THANKS for your article on the Coul Links golf proposals (NTS objects to Trump rival’s golf course plans, The National, November 24).

It’s easy to get these things out of proportion. Sutherland is about the size of Belgium with the lowest population density in Scotland. Embo village has just under 300 people living in it. Our council ward, which stretches from Kinbrace in the north to Ault na Main in the south (49 miles), has 6303 people on the electoral register. So one wonders where the 17,000 who have signed the petition live. When I last looked at it there were signatures from across the globe.

Embo is a wonderful place to live in today. The majority of its population can trace their roots in the village back to the mid 1700s. Until WW1 it was a thriving fishing village with a population twice that of today. Many of its men were in the merchant navy and saw the world. At home they lived in the most densely populated village in the county with no water supply and no drainage. It was described by the County Medical Officer as an illustration of a place where an epidemic would find a happy hunting ground once it got a footing. It was also a fishing village without a pier or harbour. From 1891 to 1936 they lobbied the government and finally got a workable pier. Three years later WW2 began.

Today the bulk of the people are self-employed and mostly tradesmen who work throughout the north. Back in 1901 50 per cent of the village was under 20 years old, today it’s about 10 per cent. The young people leave for work elsewhere.

Golf isn’t just important for tourists. It creates skilled jobs as well, and enables some of our youngsters to stay. The Coul Links development has the potential to develop the economy of east-coast Sutherland.

It’s interesting to see that the National Trust aren’t on the list of consultees for the planning application. They have, however, been prominent along with RSPB and others you mention in leafleting to try to persuade the locals that this development should not go ahead. To my knowledge they haven’t come to see the site. The developers Mike Keiser and Todd Warnock have walked the site many times. They employ experts with knowledge of such links courses. We’ve had two sessions in Embo village and another two in nearby Dornoch to talk through their proposals and answer any questions. We’re talking to Mike Keiser directly. Todd Warnock is a local businessman who owns a top-end hotel near the Royal Dornoch and who saved the Dornoch Courthouse and has developed it very sympathetically. These men bear no relationship to Trump.

Keiser has a reputation for creating links courses in harmony with their natural surroundings. They are leasing the Coul Links land from the owner Able-Smith. They are buying the area immediately behind the village from the owner John Mackintosh. Neither of these areas are currently being managed to preserve them. Invasive species are coming in and destroying the very landscape the protesters think they can preserve. It takes money to do this. None of the protesters are offering to do this. I’m just beginning to walk the links again after an accident last year. I was shocked to find what I’m sure is Equisetum Hyemale (a decorative horsetail but just as damaging as the native one) in among the marram grass and a swathe of convovulus invading the links grass.

The logic behind the claim to re-energise the local economy is that at present golfers fly in to play Castle Stuart and Royal Dornoch. They can do both in one day and fly back out. A third international standard course means they need to stay in the area to play all three. It’s no wonder all the other local courses including Golspie and Brora are supporting the development. With more golfers staying in the area they can entice them to try their courses as well. We can all benefit.
Catriona Grigg