FIRST Minister Alex Salmond personally intervened in Scotland’s staging of the Open Championship in an attempt to persuade the host club to end its men-only membership policy.
The Nationalist leader wrote to Muirfield, home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, in recent weeks, criticising its approach.
He also suggested the R&A, golf’s governing body which awarded the Open Championship to the East Lothian course, should have tried to force a change.
The Scotsman revealed yesterday that Mr Salmond will not attend the event next month, citing his opposition to Muirfield’s membership policy.
“The R&A should have had a good think about this, and again perhaps politely behind the scenes suggested to Muirfield that the public profile of being a single-sex club would be difficult,” he said yesterday.
“I don’t think it helps the game to have the suggestion of a bias against women, and the greatest tournament on this planet, played on arguably the greatest golf course, should have this impression that somehow ladies, women, girls, should be second-class citizens. I don’t think that’s right.”
Mr Salmond said he wrote to Muirfield with sport minister Shona Robison, suggesting they take on women or perhaps establish a “ladies’ club”.
He added: “In the 21st century, it’s not a good message for golf to suggest that women are second-class citizens.”
He had earlier said it was “indefensible in the 21st century not to have a golf club that’s open to all”. Despite his stance, the Scottish Government’s tourism minister Fergus Ewing will attend the event .
Muirfield allows women to play as visitors or guests but does not permit them to become members. In response to Mr Salmond’s comments, a club spokesman said last night: “We are disappointed that the First Minister feels unable to attend this year’s Open staged by the R&A at Muirfield.
“As a club we conform to the Equality Act 2010 and any change in the membership would be for the members to decide. The club welcomes women to play either as visitors or guests year round with full use of the facilities, as will be the case throughout the championship.
“The club is privileged to have been asked again to have its facilities used to stage the Open, allowing golf in East Lothian and Scotland to be showcased throughout the world.”
Jackson Carlaw, Tory deputy leader, said: “At least we will be spared photographs of him [Mr Salmond] sprawled like a beached whale beside the greens.”