Just another Saturday
Every weekend from April to October, Orangemen and women take to the streets in towns across the west of Scotland with colourful, noisy parades, led by 'blood-and-thunder' bands beating a loud tattoo of Orange party favourites. This is the Marching Season, a chance to celebrate their Protestant culture and the Protestant civil and religious liberties won for them by King William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 and enshrined in The Glorious Revolution settlement.
However, in today's pluralist and largely secular Scotland, Orange walks are seen as anachronistic and overtly sectarian - an all-too-visible reminder of ‘Scotland’s Shame’, the religious sectarianism that blights life in the west of Scotland. Orangeism’s strong pro-British, anti-independence stance also does it few favours in the court of an increasingly nationalist Scottish public opinion.
Calls to ban or severely curtail the number and routes of Orange Walks are growing louder following several high profile sectarian incidents in Glasgow in 2018 and 2019. Inevitably, the Order’s response to these proposals is to circle the wagons, run up the Red Hand and cry ‘No surrender!’ They see it as a direct assault on their civil and religious liberties, the product of a conspiracy by the Nationalist-led city council and Police Scotland to outlaw all public marches. As this year’s marching season draws to a close, both sides are as polarised as ever and attempts to negotiate a middle path through the impasse have produced more heat than light.