Conservative “Orangemen” marchers add one more voice to the referendum debateFollow @AidanRyan
Half a block north of the west entrance of the Meadows park in Edinburgh, Scotland, three neon-vested parking officers sit at a table cluttered with radios and handheld printers, staring down into their smartphones. Students and city workers come here, a small shop called Snax, for a few minutes of hot-roll and haggis bliss before a long working day – although for the parking officers, this day will be longer than any in recent memory, because today, Saturday the 13th of September, five days before the country votes for either independence or unity, 15,000 members of the East Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, along with friends from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, have gathered in Edinburgh to show their pride – for the Saltire and the Union Jack.
At twenty minutes to 11 on Saturday morning, 26 buses from all over Great Britain have queued at the Meadows’ entrance, to park closer to the walk’s endpoint on Regent Road below Calton Hill. They’ve emptied out pipers, drummers, banner-boys and accordionists from 110 lodge bands of the Loyal Orange Institution in Scotland and several thousand sympathetic spectators, all clad in military regalia, orange sashes, dress blues or dandified two-piece Union Jack suits. Several women wander the park in Queen Elizabeth-style bonnets, carrying homemade crowns on top of shrink-wrapped Bibles. A man on the bandstand intones patriotic and religious soundbytes, and recites Psalm 118, accidentally eschewing the Anglican King James translation for the New International Version: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” In less than half an hour, the 15,000-person crowd will proceed through Edinburgh’s busiest streets, past its most venerable institutions, to finish just past the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, in the most vocal demonstration in support of the union to date.