It started quite calmly but ended with a near riot, as supporters and critics traded applause and insults. Donald Trump, ever the crowd-pleasing showman, the brusque, blunt wheel-dealer, had his wish.
After a relatively understated appearance at the Scottish parliament to decry Scotland’s rush for windpower, where he in effect accused his one-time ally Alex Salmond of deliberately deceiving him to ensure his £750m golf course investment, Trump emerged on the streets of Edinburgh.
As he strolled out, smirking in pleasure and waving, anti-wind activists hailed his support and his enemies hurled abuse. Police officers rushed into the crowd and surrounded Trump in a protective cordon as the property baron tried to touch hands with admirers crushed behind a crowd barrier.
Amid a bewildering array of competing placards, posters, flags and proclamatory T-shirts, there were loud repetitive chants of “there’s only one Donald Trump” and “no more turbines” from a crowd dressed in Barbour jackets, ironic top hats and bright yellow UK Independence party tabards.
But there were chants too from his opponents: one young man rushed at Trump to denounce the tycoon’s repeated efforts to force residents living on the edge of his £750m golf resort to leave.
“You’re ruining lives,” he shouted, as a burly police officer pushed into him to quell his abuse. “You’re a liar. You destroy people’s lives in Aberdeenshire.”
Within minutes, Trump was bustled through photographers and television cameras into a waiting Range Rover, with the black paintwork customary for Trump’s frequent visits to Scotland.
Trump had been due to give a speech to his admirers, all drawn from the various local anti-windfarm campaign groups in the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Shetland and Perthshire, where Salmond’s dream of building the thousands of turbines needed to hit his target of 100% renewable electricity by 2020 is being made real.
All members of the umbrella campaign Communities Against Turbines (CAT), they are delighted the mogul has promised to put in up to £10m to finance their campaign and legal battles.
This is perhaps Trump’s boldest intervention into Scottish politics. He has insisted he will spend as much as is needed to defeat a “monstrous” windfarm just “one mile” offshore from his golf course north of Aberdeen and in direct sight of his planned hotel, taking legal action to block it if necessary.
His critics insist this and many of his assertions to the committee are wrong. The company building the experimental, 11-turbine windfarm, which is backed by the European Union and the Scottish government, insisted on Wednesday that the turbines would be three miles (4.9km) away from Trump’s clubhouse and 2.4 miles offshore from the southern boundary of his course.
At a press conference after Trump’s 105 minutes of evidence alongside two CAT spokesmen to Holyrood’s energy and tourism committee, the Guardian asked him how and when he would make good on his promise to block the windfarm.