PROPONENTS of an independent Scotland like to declare that it will be a multi-cultural, inclusive and tolerant country when it eventually arrives. However, as reported in the Sunday National, the plethora of Orange Order processions planned for this year following the relaxation of Covid restrictions demonstrates the deep-rooted level of bigotry still inherent in our country and the tangible difficulties that lie in the immediate and long-term future.

As ever, basic education regarding the anti-social and pernicious nature of racism and sectarianism must be vigorously addressed in our schools’ PSE programmes and in individual school subjects. In my experience, most school pupils are ill-informed or ignorant of key historical facts about events like the Battle of the Boyne upon which much of the skewed mythology of sectarian organisations like the Orange Order rests. Factual clarification showing that the Pope supported King William as part of his power struggle against the French, who lent their assistance to James VII, would be a good place to start. The Pope later celebrated a mass to demonstrate his (and presumably God’s) delight at hearing of “King Billy’s” victory at the battle of the Boyne, where more than half of William’s armies were made up of Spanish and Italian mercenaries.

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How many pupils, or indeed adults, are aware that at least one-third of Irish people who emigrated to Scotland due to the appalling famines of the 19th century were of the Protestant faith? Would that put the singing of the dirge-like Famine Song by some who attend Orange marches into some kind of perspective?

The setting up of a Parades Commission to try and demonstrate transparent reasons for decisions on Orange and other parades would be a very welcome development, though obviously not without its problems or controversies, particularly in its early stages.

The six-fold increase in Orange marches taking place this year should highlight exactly why a modern Scotland must seek a way to dilute their ability to stoke sectarian tension and racial hatred fostered by an organisation whose sole purpose appears to be spreading a message of anti-Catholicism and a lame pseudo-historical triumphalism.

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If large numbers of people took to the streets to sing anti-Muslim or anti-Jewish songs they would, quite rightly, be lambasted by those in authority and perhaps even by the majority of those in the media. Yet every year these anti-social celebrations of anti-Irish and anti-Catholic contempt parade through our streets spreading revulsion, alarm and bewilderment in equal measure. They are a shocking anachronism practised by a gathering of bigots and hypocrites and they should be limited in number and movement whilst paying any bills for security themselves and not from the public purse. Their celebrations of hate and discrimination have no place in any modern democratic society.

Owen Kelly

ORANGE marches are one of the reasons I decided not to join the Church of Scotland and became a humanist. Whilst I was at school I went to the Moray Sea school and in our group there was a young Orangeman and a Jesuit novice. By the end of our course, in fact well before the end of the course, they had become best of friends and tackled every task as one, showing that in reality we are all Jock Tamson’s bairns.

Peter McLelland

LET them march round an empty sports track.

Fiona Johnston