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Sunday golf ban could cost island course £75,000 grant

A Scottish golf course’s application for £75,000 of public money may be rejected because the club does not want to open on a Sunday, writes John Ross.

The Isle of Harris Golf Club, a favourite of stars such as Nick Faldo, is closed every Sunday on religious grounds in line with other public facilities on the island and neighbouring Lewis.

But the national sports agency, SportScotland, says giving taxpayers’ money to the organisation could contravene equality legislation because of its refusal to open on the Sabbath.

Louise Martin, who chairs the body, said: “SportScotland is mindful of the views and traditions held by many in parts of the Western Isles regarding the opening of sports facilities on Sundays. However, SportScotland also has responsibilities under the 2006 equality legislation to ensure that anything it funds is accessible to all, wherever possible, regardless of gender, race, disability, age, religion or belief …”

Ms Martin said the agency was holding discussions with the club to see if a compromise can be reached, which recognises the traditions of a “rest” day on a Sunday for staff, but still allows access to the course, possibly through an honesty box arrangement.

John Roberts, of the Lord’s Day Observance Society said: “This is just the beginning of a total capitulation. I would strongly oppose this attitude, as in the end it just does not work. If you go down that line the staff will be working eventually. Closed should mean closed.

“There is a uniqueness in Lewis and Harris which even non-church-going people value. Once you start going against that you are going against the feelings of most people.”

The Rev Ruairidh Maclean, the minister of the Free Church of Scotland at Leverburgh, Harris, said: “I would not be terribly happy with this and I would imagine a significant proportion of the community would not be happy.”

Highland and Islands Enterprise and Western Isles Council, the other funders, are not insisting on seven-day opening. All the council-owned sports facilities on Lewis and Harris remain closed on a Sunday, but those in the predominantly Catholic Southern Isles remain open.

Full story at The Scotsman.

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