Lessons to be learnt from golf resort stalemate

17 July 2013
The BBC’s Panorama programme covering the relationship between the Scottish Government and the Trump Organization with regards to the troubled Trump International Golf Links development in Aberdeenshire proved a timely example of how large-scale projects that promise so much often end in an acrimonious stalemate. With the intention of maximising gain to the local community, the planning committee’s rejection of the application in essence “come back with an improved offer, rather than a ‘no’,” was met with a frank “take it, or leave it” response from the developer. If the programme is to be believed, this negotiation strategy has now led to an impasse. How was a ‘best alternative to a negotiated agreement’ derived for this negotiation? The theme of this recent blog regarding ethical and transparent negotiations was encapsulated in the programme, and attempts at delivering a win-win outcome for the developer and the local community appear, on the evidence, very far from being delivered in the near future. Although I recognise sensationalism makes for exciting television and the show’s editing might provide a skewed view of the development, what was very clear was a total lack of appreciation of stakeholder interests by both of the major parties. With the project only partially complete, selective memory and polarised perspectives do not bode well for the subsequent stages. With so much riding on the outcome of the project it was unlikely both parties would bare all on an investigative television programme, but the recall of discussions were so very different that any detailed and agreed meeting minutes would readily provide clarity to the situation. I’m sure the continued development of the project will keep the media occupied and, if the first phase is anything to go on, there will be plenty of salient lessons in negotiations and stakeholder engagement. ☛ Tom Alford is associate director at Turner & Townsend contract services
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