By a Newsnet reporter
A senior Northern Irish member of the Orange Order has called for people with an “Ulster Scots background” to be allowed to vote in the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.
Dr David Hume, Director of Services of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ulster, said that Ulster Scots were “stakeholders” in the future of Scotland and deserved to have their say.
Dr Hume was speaking at an event organised by the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland in Glasgow to commemorate the centenary of the anti-Home Rule Ulster Covenant, in which Ulster Unionists pledged themselves to use “all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland”.
Addressing the gathering, Dr Hume said that Unionists would “neither forsake nor forget” Scotland, and added:
“When the referendum comes in 2014, the SNP want to extend the vote to those who are 16 years of age and, presumably, more likely to vote as directed by the SNP.
“I would call on them to extend the referendum to the Ulster Scots. After all, we provided the first unifying force in Scotland in the 6th century AD and we later extended Scottish influence to Ireland in the 17th century.
“We are stakeholders as well. Surely a decision such as this should not ignore our input?”
The intervention of a senior Orange Order figure in Scotland’s independence referendum will raise fears that anti-independence groups are attempting to introduce an element of sectarianism into the debate. During the run up to last May’s local council elections, Glasgow Labour leader Gordon Matheson reportedly offered to lift restrictions on Orange Order parades, allegedly in an attempt to court the Orange vote.
Dr Hume did not clarify exactly what he intended by the phrase “an Ulster Scots background”, nor whether he believed a vote in the Scottish independence referendum should also be extended to Northern Irish republicans, or to people in the Irish Republic, whose culture and history is as intertwined with that of Scotland every bit as much as Ulster Unionists.
Despite Dr Hume’s apparent claim that Scottish influence in Ireland began only with the Ulster Plantations of the 17th century, carried out by the British Crown in order to secure the province and to dispossess the native Irish, links between Scotland and all parts of Ireland are deep and ancient.
According to traditional Irish accounts, the Irish capital Dublin was founded by the Gall-Ghàidheal, Gaelic speaking Norsemen who hailed from the West of Scotland.
Ireland’s patron saint, St Patrick, was most probably a Cumbric speaker from one of the early kingdoms of South West Scotland.
One of Ireland’s – and the world’s – greatest artistic masterpieces, the Book of Kells , was taken to Ireland from Iona in the 9th century to keep it safe from Viking invasions. The Book is believed to have been written and illustrated in Iona by monks from both Scotland and Ireland. The distinctive and beautiful artistic style represented in the Book is sometimes referred to as Hiberno-Pictish by art historians.
The Ui Néill dynasty, who ruled much of what is now Ulster until they were conquered and put to flight by the forces of the British Crown in 1607, were staunch supporters of Robert the Bruce during the Scottish Wars of Independence.
Until the early modern era, both Scots and Irish made common use of a single Classical Gaelic literary language. The vast literature in this language is part of the shared heritage of modern Scots and modern Irish people equally.
However Dr Hume’s plea for special treatment for people of “Ulster Scots background” has fallen on stony ground. A spokesperson for the Scottish Government dismissed Dr Hume’s appeal, saying:
“The future of Scotland is a matter for the people of Scotland, and the future of Northern Ireland is a matter for the people of Northern Ireland.
“The electorate for the independence referendum in autumn 2014 will be the same as for the devolution referendum in 1997, except that the SNP Government wants to extend the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds.”