First Minister Alex Salmond has a message for Scottish golfers who are swithering over which way to vote in this September’s referendum - if independent decision-making can work for Scottish golf, it can work for the rest of the country as well.
Speaking exclusively to bunkered.co.uk at Royal Aberdeen, where he is attending today’s final round of the 2014 Scottish Open, Salmond insisted that golf would be better off in an independent Scotland.
He also shot down suggestions that a ‘Yes’ vote would result in the country losing the right to stage the Open Championship.
“Scotland is having great success at all levels of golf just now,” noted the First Minister. “That is a testimony to the independence of decision-making we have in that area. So, if it works for Scottish golf, it will probably work for the rest of the country, too.
“As the Scottish Government, we already have charge of most sports in Scotland and I think we have demonstrated that, under our stewardship, Scottish golf is going from strength to strength. I think that’s very clear.
"If you want another example, look at the Commonwealth Games, which and has been totally funded from within Scotland, 80% by the Scottish Government and 20% by Glasgow council. There isn't a penny of Westminster money in the Games, which is in contrast to what they have done elsewhere, with the London Olympics and previous Commonwealth Games. So, our track record in sport in Scotland is very, very strong indeed, not least of which includes golf.
“What a lot of people don’t realise is that it’s not the ‘British Open’. It’s ‘The Open Championship’." - Alex Salmond
“In an independent Scotland, we will have that bit more representation. Some would say we already are well represented, particularly in golf. If you look at the guys who will play in next week’s Open Championship, they will have a Saltire beside their names by automatic right and they wouldn’t have it any other way. But there will be some opportunities to increase that representation.
“Another thing we’d be able to do as an independent country is use the increased international diplomatic clout that we’d have to push forward the game even more.”
He added: “We care about Scottish golf because we are the Scottish Government.”
On the subject of the Open Championship potentially being lost to the country in the event of independence, Alex Salmond was particularly forthright.
“Obviously, that’s nonsense,” he said. “What a lot of people don’t realise is that it’s not the ‘British Open’. It’s ‘The Open Championship’. It’s not the ‘British Open’ or the ‘Scottish Open’. It’s ‘The Open’. There would be no change to that. The Open is run by the R&A and the R&A will remain headquartered in St Andrews. It could, in theory, be played anywhere in the world, although it’s likely it would remain within these islands. So, we, as an independent Scotland, would stay on the circuit as a part of these islands.”
Alex Salmond, pictured above alongside Phil Mickelson in Wednesday's Scottish Open pro-am, also dismissed concerns that Scottish golf would, in time, lose the support of the Scottish Government. The sport has been well backed at all levels in the run-up to this year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, which has led to speculation that this backing will fall away once the match has been and gone. Not the case, insists the First Minister.
“On the contrary, we are going to end the Ryder Cup with Gleneagles established as probably the paramount golf destination in the world at that moment in time, and we have to take advantage of that,” he said. “Everybody knows Scotland has the greatest links courses in the world but Gleneagles is, clearly, a magnificent inland venue. As I put it, Jack Nicklaus may have designed the course but God designed Gleneagles. So, we have to take advantage of that and that means we’ll have to do a whole range of things in the aftermath.”
Alex Salmond on Scottish golf :: your thoughts
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