Thousands of Ulster loyalists have marched with fellow Orange Order members in Scotland in a bid to keep the country part of the United Kingdom.

The anti-Catholic loyalists made the trip across to Scotland just days ahead of Thursday’s referendum on Scottish independence.

Ulster unionists are deeply concerned about the result of Thursday’s referendum with opinion polls suggesting a very close race and that Scots could vote in favour of independence.

Such a result would have huge ramifications for Northern Ireland.

The Guardian reports that about 15,000 Orange Order members from Northern Ireland and Scotland marched in Edinburgh to show support for keeping Scotland in the United Kingdom.

Senior figures in the Orange Order told marchers at the ‘Proud to be British’ rally that Scottish nationalism is ‘a divisive and evil enemy.'

Edward Stevenson, the grand master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, said: “Next year, as is a long held tradition, many of us will come over to Scotland for the annual Battle of the Boyne commemorations, and we very much hope that we will not require our passports.”

The Irish Times report says supporters lined the streets as the Orange Order marched past some of Edinburgh’s most famous landmarks, including a statue of John Knox outside the General Assembly.

Grand Chaplain Henry Williamson reference the siege of Derry in his speech.

He told marchers: “Brothers and sisters, in a world of instability, a world of insecurity, a world of nuclear proliferation, of radical Islam, people look to the UK as a land of hope, a land of peace, of success and unity and an example if what they so desperately long for - unity not stupidity, unity not division, unity not separation, unity not them and us.

“Let me remind you that when an enemy came against the city of Londonderry, God’s people famously said there will be no surrender to this evil enemy.

“It was a cry we made in 1914, it was a cry we made in 1939, it is a cry British people make every time we face an enemy who seek to destroy who and what we are, and a cry that we make on behalf of the underdog.

“Well, a divisive and evil enemy has arisen against Scotland in the guise of false patriotism and the nationalist referendum, against our beloved United Kingdom, and our reply as God’s people this time is ‘no separation.'”

Ron Bather, grand master of the Grand Orange Lodge of England and imperial grand Master of the Imperial World Council, said: “As individual nations, could we have succeeded in defeating Nazism in 1939? I don’t think so.

“It was the resolve and the endeavour of the individuals that make up this country that stood up against a mightier foe, and how many times in the past has this country been left to stand alone and yet has never been defeated.

“To you Scottish sisters and brethren, this coming week is you chance to defeat once and for all the separatists, the people that want to change your way of life.”

Bather added: “Over that last few days, certain people in the No camp have been questioning the validity of taking to the streets of Edinburgh today.

“Let me say to them people, as members of the Orange Institution we don’t sit behind closed doors and plan things, we don’t walk the streets with balaclavas on, we walk the streets openly to profess our religion and our heritage.” 

Orange Order members show their support at a pro-union march in Edinburgh.Guardian