Sunday Post column in full
Well, well, well. Once it was "I agree with Nick." Now David Cameron agrees with Alex -- and so does Nick Clegg. The men-only policy at Muirfield – overlooked by politicians for decades – is suddenly under fire from all sides thanks to Alex Salmond's decision to boycott the Open Golf Championships. His stand over Muirfield's ban on women members was dismissed as double standards by some papers because Alex played golf at another men-only course in England two years ago. That's like criticising an ex- smoker cos he used to smoke! Others said Scotland's powerful establishment wouldn't lose a wink of sleep over losing Lec. I suggested the SNP leader might be courting women's votes ahead of the independence referendum. And of course, with a 20% gender gap in Yes vote support, that just might have been in the back of Alex Salmond's mind. But whatever his motives, look what he's done.
The row is overshadowing the championship, and that's a shame. But change only happens when business as usual becomes impossible. And sport is big business. Last week we learned the London Olympics boosted the economy by £10 billion. That's why politicians are wary of getting involved in golf's gender gaffes. Sport is big money and high profile – so it's hard to criticise. Nonetheless Alex Salmond took the leap – and now political leaders agree it's time for golf's elite to get out of their bunkers and rethink a policy that discredits Scotland worldwide. I was invited onto the international TV station Al Jazeera based in Qatar last week. They could hardly believe the oil-rich Arab Emirate -- ruled for over a century by the Al Thani family -- has a better record on equality in golf than the country that invented the game. And just wait till the run up to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. How can Scotland press Commonwealth countries to field equal squads if our own (club) house still isn't in order? Still, thanks to this week's stooshie, three things are clear. One -- Big Lec cannae wield a putter on a men-only golf course ever again. Two -- Scottish women should push harder for policy gains before the 2014 independence vote. This summer it's been Muirfield – a victory with huge symbolic but limited practical impact. This winter it could be affordable childcare -- tough to deliver but a possible gamechanger in Scottish and UK politics. So why not? And finally -- this is what female-friendly leadership looks like. So Alex, why not park lectures about independence awhile … and let's have more.