|Flag of Scotland, St. Andrews Saltire|
THE Orange Order's Director of Services has called on the Scottish government to allow Ulster Scots to vote in the referendum on the future of Scotland.
Dr David Hume was speaking at an event organised in Glasgow by the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland to commemorate the centenary of the Ulster Covenant.
He said that Ulster Scots had provided the first unifying factor in Scottish history in the 6th century and helped develop Scottish interests in Ireland and elsewhere from the 17th century.
"We are stakeholders as well. Surely a decision such as this should not ignore our input?" he said.
The Director of Services recalled the strong support for Ulster Unionism a century ago in Scotland, where thousands of Ulster exiles signed at locations including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Troon, Ayrshire and elsewhere.
"A century on, the constitutional future is clearer now. The constitutional status of Northern Ireland will not change without the consent of the people. But the Union that was so dear to the hearts of 471,414 men and women in 1912 is under threat in other ways,” he said.
“In 1912 Scots unionists watched anxiously for Ulster and in 2014 Ulster will watch anxiously for you as nationalists seek to win a referendum which would alter totally the constitution of our nation. A union without Scotland would be a poorer place."
"It would be our hope that the Scottish people remain with us and remain within the Union. Victory is not assured. No one should believe that. But you can be assured that we are with those who stand by the Union and we will not forsake you as your forefathers did not forsake us.
“Many of them were not born in Ulster so they could not sign the Covenant. But they held it in their hearts. We will not forget you for that and the continuing support you give to us."
Dr Hume continued: "It is a great privilege to be Scottish. But we should not mix up patriotism with nationalism. In 2014 there will be attempts to sell the two as one product. But people should not be confused. It is natural to be Scottish and support the Union. Within the Union there is cultural difference, and other differences too; that is the great value of the Union. It is a value which binds us together under common structures and ethos."
He added: "When the referendum comes in 2014 the SNP want to extend the vote to those who are 16 years of age and, presumably, more likely to vote as directed by the SNP. I would call on them to extend the referendum to the Ulster Scots. After all, we provided the first unifying force in Scotland in the 6th century AD and we later extended Scottish influence to Ireland in the 17th century. We are stakeholders as well. Surely a decision such as this should not ignore our input?"