A legal probe has discovered that golfers in the Outer Hebrides who are banned from playing on Sundays can swing away on the Sabbath on the same landlord’s land behind their clubhouse.
Teeing off on the Sabbath is outlawed at Stornoway Golf Club on the Isle of Lewis under a historic clause in the lease with the Stornoway Trust.
Since the parkland course was built about 65 years ago, Sunday golf has never been played by members, reflecting the historic local island values of observing the Sabbath.
But golfers now want the ban abolished as part of their lease renewal.
However last month the trust again turned down the golf club’s request.
Now a group of candidates – called Stornoway Trust A Fresh Vision – fighting the up-coming trust elections have said lawyers had found that there was no clause in the lease allowing golf to take place on Sundays on the playing fields behind the club – and just yards from the course!
STAFV spokesman Callum Ian Macmillan said:”The lease that Stornoway Trust have with the council for the playing behind the golf club has been checked out by our lawyers. There is no clause in the lease ‘preventing’ sporting activity on the fields on any day of the week. It is a bizarre situation.
“People can practice golf on these playing fields but Stornoway Trust, currently, does not allow people to practice or play golf on the Stornoway Golf Course which is adjacent to the playing fields.
“Stornoway Golf Course is across the road from the playing fields – which Stornoway Trust lease to the council – without any restriction on which day people can take part in sport with their friends and families.
“There appears to be a double standard here, where Stornoway Trust stop people playing golf on the golf course on a Sunday – but have
no problem with people practicing golf on the adjacent playing fields.”
Club members unanimously backed the bid for Sunday golf at their recent annual meeting.
“The members feel very strongly about playing on a Sunday. Why is it so different for people to turn up on bikes and use the course on a Sunday but not golf clubs?” said club captain Pete Middleton. “We will fight on.”
Over 70% of people who responded to an online survey backed all sports in the Lews Castle Grounds “being treated the same way by the Stornoway Trust.”
Since 1949 the golf club had been paying just £50 to use the 18-hole course.
The Stornoway Trust has been asked for comment – but it is believed it is the council who set the conditions on the use of the playing fields as lessee.
Some 22 people are vying for just five seats on the Stornoway Trust – which covers nearly half the population of the Western Isles – making it the fiercely contested ballot for 40 years. The ballot papers arrived only today with voting ending on Tuesday (March 27).
This Sunday more protesters are expected for the third film to be shown on Sundays in a public cinema on Lewis.
Only 17 tickets remained for Black Panther today in what is the last of the three-film Sabbath trial at An Lanntair Stornoway. The other two films have proved sell outs.
Teas and coffees will be available for sale at the centre during the trial, but the venue’s bar and restaurant will remain closed.
A decision on whether to continue with Sunday openings at An Lanntair will be made after the trial ends.
Leisure facilities on the island have traditionally closed on Sundays in observance of the Sabbath.
Campaigners have even raised enough money to open Lewis’s public swimming pool and sports centre for a trial period on Sundays – only to be refused by the Western Isles Council. The local authority said its decision not to open the site was for “operational reasons” and not a religious one.
Local authority-run leisure centres on Lewis and neighbouring Harris are closed, although similar sites elsewhere in the Western Isles are open on Sundays.
The first Sabbath-busting ferry to Lewis came eight years ago, amid fierce protests. It has proved so popular that there will be two services on a Sunday for seven months this year.
An inter-island ferry between Harris and Berneray operates on Sundays after being introduced amid fierce protests in 2006. Sunday flights to and from Stornoway have operated since 2002.
However supermarkets in Stornoway remain closed on Sundays. Hotels, some restaurants and pubs and a filling station are open.
A businesswoman on Lewis is continuing to defy Sabbatarians and open her shop.
Leona Rawlinson, who runs Tweed Tastic in Stornoway, was sent a bible and a letter from The Lord’s Day Observance Society, Lewis and Harris branch asking for her to not open on Sundays.
211242 GMT MAR 18