THE Orange Order hired a Holocaust sceptic to help it defend the Union, it has emerged.

 

The Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland paid almost £2000 to right-wing blogger Alistair McConnachie for "social media services" during the referendum, according to official spending returns.

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Glasgow-based McConnachie, 49, was barred from Ukip for saying he did not accept that the Nazis used gas chambers to kill Jews at Auschwitz.

Both he and the Orange Order were registered as official No campaigners in the referendum.

However it was not until last week, when the Electoral Commission published the Order's spending receipts, that a direct link emerged.

The paperwork shows McConnachie invoiced the Protestant movement for four months' worth of work on social media, charging it £480 a month from June to September, a total of £1920.

McConnachie was also paid £225 for flags, according to a petty cash chit dated September 11.

Two days later the Order, which describes itself as "primarily a Christian and charitable fraternal organisation" held a massive march through Edinburgh in support of the Union.

McConnachie also gave an article to the Orange Order's No campaign website, British Together.

The Sunday Herald revealed last May that McConnachie had become the first individual to register as an official referendum campaigner.

Ukip's Scottish organiser from 1999 to 2001 and a Ukip candidate five times, he was barred in 2001 because of comments about the Holocaust.

In an email to Ukip members, he said: "I don't accept that gas chambers were used to execute Jews for the simple fact there is no direct physical evidence to show that such gas chambers ever existed... There are no photographs or films of execution gas chambers.... Alleged eyewitness accounts are revealed as false or highly exaggerated."

Ukip initially expelled him for five years for bringing the party into disrepute, but this was reduced on appeal to a one-year suspension.

At the time, McConnachie said he was defending his "private right to free speech within the law".

Ukip later refused to renew his membership.

Writing in 2007, he said he was not a Holocaust denier and was "quite prepared to accept that 6m Jews perished in the Holocaust", but added he still had doubts about gas chambers.

McConnachie, who calls himself a journalist, now runs the Unionist aforceforgood.org.uk website and is a speaker at Orange Street Congregational Church in London which believes the Royal Family "is directly descended from the Line of David".

The Electoral Commission revealed last week that the Orange Order spent £47,072 in the referendum, most of it on its eve-of-poll parade through the capital, which attracted 18,000 participants.

Robert McLean, executive officer of the Grand Orange Lodge, said McConnachie had approached the organisation and been hired to work on its social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Asked about McConnachie's Auschwitz comments, he said: "That's the first I have heard of that. You have shocked me a wee bit there, to be honest. As far as I'm concerned I have no comment to make on his past. I don't know anything about his past."

Kirsten Oswald, the SNP general election candidate for East Renfrewshire, said: "This person was officially registered with the Electoral Commission as a No campaign supporter - as was the Orange Order - and it is disgusting that he denies the existence of the gas chambers.

"His sickening views have long been in the public domain, and the Orange Order must explain this matter for themselves.

"Many people are deeply concerned with the company the Westminster parties kept in the referendum."

McConnachie did not respond to calls or emails.