ALLOWING an “outdated” Orange Order march to go ahead in Aberdeenshire would represent the “very antithesis of a progressive Scotland”, an expert has insisted.

More than 6000 people have signed a petition opposing a parade in Stonehaven to mark the opening of an Orange Lodge on March 16.

The walks are rare in the north east of the country, with none having taken place in Aberdeenshire in five years, according to analysis undertaken by The National.

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.

Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart has written to the chief executive of Aberdeenshire Council urging the local authority to block the march as he expressed fears people would leave the town while it was going on amid the “possibility of violence”.

READ MORE: Tories appear to give up on SNP defector's seat at General Election

'Us and them'

Practical theology expert Dr Katie Cross, from the University of Aberdeen, said she is concerned the march would promote an “us and them” mentality.

She told The National: “Modern Scotland is a diverse place, and we’re rapidly moving away from religion as an identifying factor.

“I understand that some people still feel strongly about their identity, but I’m concerned that Orange marches communicate outdated ideas of what it means to be Scottish.

“Women are largely excluded, they are mostly white, and they perpetuate division.

“At a core level, this is less about religious or theological ideas and more about an ‘us and them’ mentality. This is the very antithesis of a forward-looking, progressive Scotland.”

READ MORE: Michael Gove under investigation by Westminster standards watchdog

'Deeply rooted in sectarianism'

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

In his letter to council chief executive Jim Savege, Stewart said the march could set a precedent “we will regret”.

He wrote: “As you may already know, the north east has had a history of avoiding such marches and it would be in our best interest to maintain that stance.

“While I understand the concerns regarding traffic congestion and disruptions to daily activities, my main concern about this march is the possibility of violence and antisocial behaviour that tends to accompany such events in other parts of Scotland.

“The Orange Order, an organisation with a long history of anti-Catholic and anti-Irish sentiment, is behind this march. It would cause undue stress to many Aberdeenshire residents and may even force them to leave the town while the parade is ongoing.

“I reiterate that the north east has always been free from such marches and if we allow one town to host one, we may be setting a precedent we will regret.”

The National:

The petition urges the 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".

Maggie Chapman, an MSP for North East Scotland, told The National she fears the march would “spread anxiety”.

The National:

She said: "The considerable number of local people who have signed the petition against this proposed march must not be overlooked by either the organisers or the local authorities.

"Stonehaven is a welcoming place. In contrast, the Orange Lodge has a long history of polarising people and spreading anxiety.

"I hope that Aberdeenshire Council reflects on that legacy and on the impact it will have on the community when considering this proposal."

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.

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

An Aberdeenshire Council spokesperson said: "A notice of permission to hold a public procession in Stonehaven on March 16 is to be brought before the Kincardine & Mearns Area Committee on Tuesday, March 5, for consideration.

"Should the committee decide enough information about the procession has been provided, members will be asked to determine whether to impose conditions, whether to prohibit the procession, or whether to take no action at all."