Public Sector backers, including the Scottish Government, have been accused of “reinforcing and condoning” gender pay conventions and stereotypes by offering significantly greater levels of financial support for the forthcoming Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI) Scottish Open at Gullane next week than for the ASI Ladies Scottish Open staged at the same venue two weeks later.

The men’s £5 million ASI Scottish Open, which tees-off at the East Lothian golf club on July 12 as part of the European Tour’s flagship Rolex Series, will see the champion take home £900,000, whilst the ASI Ladies Scottish Open carries a total prize fund of £1.125 million, with the winner’s share just £170,000.

Through VisitScotland, the men’s Scottish Open has received £1m of central government support, compared to an initial £650,000 for the women’s event, that was subsequently increased to £800,000 from the Solheim Cup fund.

Commenting on the disparity, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Equality for women, in sport and across society, is at the heart of our vision of a fairer Scotland and our determination to end gender inequality is clear.

“Scotland is the only country in the UK to support a national Ladies’ Open and we have committed £21 million funding to women’s golf between 2016 and 2019.

“Our funding for men’s and women’s sporting events is fair and equitable. It is not instructive to make direct comparisons between tournaments as each has a unique set of costs associated with several factors, including timing, location and infrastructure.”

The amalgamation of the two events at the same venue, using shared temporary facilities’ costs from 2017 onwards, had been designed to free up in excess of £1m towards the ASI Ladies Scottish Open prize fund, but the plan backfired when the European Tour demanded an additional £2m for the men’s event to meet the minimum prize fund in the prestigious $7m Rolex Series, whilst the Ladies Scottish Open prize money increased from £435,000 in 2016 to its present-day level of around £1,130,000 (depending on exchange rates), suggesting a significant proportion of the amalgamation dividend was diverted towards the men’s event.

In 2015, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the yawning gap in prize money would be addressed.

“I’m aware of the disparity and I am a long-standing and well-documented champion of equal opportunities, so this is something we will address ahead of next year’s event,” she said. But women’s golf is still waiting.

However, a Scottish Government source intimated that the First Minister is attending an event with Aberdeen Standard Investments, the title sponsor of both the men’s and ladies Opens, specifically to discuss gender issues, whilst also pointing out that Scotland is the only country to commit long-term to the staging of the Women’s British Open in Scotland – signing a 10-year agreement with the then Ladies Golf Union (LGU), now subsumed into the R&A.

In global positioning terms, the ASI Ladies Scottish Open arguably sits marginally above the men’s event; it enjoys an exclusive date, and is sanctioned by both the Ladies European Tour and the global LPGA Tour, whereas the men’s Scottish Open is solely-sanctioned by the European Tour, with a rival PGA Tour event, the £4.4m John Deere Classic, going head-to-head with the Gullane showpiece.

These days, and especially with the Ladies European Tour on its knees, talented young female Scottish golfers are reportedly having to take on second jobs, or, with the ASI Ladies Scottish Open being the only event on the Ladies European Tour this month, giving up the game altogether because it appears a non-viable career opportunity.

One such rising star, who did not wish to be named, said: “Women pay the same rates of income and council tax as men, and it is, in my opinion, morally unconscionable for publicly-funded bodies to short change women’s events as they do.”

The player, who also benefits from support from Aberdeen Standard Investments, added: “At the Scottish Open, we will play virtually the same course as the men, over four days of intense competition against more of the best players in the world compared to the men, and if equal pay can be achieved in women’s tennis, then why not in golf?

“Attitudes which reinforce and condone discrimination have got to change, but it’s hard to speak out as its viewed as biting the hand that feeds you.”

For its part, East Lothian Council is presiding over an even greater gulf in the proportion paid to the respective editions of the Scottish Open. The Council has contributed £120,000 towards the men’s event, but just £25,000 towards the women’s.

Councillor John McMillan, East Lothian Council spokesperson for Economic Development & Tourism, said: “There are very sound reasons for providing funding to major events as one of the key aims of this council is to grow a strong economy in East Lothian and attracting major events and tourism spend contributes greatly to this.

“In terms of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open and Ladies Scottish Open, the level of funding directly correlates to the relative visitor numbers and the financial benefit brought to the county by each tournament.”

With women’s sport enjoying a higher profile than ever before, campaigners are no longer simply monitoring the situation, but taking action.

“The disparity surrounding women in sport is still very much visible in most areas,” said Maureen McGonigle, CEO and founder of Scottish Women in Sport (SWIS). “We work with sports to look at ways to resolve these issues and promote a much more equitable balance throughout.

“Golf has long been predominately a male preserve; however, we welcome initiatives from Scottish Golf such as the employment of female development officers and the R&A’s recent Charter for Women in Sport which will assist in breaking down more barriers.

“Showcase events such as Aberdeen Standard Investment Ladies Open are an opportunity to further promote the work that is being carried out and investment into this event is continuing to grow. We haven’t reached equality yet, however, I believe that the steps that have been taken are a steady progression towards this goal.

“The conversation surrounding women in sport is more active than ever and Scottish Women in Sport intend to monitor the situation and ensure that promises made are delivered and that all sports work towards an end goal within an identified timeline.”

Last month’s Forbes report into “the world’s highest-paid athletes”, showed the issue of gender pay disparity is a global problem, revealing that not one of the top 100 highest-earners was female.

Tennis is one sport that has got its gender balance very much in sync, largely due to the campaigning of former players such as Billie-Jean King and Martina Navratilova. Wimbledon, which runs concurrently with the men’s Scottish Open, offers both singles champions the same £2.5m first prize.

Two of the leading female golfers who will feature in this month’s ASI Ladies Scottish Open, North Berwick-based Catriona Matthew and Britain’s most successful female professional Dame Laura Davies appear sanguine about, or resigned to, the inequality of rewards.

Matthew, who captain’s the European Solheim Cup team against the USA at Gleneagles next year, said: “I think it’s closer than it might have been 10 years ago. Obviously in an ideal world, you’d love it to be the same amount in each, but I think certainly we’re heading in the right way.”

Viewed in a broader context, Davies has 84 worldwide wins to her name, with career earnings still under £10m, while her compatriot and contemporary Lee Westwood has enjoyed half that number of career victories but his prize money recently topped £30m.

Matthew has career earnings of just over £5m, her fellow Scot Colin Montgomerie banking over £22m over the course of their parallel careers, whilst personal sponsorships for top male golfers are estimated to be between five and 10 times higher than their female counterparts.

“We need backing from corporate Europe,” said Davies. “We need them to put their money behind us and think we’re a good product, but we need people to step up with the money to back us.”

With the winner of this year’s men’s Scottish Open taking home close on £1m, and the women’s champion earning almost three-quarters-of-a-million less than her male counterpart, the clarion call for sports administrators, commercial sponsors and local and national governments should be “mind the gap”.