Community Impact of Public Processions

The study examined the community impact of public processions, with a particular focus on processions which were perceived to be 'problematic'. The research involved a multi-method approach and included qualitative and quantitative data collection. Although the research considered a wide range of processions (including community and political), its particular focus was on Loyalist and Irish Republican processions.


R1 Local authorities should share best practice on communicating information on procession notifications to those communities affected by each notification. This should include best practice on providing clear guidance to those communities on how to raise concerns and/or make complaints regarding any planned procession.

R2 Local authorities should ensure that all community representatives are automatically notified of processions affecting the communities they serve and are aware of the grounds which can be used for raising objection and requesting amendments.

R3 Local authorities should make information on large processions available to members of the public as far in advance of the procession as possible. For large-scale events, this should include making information available well in advance of the 28 day notification period even if organisers and local authorities have not reached final agreement on procession details.

R4 Local authorities should share best practice on communicating information on procession notifications to businesses, public and private service providers and other key interests (such as registrars and places of worship).

R5 Local authorities should work collectively to agree a minimum standard for how best to record and count procession notifications. Agreement should be reached on how best to count multiple procession notifications (that form a larger procession) and return processions (where the same organisation processes, typically back to the 'start point' later the same day). In particular, consideration should also be given as to how details of notifications that have been subject to local authority requests for amendments, or which have been prohibited, are recorded and retained.

R6 Loyalist and Irish Republican processing organisations should continue to develop open and transparent methods of communicating information about the nature of their organisations and their reasons for holding public processions to those communities affected by the processions they hold.

R7 Police Scotland and local authority observers should consistently capture and feed in information to the debrief process, about behaviour that is offensive or provocative, whether that behaviour originates from participants, supporters or counter-demonstrators. This should include clear evidence of the behaviour which can be presented to the various parties allowing them a right to reply. Where offensive or provocative behaviour is demonstrated, this information should be used to inform future decisions on authorising or facilitating processions and counter demonstrations.

R8 As part of the debrief process, a record should be made by Police Scotland and local authorities of any proactive measures or actions that were taken by procession organisers to promote good behaviour amongst members of the public, supporters or others not directly taking part in the procession. Those organisations that work with Police Scotland, local authorities or other agencies to promote good behaviour and/or tackle offensive behaviour should be recognised, and where there are notable instances of good practice, authorities should consider issuing letters confirming this to the organisers involved.

R9 As a single national force, Police Scotland are well placed to be able to record and share evidence and information on misconduct by processing organisations, and/or bands hired by organisations, at a national level. This information should be shared with all appropriate agencies. Misconduct by processing organisations and/or hired bands that occurs anywhere in Scotland should inform future decisions on authorising or facilitating processions and counter demonstrations anywhere else in Scotland by that organisation.

R10 All authorities, including local authorities and Police Scotland, should carefully uphold the rights of individuals to process and demonstrate against processions. A lawful and well conducted procession or counter-demonstration that is met with unlawful, provocative or disorderly conduct should not be disadvantaged because of the conduct of others.

R11 In local authority areas where large numbers of processions are held throughout the year, local authorities and key procession organisers should consider some mechanism for annual review and discussion. Glasgow City Council's stakeholder forum is one example of a body that partially fulfils this function.

R12 Local authorities, the Scottish Government and Police Scotland should support the training of procession stewards.

R13 Procession organisers should be aware of their responsibilities when bringing together large numbers of people and should continue to be supported and encouraged to find ways of working individually and with the police to minimise the potential for processions to be used to create 'permissive environments' for anti-social or offensive behaviour by supporters or other bystanders.

R14: Processing organisations that engage in provocative behaviour should be dealt with by Police Scotland in a robust manner. Where such behaviour results in the use of significant police resource, this should help to inform future decisions on authorising or facilitating processions and counter demonstrations anywhere else in Scotland by that organisation.

R15: Organisations have the right to communicate lawful messages that other groups or individuals may not wish to hear. However, where organisations deliver those messages to people's homes in a threatening, intimidating or abusive manner, action should be taken by Police Scotland to protect the wellbeing of residents. Such behaviour should also be considered by local authorities to ensure that neutral locations, such as city centres, are used for the delivery of the more controversial political messages and demonstrations.

R16: The Scottish Government should consider the impact of amending current legislation to address the anomaly whereby organisations can evade public procession regulations by opting for a static demonstration. In particular, consideration should be given to how such a change would impact on human rights relating to public assembly and demonstrations.

R17: Police Scotland should make full use of powers under the Public Order Act in instances where the threat to public order is such that a static demonstration cannot be held without a substantial police escort and in circumstances where the particular choice of location for that event may be seen as provocative.

R18: As a single force, Police Scotland should provide enhanced officer training and procession day briefings, which will ensure the policing of processions and the treatment of participants and supporters is fair, even-handed and consistent across Scotland.

R19: Police Scotland should consider strengthening arrangements for formalising and recognising senior officers who clearly and consistently demonstrate the particular set of skills that are required to ensure public procession planning and organising is delivered in a robust, consistent and high quality manner.


Email: Linzie Liddell

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