THOUSANDS of Aberdeenshire residents have urged their local authority to intervene and stop an Orange Order walk from going ahead.

More than 4200 people have put their names to a petition opposing a parade to mark the opening of an Orange Lodge in Stonehaven on March 16.

Orange Order walks are rare in the north east, with none taking place in Aberdeenshire since at least before 2019, according to analysis undertaken by The National.

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The procession, which is set to have around 200 people take part, has been described as “deeply rooted in sectarianism” by furious locals.

“The Orange Order, an organisation with a history of anti-Catholic and anti-Irish hostility, is planning to march through the peaceful streets of Stonehaven and parade to Dunnottar Church on March 16th,” the petition reads.

“Not only would this event - with 200 marchers 'bussed in' - severely disrupt daily activities and cause significant traffic congestion, but it also risks poisoning our peaceful environment,” it continues.

“We have seen too often elsewhere how Orange Order parades foment a threatening atmosphere, and can spill over into violence and abuse. This intimidatory practice cannot be justified on the grounds of freedom of expression.”

The National: Twelfth of July parade

The petition then urges the local council and politicians to “use their power and influence to prevent this event”.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Kincardine and Mearns area committee is set to consider the notice on March 5, and decide whether or not to allow the parade to proceed.

This could be with or without conditions, or councillors could decide to stop the procession from going ahead.

The Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland said the parade was to celebrate a new lodge opening and is an opportunity for members to "remember those many covenanters in Stonehaven who were tortured and murdered for their reformed faith".

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The Pride of the Rock Flute Band, from Dumbarton, will take part in the procession.

David Walkers, executive officer at the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, rejected accusations of “anti-Catholic and anti-Irish hostility” made against the procession by the petition.

"This is usually the allegation that is posted against us without any evidence to suggest that is the case,” he said.

"We're a very peaceful organisation, all of our members conduct themselves in the proper manner."

There have been numerous occasions during Orange Order processions in Glasgow where there have been clashes between those taking part and the public.

One incident in the East End of Glasgow in 2018 saw a Catholic priest spat on outside of a Church, leading to calls for the processions to be banned from passing Catholic Churches.

Calls for a Parades Commission in the vein of Northern Ireland failed to come to fruition, and management of processions is down to individual local authorities. Glasgow hosts the majority of these marches, but last year The National reported a rise in those taking place in neighbouring local authorities.

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Neil Young, a Stonehaven resident who started the petition, told the BBC: "The Orange Order might like to present itself as a group of jolly, cultural traditionalists who are exercising their rights and their freedom of movement but what they are really about is intimidation, threats, prejudice and really trying to keep people down who are not like them.

"Their very presence in this town, or anywhere else, will be threatening and intimidatory."

Young added that there had been a “strong response” from people in Stonehaven.