Orange Order leader calls for vote in Scottish referendum


ULSTER SCOTS are stakeholders in the debate about the future survival of the United Kingdom and should be allowed to vote in the Scottish independence referendum, expected to take place in 2014, a leading member of the Orange Order in Northern Ireland has said.

David Hume, speaking at a Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland event in Glasgow to commemorate the centenary of the signing of the Ulster covenant, said: “We are stakeholders as well. Surely a decision such as this should not ignore our input. A union without Scotland would be a poorer place.”

Reflecting the concerns shared by Northern Ireland pro-Unionists, Dr Hume 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.”

He added: “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.” He said Ulster Scots had “extended Scottish influence to Ireland in the 17th century”.

Meanwhile, Scottish first minister and Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond has conceded defeat in his bid to have two questions put to voters in the referendum, one asking whether or not they want to stay in the union, the other questioning whether they want greater self-government.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mr Salmond said the British government was “clearly not willing” to allow questions on the ballot about the so-called “devolution max” option – self-rule in all but name – or full powers for Scotland to set its own tax and spending rates.

While not unexpected, the concession of defeat is an embarrassment for the SNP leader, who argued for months that the Holyrood parliament in Edinburgh had the authority to decide the issue even though the majority of legal opinion insisted such powers remain with Westminster.

However, Mr Salmond may have won an important concession from London in return, since it now appears to be ready to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote on the issue.

This could prove significant, since most younger voters favour independence.

So far, polls suggest that a considerable majority of Scots will reject the independence idea, though Mr Salmond’s office insisted yesterday that a straight Yes or No question on the future of the union will force people into making a clear choice.