Unionist in religious attack on SNP

ULSTER Unionists have accused Alex Salmond of undermining the traditions of the Orange Order by forming an "unholy alliance" with other devolved administrations which threatens UK rule.

David Burnside, an Ulster Unionist member of the Northern Irish Assembly, said Mr Salmond's attempts to work with Wales and Northern Ireland to wrest more powers from Westminster would antagonise England.

He said the move would not only threaten the Union, but the Protestant traditions on which it was formed. However, churches and politicians have rejected any association of faith and politics.

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Mr Burnside was speaking at a gathering of 4,000 Orangemen in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, this weekend, to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne.

In a passionate speech, he warned the "brethren" that the principles of loyalty to the Crown, the Union and the Protestant faith are under threat.

"My message to Orange brethren in Scotland, whose prime allegiance is to the maintenance of the Union, the British Crown and the Protestant reformed faith is a warning of the dangers of the regional home-rule parliaments linking together to negotiate special status, privileges and concessions within the Union," he said.

Mr Burnside attacked Ian Paisley, first minister of Northern Ireland, for negotiating with the "Machiavellian" Mr Salmond and risking the Union.

"The unholy alliance will antagonise English MPs at Westminster and end up in conflict and pressure from England to end the Union," he added.

Ultimately, he feared the current direction could threaten the foundations of the Orange Order.

"Loyalty to the Crown, the Union and to the Protestant faith is our fundamental belief and allegiance and true unionists should beware of the route we are being taken down by the First Ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland," he added.

However, Morag Mylne, the convener of the Kirk's church and society council, said:

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"The Christian faith does not depend on any particular political or constitutional arrangements. Christianity in Scotland is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not in the Act of Union."

Alasdair Allan, the SNP MSP for the Western Isles, a member of the Church of Scotland, said it was a positive move that independence was being discussed peacefully by people of all faiths.

"Faith is not determined by the type of government that exists in a country. It is a personal matter and in no way threatened by the fact Alex Salmond has gone on a visit to Belfast.

The idea that one's faith is determined by one's government is straight out of the 17th century," he said.