Aberdeen ‘men-only’ club shelves talks on female members

RNUC vice-chairman Mel Keenan pictured outside the club. Picture: Newsline Media
RNUC vice-chairman Mel Keenan pictured outside the club. Picture: Newsline Media
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ONE of Scotland’s last ‘men-only’ clubs is at the centre of a sexism row after shelving talks on admitting female members for the first time in its 160-year-history.

The Royal Northern and University Club (RNUC) in Aberdeen set up a committee last year to seek members’ views on women joining the institution, which was founded by local gentry in 1854.

But the decision has now been put on hold for at least three years after the debate caused “ungentlemanly discussions”.

The move was condemned by the Scottish Government and branded “disgraceful” by a leading councillor.

Businessman Mel Keenan, vice-chairman of the prestigious dining and social club, said the moratorium would allow the club time to organise an open forum to clear the air.

Mr Keenan said: “This discussion became quite animated and led to, perhaps you might say, ungentlemanly discussions at times, so what we’ve tried to look at is, can we have some formula that we can agree so as to discuss this calmly.

“There is a very special ambiance and atmosphere at the club and it would be a brave chairman indeed to say that ‘in my time we will over turn that tradition and brand’.”

Just last year, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews admitted women members for the first time in its 260-year history.

At the time the deputy leader of the Labour group at Aberdeen City Council, Angela Taylor, took a swipe at former first minister Alex Salmond over sexist golf club policies.

Ms Taylor branded the RNUC’s actions “quite disgraceful”.

She said: “I have spoken to members at the club and I know that some are very keen to have women in the club but there are some very antiquated views still held by some.

“We have now seen the Royal and Ancient at St Andrew’s overwhelmingly accept female members and in my view, this antiquated male-only club has no place in society.

“It is not acceptable, women have equal status to men, and for this club in Aberdeen to be doing this is quite disgraceful.”

However Mr Keenan claimed women do not judge their place in society on getting into men only clubs.

And he pointed out that several women’s groups also meet at the club once a month.

Mr Keenan said: “Women that are serious about women’s place in society don’t judge it by can they get into a gentlemen’s club which perhaps has traditions of a bygone era.

“They are judging it by can I get a say in the running of this country, in the cabinet, in the parliament. Can I progress to a chief executive in my company?”

He added: “There is no atmosphere here of being anti-women it’s more of a tradition of being a gentlemen’s club and ladies are welcome as guests.

“We want to welcome ladies and look after them.”

The club, which was given royal status after Queen Victoria visited in 1863, now has around 700 members - mostly businessmen.

Women are allowed in the bar, can attend various functions and groups but have to be signed in by a member otherwise.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government is leading by example with a gender balanced Cabinet, one of only three in the developed world, a campaign for gender balance in boardrooms, increased childcare which benefits both mothers and fathers, and work to tackle gender stereotypes.

“Although there has been a great deal of progress in recent years, such as the Royal and Ancient Golf Club voting to open membership up to women in September 2014, it is disappointing that examples such as this still exist.”

• A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to the Royal Northern and University Club (RNUC) as a ‘golf club’. We apologise for the error.