Scottish Orange leader: Beware stoking hatred with fresh independence referendum

A top Scottish Orangeman has voiced fears that a new independence referendum would re-ignite “hatred” among Scots, a mere seven years after the last divisive vote.

Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 9:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 11:51 am
Left: A map showing SNP seats across Scotland (in yellow); Right, Mr Ian McNeil

Ian McNeil, executive office of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, said he feels a sense of “betrayal” over the renewed push for a second IndRef (as the referendum is known), because the SNP’s previous leadership had pledged the 2014 vote would be a “once in a generation” event.

He was speaking as Cabinet Officer minister Michael Gove declined to rule out legal action in the event that the SNP bring forward legislation for a referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister and SNP leader, has already told the Prime Minister that last week’s Holyrood election – where the SNP were by far the largest party – means it is now a case of “when not if” there is another vote on the issue.

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Its manifesto promised to stage IndyRef2 before the end of 2023, and with the eight pro- independence Green Party MSPs added to the SNP’s 64, that make a majority in the Scottish Parliament in favour of secession from the UK.

Mr McNeil told the News Letter last night: “Obviously we’re very disappointed with the result of the election. We were encouraging people to vote for unionist parties.

“We certainly don’t want another independence referendum because it’s divisive. The last one was meant to be a ‘once in a generation’ referendum to sort this out once and for all.

“Here we are, a few years later, they want to go again! We absolutely feel a sense of betrayal.

“Let’s say the vote goes the same way again, which I think is quite likely. Four years later, do we have another one? And do we just keep having them ‘til they win? That can’t possibly be allowed to happen.”

He said that Scotland, like Northern Ireland, receives significant subsidy from Westminster, adding: “I believe the people in Northern Ireland, like the Scots, are not daft. I think they’d continue to vote to remain part of the UK.

“The UK is a family of nations; it benefits all of us.”

Casting his memory back to 2014, he lamented “the absolute hatred it caused, and I really mean that – hatred!”

“There were families split, there were people standing at the border with signs saying: ‘English eff-off’,” he added.

“There were wee old ladies going about their shopping and they were actually quite scared, because it was so confrontational.

“It was not a nice experience at all.”

Speaking to journalists on Monday, Mr Gove dismissed talk of a new independence push, saying: “It is not a conversation we believe is right to have at this moment, because it can only be a diversion of energy and attention at a time when there are far more pressing issues.”

Asked specifically if the UK Government would take legal action to block a second referendum, Mr Gove would only say: “I’m not getting into the whole question of court and litigation and all the rest of it.”

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