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Scottish councillor cleared over Trump’s £5m sweetener claim

Aberdeenshire Councillor Paul Johnston highlighted his concerns over Trump's planning application for a luxury golf course development at Menie Estate in a newspaper article.

He felt that the land deal between Aberdeenshire Council and Trump was too generous to the developer and could involve breaches of council policy. Trump was recently granted full planning permission for the project after a public inquiry and intervention by the Scottish Government.

The council accused Johnston of a serious breach of its code of conduct after he wrote that it had offered Trump £5 million of land on which to build homes as part of the planned resort. The controversial claims, made in June, caused outrage and were vehemently denied by council bosses.

Johnston personally referred the matter to the Standards Commission which has now cleared him of any misconduct.

'I feel relieved and very happy that the judgement as to my conduct has been found to be in my favour. I have been cleared. It is clear that the council was wrong to say that I had committed a serious breach of the code when clearly I had not,' said Johnston.

'My actions were in fact part of me doing my job properly which includes raising questions that need to be raised in relation to issues of major public concern. The judgement raises questions on the Council's process of dealing with planning agreements where they involve the granting of permissions as a condition,' he added.

Critics of the Trump project are now claiming that he is not as committed to the billion pound project as he has pledged after George Sorial, the American tycoon's lawyer, said that work on the championship golf course at Balmedie was proceeding but it would be several years before the houses are built because of the economic downturn.

'The way we envisage it is that the golf course is full speed ahead. With the golf comes a club house and maintenance facilities, then the hotel. The homes could take several years. We can't help but acknowledge the slow-down in the market. We have to sell them, so we're not going to build anything until it feels right,' he said.