Friday, 29 March 2013
Hot Cross Buns And Orange Walks
It's Good Friday. Once upon a time it was a day of fasting and penance but to the vast majority living on these islands that tradition has long gone and it's just another holiday.
My acknowledgement of the day will be the consumption of a hot cross bun sometime during the afternoon because, although I'm not a practicing Christian, I believe in Christian values.
So often these days people are mocked for their religious beliefs and the trend is for non-believers to push for the UK to be a secular society. I've listened to both sides of this debate and have yet to decide which side of the fence I stand, but there is another smaller debate which starts to ripple through Scottish society at this time of year and that's the issue of Orange walks.
It's the time of year when members of the Orange Order make application to local councils to march through main thoroughfares. This year in Perth the Orange walk date clashes with the penultimate day of a popular festival, Perth Festival of the Arts. My MP, Pete Wishart, isn't happy - "the worst possible timing" - and has urged the organisers to reconsider the date.
He goes further and says: "We don't want marches like this - Perth does not want to get involved in these sorts of issues."
I don't know what he means by 'these sorts of issues' but suspect he means religious issues. Rather strange coming from an MP whose party promotes religious tolerance.
However, I agree with him but perhaps not for the same reasons. The Orange Order and other groups associated with 'the marching season' originated in Northern Ireland and drifted to Scotland with Irish immigrants. They are not part of the Scottish culture and throughout my lifetime they've been seen as an embarrassing spectacle.
I'd go further than Pete Wishart and say these marches through towns and cities should be stopped. It's sad, in a society where religious tolerance is promoted, that Irish protestants still need to flaunt their dislike of their catholic neighbours by taking over whole towns for a day each year. If they wish an annual celebration perhaps it should be in the style of the Jehovahs Witnesses who gather annually at Perth's football ground, which is on the outskirts of the city.
An even better idea would be to have an annual gathering somewhere in the west where the Orange Order is much more prominent. Surely the days of marching through Scottish towns and cities are past. Let them celebrate without disrupting the lives of others and save us the embarrassment of watching young and old men (some rather the worse for wear), attempting to keep in step with each other and seldom succeeding.