Regularly on social media I and others are called fifth-columnists for openly criticising the SNP, for having the audacity to air our disagreement with ‘Nicola.’ The suggestion is that by doing this we are undermining independence, the implication being that we are traitors or British government ‘plants’ sowing seeds of discord. Certainly, this has made my own commitment to independence one of the most frustrating and painful political experiences of my life – but it has not shaken my resolve.
This is not what should happen in a free and democratic society. Our leaders have power only because we consent to be governed. They press the flesh of police officers and soldiers at photo-ops, they do not use them as witting or unwitting props in a campaign of intimidation. Democratic leaders do not politicise the police and the army and otherwise make their members instruments in a partisan conflict in which it is likely some level of force will be used. This is an upsetting development and one we must now all watch closely.
Yet, we feel that we can’t ban these marches – that we can’t ban the organisation – because to do this would be illiberal, it wouldn’t be tolerant. Rubbish! If the Orange Order insisted on marching through the more affluent streets of Glasgow, insisting that they too were “the Queen’s highway,” they would have been banned decades ago. If their songs and their open hostility were directed against Jews or people of colour instead of Catholics, the government would have no option but to ban the organisation. So, why is this not the case when they are marching down working-class streets?