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Flea floored over golf grant

AN ATTEMPT to drive a council grant to a Shetland golf club into the rough was thwarted when its proposer found no one to back him.

On Thursday councillor Allison Duncan called for Shetland Islands Council’s services committee to block a £10,000 grant to Britain’s most northerly golf club on the isle of Whalsay, arguing that other sport clubs were run entirely by volunteers.

Whalsay Golf Club says it needs the 10 per cent grant to help pay the £22,450 bill for two staff to maintain its green, but Mr Duncan claimed that its members should either do this themselves or increase their membership fee by £82 a year.

“Many clubs don’t pay wages. In my view that money that money can be better used for educational purposes in Shetland,” he said.

His motion found no seconder, even when he pointed out that Orkney and the western isles paid no golfing subsidy nor was one paid to Asta Golf Club in Shetland.

Councillor Josie Simpson, who lives on Whalsay and was voted in as the SIC’s new political leader this week, said it was one of Scotland’s better golf courses and beautifully situated.

“I am very much involved in the financial side of this council and will be more so into the future,” he said.

“But I think we have to keep our minds focussed. We have to look after our young people of Shetland and we have to make Shetland is as attractive a place as we can for folk to come to.”

He said many workers on the new Total gas plant probably played golf and the council hoped to encourage some of them to stay in the isles.

He was backed by Caroline Miller, herself a “trainee golfer”, who extolled the sport’s health benefits.

Councillor Florence Grains reminded members of the praise heaped on Whalsay by Island Games contestants in 2005, describing it as “the most exciting course they had played on”.

And Bill Manson said municipal golf courses attracted many visitors to Ayrshire where he spent part of his childhood, and called the grant “money well spent”.

Last year the golf club’s membership fell from 164 to 150. This was blamed on the poor summer, though the wind and rain failed to put off visitors who arrived from the UK mainland, Faroe, Ireland, Norway, Germany and the USA in equal numbers to 2009.

Numbers may have been boosted by a prominent article in Golf Monthly published following a visit to Whalsay last April and a new junior development practise area built last year with Sportscotland funding.

A report to members suggested the council’s relationship with Whalsay, already tarnished over the islands’ transport links, could be further damaged if the funding was refused.

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