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ASA Adjudication on Trump International Golf Club Scotland Ltd

Trump International Golf Club Scotland Ltd

Menie Park Lodge
Menie Estate
Balmedie
Aberdeenshire
AB23 8YE

Date:

24 April 2013

Media:

Regional press

Sector:

Leisure

Number of complaints:

21

Complaint Ref:

A12-217176

Background

Summary of Council decision:

Three issues were investigated, of which two were Upheld and one was Not Upheld.

Ad

A regional press ad that appeared in various publications, opposing wind turbines, stated "Is this the future for Scotland?" and featured an image of wind turbines overlooking a motorway that was labelled "Image taken in California (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)". Underneath text stated "Tourism will suffer and the beauty of your country is in jeopardy! This is the same mind that backed the release of terrorist al-Megrahi, ‘for humane reasons’ --- after he ruthlessly killed 270 people on Pan-Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie. Take action. Write, demonstrate and protest Alex Salmond”. An e-mail address was provided and a photograph of Alex Salmond, the current First Minister of Scotland, giving the thumbs-up gesture, alongside the Trump International Golf Links Scotland logo.

Issue

Twenty-one complainants, including Patrick Harvie, a Member of the Scottish Parliament, and Yes2Wind.com, challenged whether:

1. the claim "Tourism will suffer and the beauty of your country is in jeopardy" could be substantiated;

2. the image of the wind turbines overlooking an American freeway was misleading, because it was unrepresentative of any proposed windfarms in Scotland; and

3. the references to al-Megrahi and the Lockerbie bombing were inappropriate and likely to cause offence.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

Response

Trump International Golf Club Scotland Ltd (TIGCS) said they obtained clearance from the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) for the ad. They believed that the ASA was therefore prevented, under law, from considering or ruling adversely against it. They referred to a case from 1921 which they said supported this.

1. & 2. They submitted a report, published in March 2008, which they said made clear that wind farms located close to tourist resorts would inevitably deter tourists and harm tourism and that this was only one example of other findings available. They said the ASA could do their own research and that enough time had gone by to establish, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this was the case. They also submitted a series of slides produced by Communities Against Turbines Scotland (CATS), that supported a speech given by a hotelier to a tourism seminar hosted by the Scottish Tourism Alliance. They said wind farms detracted from the beauty of any landscape and that this was a subjective opinion.

3. They said Mr Megrahi was convicted of murder and sentenced to imprisonment and the Government led by the First Minister took a decision to release Mr Megrahi to his freedom in Libya. They also said that the decision was controversial, attracted a whole range of views and was the same Government that had made a vigorous pro-wind policy. They believed that it was impossible to contradict these facts, and therefore impossible to see how offence could be taken at the statement.

Assessment

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP's) Copy Advice team provided advice to TIGCS prior to publication. The advice given in relation to the published ad was that it seemed to comply with the CAP Code and that, if the advertiser had factual evidence to support the claims, the ASA was unlikely to uphold complaints against it. It also made clear that the advice was given in good faith and did not bind CAP or the ASA, both of which might require the advertiser to provide evidence to substantiate their claims at a later date.

1. Upheld

The ASA received complaints that the claim "Tourism will suffer and the beauty of your country is in jeopardy" could not be substantiated. Whilst we considered that the claim "the beauty of your country is in jeopardy" was a subjective claim that did not require substantiation, we considered that the claim "tourism will suffer" was an objective statement and therefore needed to be substantiated with robust evidence that demonstrated that tourism in Scotland would significantly suffer. The slides related to a conference titled "The Destruction of Rural Tourism in Scotland" by CATS, an anti-wind campaign group. However, we did not consider that this supported the claim "tourism will suffer". The report submitted looked into the economic impacts of wind farms on Scottish Tourism and consisted of five sections of research, including a literature review, an intercept study, a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) study, an internet survey and an economic multiplier analysis.

The results demonstrated a strong hostility to developments at the planning stage and a loss of value to a significant number of individuals. Based on monthly figures of traffic flows, between 81% and 98% of tourists would see a wind farm or stay in a room with a view of a wind farm at a time when it was visible and, according to a survey, wind farms led to a serious decline in value. However, the results also indicated that when respondents were unaware that a farm had been extended, the drop in value of the extension was relatively small. There was little evidence of a negative effect and, over time, hostility to wind farms lessened and they became an accepted and even valued part of the scenery. Of those who had seen a wind farm, 99% suggested that the experience would not have any affect and only 17% claimed that they were less likely to visit if more wind farms were built. The conclusion stated that, while a concentration of wind farms might have serious implications for a limited number of individual households, the impact of wind farms on Scottish tourism was very small. Because we had not received evidence that tourism would significantly suffer as a result of wind farms in Scotland we concluded that the claim had not been substantiated.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).

2. Upheld

We considered that the image, alongside the claim "Tourism will suffer and the beauty of your country is in jeopardy", implied that the wind turbines overlooking an American freeway was representative of a proposed wind farm in Scotland. In the absence of evidence to demonstrate that was the case we concluded that it was misleading.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).

3. Not upheld

We considered that the claim "This is the same mind that backed the release of terrorist al-Megrahi, ‘for humane reasons’ --- after he ruthlessly killed 270 people on Pan-Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie" drew attention to the Lockerbie bombing in order to comment on Alex Salmon's policies on renewable energies. However, we also considered that readers were likely to find this distasteful, rather than offensive, and therefore concluded that the claim did not breach the Code.

On this point we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3 (Harm and offence) but did not find it in breach.

Action

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Trump International Golf Club Scotland Ltd not to make claims unless they could be substantiated with robust evidence and not to use misleadingly imagery.

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