Former FM Salmond reveals ‘real’ reason behind East Lothian move
Alex Salmond, the former First Minister of Scotland, has revealed that The Renaissance was knocked back as a potential Scottish Open venue for this year over concerns about its image.
Writing in his new book, The Dream Shall Never Die, which chronicles the 100 days leading up to last year’s historic Scottish independence referendum, Salmond discusses announcing Gullane as the host for this year’s event on the final day of the 2014 Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen.
The move, whilst not entirely unexpected, left many at the time wondering why the European Tour and the event’s sponsors, including the Scottish Government, had opted to take the country’s flagship golf event to a venue that required creating a composite course from two its of its three existing layouts, as opposed to a seemingly purpose-built venue, like The Renaissance, just a few miles down the road.
At the time, Salmond explained that ‘the decision… was [taken] on the merits of Gullane and what Gullane had to offer’, whilst European Tour chief executive George O’Grady took the view that The Renaissance, which opened in 2008 but, in 2012, underwent £5m worth of improvements, including three new holes, was ‘still bedding in’.
In his book, however, Salmond offers a somewhat contrasting explanation.
He writes: “It is reasonably certain that Martin [Gilbert, CEO of title sponsor Aberdeen Asset Management] has come under a fair bit of pressure to take the tournament further along the coast to Renaissance, the new and hugely impressive development near North Berwick, but at £100,000-a-whack for family membership it would not communicate an ideal message about Scottish golf being open to all.”
Discussing Gullane directly, Salmond adds: “It is undoubtedly the right place to play the tournament – a community-orientated club without a whiff of gender discrimination and a flourishing junior section. It also boasts an outstanding traditional course with one of the most breathtaking seascape views of Scotland.”
Salmond also explains how five-time major winner Phil Mickelson wanted to help mend the rift that had developed between the First Minister and Donald Trump over plans for an offshore wind farm near the American tycoon’s new Aberdeenshire golf development.
Salmond partnered Mickelson during the pro-am at Royal Aberdeen, above, and recalls: “[Phil] also wants to broker a peace deal between me and Donald Trump, whom he likes, but doesn’t agree with on issues such as offshore wind energy. The proposals for a wind demonstrator in Aberdeen Bay have been reported as a spectacular falling-out between Trump and Salmond. I suggest that, in purely electoral terms, fighting with Mr Trump is far more beneficial than a reconciliation. In any case, the Lord Advocate would take a dim view of my even speaking to someone who is currently suing the Scottish government – albeit The Donald is losing and losing badly.”