Scots free Berwick

09.02.17: ENGLISH troops beat a hasty retreat from Ravensdowne Barracks in Berwick-upon-Tweed when the so-called Scots Border Army invaded yesterday.

Led by "Brigadier" John Knox Farquharson, 500 Lowlanders wearing French army surplus combat gear marched in through Scotsgate and mounted the Elizabethan ramparts.

Although their advance, on the 420th anniversary of the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, had been monitored on security satellite and screened on news channels, they met no resistance.

To avoid confrontation ­ or suspicion of an official handover ­ the small English garrison left the barracks by hover-shuttle.

On Berwick's stone bastions, the holograms of English redcoats, hitherto the town's most popular tourist attraction, were replaced by "watches" of live Scotsmen, some parading with 20th-century assault rifles. They sang patriotic songs, sprayed the night sky with light-slogans and demanded passwords from locals out walking their dogs.

All three of the town's bridges across the estuary to Tweedmouth were sealed at the "Scottish" end.

Scotland's new interior minister, Mary-Morag McMaster, denied that Farquharson had moved with government approval but failed to condemn the invaders' action.

In London, a spokesman for the war ministry dismissed the incident as "a storm in a whisky bottle", but few believe that Berwick can remain under English jurisdiction for long.

Berwick's position as an English outpost on the north bank of the Tweed, nearly 90km north of the most southerly part of Scotland, made it an anachronism even before Scottish independence. The town was part of Scotland until 1174 and changed hands no fewer than 14 times before the English secured it in 1482.

"At last," Farquharson said, "Berwick is back where it belongs." RG