Yes, Monday’s debate in the British Parliament over whether to ban Donald Trump from the United Kingdom was more spectacle than anything else. Few Britons had any expectation that the three-hour hearing, driven by a citizen petition nearly 600,000-signatures strong, would result in tangible action against the businessman-turned-presidential candidate.
But it was still a cultural moment—a particularly British airing of grievances with such invectives as “dangerous fool,” “buffoon,” and “wazzock” thrown about with disdain by members of Parliament.
And few were as cutting as the Scottish National Party lawmaker Anne McLaughlin.
“As his first name suggests, he is the son of a Scottish immigrant, and I apologize for that,” she said. “Whilst I don’t necessarily support a complete ban on Mr. Trump from entering into this country, it’s clear that his bigoted remarks against Muslims, against Mexicans and against other minorities, but particularly his remarks against Muslims, deserve the utmost condemnation from all sides of this house, and all parts of society.”
Trump is smitten with Scotland. His mother was born there and grew up speaking Gaelic; eighty-two years after she left for the United States, he cut the ribbon on a multimillion-dollar golf course he built along the coast of Aberdeenshire.
“I think this land is special, I think Scotland is special, and I wanted to do something special for my mother,” he explained in 2008.
But Scotland doesn’t love him back. Take the anti-Trump petition, tally the signatures, and group them geographically—and you’ll find that Scotland (particularly the Scottish city of Glasgow) posts some of the highest signature rates in the entire country.
Indeed, while the petition gained worldwide attention last December after Trump announced his controversial proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States, it was originally posted by the Scottish activist Suzanne Kelly, more than a week before the candidate’s comments.
According to a poll conducted last week by the British firm Survation, 40 percent of Scots favor barring Trump from traveling to the United Kingdom. Among Scottish National Party members, that figure is 48 percent.
Trump has publicly embraced the region, and he’s certainly invested in it. So why the enmity?
For one thing, his love is conditional. Trump says he’d end his investments in the United Kingdom, including the Aberdeen golf course and another resort, if Parliament went through with a ban.
But even before that, the developer was considered a mixed blessing in the region, at best. After opening his golf course, he pursued a lengthy legal battle with the Scottish government to kill a proposed offshore wind farm. When he lost, he said he’d cut off all investment in Aberdeen and subsequently opened a new property in Ireland.
But that’s about money. Scottish dislike of Trump is likely more elemental.
“As a general rule, Scots like to think of themselves as being more communitarian than the rest of the U.K.,” said Christopher Carman, a political-science professor at the University of Glasgow. “And so the rather bombastic, over-the-top statements that Trump makes generally would not play well within the Scottish context.”
Carman cited Scottish opposition to Nigel Farage, the far-right leader of the U.K. Independence Party. When polled last April, 70 percents of Scottish voters said they distrusted Farage, a former commodities broker who has blamed immigrants for ills as varied as traffic and rising home prices. As many Scots see it, Trump is cut from the same cloth.
And they don’t take well to threats. “Scots are proud of being Scottish,” Carman said. “And I think some of Trump’s comments have only fueled the willingness to go on and sign this petition, because he was seen as attacking Scotland.”
The GOP frontrunner is in no danger of having his plane waved away from Aberdeen International Airport, or being barred from his mother’s childhood home in Tong. But as Monday’s debate showed, Britain has put him on notice. And Scotland may have already written him off.