Lawyers for Donald Trump have claimed the Scottish Government showed “bias” and acted unlawfully when it approved an offshore turbines scheme on the north-east coast.
The US businessman’s legal team suggested ministers made up their minds to back the £230million test centre as it fitted in with SNP renewable energy policy.
Mr Trump’s counsel Gordon Steele QC also said it would be “a criminal offence” for Aberdeen Offshore Windfarm Development Ltd to operate a generating station for electricity supply without a licence.
The claims were made at the start of what is expected to be a four-day hearing on the decision to approve the scheme near the Trump International golf resort at Menie in Aberdeenshire.
Mr Trump believes the 11-turbine European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) in Aberdeen Bay would ruin views from the course fairways.
He has threatened to pull the plug on further investment in his £750million resort if the project goes ahead.
The petition before the Court of Session in Edinburgh claims the government acted “unlawfully and with appearance of bias and pre-determination”.
Mr Steele told the court that correspondence showed meetings were held between government officials and the project’s backer Vattenfall.
E-mails on one meeting showed maritime safety concerns were ignored, he said.
About 30 ships’ masters expressed concern about radar and the approach to Aberdeen harbour but suggestions another site should be looked at were rejected.
Those examining the scheme on behalf of the government said a new location could not be surveyed because a timescale had to be met to avoid jeopardising EU funding, Mr Steele said.
“This shows very close contact between the applicant and those that were meant to objectively assess the application,” Mr Steele said.
“There were statements of government support made in the presence of government officials, if not by government officials.
“These statements were made as various parties in the maritime industry were expressing concerns.”
Mr Steele also drew attention to a blog on a golfing website where First Minister Alex Salmond was quoted as saying the windfarm would “absolutely” be built. The court heard that a 180-page report was submitted to the government on March 25 this year and within 24 hours Energy Minister Fergus Ewing announced consent had been granted for the development.
Mr Steele said the average time between other reports and decisions under Section 36 of the Electricity Act was nine months, with the shortest four months and the longest one year, nine months and 23 days.
“The question arises how would it be possible for proper consideration to be made of the relevant matters within the timeframe,” Mr Steel said.
It was also claimed the government had broken the European Convention on Human Rights by not holding a public inquiry – as it did into Mr Trump’s golf resort – where all the arguments could have been tested in a fair manner.
The decision to grant planning consent for an offshore wind scheme without an electricity licence was “putting the cart before the horse”, the court also heard.
Mr Steele said it would be a “criminal offence” for the EOWDC to operate under those circumstances.
One of the US tycoon’s arguments against the wind energy scheme is that it does not have a generating licence and has not been granted an exemption.
The arguments echo a recent court ruling by Lady Clark of Calton, who decided that ministers were wrong to approve the Viking windfarm in Shetland on the same grounds.
The Scottish Government is appealing her ruling.
Mr Steele said Lady Clark’s ruling showed it was a criminal offence to operate a generating station without a licence.
Referring to the way consent was granted to the EOWDC project, he said: “The logical and practical position is this – what is the purpose of looking at and formulating proposals if, at the end of the day, the applicant is not to be a suitable licence holder? That’s in nobody’s interests.”
Mr Steele said a check by regulator Ofgem would have established if the operator was suitable to hold a licence.
The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre is being developed by Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm Ltd, a joint venture between Vattenfall and Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG) plus development consortium partner Technip.
Both Mr Trump’s son Donald jun and George Sorial, the Trump organisation’s executive vice-president in New York, were at yesterday’s hearing.
The case, before judge Lord Doherty, continues.