Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, has been urged to explain why he met representatives of Donald Trump the day before the Holyrood government announced it would have the final say on the US property magnate’s £1bn ($2bn) plan for a golf resort near Aberdeen.

The controversial seaside scheme lies in Mr Salmond’s seat of Gordon, and the first minister said it was in his role as local MSP that he met the Trump team last Monday at the Marcliffe, a luxury hotel in Aberdeen. The Scottish government has stressed that as member for the constituency, Mr Salmond will take no part in the planning decision.

On Sunday night, Labour suggested Mr Salmond had mishandled the issue, and could have laid the government open to legal challenge. Jackie Baillie, a Labour MSP, said: “The first minister must come clean and make a full parliamentary statement, otherwise £1bn of investment for Scotland could be at risk.”

But Mr Salmond told BBC Scotland: “As a constituency MSP I have met many people on all sides of the debate, as I am duty bound to do under the Scottish parliament code, and on Monday I met members of the Trump organisation in Aberdeen. As first minister I am excluded from the planning process and cannot make a public statement either for or against the decision.”

The Scottish government “called in” the Trump application last Tuesday, after it had been unexpectedly rejected on environmental grounds by a committee of Aberdeenshire council, on the casting vote of its chairman.

Holyrood said the application raised matters of national importance. This means the scheme could now get the go-ahead without a long public inquiry, which Mr Trump has said he is not prepared to wait for.

But David McLetchie, the Conservative parliamentary business spokesman at Holyrood, said on Sunday people would “smell a rat”.

He said: “There are already lots of concerns about the decision to call in the application. This will confirm many people’s fears that this application is now a shoo-in and it’s going to be rubber-stamped by the Scottish ministers, irrespective of what was decided locally.”

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Wealthy buyers queue up for Scottish rural estates

Storm clouds may be looming over the rest of the property market, but wealthy buyers are queuing up for rural estates in Scotland, Andrew Bolger reports.

CKD Galbraith, the property consultants, estimate the overall estates market in Scotland has about 100 potential buyers on a “waiting list” who are ready to spend collectively about £300m.

William Jackson, head of estate agency for CKD Galbraith in Perthshire, said the interest in Scottish estates was as strong as he could remember it – and he had been in the business for 30 years. “Clearly, the attraction of being an estate owner has lost none of its allure. This year our firm alone has sold 12 estates out of 20 on the Scottish market. Without exception they commanded prices well above the asking price.”

Most of the interest came from continental Europe.

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