IT must require a lot of hard work, training and self-sacrifice to become indignant about pro-independence marches. Indeed, if I hadn’t personally witnessed this phenomenon for myself I’d never have thought it possible. Mature men and women (but mainly men) seem to spend a significant quantum of their time getting exceedingly vexed on those sporadic Saturdays when these promenades arrive, bowling amiably through one of Scotland’s towns or cities. These otherwise sentient and reasonable souls begin to froth on social media when they could be relaxing with their families, attending a sports event or shopping for soft furnishings.

A glance at some of the online foam issuing from a familiar cast of brethren in the Unionist community when these marches take place can be a fascinating pastime and occasionally alarming. You almost feel moved to contact a responsible and kind person to rush round to their homes; check that they’re alright and perhaps administer a gentle hug but manly hug.

I’ve found myself in the vicinity of three of these pro-independence marches in the last few months. I freely acknowledge here that, as a supporter of an independent Scotland, I’m less likely to be irked by them than perhaps some of my dependence-favouring chums.

But when you’ve been living in the west of Scotland these past five decades or so, it’s difficult not to warm to a procession where the participants are merely soliciting you to join their ranks rather than daring you to break them.

In Edinburgh late last Saturday afternoon, I sat outside a pub on the Royal Mile watching as several thousand of them walked back up the road in little family-sized bunches, returning from the main event. They looked like the people in those trippy pictures of the retreat from Woodstock in 1969 ... except that they were wearing clothes and the only Charlie that might have been present would have been the bloke who helped write 500 Miles with his brother Craig.

Yet an assortment of characters on social media were expending a lot of energy getting annoyed at the sight of so many, ahem ... Saltires. One chap seemed to be unhappy that they weren’t doing something more worthwhile, even though what they were doing seemed peaceful, friendly and rather colourful. Perhaps there’s a by-law in Edinburgh no one’s told me about, regulating the amount of peace, love and friendship a chiel may be permitted to exhibit in daylight hours outwith the Festival.

We all know these people, and are probably friendly with many.

I know one individual who becomes very exercised at the sight of lots of Scottish flags. Yet, he needs to be peeled away from every deejay at the end of every wedding he’s attended while yelling: “gie us f*ckin Runrig; gie us f*ckin Runrig” in a big, flowing kilt and then does that hokey-cokey thing at the end of that song when everyone rushes up to each other.

I’m not suggesting for a minute here that Unionists who wear kilts and dance like the Banana Splits to Runrig can’t be as Scottish as anyone else. But I’m always amazed that these same people seem to think that espousing love for one’s country is only acceptable when you’re howling with the bevvy at a wedding or cheering on the chaps at Murrayfield. The tenor of many of these messages from the furious wing of the Unionist front suggests that many were posted by people who had prepared well in advance to be outraged.

Indeed, judging by the photographs, I’d also hazard a guess that some had maybe, you know, popped through for the day for a sneaky wee look themselves.

Others had merely scanned all the photographs coming up on the web; chosen those that best fitted their narrative (this being that there weren’t very many people there) and then strained every synapse they possess to come up with a witty apercu. This doesn’t come naturally to people whose default setting when they encounter Saltires and Yes badges is perma-rage.

Just chill lads. Take a wee drink and stick on a Runrig record. You’ll feel better in no time.

Don't judge them – we should be cutting these law Lords some slack

I WAS perplexed by the manufactured outrage that ensued about the moonlighting activities of some of Scotland’s top judges. This was revealed in the Sunday Mail by Russell Findlay, one of those investigative journalist chappies who really needs to mind his own business.

It seems that some of our top judges have been selling themselves to the rulers of regimes in the Middle East with some of the worst human rights records in the world. When these men retire (and they are mainly men) from jobs that pay around £250k and a diamond-encrusted pension they are in high demand to provide a veneer of respectability to the judicial systems of Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It’s argued in their favour that the courts they are appointed to are not directly involved in jailing and torturing gay people and blasphemers.

I think we ought to cut these law Lords some slack. Many of these regimes have penal systems inspired by the customs and practices of some of our most perjink independent schools. It’s only reasonable that they should thus want to head-hunt the former pupils of these establishments as a mark of respect.

I’m sure their Lordships are paying taxes on their earnings and ploughing them all back into the economy. Perhaps, too, they are using their experience of Fettes, Edinburgh University, the New Club and the Debenture seats at Murrayfield to show these regimes that a more enlightened and inclusive approach is possible.

What do Dante, hell and Scottish Labour have in common?

BEING something of a renaissance man masel’ with a keen interest in the Italian literature of the late middle ages era I was delighted that The Sunday National ran some extracts from Alasdair’s Gray’s new translation of Dante at the weekend. The extract it chose to run was Canto Three – Hell’s Entry. This is a very condign extra which I feel has resonated down through the ages to this turbulent time in Scottish public life.

Dante used his Divine Comedy to parody and ridicule the great and the good of Italian high society whom he encounters in his various visions of Hell. Canto Three of Dante’s great masterpiece is where he meets moderate souls. The fourth stanza has a curious ring to it.

Smiling to cheer me on, he took my hand and led
Me in beside a dreadful band
Who hurt my eyes with horrid lamentation

Screams, wails, howls, groans and other ugly cries
Went blasting by us in a starless dark
With skirls of rancorous denunciation.

I think The Divine Comedy should be required reading for those poor characters caught up in the seemingly endless strife of the Labour Party in Scotland. And if they think they’re having a hard time they ought to see what happens to the poor souls in the ninth circle of Hell. This is the one marked Treachery.