THE “anti-Catholic” Orange Order is in terminal decline and can only survive if it abandons sectarianism, according to historian Tom Devine.

He said members of the Protestant fraternity are ageing and their marches in July commemorating the defeat of Catholic King James II by Dutch Protestant William of Orange in 1690 are “widely condemned by mainstream Scottish opinion”.

The Sunday Herald revealed last year that the first prize in a fancy dress competition organised by Airdrie-based Whinhall True Blues Flute Band and held in an Orange Hall went to a man and woman dressed as Adolf Hitler and wife Eva Braun, and two children dressed in rags branded with a yellow star similar to the one Jewish people were forced to wear by the Nazis.

Tom Devine: Why Sectarianism in Scotland is on its death bed

Other pictures of the 2013 competition, and an earlier contest in 2010, show men dressed as Catholic clergy, and one who appears to be dressed as the Pope has a noose around his neck to simulate a lynching.

The Order has also come under fire after footage emerged of crowd at an Orange Walk in Glasgow singing the banned Famine Song, accompanied by a flute band. In the video shot last July, a group repeatedly sing: “The famine is over, why don’t you go home?”, lyrics which refer to Irish immigrants. Eight people were arrested at the same event for a range of offences.

In a bid to rebrand, the Orange Order is due to hold a “media and public relations seminar in the spring” which is expected to take the form of a “how others see us” forum led by a professional PR consultant, according to an article in the Orange Torch, the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland’s newsletter.

Devine, who is a practicing Catholic, said: “The best way forward for them is to remove any traces of anti-social behaviour, which they have been trying to do, and to remove any traces of anti-Catholicism, because of course the Orange Order was founded in the 1790s in the north of Ireland out of fear of Catholicism.”

Tom Devine: Why Sectarianism in Scotland is on its death bed

He said the Protestant organisation is currently in a “parlous condition” and added: “The numbers are absolutely clear – it is in decline. The mainstream Protestant churches don’t want anything to do with it and mainstream Scottish opinion, especially during the marching season, treats the organisation with hostility and contempt.”

The Sunday Herald contacted the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland but did not receive a response.