US election day: Scotland and the presidential hopefuls

Nathanael Williams

With voting ending at midnight tonight [Tuesday 8 November] we look at the bonds binding Scotland and the presidential hopefuls

THE US Presidential election campaign has been one of the most heated (and bizarre) in living memory.

But what do the candidate’s historic connections with Scotland suggest about the future relationship between the two countries?

As the Republican Donald J Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton enter the final straight in the race to be US Commander in Chief, CommonSpace takes a look at the relationship both candidates have with Scotland.

Trump’s Scottish ancestry

Trump’s encounters with Scotland have been numerous and eclectic, starting with his ancestry tracing back to Scotland and including several ongoing commerical operations.

Trump’s late mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, was born and raised on the Isle of Lewis, before leaving at the age of 17 for the US to work as a domestic servant in 1930, where she met and married Fred Trump, a successful real-estate developer.

Born in Tong, a village with a population 527, MacLeod’s parents spoke Gaelic.

Scottish investments

If Trump becomes the next president, his extensive business interests with Scotland may further complicate his relationship with Scotland’s political leadership.

The billionaire is currently investing £700m in Scotland through two golf resorts at Turnberry and Menie.

In January, Mr Trump threatened to “immediately end” this investment if he was barred from visiting the UK, after an angry public reaction to his calls for all muslims to be temporarily stopped from entering the US.

Onetime friends in Scotland’s high places

Before his election campaign the reception to Trump in Scotland was very different.

Labour’s First Minister Jack McConnell and his SNP successor, Alex Salmond, both courted Trump enthusiastically.

Speaking in January 2008 while courting Scottish Government approval for his estate developments Trump said: "I hardly know Alex Salmond, but what I know is that he's an amazing man. He's a person who believes strongly in Scotland and he wants economic development in Scotland.

Speaking on Trump’s proposed developments in Scotland in 2007, Salmond said: "As First Minister I have been advised to make no public statement either for or against the proposed development, and I have abided by that to the letter."

However, by 2013 the two men were no longer on speaking terms according to Salmond, who cited legal challenges lodged by Trump against communities over his golf investments and Trump’s bullish attitude to Scottish Government ministers as points of conflict.


In 2015 the U.K. Supreme Court rejected Trump’s efforts to block the installation of wind turbines off the coast of Aberdeen, which Trump argued would sully Scotland’s pristine beauty…and the view from his golf development.

The tycoon faced constant protests at his developments and whenever he has visited Scotland, including in June 2016 when comedian Janey Godley made “an appearance on the green”.

 Roll of dishonour

In 2015 Robert Gordon University, which had given Trump an honorary DBA (or Doctor of Business Administration) in 2010, stripped him of the accolade, citing incendiary comments he made in the run-up to his campaign.

Clinton’s links with Scotland have been less high profile, but she too has a history with Scotland.

Clinton Empathy with Scotland

When Trump decided to come to Scotland in June of this year, during the US primary cycle and to praise the victory of a Brexit vote in the UK’s referendum (even though Scotland voted remain), the former first lady made an attempt at common cause with Scots who felt that ‘the Donald’ was not welcome in their country.

Distant Scottish ancestry

According to the Michigan department of veteran affairs, Clinton is the fifth generation descendant of a Scottish soldier named Lieutenant George MacDougall, born in Argyll and Bute around 1739.

MacDougall emigrated to the US in the mid 1700s and joined the Royal American Regiment which was mostly made up of British ex-pat troops, later fighting in the French and Indian War between native tribes and French royal forces.

Lt. MacDougall also fought in the American Revolution in 1765, as part of the Royal Highland Emigrants regiment, a regiment raised to fight for the British crown.


The former secretary of state and New York senator came out strongly against Scottish independence during the 2014 referendum.

When Clinton arrived in Scotland in 2014 to accept an honorary degree from St. Andrews University, she said: “I would hope it doesn’t happen.

“I would think it would be a loss for both sides,” added Clinton, who told BBC interviewer Jeremy Paxman, “I would hate to have you lose Scotland.”

Trump has taken a more isolationist pitch on foreign policy during the presidential campaign, and could be expected to take a less interventionist approach in the event of a second Scottish referendum. Then again, he did support Brexit. 

Bute House approval

Clinton this week received the backing of Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, stating she “fervently hopes” the secretary of state wins the poll. 

An even more important Scottish endorsement

Yesterday [Monday 7 November] Clinton was handed the hoof of approval by a “psychic Scottish goat” who predicted “by mouth” that Clinton would be the victor of the presidential race. So if nothing else, Scotland will know it has a farm animal with mind powers in the event of a Clinton victory.

Pictures & Videos courtesy of Youtube, Battle of Bushy Reenact, Lesley Ride, Freekop, 

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