The head of the Orange Order has said that the growth in support for the SNP is the "biggest problem" facing the country.

Grand master Ian Wilson said that members may be urged to vote Labour in some constituencies in the forthcoming election in an effort to stem the support for nationalism. The organisation is a firm supporter of the union with the other home nations.

Mr Wilson told the Scotland on Sunday newspaper: "There is no question in my mind that the biggest problem facing Scotland at the moment is the growth in Scottish nationalism.

"And the Order - as one of Scotland's biggest unionist organisations - has got to get real about it.

"The reality is that the only party you can do that through in Scotland is the Labour party."

Mr Wilson said he would not be urging all of the organisation's 50,000 members to vote Labour, with Order chiefs instead looking at the situation on a "constituency by constituency" basis.

He added: "The reality is, given where most of our lodges are in lowland and west central Scotland, that a lot of the time it will be Labour."

He said that that Lodge members were involved in last year's Glenrothes by-election which Labour held with a majority of almost 7,000 despite expectations of a close challenge from the SNP.

A spokesman for Scottish Labour said the party had had "absolutely no discussions" with the Orange Order about its election strategy.

He said: "Individual MPs and MSPs speak regularly to church and religious organisation on matters of concern to them when lobbied by such organisations.

"However we have had absolutely no discussions whatsoever with the Orange Order, or any other organisation, about our election strategy."

A spokesman for the SNP said: "The SNP Government are engaged in a National Conversation with all of Scotland, in which everyone can express their view.

"Our vision is of a 21st century partnership between Scotland and England as equal and independent nations - with a flourishing 'social union' and the Queen as our shared Head of State.

"While there will be debate over Scotland's constitutional destination, we should all be able to agree on the right of the people to choose Scotland's future in the democratic referendum that the Scottish Government propose for 2010."