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Orange Order should scrap its march

IT would be fair to say that the referendum debate, while fascinating, has had its low points.

Two years ago, voters looked forward to a clash of ideas which would inspire, inform and live up to the historic nature of the choice ahead.

Looking back at the posturing, the scare stories and the endless sterile trading of numbers, that now seems rather optimistic.

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But it has had its high points too. The public are becoming increasingly engaged with the debate. Discussions and meetings have been held all over the country. The nation is in a far better place than it was before the debate began.

While there has been an ugly fringe on both sides of the argument it has been largely confined to the internet. Most of the discussions, even online, have been good-natured and intelligent.

But events at yesterday's Orange Order parade in Glasgow are concerning. There were 18 arrests related to drinking and disorder, not in itself a particularly high number. But the violence at Glasgow Green is not something anyone would like to see repeated at its planned pro-Union parade in Edinburgh the weekend before September 18.

This is not to imply that the Order in any way condones or ignores such violence, but it is a sad fact that trouble follows it. As Chief Superintendent Andy Bates of Police Scotland put it: "It is not the people taking part in the parade who cause trouble but an unwelcome minority who turn up and use the event as an excuse to drink, cause offence and behave in a manner which cannot be tolerated."

Although shunned by Better Together, the Orange Order is an official campaigner for a No vote in the referendum. Yesterday's event attracted 4500 marchers, some of whom carried pro-union banners.

The Order's aspiration for September is 15,000.

The potential for disorder is manifest.

The risk is not worth running. The Orange Order, of course, has every right to stage its march. But for the sake of order, and our nation's image before the world, it should desist.

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