Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on marches and parades

Guidance for people organising, taking part in, and facilitating marches and parades during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on marches and parades


This guidance relates to marches and parades in Scotland and will be of particular benefit for march and parade organisers, local authorities (as the statutory body responsible for the facilitation of marches and parades in Scotland) and Police Scotland.

It applies in Levels 2, 1 and 0. Marches and parades can take place in these levels, subject to the restrictions on numbers and duration set out in the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 23) Regulations 2021, and the related requirements in the regulations to take measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus. Anyone permitted to organise a public procession under the regulations is required to take account of this guidance.

Please note that the steps outlined in this guidance are in addition to the statutory process for notifying marches and parades to the local authority, which applied before the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the 28-day minimum statutory notification period, in place since 2006, continues to apply. That period is designed so that march organisers give adequate notice to the relevant local authority of their intention to hold a march/parade. It ensures that:  

  • all relevant statutory bodies are aware of the march/parade
  • march/parade organisers can meet any conditions placed on their march/parade
  • plans can be put in place for the delivery of a safe, successful march/parade

Therefore, organisers must provide notice to the local authority in which the march/parade will take place at least 28 days before the date of the planned march/parade. This is a minimum notification period, and where possible, more notice should be given. The local authority should give at least two days’ notice of any decision to prevent/place conditions on a march or parade (although, again, engagement and discussion between local authorities and march/parade organisers should take place at as early a stage as possible) allowing time for organisers to implement any changes as a result of those decisions.

We respect and support the right to march. Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) protects your right to freedom of expression and Article 11 protects your right to assembly and demonstration. We take those rights, and any restrictions placed on them, extremely seriously. However, they are qualified rights. This means they have to be balanced against the public interest and may therefore be interfered with for legitimate reasons, if these restrictions are necessary and proportionate. The protection of health is one such reason, and the step of placing temporary restrictions on marches and parades has been taken to prevent the spread of serious infectious disease, protect the NHS and save lives.

Article 2 of the ECHR – the right to life – is also relevant to our COVID-19 response. It means we must implement appropriate measures to safeguard life by encouraging behaviour that will protect us all, making laws to do so if needed. We will ensure that any measures applied are necessary, proportionate and time limited.

It is also important to recognise that rights and responsibilities go hand in hand, and that those organising and taking part in a march/parade have a duty to take responsibility for their own actions and to consider the rights of others. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this means recognising:

  • the scale and nature of the virus
  • the risks involved with public gatherings of any sort
  • the need to follow the regulations and take necessary steps to minimise this risk

The virus has not yet gone away, and we are still strongly advising that, while the risk of transmission remains an issue, alternative ways of celebrating, commemorating and expressing views communally, which do not involve physical contact, are considered. This will minimise the risk of infection for those who would have participated in the march/parade as well as the wider communities in which they would have taken place.

This guidance addresses the key issues that organisers should consider when looking at COVID-19 risk. March and parade organisers should therefore give serious thought to risks in advance of discussions with local authorities and Police Scotland to ensure their march/parade is as safe and secure as possible while the risk of COVID transmission remains. The ‘assessing risk’ section of this guidance outlines best practice for completing a COVID-19 risk assessment and provides links to other guidance and templates that organisers may find useful. By undertaking a risk assessment prior to meeting with local authorities and police, organisers will help to focus discussions so that any problems, and, importantly, solutions, can be identified as early as possible.

To support this process, the following sections are specifically aimed at organisers carrying out an assessment of COVID-19 risk:

  • things to consider before organising and/or taking part in a march/parade
  • staying safe
  • assessing risk
  • appointing COVID-19 officer(s)
  • temporary limits on numbers and duration
  • assembly and dispersal points
  • physical distancing
  • hygiene measures
  • Test and Protect (collection of contact details)
  • lateral flow testing
  • face coverings
  • singing, chanting and music
  • travel

Please ensure you use the latest version of this, and all, guidance by checking our Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance.