Trump in Scotland: A Study of Power-Topologies and Golf Topographies


During the last decade Trump International Golf Links Scotland (TIGLS) has built on land where no development was previously outlined and, appropriating parts of a Site of Special Scientific Interest, has come to occupy an important place in debates on Scottish planning policy. Though plans were initially rejected in 2007 by the Aberdeenshire planning body responsible, the Scottish Government subsequently rescaled the decision—instead approving the proposed high-end, large-scale golf resort. Besides numerous clashes with those living close to TIGLS, this has since led to highly visible protests. In this article I scrutinize TIGLS’s establishment to explore the entanglements of topological and topographic understandings of space, and to illuminate power exerted through various modalities by various private and public actors. Based on interviews with politicians, activists, planners, residents and business representatives and an analysis of planning documents, developer–state communications, and marketing material, I argue that work on power-topologies and relational geographies has much to offer. But, crucially, this work simultaneously risks underplaying the role material landscapes play in conflicts over planning policy and the power exerted to dominate such landscapes. Thus, emphasizing topology proves insufficient unless coupled with a focus on the power involved in appropriating and reshaping material topographies.