”

 

Torcuil Crichton’s Gaelic TV documentary on Mary Anne MacLeod’s journey from Scotland to America, “Mathair a’ Chinn-Suidhe - Trump’s Mother”, is available on BBC i-player until 8 December.

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