Anas Sarwar dragged into row over Orange Order candidate

ANAS Sarwar’s judgment has been called into question after Scottish Labour selected a former Orange Order leader as an election candidate.

SNP Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson suggested the decision reflected poorly on Mr Sarwar’s leadership of his party.

An anti-bigotry campaign called it a “slap in the face” for every Catholic Labour voter.

It followed the Herald revealing today that the former world leader of the Orange Order will be a candidate for Labour at the local elections in May.

Henry Dunbar will stand in the Airdrie North ward of North Lanarkshire Council.


The 66-year-old was the most senior orange man in the country from 2010 to 2016 while serving as Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland.

He was also the Order’s most senior figure worldwide after being elected Imperial President from 2015 to 2018.

The Order describes itself as a Protestant fraternity united by faith, but it is regarded by some as being hostile to Catholics.

Mr Dunbar told the Herald he wanted to serve the whole community and people’s religion was irrelevant.

“I’m not standing for the Orange Order, I’m standing for Scottish Labour,” he said.

However the SNP have criticised Labour for opening the door to a “deeply divisive” group.

Mr Robertson tweeted in response to the Herald’s story: “Is AnasSarwar seriously planning to stand the former Orange Order ‘Imperial President’ as a Scottish Labour candidate in the forthcoming local government elections? #scottishlabour #judgement #leadership”.

The Call It Out campaign against anti-catholic bigotry in Scotland also criticised the selection of Mr Dunbar as a candidate.

It tweeted: “This is a slap in the face for every Catholic/Irish Catholic who has ever voted Labour – and there are many. The Scottish Labour Party can no longer speak credibly on bigotry, hatred and inequality.”

Mr Dunbar’s selection comes as Scottish Labour is scrapping with the Scottish Tories for Unionist votes in the west of Scotland.

North Lanarkshire Council is currently run by a minority Labour administration and is a key SNP target in the spring.

The Orange Order’s executive director in Scotland, Ian McNeil, is a Labour councillor in Airdrie South, the ward next to the one where Mr Dunbar is standing.

Asked about Mr Robertson’s criticism of Mr Sarwar, Scottish Labour refused to comment, merely restating its previous position.

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “All of Scottish Labour’s candidates have promised to reflect and uphold the party’s aims and values as a tolerant, open and democratic party for the people of Scotland. Mr Dunbar will be held to the same high standard as all Labour candidates across Scotland.”

Mr Sarwar, who today hosts his first in-person Scottish Labour conference as Scottish Labour leader, last year said anti-Catholic racism was “real and abhorrent” and had ot be confronted and challenged.

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