Hopes of erecting a statue of a founder of modern golf moved a step closer today after MSPs agreed to permit building on the sport's protected birthplace in Scotland's capital.

The first recorded rules of golf were created by golfers at Leith Links, now part of the city of Edinburgh, in 1744.

The Leith Rules Golf Society hopes to commemorate this with a statue of John Rattray, who was the leading golfer at Leith Links at the time.

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However, Leith Links is common good land and protected from development, in common with other Edinburgh open spaces like Princes Street Gardens, Calton Hill, Bruntsfield Links and The Meadows.

Categories of permitted buildings do not include monuments or statues, and it requires an Act of the Scottish Parliament to create an exception.

MSPs have now unanimously passed the City of Edinburgh Council (Leith Links and Surplus Fire Fund) Bill at Holyrood.

However, while the Bill removes the current legislative obstacle to the construction of the statue, it does not itself authorise the statue's construction.

The society must still obtain planning permission and meet the costs of creating and erecting the statue. The society intends to raise an extra sum to transfer to the council to enable it to maintain and repair the statue.

The Bill also contains separate provisions to transfer the assets, rights and liabilities of Edinburgh Council's Surplus Fire Fund to a charity called the Edinburgh Voluntary Organisation Trust.

The Fund dates back to a series of fires in Edinburgh High Street in 1824 but it later became dormant with accumulated assets of more than £1 million.

It was reactivated in 2001 at the request of the Fire Brigades Union, and its assets will now be transferred to the Trust for the relief of people injured, or the dependants of people killed or injured in connection with local fires, and to compensate for damage.