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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 April 2006, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
McConnell defends Trump meetings
Donald Trump
Mr McConnell has been criticised over his dealings with Mr Trump
Claims that Jack McConnell breached ministerial rules over his dealings with Donald Trump have been rejected.

The first minister's close association with the US billionaire has come under scrutiny as a result of Mr Trump's plan to build an Aberdeenshire golf resort.

Opposition parties said he may have broken strict rules which require ministers to remain neutral about planning applications.

Mr McConnell's spokesman said the first minister had not discussed any details.

He said this meant he had, therefore, not broken any rules.

If it goes to an inquiry, it may be down to Mr McConnell to make a final decision and he appears to be looking on this very favourably
Green Party spokesman

Mr Trump wants to invest 300m in a links golf course, luxury hotel and housing on the Menie Estate, north of Aberdeen.

But fears have been expressed that it will ruin one of Scotland's finest stretches of coastline.

Mr McConnell has already met Mr Trump twice in the US.

On planning, the ministerial code of conduct says that ministers "must do nothing which might be seen as prejudicial to that process, particularly in advance of the decision being taken".

'Curry favour'

It adds: "Action that might be viewed as being prejudicial includes meeting the developer or objectors to discuss the proposal, but not meeting all parties with an interest in the decision."

A Green Party spokesman said: "If the first minister spent as much effort on Scotland's renewable industry as he did trying to curry favour with big business, we would be in good hands.

Sand dunes
The 300m complex will cover a large area of sand dunes

"Mr McConnell is clearly backing this project but it's actually a job for the local council to decide and not him.

"Also, if it goes to an inquiry, it may be down to Mr McConnell to make a final decision and he appears to be looking on this very favourably.

"That's not the way the planning system should work."

Green Party MSP Eleanor Scott told BBC Scotland: "He could say exactly what his relations with Donald Trump are, what he's discussed.

"He could also, as first minister, meet up with local people who are concerned about this development and hear what those concerns are."

'Nothing unusual'

The executive spokesman said: "The bottom line is that the first minister has met Donald Trump on a couple of occasions and there's nothing unusual about that, as he meets leading businessmen all the time.

"The discussions have been general, about Scotland and clearly Mr Trump is very enthusiastic about Scotland because his mother is Scottish.

"There have been no detailed discussions about Menie and planning is a matter for Aberdeenshire Council."

Neil Hobday, Mr Trump's UK project manager, said no assurances had been received from Mr McConnell that planning permission was a formality.

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