2007 - 2022

Out of Order

orangewalk2The announcement by the Orange Order of its plans to march in the capital five days before the referendum (‘Orange Order Plans March’) was another gift for the Yes Campaign, the hope being that undecided and No voters keen to disassociate themselves from the less savoury elements of the organisation are pushed towards backing independence. Such has been the relentless conveyor belt of campaigning buffoonery by Better Together though, that one suspects the headlines made for an average day down at the Savoy, even if Team UKOK didn’t quite greet the news from their excitable chums in bowler hats with glee.

Unionism in Scotland has always had a slightly uneasy relationship the Orange Order and its contribution to the cause. Like the witless, boorish relative peppering a wedding speech with crude jokes from the back of the hall, the Orange Order’s overt displays of flag-waving Britishness and anti-Catholic sentiment are at odds with the values the Labour Party in Scotland still to pretend to espouse, and of course those of Roman Catholic voters, with the exclusion of George Galloway.

Political idealists, though, find themselves in very few winning situations, and the No campaign will accept Orange Order votes, even if they will not publicly endorse its support. Moreover it must be accepted by the Yes campaign, for all its civic nationalism malarkey, that it will inevitably garner the votes of nationalists bearing views towards the English not too far removed from those the less refined Orangemen hold against Roman Catholics and Irish republicans.

Ethnic nationalism though – and please take note high-brow mischief makers – is not necessarily prejudice, and neither does it always have negative connotations, although this is obviously dependant on the message on the banner and the tune of the flute. Ethnicity is not blood or race – there were no DNA self test kits in 1690 – it is culture, religion, language, song, tradition, history and heritage. Identifying and reaffirming one’s self or community with a culture via public display, display which very often marks an event in the distant and gory past with which each and every ethnic group on earth is inevitably associated, is something which can at times cause insult to others, despite this not always being the intention.
During this summer’s Bannockburn celebrations it can be reasonably assumed that there won’t be too many street parties in Dorset, likewise most Brits tend to avoid Fourth of July festivities. It is even rumoured that Brian Wilson MP, people-person extraordinaire and knight-errant of the New Labour charm machine, found himself in unaccustomed difficulty when attempting to give away free tickets for the Edinburgh Tattoo to Baghdad schoolchildren during a land reform field trip to Iraq (Sir Brian’s conclusion: in event of dictatorial regime or overbearing landlord, invading a country and murdering its civilians is a left-wing venture so long as said dictator is toppled. But don’t mention the oil).

If the Orange Order can promote its feelings of Britishness in the run up to the referendum without resorting to bigotry, then it is perfectly entitled to do so without criticism (blocking the street at public expense is another matter). Ironically, the undeniably stirring beat of the Lambeg and colour of an Orange march would provide the most positive case for the Union yet to those unaware of the connotations, and celebrating a 17th century battle certainly trumps the ‘pooled resources’ of nuclear missiles in An Geàrr Loch.

It is patently obvious though that the Orange Order goes far beyond celebrations of nationhood, or the marking of a conflict which gave its victors freedom, choice, or equality, such as would be those of VE Day or Bannockburn. By openly antagonising and reminding Roman Catholics of defeat, Orange walks are, needless to say, nothing more than bellicose triumphalism. There’s a difference here, primarily that Catholics and Irish nationalists are still perceived as the Order’s enemy in the present day, whereas Germany is unlikely to mount a counterattack on Paris anytime soon.

For a grown man from Scotland to work himself into fury banging a drum to a song about an Irish wall is surely something one must be brought up with, or have no sense of belonging in one’s own community, to fully understand. As utterly preposterous as it may be that anyone could care so much when their own country is riven with such inequality, Scotland however must accept that it if it is to welcome with open arms the cultures of people from all over the world, then it must similarly do so those of its nearest maritime neighbour and largest ethnic minority.
Despite the Orange Order in Scotland’s argument for the Union, and with it identity, being founded largely on religious and cultural links between Scotland and Ulster, it doesn’t quite add up. By symbolizing the Union Flag as a banner behind which the God-fearing Protestants of the British Isles rally, the Orange Lodge and its historians conveniently brush under the carpet the fact that there was no such thing as Protestant unity. Although perhaps today, as Christian fervour mercifully retreats to the advance of science, the presence of single identity can be argued for, it is generally not based on theology or any genuine belief in a higher power, in Scotland at least, but on political ideology and opposition to a united Ireland.

There was no Protestant church, and there was no single Protestant religion. That the word is an umbrella term for various religious sects who frequently opposed each other with as much fervour as they did Catholicism is something of which the Orange Order must surely be aware, particularly in Scotland, where memorials scattering the South West commemorate those put to the sword by government troops during the Killing Time.

Persecuted for refusing to accept the imposition of Episcopalianism, the Covenanters’ struggle, lacking utterly the colourful romance of the Jacobite rebellions, is a dark and relatively unknown period in the nation’s history. With kamikaze loyalty to their belief, the Presbyterian hardliners rejected England’s favoured branch of Protestantism, bringing them into conflict with the government and its ‘Severe and barbarous Highland Host’. Their enemy was not Rome, but London based monarchs and their desire for control.

By further failing to acknowledge that, as King of Scots, William of Orange was roundly unpopular for reasons ranging from Darien to famine, the Orange Order also view him strictly through the prism of the Ulsterman, and this is without mentioning the marginalisation of Scots Presbyterian settlers in Ulster by the Order and Anglicans, which led to thousands emigrating to America to eventually become what would be known as the Scots-Irish.

Despite bloody persecution, the Covenanters ensured both the continuation of the Presbyterian religion in Scotland and, ultimately, its guaranteed safety in the Act of Union, not to mention attempting to force it upon England by blackmailing Charles II. The Orange Order in Scotland thus bases part of its argument for the continuation of the British state on the religious connections Ulster has with a people which that very state, in fledgling form, tried to destroy, and a religious institution, the Kirk, which was never subsumed into the Union in the first place, something no one seems to have noticed.

In these, the waning days of Christianity, Protestantism is not the unifying ethnic vein running through the nations of the United Kingdom that the Orange Order portray it to be, and it never was. The Orange Order has every right, as have all ethnicities, to celebrate its cultural roots and to campaign for the British national identity with which its members feel an affinity. Indeed, it is far more endearing to vote No due to the tug of Britannia at one’s heartstrings than because Better Together tell you your first love, Caledonia, is too bedraggled and simple a creature to run her own affairs. Please though, leave religion out of it, not least the Presbyterians – misusing the allies you think you have is more awry than antagonising the ones you don’t.

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  1. Steve Bowers says:

    Sad arseholes, big boost for us me thinks

    1. John says:

      I’m sure they feel the same about you,but a well thought out and written article anyway.
      Thanks Bella

  2. I really wish pro-self-goverance writers would avoid discussion of the phrase “ethnic nationalism.”

    In all my years discussing Scotland’s politics I’ve never come across a single individual who considered Scots a superior race. What I have and do meet are people who consider Scotland’s democratic structures, and career opportunities, inferior to other nations, and for good, justified reasons.

    1. On the Orange Order march – will it make much difference? Won’t we have made up our minds by then?

  3. JGedd says:

    It is difficult, once you start examining these tangled loyalties and misconceptions, to understand how the Orange Order can emerge with such a determined perception and unassailable conviction. Life is more complex than people with such simple precepts will acknowledge.

    I don’t profess strong knowledge of the historical period on which the Orange Order base so much of their identity, but I remember reading some time ago, that when news of William of Orange’s victory arrived in Rome that the Pope celebrated with victory bonfires because from there it was seen as a defeat for the French interest? If so, it would demonstrate, yet again, that a view of an event, or even a historical period, all depends on your perspective.

    Unfortunately, it does seem to be the case, that people, having nailed their colours, often seem unwilling to test the logic of their convictions and can puzzle observers by the illogicality of their chosen stance which might be at odds with their own true interests in a changing world. Someone like George Galloway, for instance, is a case of someone who has a strange, irrational antipathy to Scottish independence which has a lot to do with a personal, entrenched position not open to any kind of self-criticism, so rendering him as closed to all logic as the Orange Order. In order to defend the basic illogicality of their position they ( George included) invent menacing phantoms to justify their own unquestioning prejudice.

    It is sad to see all these swirling and disparate loyalties coalesce around defence of a broken system that has long ceased to be serving the interests of the community they profess to want to protect. Noam Chomsky has said that he will be observing the process of the referendum with interest. I think he will find much to puzzle over.

    To be honest though, I don’t think that the Orange Order is the force that it once was despite the fevered imaginings of George Galloway, their co-Unionist. ( Funnily enough I think the same applies to George Galloway, a legend only to himself ). As someone brought up in Lanarkshire I, personally, never knew anyone in the Orange Order and only twice in my life encountered an Orange Walk. Perhaps I just found them easy to avoid.

  4. YESGUY says:

    The bile and disgust these buggers spout is sectarian make no doubt. They are a shameful reminder of the all the troubles in Ulster .My father wanted my 4 brothers to join and got told in quick time to go and eff-off.

    Cant for the life of me believe anyone would join these idiots nowadays. Someone should tell them the wars over and their marches are seen as “rubbing it in ” . Although to be fair watching and listening to them going on about the Union will more than likely sway any “not sures” and it shows that even they are blind to YES Scotlands message..

    Gone yerselves Orange men do your stuff and Scotland will benefit from it all by shouting as loud a s they can YES YES YES . (every little bit helps)

  5. manandboy says:

    Which leads to another question.

    What is an Independent Scotland going to do with its Unionist Scottish Establishment ?

    1. What does the USA do about it’s “hillbillies”?

      They got their name as immigrant Presbyterians from Northern Ireland, supporters of King William. Being hellish poor, they settled where land was free, in the hills where winters were hard and land pretty well useless for agriculture – hence “hillbillies.”

    2. What does the USA do about its hillbillies?

      They were the immigrants from Northern Ireland, so poor they settled on land that was free to take, the hills, winters hatrd, game food freely available in the summer, hence “hillbillies.”

  6. It always seemed incredible to me, once I learned a bit about the history, that Orangemen were Presbyterians – who had, as much as Catholics – been discriminated against by the British [Anglican] Establishment.

    Coming from the Green tradition myself, I actually have a relative who accepts the Galloway fantasy of the inherent Orangism of the SNP. The fact that sectarianism exists under the current union seems to escape their notice.

    Oh dear!

    1. setondene says:

      The last Orangeman I spoke to (Kelty, Fife) proclaimed that he ‘didn’t believe any of that religion shite’ i.e. this is really about their dislike of the Irish.

    2. Fras28 says:

      AnneDon, you are absolutely right. I would say that Scottish history is not taught properly in Scotland. History is never two dimensional yet certain people continue to thrive on and cultivate the perception that, with regard to ‘1690’ etc, it was simply Protestants,Monarchists,Loyalists,The Establishment–v–Catholics,Jacobites,the struggling minority. It is such ignorance that allows for simple tribal hatred to continue in the 21st century. If, for example, the history of the Covenanters was taught in the context of the two (very different) Reformations in Scotland and England and their aftermath, then perhaps more people in Scotland would understand that at one time Presbyterians were, too, a struggling minority in Britain. It may also surprise certtain people to learn that many of the Jacobites were more ecclesiastically alligned to the monarch than presbyterians were. Or that King James II would, probably, have been more amenable to allowing for Presbyterian worship than his Anglican predecessors were. I wonder whether such revelations in modern Scotland would engender at least a modicum of understanding and mutual empathy between those would otherwise fall prey to the facile portrait of history painted by so many, and to some extent bridge what’s left of the sectarian divide? Since 1707, neither Presbyterianism nor Catholicism have been the established ‘faith’ of the State (incidentally may that continue to be the case in an independent Scotland). I am not suggesting that the remedy for sectarianism is to inculcate a sense of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’, but adding a third dimension, i.e. a more considered teaching of history, might just go some way to sweeping away the antagonism and stupidity underpinning sectarianism, if not in the short term then over a generation or two. Wishful thinking, maybe.

  7. bringiton says:

    This is what you get when you mix politics and religion.
    A bunch of lunatics who can’t see anything beyond a narrow biggotted view of life.
    This is the politics of exclusion which inevitably leads to a violent reaction from those who
    are excluded.
    Not required in 21st Century Scotland thank you and please take your marching bands with you on the way out.

    1. benmadigan says:

      totally agree and may they march at double pace into oblivion

  8. Auld Rock says:

    But hey guys, here is the perfect solution as what to do with Trident when we kick it off the Clyde. With their ‘deep loyalty’ surely Belfast Lough would be the ideal place to berth them, LOL. I just wonder how ‘Orange’ they would be then. More a mixture of Red, Purple and Yellow as their blood vessels bust one-by-one.

    Auld Rock

  9. colin young says:

    Hate marches which the children are taken to for a day out…………………..

  10. Very well thought out and written. I personally think anyone, from either side of the divide who feels the need to constantly march, needs to live a little and start to think.
    My wee contribution….www.eezypeezylemonsqeezy.com

  11. eddiemcgarrigle says:

    Growing up in a Glasgow housing estate, the summers where always full of sash clad thugs insisting that my religion was one of menace and needed to be dealt with accordingly. Yep, let’s take it out on an 8 year old boy. Bruised and bloodied for being caught up in their surprise march along the main street because I was wearing a Celtic top.

    This also reminds me of being caught out in town by the presence of an Orange Walk and their hangers on, one of whom spat on my son as he was sat in his pram, his crime being that he had a green jumper on. My temper got the better of me that day and it’s not often you’ll find me brawling in the street.

    The sooner all marches of any religious nature are banned, the better. I couldn’t give a toss about their claims of tradition. This descendent of Picts doesn’t exactly demand to roam through town butt naked except for a smattering of blue woad. Now that would be a far better tradition, which reminds me, I must get myself to the gym.

  12. Clootie says:

    Unfortunately this is the world I grew up in. King Billy above the fireplace and the Queen and the Duke on opposite walls. A glass case with my grandfather’s sash and gauntlets on display.

    I rejected this world at 12 years of age and I find it obscene that it continues in a modern democracy. I do not understand why we devide kids at 5 in our school system with distinct colour branding to ensure they know which “side” they are on.

    The Scotland I wish to see in the future will have no place for such bigotry.

    Let’s focus on what unites us not what was used to divide us. The Lambeg drum was, and still is, used to keep us divided.

    I do not care if my fellow Scot is Catholic, Jew, Hindi, Muslim or Athiest. I do want a fair society for all.

    1. jean says:

      we don’t need marches and big drums to flaunt religion we need compassion, understanding and commitment to creating a better world.

    2. Patrick says:

      A point of order – Scotland does not ‘devide kids at 5 in our school system with distinct colour branding to ensure they know which “side” they are on.’

      The existence of Catholic-orientated education can in no way be compared with the pernicious influence (and widespread social acquiescence to) the bigotry of the Orange Order. An independent Scotland should be open to all while approving of the right of individuals to school their children in the faith they see fit.

      To suggest otherwise reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the reality and causes of sectarianism in 21st century. In fact, the premise you put forward is either ignorant, disingenuous or both.

    3. grumpydubai says:

      well said, Clootie

    4. charlie says:

      sectarianism is not learnt in schools it is taught in oo homes

    5. macart763 says:

      Well said clootie.

      Similar tale here and chucked it as nonsense about the same age. We’re trying to bring about a fairer more just system of governance and democracy for all. A democracy with hopefully no room for either religious or ethnic oppression of any kind.

  13. eddie says:

    Growing up in a Glasgow housing estate that was a thoroughfare for Orange marching bands heading into the centre of Glasgow there never seemed to be a weekend that went by without it being disrupted by these fellows, intent on preaching the menace of my religion and their dominance over it.

    Yep, my 8 year old self must have looked awfully menacing when I accidently happened upon them marching down the main street. Blooded and bruised by adults who where afraid of a child wearing a Celtic top.

    I moved away from Glasgow because of the nonsense but still managed to run into one of their fun days while shopping in Glasgow city centre. One of their brood saw fit to spit on my son as he sat in his pram because my son’s green jumper has obviously infuriated and terrified him. I don’t often brawl in the street but all parents will appreciate that this was a special case. Fortunately the Police saw things my way.

    There is no place in society for marches that spread hate and fear, from any religion.

  14. Derek Coghill says:

    “the ‘pooled resources’ of nuclear missiles”

    Pooled and shared, don’t forget…

    Damn, they’re getting to me!

  15. Dr Ew says:

    Religion IS Politics – and always has been.

  16. bearinorkney says:

    Our society is a secular one, but of course everyone within this society should be allowed to practice their faith in whatever deity they seek to worship. Where I draw the line is any particular religion seeking to influence the way in which our nation is governed. Church and State should be kept firmly apart in modern Scottish society and I would hope that a few of the foregoing commenter’s fully realise this.

    All Churches should stop trying to interfere in the running and governance of our Country. Abide by that and you can do whatever you want to in private as long as you don’t break the law.

  17. daibhidhdeux says:

    The last, futile belt of the Lambeg en drunken route to knuckle-dragging oblivion: “Multi-taskers” to a bigoted man and woman these members of a Lanliq (correct spelling?) fuelled British stooge front founded circa 1735 CE to divide the unruly fringes.


  18. Lochside says:

    Overdue and erudite article. The forced deportation of the Borderers and S.west of Scotland people by the British Monarch James vi, who were by the 17th century overwhelmingly Protestant, to become so-called ‘planters’ to the North of Ireland is unknown to almost all Orangemen that I’ve met. James wanted to solve the long term issue of Border banditry and lawlessness. Clearly, this is not to dispute that many others followed subsequently ,of their own volition.

    The subsequent second class status and discrimination they suffered under the Anglo ascendancy, (King Billy kept the English navy waiting off Derry while the Scots defended its walls from the ‘Rebels’ until the last minute) along with the native Irish Catholics, led these ‘Dissenters’ to eventually to form the United Irishmen, led by Wolfe Tone. A forlorn attempt to join the celts together, until the Brits played the divide and rule card and destroyed the new found unity. Which they’ve been doing ever since

    Significantly, the self-styled ‘Ulster Scots’ emigrated in the hundred thousands to the US and quickly became the backbone of the Revolutionary army of Washington, fighting the Empire Loyalists (who include thousands of ex Scottish jacobites, terrified of being on the wrong side again) and earning Washington’s observation that the American Revolution was a ‘Scotch Irish ‘ one.

    When I point out to the Orange fraternity that the minute the Ulster Scots got to the US they couldn’t wait to challenge the crown, they just can’t believe it. Similarly, most of them know nothing of the context of the ‘Killing Times’ in the S.W. Indeed, most are so ignorant that they don’t even realise that the Monarch is not actually head of the Church of Scotland.

  19. manandboy says:

    If the Orange Order could be drained of
    it’s built-in sectarianism – it’s hatred of Catholics;
    and it’s self-defining racism – it’s hatred of the Irish,
    I wonder what would be left to sustain it.

    if anti-Catholic sentiment,
    and anti-Irish sentiment,
    were to be removed
    from the Scottish emotion . . .

    or is such sectarianism and racism
    part of our Scottish furniture,
    so we’ll just keep them.

    Then we’ll be an Independent, self-determining ,sectarian, and racist country.

    Nah !

    New wine, new wineskins.

  20. Also no one is taught that not only did the Pope celebrate in 1690 , he financed King Billy to defeat James as he wanted to stick to the over powerful French King

  21. Political Tourist says:

    Why hold a march in Edinburgh when the battleground for YES or No votes is in Greater Glasgow.
    Yep, good luck brothers, you bang the drum in Edinburgh while we bang voters doors in weegie-land.

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