The motto of the Stewarts, then of the Order of the Thistle, then — by extension — of Scotland. If you don’t get it, try plucking thistles.
So to ninety minutes of street theatre, as seen the top of Edinburgh’s The Mound, with several thousand Orangemen (and women) parading for the “No” message. Let’s have no messing here: this lot aren’t into “Better Together”. Their message is the simple two letter one.
Look at them. You don’t have to agree with them, or like them. Once upon a time they were happily termed “the salt of the earth”. Pluck at them, and like plucking thistles you’ll bleed.
My relationship to the Orange Order is distant, acquired by marriage into Ulster Protestantism. Oddly enough, that worries British Civil Service interviewers less than a single attendance, about 1964, at a public meeting of the Wolfe Tone Bureau (yes … a Sinn Féin front) and a badge-carrying association with CND. I suppose in my entire life, on numerous visits to Northern Ireland, I have brushed with the Orangemen on about three occasions.
Yet, I am reminded of Alan Coren’s magnificent line (on The New Quiz two days before the People’s Princess had a fling with Pillar 13 of the Paris expressway): “I don’t know anything about land mines or Princess Di, but I do know you’d be mad to poke either of them.”. In the same mood, one would be a fool to tangle with the Scots Orangemen.
And so to Jonathan Freedland in today’s Guardian:
Nigel Farage was in Glasgow today, about as welcome a sight for no campaigners as … the 10,000 members of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, who are due to march in Edinburgh tomorrow. If you’d asked Alex Salmond to name the image of the United Kingdom he’d most like to stick in the minds of wavering Scottish voters in the final days before Thursday’s independence vote, he might have named either Ukip or the Orangemen. He’d surely not have pushed his luck by suggesting both – within 24 hours of each other.
Whatever the merits of the rest of Freedland’s piece, and accepting his disdain for the self-anointing Farridge, on the matter of the Orangemen, he is wrong, wrong, wrong.
Scotland is scarred by historical and ingrained sectarianism. Since Donald Dewar’s term as Scottish First Minister, there has been a concerted effort to come to terms with the problem. My suspicion is “El Presidente” Salmond and the “Yes” Campaign have worsened matters seriously.
Well, the tone of “Yes” has been social division. The underprivileged have been promised copious quantities of jam tomorrow. An independent Scotland would run glutinously with milk and honey. The unwritten assumption is this would be paid for by the middle-classes. Rentagob Jim Sillars was the loudest:
FORMER SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars has claimed there will be a “day of reckoning” for major Scottish employers such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life after a Yes vote.
Speaking from his campaign vehicle the “Margo Mobile”, Mr Sillars insisted that employers are “subverting Scotland’s democratic process” and vowed that oil giant BP would be nationalised in an independent Scotland…
He claimed there is talk of a “boycott” of John Lewis, banks to be split up, and new law to force Ryder Cup sponsor Standard Life to explain to unions its reasons for moving outside Scotland.
He said: “This referendum is about power, and when we get a Yes majority, we will use that power for a day of reckoning with BP and the banks.
“The heads of these companies are rich men, in cahoots with a rich English Tory Prime Minister, to keep Scotland’s poor, poorer through lies and distortions. The power they have now to subvert our democracy will come to an end with a Yes.”
He added: “BP, in an independent Scotland, will need to learn the meaning of nationalisation, in part or in whole, as it has in other countries who have not been as soft as we have forced to be. We will be the masters of the oil fields, not BP or any other of the majors.”
Mr Sillars, whose wife, MSP Margo MacDonald died earlier this year, said that under an independent Scotland, Standard Life would be required by new employment laws to give two years warning of any redundancies – and reveal to the trade unions its financial reasons for relocation to any country outside of Scotland.
“What kind of people do these companies think we are? They will find out,” he added.
Were there to be a “Yes” vote, it would release the passions of extremists on both sides. Already Jim Murphy had to suspend campaigning because of concerted intimidation. Alastair Darling was talking, as far back as February, of businessmen and firms being coerced, and today:
The former chancellor told the Guardian that the growing intimidation and targeting of the no campaign by a small minority of the yes camp had “crossed the acceptability line” and needed to be stopped.
“There has been dark aspects on this which need to have a light shone on them,” Darling said, accusing yes campaigners of systematically defacing or removing pro-UK placards and billboards in towns such as Inverness, and on major roads throughout Scotland.
And what after Thursday?
We have some handle, thanks to the Gordon Brown proposals, of how a “No” voter wouldd extend Devo Max as a palliative to the minority. It looks a sensible plan — in fact what the SNP were seeing as the end-game, before they found themselves hung by their own election promise.
What we don’t have — apart from the excesses of Jim Sillars — is any appreciation of how a “Yes” vote wouldd accommodate the other half of the population. Which includes those Orangemen. Like Princess Di or land-mines, you’d be nuts to mess with them.
And, if there’s anything more frightening than an aggravated Orangeman, try the female of the species — at least one lady who was marching several miles in her four-inch stilettos.