UDA hardman tells loyalists: keep out of the Scotland vote
A notorious former paramilitary leader has told loyalists here to stay out of the Scottish independence debate for fear of seriously damaging the pro-Union campaign.
Sam 'Skelly' McCrory, commander of the UDA inside the Maze and one of Johnny Adair's closest friends, said the involvement of loyalists from Northern Ireland could alienate Catholic voters and those to the centre-left.
The Scottish Orange Order is planning a 25,000-strong march in Edinburgh in the days leading up to the Scottish referendum on September 18.
McCrory, jailed in the 1990s after he was arrested over a plot to murder the then IRA commander in Belfast, said the presence of Northern Irish loyalists could provoke a backlash at the polls.
But defiant Orange chiefs here last night vowed to continue with their plans to support their Scottish counterparts and take part in the demonstration.
Among those travelling to Scotland are the Apprentice Boys of Derry and large numbers from the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland.
"The last thing the 'no' camp needs is the sight of hundreds or even thousands of Ulster loyalists marching behind flute bands, waving Orange banners and Union Jacks on the streets of Scotland," McCrory said.
"The case for the Union over here is economic not emotional; it's about jobs, it's about currency – it's not really about flying flags.
"Loyalists from Northern Ireland should leave Ulster's politics out of this," he added, in an interview with The Guardian.
McCrory (50) fled Northern Ireland along with Adair and other members of the UDA following a bitter internal feud. He now lives in Ayrshire. In response to McCrory's comments, a spokesman for the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland confirmed it anticipated members would participate in the September parade.
He added: "The wider Orange fraternity is unstinting in its support for Scotland to remain an integral part of the United Kingdom."
The grand master of the Orange Lodge of Scotland, Henry Dunbar, insisted the march would have a "carnival atmosphere".
He said militant loyalists who support terrorist groups and street disorder should stay away.
"It will be very much about promoting the Union. We're proud to be Scottish but we're also very proud to be British," said Mr Dunbar.
"Our members feel very strongly (about a no vote) and our members are really up for it."
Of the loyal orders contingent from Northern Ireland, he said: "It will be by invitation only.
"There won't be any loyalist groups.
"We wouldn't want it to be contaminated by other people's struggles."
Sam 'Skelly' McCrory is a former leader of the UDA. He was one of Johnny Adair's closest allies and headed up the UDA in the Maze Prison. He had been imprisoned for plotting to murder two IRA men in the early 1990s and now lives in Scotland.