About 12,000 Orange Order members from Northern Ireland and Scotland marched through Edinburgh today in a show of support for keeping Scotland in the United Kingdom.
At a “Proud to be British” rally in the city, s enior figures in the Orange Order described Scottish nationalism as “a divisive and evil enemy”.
They gathered in the Meadows to hear speeches before setting off past some of Edinburgh’s most famous landmarks, including the former house of their inspiration John Knox and the General Assembly Hall where his statue stands.
They also passed the Scottish Parliament and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, as supporters lined the streets to cheer them on and cry “No” to Scottish independence.
In a speech ahead of the march, Grand Chaplain Henry Williamson said: “Brothers and sisters, in a world of instability, a world of insecurity, a world of nuclear proliferation, of radical Islam, people look to the UK as a land of hope, a land of peace, of success and unity and an example if what they so desperately long for — unity not stupidity, unity not division, unity not separation, unity not them and us.
He added: “Let me remind you that when an enemy came against the city of Londonderry, God’s people famously said there will be no surrender to this evil enemy.
“It was a cry we made in 1914, it was a cry we made in 1939, it is a cry British people make every time we face an enemy who seek to destroy who and what we are, and a cry that we make on behalf of the underdog.
“Well, a divisive and evil enemy has arisen against Scotland in the guise of false patriotism and the nationalist referendum, against our beloved United Kingdom, and our reply as God’s people this time is ‘no separation’.”
Edward Stevenson, grand master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, said: “Next year, as is a long held tradition, many of us will come over to Scotland for the annual Battle of the Boyne commemorations, and we very much hope that we will not require our passports.”
Ron Bather, grand master of the Grand Orange Lodge of England and imperial grand Master of the Imperial World Council, said: “As individual nations, could we have succeeded in defeating Nazism in 1939? I don’t think so.
“It was the resolve and the endeavour of the individuals that make up this country that stood up against a mightier foe, and how many times in the past has this country been left to stand alone and yet has never been defeated.
“To you Scottish sisters and brethren, this coming week is you chance to defeat once and for all the separatists, the people that want to change your way of life.”
He added: “Over that last few days, certain people in the No camp have been questioning the validity of taking to the streets of Edinburgh today.
“Let me say to them people, as members of the Orange Institution we don’t sit behind closed doors and plan things, we don’t walk the streets with balaclavas on, we walk the streets openly to profess our religion and our heritage.”
“It’s your own history being taken away from you. What will you tell your grandchildren?” said Jim Prentice, a gardener wearing a Rangers soccer club shirt who had travelled from south of Glasgow to join the march.
The Orange Order, founded in 1795 to protect Protestant interests in Ireland, insists it must stand by its Scottish brethren to protect the union.
Marcher Dave Hughes said he come to show solidarity with the union: “We’ve been together 300 years. It works, why break it?” he said.