ONE of the most senior figures in the Orange Order in Northern Ireland has warned Nicola Sturgeon not to create a Scottish version of the Parades Commission.

Rev Mervyn Gibson, the Order’s Grand Secretary, said it would be "biased" against Protestants and only result in more “division” and “intolerance”. 

He urged SNP ministers “not to dance to the tune of a small number of Roman Catholic protestors who don’t want a Protestant about the place”.

The First Minister said on Thursday that she was considering setting up a Northern-Ireland style commission following 14 arrests at Orange walks last weekend. 

If followed James Dornan, the SNP MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, raising the issue at FMQs. 

Noting reports of “disgraceful anti-Catholic singing during the Orange Order marches throughout Glasgow”, he said at least three had marched past Roman Catholic churches causing “great distress” to parishioners and others.

With other “shameful reports” of Glasgow City Councillors receiving death threats when they suggested restricting Orange Order parades, he asked Mr Sturgeon to consider “the creation of a parades commission, similar to that in Northern  Ireland”.

He said this could “take a non-partisan and independent look at the number and routes of such parades", adding: "I am in no doubt that, just as in Northern Ireland, a parades commission would go a long way towards taking some of the heat out of the discussion of parades.”

Northern Ireland's Parades Commission was established in 1998 following violence and unrest associated with parades in the town of Portadown, known as the Drumcree conflict.

It is an independent public body with seven members and is responsible for placing restrictions on any parades.

Ms Sturgeon said there was “no place” for anti-Catholic bigotry in modern Scotland, and confirmed she would ask justice secretary Keith Brown to consider the idea.

But Rev Gibson told the Belfast News Letter a Scottish Commission would be biased and counterproductive, and using hate crime legislation would be fairer.

He said: “We think it would be a bad idea. It sustains division and here it used to reward the threat of violence.

“Parading by and large is a cultural activity of the Protestant community, thereby any body created to look at parades by extension has a bias against that community. 

“Whereas hate crime legislation applies to all intolerance and bigotry, irrespective of race, creed or gender. We believe there’s enough laws to do with antisocial and hate crime.

“A parades commission only introduces another layer of unnecessary and unhelpful bureaucracy that encourages intolerance.”

He added: “A more useful response would be for the Scottish parliament to engage with people. I believe the largest party in Scotland, the SNP, has little or no contact with the Orange Institution. 

“They may differ constitutionally but that shouldn’t stop dialogue on other matters.

“When I say dialogue – that’s talking, not lecturing, that’s discussing, not dictating. 

“I would urge the Scottish Executive not to dance to the tune of a small number of Roman Catholic protestors who don’t want a Protestant about the place.”

Mr Dornan said: “The Reverend Gibson is old enough to have lived through the annual troubles over marches and the ‘division and intolerance’ on show during these years.

“Since the creation of the Parades Commission these disputes over marches appear to have almost disappeared.

"It’s my view that ‘division and intolerance’ can be got rid off if people accept the requirement for change and the need to leave their silos.”