THE Orange Order in Scotland is threatening to
transform itself into a Protestant paramilitary organisation if the SNP
ever win a mandate for Scottish independence.
In a taped interview
with the Sunday Herald, Jack Ramsay, the Grand Secretary of the Grand
Orange Lodge of Scotland, claimed Orangemen who found themselves
threatened with life in an independent Scotland would turn into an
underground force, which would not rule out a recourse to arms, in a bid
to preserve their Britishness.
When asked what would happen if
Scotland moved to sever ties with the union, Ramsay said: 'The Orange
Order would become a paramilitary force, if you like.'
He is now
facing calls for a police inquiry into the statement, following a
barrage of criticism from the Scottish National Party and the Roman
Catholic Church in Scotland that his comments may inflame sectarian
tension in the run-up to the annual Twelfth of July celebrations in
Ulster and Scotland.
Ramsay said the prospect of an independent
Scotland would see the Orange Order become like 'a spy behind enemy
lines' and turn into a rallying point for those bitterly opposed to
independence. The SNP was a 'threat to Scotland and Britain,' he added.
'If people became disenchanted with Labour and turned to the SNP, the
nationalists would start screaming that they have a mandate for
separatism. That would be very dangerous.'
'We would find
ourselves in difficulties,' he added. 'If that was the case I think we'd
end up a proscribed organisation. The people who would join us then
would not be those who would have joined if the Orange Order was legal.'
likelihood of the Orange Order, which has around 50,000 members, being
banned in the event of it turning to paramilitary activity did not seem
to worry Ramsay. 'If you proscribe an organisation, you strengthen it',
When asked a second time if his reference to a
''paramilitary organisation'' suggested terrorism, Ramsay said: 'It
obviously implies a recourse to arms'. Asked a third time, he said he
would prefer the description 'a more militant organisation''. He added:
''If we were separated from the UK, we would have a caucus of people who
would be pro the union. The logical development of that would obviously
mean some form of confrontation. If we were proscribed we would go
underground, and anything that's underground surfaces.'
emphasised that no violence was acceptable at the moment apart from
actions taken by the RUC and the army, who he said 'had a licence to
kill and acted with the legitimacy of the British state'.
the sabre-rattling comes as the Orange Order in Scotland is planning to
hire public relations consultants to overhaul its image.
SNP's deputy leader and shadow justice minister Roseanna Cunningham
savaged Ramsay and the Orange Order for the comments. She said: 'This is
an extraordinary statement. Ramsay has done more in one sentence to
destroy his organisation than years of political criticism ever could.
Independence in Scotland will only come through the democratic process.
To suggest that an organisation would go down the road towards terrorism
if it was opposed to independence is unbelievable. Obviously this
statement will have to be examined closely by the authorities to see if
making these claims is a criminal offence.' Police sources said they
would look at Ramsay's statement in the light of the Terrorism Act 2000.
added: 'Given that everyone, including the hierarchy of the Catholic
Church, has been very relaxed about the activities of the Orange Order,
it is astonishing that this organisation can be so intolerant and
Ramsay also defended Orangemen who joined
paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland and Scotland in the early
1970s, at the height of the Troubles. 'In those days men were joining
paramilitary organisations for the right reasons. The UDA (Ulster
Defence Association), when it started, was required for defence purposes
from attacks on Protestant people from the IRA.
'A number of
young men empathised with that and joined loyalist organisations. They
weren't taking to the streets to murder people then -- now it's very
different. Back then we were sympathetic to the problems faced by the
Protestant community in Ulster. Today, it's gone to hell.'
revealed that at least one Scottish Orange Order member was a senior
commander in a loyalist paramilitary organisation. 'He was encouraging
young lads to join up, and then when they wanted out they were subjected
to some pretty brutal treatment. It was then, in 1976, that we decided
that we couldn't have any association or direct contact with
Ramsay said Catholic claims of discrimination in
Scotland were nonsense. 'The Labour Party is filled with Catholic MPs
and MSPs, and we haven't had a Protestant Lord Provost in Glasgow for
nearly 20 years, so how can we talk about discrimination?'
bid to overhaul the disastrous public image of the Order, Ramsay has
embarked on a three-part plan to convince the public that the
organisation is not bigoted and violent. He has already consulted
politicians including Donald Gorrie, who wants to see legislation
outlawing sectarian abuse, and plans to talk to journalists about the
reasons for the Order being constantly attacked in the press.
final stage will be the hiring of PR consultants . 'Every organisation
has PR people now and we realise we need one as well,' he said.
Kearney, the Catholic Church in Scotland's official spokesman, said:
'Jack Ramsay's comments are utterly unbelievable. There is nothing to
stop people defending their Britishness legally. Even the Boers in South
Africa defend apartheid within legal boundaries.
entitled to freedom of expression, but it often comes over as sectarian
rhetoric and triumphalism to Roman Catholics and other Scottish people.
It is this that demeans the organisation.'