TORY Scotland Office minister Ian Duncan met with the Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland ahead of a key Brexit vote at Westminster.

Lord Duncan, who is parliamentary under secretary of state at the Scotland and Northern Ireland offices, was one of a handful of Scottish politicians lobbied at a meeting with top Orange Order officials from different parts of the UK ahead of the meaningful vote on Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement.

According to the most recent issue of the Lodge’s in-house magazine The Torch, “the Grand Masters met with politicians and their advisers from across the party spectrum”.

Among the “notable Scottish politicians” present, it says, were Scottish Labour MP Hugh Gaffney and LibDem peer Malcolm Bruce, and his MP colleague Alistair Carmichael – although the magazine mistakenly calls him Alistair Campbell.

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None of the SNP’s 35 MPs was willing to meet with the delegation. The Torch article says: “The SNP snubbed the Orange delegation. Despite their notorious posturing on Brexit, not one nationalist MP showed face.”

The Orangemen say their intention was to “impress upon politicians how seriously the Order viewed” the “many flaws” in May’s deal.

The article said: “In particular, the proposal to leave Northern Ireland partly in the EU when the rest of the UK leaves effectively draws a border down the Irish Sea.”

The National:

The LibDems' Alistair Carmichael was also at the meeting

It adds: “Not only would it be a betrayal of Northern Ireland, it would leave an open door to demands for a similar hybrid arrangement for Scotland and another independence referendum.”

The Orangemen also claim to have had some influence in their negotiations, with the article taking credit for the historic defeat that saw the Prime Minister lose by 230 votes.

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They call for May to “talk tough to the EU with all options on the table – including the prospect of a no-deal exit on March 29”.

The Orange Order has about 50,000 members and 600 lodges across Scotland, with most of them in the central belt. Although numbers are declining, it’s still an influential and powerful organisation.

The Order remained neutral during the 2016 EU referendum but stated it would “never be neutral on the Union”.

A UK Government spokeswoman said the Duncan had met representatives of the Orange Order in his capacity as a minister in the Northern Ireland office.

She said: “Lord Duncan is a minister in both the Scotland Office and the Northern Ireland Office. He meets a range of stakeholders from every section of Northern Ireland society. At their request, he met representatives of the Orange Order who were in London to discuss the EU Withdrawal Agreement.”

Meanwhile, there was controversy in North Lanarkshire, where councillors on the council’s civic functions group voted to gift Bellshill’s Brother William Hazlett Loyal Orange Lodge 192 a £500 grant to help celebrate the order’s 150th anniversary.

SNP councillors Lynne Anderson and Stephen Bonnar objected to the request. Anderson, who represents Stepps, Chryston and Muirhead, said: “The Orange Order were official

participants in the 2014 independence referendum and I consider them a political entity. A great deal of their social media activity is clearly anti-SNP.”

Bonnar, who represents Thorniewood, described the Lodge as “outdated and outnumbered”.

Airdrie South’s Conservative councillor Sandy Watson claimed it was wrong to suggest the decision was political. He said: “I have stood for election in Airdrie, where there are large numbers of Orange Lodge supporters, and nobody voted for me.”