Belfast Telegraph

Ulstermen say No in Edinburgh

By Joanne Fleming

Ulstermen said No to Scottish independence on Saturday, as thousands of Orangemen took to the streets of Edinburgh to call for the United Kingdom not to be broken up.

The Proud to be British rally in support of the Union had been disowned by the official Better Together campaign, who feared it could actually boost the pro-independence movement.

But that didn't stop 15,000 participants, 110 Orange lodge bands and several thousand spectators – many from Northern Ireland – from taking part in the parade, which passed off peacefully.

The marchers heard speeches before setting off past some of Edinburgh's most famous landmarks, including the Scottish Parliament and the Palace of Holyrood House, as supporters lined the streets to cheer them on and cry 'No' to Scottish independence. Rev Mervyn Gibson, Assistant Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, said the response of Better Together was a disappointment but certainly didn't ruin the mood.

"It was a fantastic day – great weather, great crowds, great atmosphere," he said. "There were more there than we expected, we did not expect to see such a big parade.

"There were a lot of families there, local people and people who had travelled down for the day. There were also a lot of tourists watching."

Edinburgh MP Alistair Darling, who leads Better Together, had denounced the march as "absolutely nothing to do with us".

"We've made that very, very clear – because they have absolutely nothing in common with the Better Together campaign, absolutely nothing," he said.

But Orange Grand Master Edward Stevenson argued that those who questioned the rally's effectiveness had "demonised the Orange Institution in Scotland".

He said Scottish Orangemen were "fully entitled to express their views in a democratic society on such an issue of utmost importance".

"The Orange Institution should make no apology for today's massive turnout," said Mr Stevenson.

"Rather we should be proud to galvanise such numbers in our collective opposition to independence.

"Next year, as is a long held tradition, many will return to Northern Ireland to join you for your annual Battle of the Boyne commemorations – and we very much hope that we will not require our passports."

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