Tribute to golfing great of Leith knocked into rough

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PLANS to erect a statue in Leith Links to honour one of the architects of modern golf may have hit the rough – because it would breach an act of Parliament.

Residents announced proposals earlier this year to raise £150,000 for the creation of a tribute to John Rattray, one of the port’s earliest golfers, who became the signatory to the first rules drawn up for the game.

If given the green light, the statue would be sited in the very location where Rattray won the first competition held by the Gentleman Golfers of Leith in 1744.

It had been hoped the statue would be in place in time for the Open Golf Championships due to be held at Muirfield in July 2013.

But government red-tape could see the plans shanked into the long grass after it emerged leglislation prevented the installation of any statues on Leith Links, because it is common good land.

Council reports suggest overcoming the legal hurdle could prove troublesome, requiring the introduction of a Private Members’ Bill, which could be opposed by MSPs unhappy at exemptions being sought from planning rules the city council had itself proposed.

Proceeding with the bill could rack up costs of £10,000.

The council report stated: “If this proposal is to be taken forward it is likely it will involve substantial legal costs to amend the Confirmation Act and there is a risk that the proposal may not be accepted by the Scottish Parliament.”

But Douglas Foulis, president of Leith Rules Golf Society, which is championing the tribute to Rattray, was confident the project would succeed.

He said: “It’s taking longer than we expected and hoped it would, but I have not found anyone that thinks this is a bad idea so we have been a bit mystified as to how long its taking to resolve.”

Asked about the leglislative stumbling block, he said: “Put it this way, it’s a surprise. The machinery of government and an act of parliament were not something we expected to have to overcome.

“It would be a real shame not to see it erected as it would be another good reason for visitors to come to Leith Links.”

Chairwoman of the society, Pan Denzler, said the potential cost involved could make matters a “little more difficult” to surmount.

“If we would have to pay for the bill that would be a very tricky one for us, but if we could get an MSP to champion the bill for us, I think that would be the most attractive option for us right now.

“It’s a little bit disappointing but it’s not dead in the water, so we will keep upbeat and try to ensure it becomes a reality.”

Born in 1707, Rattray joined Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite army as a surgeon, becoming surgeon-general and personal surgeon to the prince.

After Culloden, Rattray surrendered to the Hanoverians and was imprisoned at Inverness, but was later released.