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.

3 Procession Notifications: Local Authority Data

Frequency and nature of public processions

3.1 The Orr review (Orr, 2005) recommendations led to some significant standardisation of processes for applying for, consulting around, and making decisions on, processions. Local authorities, usually local authority licensing committees, remained the body to which event organisers had to apply if they wished to hold a procession. However, so called procession notification forms were enhanced and to some extent standardised across Scotland, making the collection and compilation of statistics easier. Procession dates and clear details of procession routes are now publicly available to allow affected community members to comment on applications. In many local authorities most of these details are provided online, though not in all. Moreover, more consistent standards have also been applied to the process and conduct of risk assessments both by event organisers and local authorities. These risk assessments often provide very useful additional information on the composition of processions (e.g. which bands or other groups may accompany the procession) and the purposes of the procession.

Figure 3.1 provides estimates for the total number of processions in the last three years across Scotland[24]:


3.2 There appears to be a marked year on year increase in the number of processions taking place in Scotland. However, the number of processions presented here cannot be easily read-back to the figures produced in the Orr report to interpret a long-term trend (for comparison in 2003 there were 1712 processions; Orr, 2005, p.63). This is because legislative changes, subsequent to the production of the Orr report, would certainly be anticipated to have impacted on how local authorities fulfil their obligations in this area, including how they choose to record and retain records of notifications. It is not always clear from the data available, how information is collated. To the general public, for example, what may appear to be one major procession taking place is frequently counted by local authorities as multiple processions - due to different organisations submitting one or multiple applications for the same event, all of which are subsequently recorded as separate events. The total procession figures are, as a result, of limited comparative viability across areas with different recording practices.

3.3 Table 3.1 provides an indication of the changing make-up of processions in Scotland[25]. Our categories differ from the Orr report in two key ways. Firstly, we have included figures for 'community events' i.e. hosted by and within local communities (such as gala days, Remembrance Day events etc.), political and diversity events (such as campaigns or events such as Pride Scotia)[26]. Secondly, unlike the Orr report, we have not referred to 'Catholic' processions. We have included events organised by the Catholic Church (and by other faith groups) in the 'community' category, and instead, have distinguished events with a notable Irish Republican focus.

Table 3.1: Different types of procession in Scotland

Type of Procession

2003 (from Orr report, p. 65)














Political & Diversity




Irish Republican





3.4 The key trend of note is the proportionate decline in processions organised by Loyalist organisations. However, this needs to be interpreted against a backdrop of increasing numbers of processions overall from 2010 onwards. In fact regardless of changes in proportions, there were greater numbers of every type of procession in 2012 than there were in 2010, though the absolute numbers of Loyalist processions do not appear to have changed much since the publication of the Orr report. Conversely, the number of community events recorded as an official 'procession' has risen markedly. The numbers behind these trends must be viewed as approximate given the inconsistencies in how different local authorities record and count processions, though in 2012 roughly 773 Loyalist/loyalist band processions took place, compared to approximately 41 Irish Republican processions.

3.5 Procession patterns in terms of type and size were also examined in more detail in three areas in one year (2012) where detailed local authority data was collected in a fairly consistent manner and with a degree of detail that allowed for the counting of return processions as well[28]. These three areas (the City of Glasgow, Edinburgh, and North Lanarkshire), whilst by no means representative of all of Scotland, are nevertheless three of the most important areas in terms of hosting large numbers of processions. Detailed figures for these three areas are provided in Annex B.

3.6 The three areas hosted some 753 notified processions in 2012[29]. However, they are also quite distinct from each other in terms of the types, volume and size of processions. Two of the three areas, being populous West of Scotland urban centres, had a much higher proportion of Loyalist and Irish Republican processions compared to Scotland as a whole. Conversely, Edinburgh, experienced very few Loyalist and Irish Republican processions, only five out of 86 (circa. 6% of all processions compared with North Lanarkshire which hosted 198 Loyalist and 18 Irish Republican processions out of a total of 283 processions (circa. 70% and 6% of all processions respectively).

3.7 North Lanarkshire hosted no political or diversity processions in 2012, whilst Glasgow hosted 12 and Edinburgh 17. Moreover, the majority of North Lanarkshire's processions consisted of notifications for less than 100 participants[30], whilst only two processions in 2012 involved notifications for events involving over a 1000 participants. In comparison, Glasgow and Edinburgh hosted far more processions involving 1000 or more participants (18 and 8 respectively). In Edinburgh all eight of these processions (the largest involving crowd estimates of 250,000 to 300,000) related exclusively to community or political/diversity processions, whereas in Glasgow at least seven of the 18 larger processions were associated with Loyalist processions. Glasgow proved in some respects the 'go-between' local authority area, hosting large numbers of processions of all types, though as with North Lanarkshire the biggest volume of processions remained smaller Loyalist processions.

3.8 Taking the three areas as a whole, the majority of all small processions, including those under 100 participants and those involving between 100 and 199 processions were Loyalist or Irish Republican related (accounting for 71% of all processions involving 199 participants or less). However, Loyalist and affiliated processions were far more numerous than Irish Republican processions (466 compared to 39). Irish Republican processions only constituted circa. 5% of processions in these three areas, though across Scotland as a whole the proportion was much lower still at less than 2% of all processions. The Orange Order accounted for the largest number of processions amongst Loyalist groups. Processions by Cairde na h√Čireann were the most prominent events organised by Irish Republicans, though there were numerically more smaller-scale events held by Irish Republican bands.

Timing of processions

3.9 Figure 3.2 shows the distribution of different types of procession across the year. In this instance, these figures are taken from the 25 local authorities in 2012 which had complete figures that could be broken down into procession types. The distribution of processions is broadly unchanged from the distribution outlined in the Orr report. Loyalist processions peak in June and July though with strong numbers still in May and August. Conversely, the considerably fewer Irish Republican processions are more evenly distributed throughout the year. The key difference again is the increased volume in community processions, with these peaking both in June (gala days and fetes) and again in November (Remembrance Day services).


*Covering the 25 local authorities which provided figures for 2012 which could be broken down into procession types.

3.10 Regarding the size of processions (i.e. in terms of the numbers of participants), Annex B (Table AB2) provides annual average figures for Irish Republican and Loyalist processions. The figures should be treated with due caution because they are based on estimates of the number of planned attendees contained in notifications submitted by procession organisers. How many participants organisers hoped would turn up, and how many actually did turn up, could clearly be two very different things. Estimated attendance figures in many of the areas show considerable volatility from year to year, and though the figures for Irish Republican processions would seem to denote some increase in average attendances, the low number of actual processions would caution attaching any significance to such figures.

3.11 Table AB1 in Annex B provides figures for the total number of processions hosted by each local authority area. The figures outlined here need to be interpreted with due caution. At the lower end of the scale in terms of procession type there still appears to be some inconsistency in the sorts of events that typically merit a procession notification, in particular certain 'rural' local authorities have a tendency to formally count comparatively minor community events as public processions. Furthermore, even within larger urban local authorities, procession notification figures could be totalled up differently depending on interpretation of what constituted an event (for instance whether a Loyalist lodge procession merged with another lodge procession, before returning on its own later in the day, should be counted as one, two or three processions was a matter of judgement and varied across local authorities).

3.12 The data available provides only a limited guide to where processions that may generate some level of community concern are occurring. It indicates which local authorities share the greater 'burden' of hosting processions (notably Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, and North Ayrshire), but no local authority appears to collate figures on community objections, whilst the recording of prohibitions or required procession amendments (e.g. to the route or the timing) is highly variable. For instance, whilst in 2011-2012 there appears to be markedly more 'withdrawn' processions in the Glasgow City area during the peak procession months of May to September whether these withdrawals represent prohibitions or simply the decision of organisers to cancel a procession due to low number, poor weather etc. is unclear.

3.13 Key Points:

  • Available data for procession notifications across Scotland indicate a yearly increase in the number submitted. However this increase can be linked to the increasing use of the notification system for events that may not previously have required a notification. It also includes multiple applications for some events. Different approaches to the notification system across local authorities make it difficult to accurately compare and contrast the number of actual processions which take place on a yearly basis.
  • Between 2010 and 2012, the number of community processions increased from 54% to 62% of the total, according to available data. Political events and Irish Republican procession notifications remained relatively steady (both at approximately 2% of the total) while procession notifications by loyal orders and related bands reduced from 43% (in 2010) to 34% of the total (in 2012); largely as a result of the increasing proportion of community events.
  • Considerable variations can be noted. In some local authority areas such as North Lanarkshire, small Loyalist processions accounted for the majority of all annual processions. Glasgow hosts a high number of Loyalist and Irish Republican processions (albeit only 6% of processions in Glasgow were Irish Republican) accounting for 73% of all public processions in the city; Edinburgh, by contrast, hosts far fewer events of this type but is more likely to hold much larger processions associated with political protest or diversity issues.
  • Events by loyal orders appear to peak in June and July, while community events predominate in June and November, the latter largely being accounted for by Remembrance Day parades. Political and Irish Republican events, both small in number, appear to be spread more evenly across the year.
  • Variation in the collation of figures makes it very difficult to estimate the number of attendees or to determine which local authorities experience the greatest number of processions that generate community concern.
  • Processes of community notification and consultation varied but no local authority appeared to collate figures on community objections. Recorded data on amended or withdrawn notifications varied across local authorities.


Email: Linzie Liddell

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