The appalling scenes in Glasgow last Friday took place against a backdrop of sectarianism and a looming Old Firm game. But in reality, it was organised neo-fascist thuggery.
Blaming the council or Scottish Government legislation is simply wrong. People have the right to march even if you disagree with their views – that’s the price of democracy. Likewise, legislating to stop marches is extremely hard. Defining what’s acceptable isn’t easy. Make it too tight and you impede the Boys Brigade or local festivals. That’s not flippant, it’s fact. It’s why challenges follow in courts even though, no doubt, more can be done. Much of the issue with Orange Walks isn’t them being held but the multiple locations from which they march to a gathering point. Fewer of them and one agreed route is the answer.
The timing of the march is just an excuse and blaming the location is perverse. These thugs would have attacked any time and anywhere. Govan hosts Ibrox Park but it’s hardly the Shankill Road, having a significant Catholic population amongst others of all races and religions. Religious undertones there certainly were although it’s more anti-Irish racism given that theology’s decidedly absent. This was far-right orchestrated violence as loyalist gangs have done before.
Years ago anti-war protestors were attacked during World War 1 and Billy Fullerton and the “Billy Boys” – given recent prominence in “Peaky Blinders” – were later involved in strike breaking. Even Edinburgh had its incidents with what was called the “Morningside Riot” – sounds a contradiction in terms – which was carried out in 1935 by John Cormack’s Protestant Action. Once again religious bigotry was the backdrop to neo-fascist violence.
Progress has been made in tackling sectarianism; it’s clamping down on right-wing thuggery that’s now needed.