Saturday last was the 698th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and if it hadn’t been for my spotting of a piece of bureaucratic stupidity the day would have passed by completely unnoticed by this particular Sassenach.
For the last 80 years, nationalistic Scots have been commemorating the anniversary with various activities including a procession through the town to the site of the battlefield. Those taking part in the march are generally dressed in costume (either medieval or Jacobite) and carry a mixture of swords, axes, daggers and shields.
This year however Stirling council decreed that no weapons could be carried because of some apparent minor trouble last year:
However, following reports of an “incident” at last year’s march, where a car on the route was allegedly hit with a shield and a Union Flag was burned, Stirling Council ordered those taking part to lay down their arms, saying no weapons would be allowed to be carried during the march, even if they were safely sheathed in a scabbard.
A burnt flag and a damaged car? Obviously the sensible thing would have been to prosecute the individual(s) who participated in the property damage, ignore the flag burning and forget the whole business. However these are bureaucrats we’re talking about so sensible doesn’t come into it and instead they reached for rule one of the public sector law and order playbook: collective punishment.
Unsurprisingly this didn’t go down very well with those organising the march, especially as
Scots law allows Shetlanders to dress up as Vikings each year and march through the town armed with battleaxes during the Up Helly Aa festival, while Scots are allowed to carry the sgian dubh knife.
As expected the council tried to justify their decision with some weasel words:
A Stirling Council spokeswoman said: “Stirling Council respect the rights of organisations and individuals to celebrate their history and cultural traditions.
“But we also need to balance this with the rights of the general public to go about their daily lives safely and with minimal inconvenience.”
Oh look, some tripe about ‘respecting rights’ followed by a recourse to that old favourite: public safety. All copied and pasted right out of the government PR handbook for dealing with uppity members of the public.
The public however weren’t going to let this stand and some behind the scenes lobbying of both Stirling Council and the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) later a compromise was reached:
The National Trust for Scotland, who manage the battlefield, confirmed a compromise to allow weapons to be carried during the ceremony inside the heritage site – but not during the march.
An NTS spokeswoman said: “People bringing swords and other weapons will be allowed to keep them in their cars and take them out when they arrive at the battlefield.
“After the ceremony, they will have to put them away again if they want to go back into Stirling.”
In the end there were two marches:
for the purposes of clarity.. this year there will be TWO marches.
The first one.. which the SRSM [Scottish Republican Socialist Movement, Ed] have organised will be a NON weapons bearing event.. and will be assembling from the 1314 inn at 13:30 hrs
The second one, fopr those bearing weapons, sorted out by Garaidh Stiùbhart of the society of William Wallace will be assembling in the Bannockburn Heritage Centre carp park at 13:30 hrs.
Both marches will rendezvous at the rotunda for the commemoration!!!
I thing we can call that a partial win for the public but now that the council has tried this once, it is a fight which I expect will be repeated annually for a while yet.