Letter from Edinburgh - Friday 11th November 2016

Thoughts on the results of the US presidential election. 

President Donald J. Trump. Who could have possibly imagined such an outcome? 

More Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than Trump, but the US electoral system has delivered the White House for Trump.

The week he went from a reality TV star and property mogul to the most powerful man in the world. His party, the Republicans, won control of the US Congress too. So there is nothing to hold back an unpicking of all that President Obama achieved.

Universal health care – something that we take for granted – is destined for the legislative bin. A bold reform that has helped millions of Americans without any healthcare, will be abolished so that rich Americans complaining about health insurance payments can be rewarded for voting Republican. To the victor goes the spoils.

Trump has, within hours of victory, ditched some of his ridiculous, dangerous and offensive political positions. His website has dropped banning Muslims from the US.

Trump has, mercifully, no foxed political position on anything. He used to be registered Democrat. He went to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s daughter’s wedding. He has made his money, and lost more.

So if there is a little hope for the future, it is that he will abandon stupid policies such as building a wall along the Mexican border and expelling 11 million Mexicans. That positions will be forgotten for pragmatic reasons – the American economy needs this labour force.

The biggest uncertainty is over American foreign policy. The largest cheer in the world’s international capitals came from Moscow. Putin wants a reset of UK-Russia relations. What does that mean? For Syria and the despicable Assad regime? For the Baltic states who face repeated intimidation?

And for the Crimea. Putin invaded the eastern portion of Ukraine. The west imposed ineffective economic sanctions. That in passing closed the pelagic market to Russia which has hit Shetland Catch and other Scottish processing businesses. But Nato did not take military action to defend Ukraine. No agreement could be reached.

During the American election campaign Trump called Nato obsolete. That suggests the Americans could either withdraw from Nato or reduce their commitment. That in the week when the Russian navy steamed down the English Channel with impunity.

The Russians are sabre rattling and yet the west now has a US President who appears agnostic on Putin’s motives. Maybe his election rhetoric on this will soon be forgotten. The party of Ronald Reagan always took a hard line towards the Kremlin. But again we just do not know.

So the world needs to be ready for a white knuckle ride on the roller coaster named ‘The Donald’. One colleague in Holyrood said we would be better with Donald Duck as US President.

I just hope that when Barack Obama met Trump privately In the Oval Office this week he offered a few homes truths about the reality of the presidency. Donald, this is no TV show.

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