Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...
The 13th oldest golf club in the world has teed off its 200th anniversary celebrations. Scotscraig Golf Club members enjoyed a dinner in Dundee’s Apex Hotel, with guests including players from sister club, Race Brook Golf and Country Club in Connecticut. Festivities during the bicentenary year will also include hosting the Scottish boys amateur championship, a series of grand matches and a tournament for members of 18 of the oldest clubs in Europe. The Tayport club was founded in 1817 by members of the St Andrews Society of Golfers, which went on to become the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. In 1892 20-year-old carpenter Robert Pryde, a regular player on Scotscraig, emigrated from Tayport to the USA and became one of its most highly-esteemed golf course designers and coaches. One of the courses he designed was Race Brook. Club president George Anderson said: “The club is full of history. “We play for one of the oldest medals in golf, the Gold Medal, which was first played in 1818. “We are continuing to maintain the history of the club and the course. “It is very important that we mark this occasion.” Scotscraig course was originally laid out over six holes under the guidance of Old Tom Morris and extended to nine holes in 1888. In 1923 it was redesigned with the assistance of James Braid, one of golf’s great triumvirate. Restoration of the champion course to its original layout was completed in February in time for the bicentenary celebrations. This included renovation of its 55 bunkers and widening of the fairways in the first 150 yards. Scotscraig only discovered in 2012 that a former member had become a founding father of golf in America. An unexpected invitation to the Race Brook centenary celebrations led to the partnership between the two clubs. Pryde was also one of America’s most sought-after greenkeepers and made golf clubs. Research into Pryde, son of a local coal merchant, also found that he was the uncle of the club’s former ladies captain, the late Gertrude Paton. A cabinet in Wormit was also discovered, still owned by his relatives, and said to be made from wood from a carriage of the train lost in the Tay Rail Disaster. On Saturday, April 8, a tournament will be held for members of Scotscraig and Race Brook.
A new exhibition at the British Golf Museum in St Andrews will put the spotlight on women’s golf through the ages. Mary, Queen of Scots, is the first women golfer on record, but by the end of the 18th century the fishwives of Musselburgh were playing competitively for the cherished prize of a silk scarf. By 1893 the Irish Ladies’ Golf Union and the Ladies’ Golf Union had been established. It was the Ladies’ Golf Union, rather than the gentlemen’s clubs, that established the universal handicapping system which remains the basis of the game today. In fairly recent times more women have made golf their profession, including Catriona Matthew, the first Scottish woman to win a major the Ricoh Women’s British Open. The exhibition is being organised by postgraduate students from the museum and gallery studies course at St Andrews University. Golf museum senior curator Laurie Rae said: “Working with the students has been a great experience for the museum, watching a dynamic new interpretation of our collections taking shape, particularly in the year in which the Ricoh Women’s British Open returns to St Andrews.” Louisa Grossi, one of the students, said: “The exhibition has been a fantastic opportunity to highlight the importance of women’s golf history.” Ladies First: Pioneering Moments in Women’s Golf opens on Friday.
For more than 150 years Perth Show has been a popular, once a year meeting point for the people of the city and the farming community. The show - now the third largest of its type in Scotland – remains as always a showcase for champion livestock but this year holds a much wider appeal for visitors. To be held on Friday and Saturday August 5 and 6 on the South Inch, throughout the two days, trade stands, sideshows, entertainment, activities, music and parades all add to the vibrancy of the show along with a new culinary direction. “For the first time, Perth Show is set to feature a cookery theatre and food and drink marquee,” said show secretary Neil Forbes. “This will bring a new and popular dimension to the visitor attraction. “Perth Show 2016 is also delighted to welcome Perthshire On A Plate (POAP) - a major food festival, celebrating the very best in local produce and culinary talent. “Organised by Perthshire Chamber of Commerce, the two-day festival will run as part of the show and feature celebrity and local chefs, demonstrations and tastings, book signings, food and drink related trade stands, fun-filled activities for ‘kitchen kids’ and a large dining area and pop-up restaurants in a double celebration of food and farming.” Heading the celebrity chef line-up are television favourite Rosemary Shrager (Friday) and spice king Tony Singh (Saturday), backed by a host of talented local chefs including Graeme Pallister (63 Tay Street) and Grant MacNicol (Fonab Castle). The cookery theatre, supported by Quality Meat Scotland, will also stage a fun cookery challenge between students from Perth College and the ladies of the SWI. A range of pop-up restaurants featuring taster dishes from some of the area’s best known eating places will allow visitors to sample local produce as they relax in the show’s new POAP dining area. “We’re trying to create a wide and varied programme of entertainment,” said Mr Forbes. “Late afternoon on Friday will see the It’s A Knockout challenge with teams from businesses throughout Perth and Perthshire competing against each other. “And the first day’s programme will end with a beer, wine and spirit festival where teams can celebrate their achievements and visitors can sample a wide range of locally produced drinks.” This year will also see the reintroduction of showjumping at Perth Show on the Saturday afternoon.
Sir, - The result of a second ballot on the admission of women members at Muirfield Golf Club will be announced next month. A lot has been said about how disgraceful it is that there are men-only golf clubs. There are numerous men-only and women-only golf and other organisations throughout Britain and, indeed, the world. Augusta National Golf Club in America went through a similar challenge and now, despite having only three lady members, can be classed as a mixed golf club. That is three ladies out of 300 members. They are Condoleezza Rice, Darla Moore and Ginni Rometty who were able to pay the fees estimated to vary between $25,000 and $50,000. The annual fees at Muirfield are the costs divided by the number of members so these could be substantial and there is a long waiting list. How many ladies could afford to join Muirfield just to make a political statement? In July 2016, Royal Troon voted to allow lady members so one could ask how many have applied to become members or would the answer be embarrassing? Clark Cross. 138 Springfield Road, Linlithgow. Danger of free press attacks Sir, - Alex Salmond has been attacking the media of late. Take, for example, the interview with Mr Salmond, above, during Sunday Politics Scotland on February 12. Asked by Gordon Brewer if the SNP – in the event of a second independence referendum – should stick to joining the EU, he replied: “Why shouldn’t we in a week when the mainstream media had made total fools of themselves by seemingly deliberately misinterpreting remarks from Jacqueline Minor, the European Commission’s representative in the UK, who has...said exactly the opposite of what the mainstream media and your co- presenter Andrew Neil was claiming.” On independence support he claimed that there was “this comfortable assumption among the Government…despite the fact that 16 out of 17 opinion polls since Brexit have shown support for independence higher than it was in September 2014” and that this comfort came from “reading perhaps in the mainstream media that independence support was on the decline”. Donald Trump would have put it more bluntly: “The mainstream media are lying.“ This accusation is a propaganda instrument used by populists across the political spectrum. It is designed to undermine trust in independent, questioning journalism as one of the pillars of liberal democracy. If Mr Salmond wants to distance himself from the nationalist populism we presently see on the rise in Europe and America, he should stop attacking the free press. Regina Erich. 1 Willow Row, Stonehaven. Get to grips with absences Sir, - Once again we are seeing shocking figures of sick leave in the NHS. The last time it was the police service so who will it be next? Why is it only public-sector workers who are afflicted by all these illnesses? Why is this not a problem in the private sector? Maybe the cause is the bottomless pit of money in the public sector because in private industry you would go out of business running at these sickness levels. It is high time the overpaid chiefs who run these departments got to grips with this farce. Bob Duncan. 110 Caesar Avenue, Carnoustie. Portugal can show the way Sir, - I am struck by the fact that the Portuguese government has slashed the debt-heavy country’s budget deficit to its lowest level in more than 40 years, despite warnings that its anti-austerity policies could spell financial disaster. Some other eurozone countries expressed alarm when the centre-left socialist government, with the support of the Communist Party, took power in 2015 on an anti-austerity platform. Portugal needed a 78 billion euro bailout in 2011 after recording a deficit of more than 11% the previous year, and eurozone officials feared it could go into another debt spiral under the socialists. However, the Government’s budget last year cut taxes and restored civil servants’ salaries, eased a surtax tax on employees’ incomes and breathed new life into the welfare system. So, while we pursue a remorseless austerity agenda in the United Kingdom, what Portugal has demonstrated, despite concerns over the economic policies it is pursuing, is that there is another way. Rather than blindly following an austerity agenda, the example set by Portugal is something we in the UK would be well-advised to take note of. Alex Orr. 77 Leamington Terrace, Edinburgh. Ban mobile phone drivers Sir, - Once again I find myself bemoaning the fact that the penalties for driving while using a mobile phone are wholly inadequate. Until there is at least a three-month ban put in place for the offence, then many drivers will continue to offend. Eric Travers. 38 Gellatly Road, Dunfermline. Big gamble for Scotland Sir, - The Scottish Government has an ambition, not to anyone’s surprise, to become a fully-fledged independent member state within the European Union. Consigned to the dustbin of history, courtesy of the Brexit vote, is the lazy assumption that an independent Scotland would have been accorded all the rights and privileges ascribed to the member state, the United Kingdom. The cold-hearted reality, post Brexit, is that an independent Scotland, to which I am opposed, will have to formally apply to become a member state. Is the Scottish public willing to give body and soul to the EU, adopt the Euro and forego all opt-outs as well as conform to fiscal requirements? Would it be right to allow any future independence referendum to be taken as permission to bounce the electorate into the European Union regardless? Ron Sturrock. 53 Grampian View, Ferryden.
Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km
Sir, The Nordic countries have recently come to the fore in the independence debate. The enviable record of prosperity and equality they share with the Alpine and Low countries has become a beacon for those espousing Scottish independence while, predictably, those who oppose it seek to tarnish that record with a selective concentration on income tax rates. While many in the “no” campaign hope that shallow scare story will be enough to neutralise the Nordic influence on the debate, others on the left are not convinced. They see the threat it poses to their assertion that Scotland thrives under the union. So they offer a different argument and claim the surest way for Scots to emulate the Nordic success is to put their faith in the strength of the UK and its ability to deliver it. However, there is a flaw in that assertion. If true, should Scotland not already be there? It’s not as if the union is a new construct that needs time to bed in. It has had many years to deliver prosperity and equality for Scotland. Instead, despite the union and an oil boom, Scotland lags far behind its small, independent neighbours. Indeed, this latest assertion from the “no” campaign merely highlights the failings of the union. Stuart Allan. Flat E, 8 Nelson Street, Dundee. Brits need to buck up their ideas a bit Sir, Up until last week I had been very concerned about the number of immigrants being offered work in this country when so many British people like myself are unemployed. However, I had a major building job to be done in my house last week and I felt very frustrated at the length of time it took and this was mainly because the builders arrived late in the morning, then took a tea break for an hour, had lunch for another 90 minutes and then an hour’s tea break in the afternoon. They also finished early. I do not think British people, particularly in the building trade help themselves gain employment by building this sort of reputation. A friend of mine was having building work done by a group of Polish workers. Although they spoke little English they arrived on time, took very little time off and stayed later. Is there a difference in the work ethic of British builders and their European counterparts? If this is the case then maybe the migrants deserve the work? Gordon Kennedy. 117 Simpson Square, Perth. It just doesn’t add up at all Sir A card was inserted into my copy of The Courier at the weekend that claimed my energy bills would fall if Scotland became a new state. As usual, this huge claim doesn’t specify how that “lower cost of living” would be paid for. Right now, Scotland receives much more energy subsidy than the rest of the UK. Last year, Scotland got almost five times the subsidy for renewable energy than the rest of the UK. The cost of some of those renewable devices is enormous. It’s an expensive policy. It can only be afforded because the UK pays it all. For myself, my renewable subsidy is thirty-eight times the regular price for your domestic electricity. That’s £6 a kilowatt paid to me, compared with the 15.5 pence many readers pay for electricity right now. With a new Scottish Government taking on all the subsidies paid for our renewables, how on earth could that same government afford these very high costs, AND cut our current bills? It just doesn’t add up. Andrew Dundas. 34 Ross Avenue, Perth. Completely bonkers? Sir, I cannot be the only reader who, having read Tuesday’s excellent contribution to your enquiry into fuel poverty, Bishop Nigel Peyton’s article about much the same thing and your article into just how poorly Dundee’s economy is performing, to read that Justine Greening proudly announced we are tripling Britain’s overseas economic aid to £1.8 billion. Has the government, having lost the plot some time ago, gone completely bonkers? Can one get a job lot of straitjackets? Robert Lightband. Clepington Court, Dundee. School run gases worse Sir, The article in Monday’s Courier regarding levels of air pollution in our towns and cities should give us all cause for concern, but I would like to see air samples taken outside our schools when the school run is on. Most of the vehicles used to ferry children to school do very short journeys and the vehicles do not reach operating temperature which means the engines spew out even more poisonous gases. Children and adults have to walk through this daily. It can’t be good for their health. Bob Duncan. 110 Caesar Avenue, Carnoustie. It’s obscene Sir, At last someone is highlighting the cost the royal family inflicts on the British taxpayer. The money lavished out on them is obscene while people are having benefits cut and some are having to choose whether they have food or heat. Alister Rankin. 93 Whyterose Terrace, Methil, Leven. Protecting the wealthy Sir, The condemnation of Ed Balls’ limited and modest proposal to raise the income tax threshold back to 50p for those earning more than £150k has come exclusively from the financial aristocracy. This same group of bankers and speculators (who caused the 2008 crash) have successfully lobbied against any regulation to stop a repeat. Instead the solution to the deficit has been a brutal and inhuman series of cuts to the living standards of working people under the guise of austerity. The UK Government is currently fighting the EU in court to stop legislation which would cap banker bonuses at 100% of their salaries. The reason the Chancellor gave when he reduced the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p was because it only raised revenue of £1 billion per year. This is half of what the bedroom tax is saving the government. The Tories don’t care about working people, they are only interested protecting the lifestyles of the obscenely wealthy. Alan Hinnrichs. 2 Gillespie Terrace, Dundee. No doctors will be involved Sir, As a humanist, I read the article “Staying in control until the last minute” (Courier, January 24), with interest. I am very glad that Dr Buist of Blairgowrie tries to talk his patients out of wanting his help in assisted dying. We, the very few, fewer than two per week out of Scots who die per week, who may want help to die should never ever seek help from a doctor. So, concern for professional medical principles is not necessary. Here in Dundee, a local humanist has developed SCOOP, a scheme whereby far-sighted adult Scots who wish to die stress-free and with dignity, may register this wish officially and when the moment comes as come it must for all of us they will qualify for the help of a compassionate registered facilitator who will supervise their demise in a dignified stress-free manner without any NHS involvement whatsoever. Once SCOOP is legalised this controversy will be resolved and laid to rest forever. Jean Clark. Temperance House, Brechin. They need to be alert as well... Sir, In response to M Clunie, “Need to alert pedestrians” (Letters, January 25), I would ask: “when will pedestrians become more alert to what is going on around them?” I cannot speak for cyclists, but most pedestrian mobility scooter drivers are very aware of their responsibilities towards pedestrians. However, they find that their vigilance is not reciprocated. Too many people wander around with their attention distracted by headphones, mobile phones etc, and seem completely unaware of prams , mobility scooters or others less able than themselves. Mobility scooters do have a beeper but people jump out of their skins and are none too pleased if they are used, so I find it better to quietly wait my turn, put an arm out to prevent someone inadvertently backing into me and warn them I am there if possible. More often than not there is an exchange of apologies and people are very kind and helpful. Mrs M Dumbreck. Mossgiel, Dysart. Gagging law danger Sir, I would like to thank Lindsay Roy, the Labour MP for Glenrothes for supporting the House of Lords’ positive amendments to the Gagging Law. Whilst the overall vote was lost, Lindsay stood up for democracy. The gagging law introduces new rules that would prevent non-politicians from speaking on the big issues of the day. Many charities and campaign groups have spoken out against it. Despite how vocal civil society has been about the issues with this law, the government are trying to rush it through without proper scrutiny. Groups that normally would not agree, have been united in speaking out against this law. Politics is too important to leave to political parties, and in a healthy democracy everyone should be able to express their views. Katrina Allan. 23 The Henge, Glenrothes. Why were they allowed? Sir, It is not only Asda’s sign which offends (Letters, January 21). Aldi in St Andrews has two massive signs, quite unnecessarily. How both were permitted by the council planners is beyond me. Let us hope Cupar’s Aldi is more restrained. John Birkett. 12 Horseleys Park, St Andrews.
Sir, - Nicolle Hamilton described Jim Crumley’s article (January 19) on grouse shooting as unbalanced and distorted. Strong words but are they justified? In his article, Jim made great play of the plight of hen harriers, implicating those who manage grouse moors. However, Jim knows it is not that simple. Hewill have read the recent article in Scottish Birds by Bob McMillan. Following a 12-year-long study on the Isle of Skye, Bob reported that of 88 nesting attempts by hen harriers, 47 failed, with predators the most likely cause. Monitoring nests with cameras revealed that red foxes were responsible for two thirds of the failures, killing chicks and fledged and adult birds. He will also have read the report in 2013 by David Baines and Michael Richardson on the first 10 years ofthe experiment onLangholm Moor. This showed that a grouse moor provides an excellent habitat for hen harriers as the game keepers controlledpredators such as red foxes and ensured there was abundant prey for the harriers. Following the protection of hen harriersin 1992, their numbers on Langholm Moor greatly increased. But by 2002 their numbers had againcollapsed following the removal of the keepers in 1999. This collapse was attributed to increased predation, particularly by red foxes and lack of prey resulting from the removal of the keepers. The keepers were removed because the increased numbers of harriers had limited the numbers of grouse for shooting. This is a complex, catch 22 situation. Jim knows all this but chooses to vilify many of those who live and work in the countryside. But dealing with the complex issues typical of the real world is not Jim’s remit. Keep it simple Jim; people are theproblem. David Trudgill. The Steading, Blairgowrie. Predationthreat to birds Sir, - I write in response to JimCrumlney’s column, Nature pays dearly for grouse shooters. Despite the trials of our lives including pressures on our sleeping patterns, few if any,people worry about being killed by another predatory species. However, for practically every other species, predation is a real and increasing threat. Growing evidence suggests that breeding populations of some ground-nesting birds, such as wading birds and gamebirds, are more likely to be limited by predation than other groups,perhaps because their nests or young are mostvulnerable to predation. This comes at a time when, with the exception of the kestrel, every other species of raptor populations has grown, in many cases exponentially, and that some form of control is required to limitfurther impact on rare and vulnerable species. The UK Government has recognised theproblem is not as one sided as bird charities would suggest and it has implemented a henharrier recovery plan in England. I could invite Mr Crumley to accompany me to visit a few of the areas he highlighted as being a problem to see the conservation effort and the tangible biodiversity from those he would castigate. But when did the truth ever get in the way of a good story? Jamie Stewart. Scottish Countryside Alliance, Director for Scotland. 16 Young Street, Edinburgh. Wildlife cleared from estates Sir, - George Murdoch (January 26) makes some interesting points about raptor crime, estates and conservation bodies. It would be a big step forward if all estates were transparent in a genuine way rather than the glossed-over attempt to portray themselves as the saviours of these Scottish moorlands. Some are keen topromote the view that all manner of wildlife is flourishing under their guardianship. Sadly, some estates have cleared their land of all Scottish red deer and Scottish mountain hares purely because they carry ticks, which if picked up by grouse can affect their well-being. This hardly helps the biodiversity of these places and is an affront to our natural heritage. Sadder still is the fact that hen harriers have not nested in Angus for 10 years. Robert Anderson. Kirkton, Arbroath. Ladies made homeless Sir, - Twenty years ago a group of ladies formed a craft group at the Damacre Centre in Brechin. Since then we have met every Fridaymorning to enjoy two hours of companionship and crafting. Now Angus Council has told us we can no longer use the centre but have to move to the new high school. However, until the old school is pulled down in 2017, there will be no parking or a bus service. Many of us are in our 80s so how are we expected to get there? The Damacre Centre is only two minutes’ walk from a good bus service. We have offered to pay more to stay at thecentre, at least until 2017, but have been turned down. So thanks to thecouncil and the SNP’s mania for centralisation, 24 elderly ladies are deprived of their Friday morning get-togethers and another building is added to the long list of buildings which blight Brechin. Mrs M. Armstrong. 83 High Street, Edzell. Litter blight in Kinross Sir, - As I was working in Kinross on January 21, I decided to visit the local Sainsbury’s supermaket for a bit of lunch. On travelling back from the store, I was shocked by the amount of litter on the pavement at Springfield Road. Further up Springfield Road I witnessed a group of school pupils who had been at the supermarket, leaving plastic foodcontainers, cans, leftover bread and so on, littering the pavement. It waslittle wonder the pupils were being followed by a flock of seagulls. This is the worst case of littering I have ever witnessed. Do these pupils not have anyconcern about the litter they leave behind and the cost to council forclearing up this mess? Ian Robertson. Hillview, Station Road, Crook of Devon. EU has Britain in tax trap Sir, - The disgraceful deal between Google and HM Revenue andCustoms is a simplecase of soft-targettaxation. Individuals and small businesses are pursued like war criminals, while for many multinationals, paying tax in Britain is an optional extra. It is not just in taxation that the authoritiesfollow this unfair approach of picking on the weak and ignoring the powerful. The police have long practised soft-target policing. It is easy to pursue motorists for speeding and fools on socialmedia; policing thehardened criminals in the country is quite another matter. For policing, what is chiefly needed is a change of heart, but for taxation that will not be enough. Multinationals know that there is nothing that we can do to make them pay in Britain on their British profits so long as we are in the European Union. To its credit, the coffee chain Starbucks haschosen in the last couple of years to start to pay its fair share. The other multinationals just laugh at us. Prime Minister David Cameron’s renegotiation should have included a change to EU rules on free movement of capital to ensure that profits are taxed where they are earned. Of course, he didnot because therenegotiation is simply cosmetic. A future in whichmultinationals pay their fair share of tax is yet another reason for usto vote to leave theEuropean Union. Otto Inglis. Ansonhill, Crossgates. SNP champions Tory austerity Sir, - I thank Councillor Kevin Cordell forhis generous comments (January 27) about my role as councillor for the West End on Dundee City Council. However, in relation to the impending huge budget cuts to Scottish local government,Councillor Cordellconfuses facts asopinion. I made no comment on whether or notthe block grant settlement from Westminster is generous or not this year but it is a fact that it has been increased by £0.5 billion a 1.7% increase. The SNP Scottish Government, despite this 1.7% increase from Westminster, has decided to slash local government budgets across Scotland by 3.5%, a massive cut in local services of £350m, across Scottish localgovernment. If anyone is the bag carrier for Tory austerity, Councillor Cordell has only to look to his own SNP Government. Cllr Fraser Macpherson. Councillor for the West End, Dundee City Council.
I suppose you’ve got to admire a man for sticking to his word. About a year ago Adam Scott announced he had no interest in competing in golf’s return to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this August. Any cajoling, blandishments and more strident attempts to get the Australian to change his mind over the past 12 months have proved fruitless as he announced last week he was sticking to his guns. No sooner had we digested the cousin Adam’s statement confirming his absence from the Games than Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa also announced that he wouldn’t be going to Rio. Vijay Singh, another major champion, is also set to decline the opportunity to play for Fiji. I think Scott, Oosthuizen and Singh (actually strike Vijay, I don’t really care what he thinks about anything anymore) are dead wrong, as are any out there now wavering on the edge of pulling out, as no doubt a few are. This is not borne of any great desire to see golf in the Olympics at all, at least not in the format which is proposed for Rio. I’m not exactly agog with excitement of another restricted field 72-hole strokeplay event. The format proposed for Rio is profoundly unsatisfactory. The shoehorning of the Olympic event into golf’s already crunched schedule is a significant issue for the tours and the players. The International Golf Federation and the tours, with considerable input from the IOC, have had several years to put together a reasonable format and failed utterly, due to the usual blend of diplomatic compromise and the innate dodginess of the entire Olympic administrative process. But it is what it is. And the worth of the Olympic Golf tournament for the sport is perfectly plain; it’s a vehicle to promote golf to areas the game can’t currently reach. Golf’s attempts to promote itself beyond its own narrow confines - the moneyed middle classes, mostly - has utterly failed. Participation is down, and the game’s current demographic, as we harp on about in T2G almost every week, is downright frightening for the future. We’ve just had what many would regard as golf’s biggest annual vehicle for promoting itself globally, the Masters tournament. And what does it show golf as? An ultra-exclusive club for multi-millionaires, with fussy, antiquated standards of behaviour that sometimes border on primary school discipline. Furthermore, for three days of that tournament the organisers are arrogant enough to insist that millions around the world can’t see what’s happening by refusing to allow broadcasters the right to show play for hours on end. Golf people love the Masters. I love the Masters. But it does next to nothing to get new people involved in the sport. It’s a four-day long preach to the already converted. The Olympics, on the other hand, will go into living rooms across the world where golf doesn’t go. It’ll open up the purse strings of the many governments across the world who insist on Olympic status before they will support a sport. To me, it’s incumbent for all who qualify for the Olympics to participate. It’s one week out of the season to go and do some good for the sport instead of the individual, who still has all the other 51 weeks to make his or her money. Enhance the status next time There’s a simple solution to fitting the Olympics into golf’s packed schedule, while enhancing its status so we don’t get self-interested players pulling out. Simply give the Olympic competition WGC status. Once every four years, either Doral, the Bridgestone or Shanghai is replaced by the Olympic event, with full ranking points. Loch Lomond still has that aura This weekend Dundonald Links was confirmed as the venue for the 2017 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open. The excellent Kyle Phillips designed neo-links near Irvine, which already hosts the Scottish Ladies’ Open, is being tweaked to take out a few idiosyncracies and a new modern clubhouse built. Dundonald is owned by Loch Lomond Golf Club, the former host of the Scottish until 2010. After the Scottish left, the big gates of the old Colquhoun estate clanged shut as the club sorted itself out from near receivership with a member buyout. The club’s future is now secure, and they are hinting at opening up those gates again, inviting some members of the media back last week, as if to say, undemonstratively,“we’re still here”. It hasn’t changed a bit. There’s no better inland setting for golf in Scotland, maybe in the UK. The course remains first class, some holes - the 10th for example - among the very best in this country. The club are taking tentative steps to ending their self-imposed isolation. It should have an event again; the Scottish got huge crowds there and has never quite recaptured them in its links venues of late. People loved to go to Loch Lomond, it was the closest anyone has got to that overused promotional claim “the Augusta of Scotland”. Here’s hoping.
Sometimes, you’ve just got to suck it up - as our American friends indelicately put it - and admit defeat. This week is the cut-off point for qualification for the golf competition at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. I’m sure that the International Golf Federation (IGF), the prime movers behind restoring golf to the Games for the first time since 1904, imagined frenzied excitement as players strived for the final world ranking points which would allow them to be one of their nation’s two candidates for the prized gold medal. Instead, we’re braced this week for more withdrawls. Already Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, two of the world’s top four, have pulled out. Ireland’s top three players have declined the invitation to Rio, leaving Padraig Harrington and Seamus Power, who is 283rd in the world and hasn’t played an event on either of the top two tours for two years. Pressure is intense on the new World No 2, Dustin Johnson, and the No 3 Jordan Spieth, to go to the Games, but both are clearly wavering. The Zika virus, as we’ve detailed before in T2G, is the primary reason given for the spate of withdrawls by (almost exclusively) male golfers. Whether this is simply a convenient excuse or not is still a debate; the chances of contracting Zika by mosquito bite seem to be minimal. Yet the new Olympic course has been built on swampland which apparently is rife with the wee blighters specifically accenuating the risk for the golfers. Supposedly. You’ll probably detect my cynicism on this point; Zika is already found in Mexico and the Caribbean and I don’t see any players worried about the WGC event next year or their lads’ holiday in the Bahamas broadcast live on social media. But it’s almost besides the point. If Zika is the excuse it’s just to cover up a series of other reasons for missing Rio that are reasonable but more difficult to explain for golfers. The first is that the nationalistic, flag-waving element of the Games which is supposed to be a major attraction - `why wouldn’t you want to represent your country?’ - means little to these individual operators. The Ryder Cup is different; it’s been a fan-driven phenomenon which the players - Europeans mostly - have bought into. Plus, although they’re not directly paid to participate, most European players have large bonuses tied into their sponsor deals for making the team. Part of the issue with America’s recent failures in the Cup, surely, is that they don’t subscribe to the national team ethic. Tiger Woods’ clear antipathy towards the Ryder Cup throughout his career is a good example of this. Getting beaten so regularly of late has maybe lifted the patriotic fervour a tad for many, but there’s no such incentive to rally round the flag at the Olympics. Secondly, the Olympics is bloody awkward. There was a decent point made in Ireland after Rory’s withdrawl on the insistence of the Irish Olympic Committee that he’d have to wear their official gear, which of course is not Nike. It seems a small thing, but if you were getting paid $1 million a month to wear one manufacturer and were then ordered to wear a rival for nothing, you might be a little annoyed. But to me, the biggest reason to miss Rio is that it has been crow-barred into golf’s already crowded schedule. Looking down the calendar, it’s the obvious week to miss if a player is out of form or just seeking a break to avoid burn-out. This is where the IGF, in their understandable haste to get golf into the Games, have blundered. Golf is already full up; there’s simply no room for this competition and as it lies outside the comfort zone of top players, they’re more than tempted to ignore it. I was supportive of Olympic golf for one main reason; golf only promotes itself to the already converted and here was a rare chance to grow the game outside those narrow confines. Participation levels are low enough that we should really care very much about this, but golf is in a very comfortable bubble, and a lucrative one (for now). The game thinks it doesn’t have to care about worldwide markets it doesn’t presently penetrate. To me the Olympics is another example - along with distance control - which shows that elite players are driving golf’s direction. If they don’t care about the Games, even for selfish reasons, it’s just not going to be a success. The IGF bent over backwards to make it work for them. They - stupidly - let top stars like Tiger and Phil Mickelson insist it be a 72-hole strokeplay format, even though that duo won’t ever play in it. And having made that and other concessions, what happens? The players snub it anyway. The IOC are also complicit. Their first insistence in allowing golf back into the Games was that the superstars had to play; no compromise. The sad conclusion is that it was a good try, with the best intentions, but it’s failed. Golf is a sport that doesn’t sit well in the Olympics. Wrestling, squash and karate desperately want in. They’ll all appreciate it far more than our self-obsessed, insular game.