Posted By: July 12, 2014

“ In Glasgow this week Labour MP, Jim Murphy, said of the Orange Order, “Not for a moment would they be part of the Better Together campaign”, which is the largest unionist organisation designed to keep Scotland within the United Kingdom. As an “unsavoury” organisation, he said the Order would be unwelcome.”
Patrick Murphy. Irish News ( Belfast). Saturday, July 12, 2014
Before you go off to march, protest or flee the country today, you might like to hear a tale of two cities: Belfast and Glasgow.

In Glasgow this week Labour MP, Jim Murphy, said of the Orange Order, “Not for a moment would they be part of the Better Together campaign”, which is the largest unionist organisation designed to keep Scotland within the United Kingdom. As an “unsavo ry” organisation, he said the Order would be unwelcome.

Better Together said that the Orange Order “isn’t part of our campaign and never will be.” It argued that the best way to retain the union was by speaking to undecided voters, not by marching in the streets. So organised unionism in Scotland indicated (not very politely) that it wanted nothing to do with Orangeism.

Meanwhile, in Belfast, just over 100 miles away – well, you know what happened in Belfast this week and most weeks at this time of year for the past two centuries. As the cutting edge of Irish unionism, the Orange Order’s political influence was once again using sectarian tensions to interfere with the normal governance of society.

The Order’s contrasting status between here and Scotland is reflected in political attitudes and behaviour. Sectarianism has no significant influence in the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum. The main attitudinal divisions reflect gender (females are more inclined to oppose independence) geography (those living near the English border are more likely to vote No) age (the 24 to 54 age group will largely vote Yes) and class (the working class are the most proindependence.)

So why should politics and much of society be skewed by sectarianism here, but not in Scotland – even in the face of an independence referendum? The answer (which is much longer than we have space for here) lies in history, politics and missed opportunities.

The last Scottish rebellion was in 1745. Since then we have had about eleven rebellions in Ireland (all failed) and about another four in British overseas territories (yes, they all failed too), as well as (failed) bombing campaigns in England up to the 1990s. Indeed, some in our society are still actively failing in armed rebellion. (The British may have started all the wars in Ireland, but the Irish finished them – by losing. The longer the war, the bigger the defeat – you can choose your own examples.)

Although the British usually won through military might and repressive legislation, their most successful weapon in Ireland (as well as informers) was sectarian division. So most rebellions were sectarian in consequence if not always in intent. When we needed revolution, we usually just got rebellion, which Britain easily trumped with the Orange card.

But in Scotland the independence question was largely dormant (until now), allowing normal politics to replace sectarian history. In the last century alone, our history has included pogroms, sectarian repression from Stormont, a bloody and largely sectarian war for 30 years and a peace settlement, which missed the chance to develop normal politics by enshrining sectarianism in government. Now we can have bigotry by veto at Stormont. In a classic example of a missed opportunity, Sinn Féin abandoned the Protestant working class to Orangeism. (That will show Wolfe Tone – him and his fancy ideas about non-sectarian republicanism.)

So while we have more peace walls and Orange marches than ever, there is practically no residential or educational sectarian division in Scotland. Scots Gaelic is at the heart of Presbyterianism in the Outer Hebrides. Unlike here, no-one has attempted to politicise the language. (And if you have any doubt about the politicisation of the Irish language, look at its current funding model in the north.)

Nothing is more noble than the Orange cause of civil and religious liberty.

But it is a “liberty” which prevents Catholic access to the British throne and which persecuted Catholics and Presbyterians for over a century after 1690. (Why Presbyterians should celebrate their own persecution is odd.)

Of course, if the Queen cannot be a Catholic, then Catholics are second class citizens. The recent nationalist fetish for bowing before her has enhanced the pomp, ceremony and intellectual power of entrenched sectarianism. Paying homage to medieval beliefs encourages medieval behaviour. Do not blame the Orangemen for that.

So if you flee the country today, go to Scotland, which will have more independence than us even if they vote No in the referendum. While we were fighting on Britain’s terms, their politics were evolving to the point where the Orange Order is now regarded by unionists as unsavoury. That explains why their government works and ours does not.