NI Flag protestors target Sturgeon in anti-independence demo


  By a Newsnet reporter
A group of pro-Union protestors have held a demonstration outside the constituency office of Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Saturday’s protest, organised by a Facebook group ‘Don’t Break Our Unity’, backed calls for an end to the recent decision to limit the number of days the Union flag can be flown over Belfast City Hall.

However protestors also used the occasion to attack the SNP’s plans for independence for Scotland.

The small demonstration saw protestors, some with scarves hiding their faces, adorn the office of SNP MSP Nicola Sturgeon with flags and posters.  One poster proclaimed “Proud to be British” alongside a map of Great Britain and a message “Vote No To Independence”.{/youtube}

The low key demonstration follows a series of protests held in Glasgow, Irvine, Airdrie and North Ayrshire by groups angry at the decision to limit the number of days the Union flag can fly over Belfast City Hall.

However the linking of Scottish independence to the NI Flag issue marks an unwelcome change from Scottish based pro-Union groups.

In Belfast the situation has escalated recently with Unionist protestors clashing with members of the security forces as the issue threatens to drag the province back into the dark days of extremist violence.

Petrol bombs and gunshots have been evident as protestors have refused to accept pleas from politicians for an end to the street demos.

Saturday’s demonstration – outside Ms Sturgeon’s office – linking the Union Flag protest with anti-independence sentiments is further evidence a growing emergence of a more Northern Ireland brand of Scottish Unionism.

In 2009, the head of the Orange Order called the rise in support for the Scottish National Party, the “biggest problem” facing the country.

Grand Master Ian Wilson signalled that the organisation would be urging its members in west central Scotland to vote Labour in order to thwart the SNP’s challenge in the central belt.

Mr Wilson also revealed that Lodge members had helped campaign on behalf of the Labour party in the 2008 Glenrothes by-election which Labour eventually won, despite high hopes from SNP supporters that they were on the verge of taking the seat.

Last year, it emerged that leader of the Glasgow Labour group Gordon Matheson, had secretly promised the Orange Order that Labour would review rules that imposed restrictions on Orange parades held in the city, if the party were re-elected the largest group.

According to the Herald, Mr Matheson was greeted with applause when, days before the local council elections, he told a hustings of around 100 members of the Orange Order that he would “hold his hands up” and admit a groundbreaking approach to reducing marches in the city was flawed.

Introduced over two years ago, the policy was aimed at reducing marches through the city centre and restricting start and finish times amid concerns over the cost to the public purse, businesses and communities.

According to council figures, the number of parades by Protestant loyal orders in Glasgow outstripped the total number of marches in Londonderry and Belfast combined.

Commenting at the time, Robert McLean, executive officer of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, said: “Mr Matheson admitted the policy was wrong and we’re now hoping he will review the parades policy.

“We do not tell our members who to vote for but as a unionist organisation they should be supporting a unionist candidate.”