William H Scott is Imperial Grand Registrar of the Royal Black Institution. He is also County Grand Master of Armagh and an elder in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

Surely the Royal Black is a religious institution? Why then are they contributing to a debate on civic or political matters?
The answer is two-fold.
First, because those in leadership within the institution have a responsibility to reflect the views and aspirations of the wider membership but secondly, and more importantly, as Christian believers we have a duty before God to do what we believe to be right and for the good of the community generally.

What does the Black institution stand for?

Its mission statement sets out four principal objectives to study Holy Scripture, to increase knowledge of the Reformed Faith, to engage in Christian and charitable outreach and to continue and further develop social and responsible citizenship.

It is the last of these objectives which is the most relevant to the debate on the Union.

The institution, although worldwide in character, has its roots deep in the province of Ulster, coming into being in 1797 and existing in its present format since 1846.

Our constitutional resolution today calls on all our members to be good citizens of the countries in which they reside.

The Black institution is clearly and deliberately not connected to any political party, indeed discussion of party political topics at meetings is specifically forbidden.

Many Sir Knights are, as individuals, members of political parties but most within its ranks are not members of any party at all.

Nevertheless, it is quite clearly part of the wider unionist family in the sense that the vast majority of its members within the United Kingdom regard themselves as British and have a deep desire to remain so.

Given the institutions distancing of itself from party politics, comment on the desirability of unionist unity would be inappropriate.

However, the strength of any family can only be enhanced by mutual respect and co-operation therefore we would encourage all the many elements of the diverse unionist family to do so wherever possible and appropriate.

The Williamite Settlement of 1688, underpinned by the principle of Civil and Religious Liberty for All, is the basis and foundation for virtually all democratic systems within and indeed far beyond the English-speaking world. This we hold to and desire to promote and defend.

The improvement and development of the United Kingdom as a family of nations is central to our well-being as an institution and as a community.

This is not to say that we see everything within our nation as perfect one of our resolutions today deplores the way in which wider society appears to be quite content to restrict the rights of Christians while enlarging those of everyone else.

However, it is our view that the Union is, in the broadest sense, beneficial to the wider community and that any weakening of that status would be detrimental.

Loyalty to the Throne has always been a core tenet of this institution within the United Kingdom, bringing with that loyalty respect and support for the forces of the Crown.

Examples of this mind-set in my own experience are that my own preceptory bears the name of a man who died on July 1, 1916 at the Somme and that I will have the privilege of representing the central leadership of the institution in Scotland at the end of this month at the formation of a new preceptory honouring the memory of a local man who won the VC in 1917.

We are, in the true sense of that expression, Queens men.
Where then for the future of the Union in 2021?

Our view is that it should remain and be strengthened, that it should be a welcoming home for all who accept democracy and reject violence, that it should respect differences conscientiously and peacefully held and that all who seek to benefit from it should accept its principles and constraints.

Can this vision be realised?

To achieve this will require determination and a desire to put country before sectional interest, but I believe it can be achieved and with Gods help, our nation can once again be strong, united and committed to caring for all its people in every part of the realm.

William H Scott is Imperial Grand Registrar of the Royal Black Institution. He is also County Grand Master of Armagh and an elder in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

Published date on the 13th of July 2010
Article taken from the The News Letter