Independent Report on Marches, Parades and Static Demonstrations in Scotland

Independent advice prepared by Dr Michael Rosie on marches, parades and static demonstrations in Scotland.

Executive Summary

1. The findings and recommendations contained in this report are the outcome of discussions that took place between Dr Michael Rosie and a range of interested parties, including march and parade organisers, those who have held static demonstrations, local authorities and Police Scotland. It reflects the views, opinions and experiences emerging from those discussions and from additional observation and research conducted by Dr Rosie.

2. The aims of this report, and the recommendations contained in it, are to add constructively to the discussions taking place on marches and parades, outline key areas where further work is needed and provide some direction as to where efforts would be best focused to ensure processes works effectively and fairly.

3. While this report makes clear that the processes involved in the marches and parades system, by and large, work well the majority of the time, a number of recommendations are made, calling for: greater clarity on a number of key issues, dialogue to strengthen good relations, and better engagement to ensure that where problems do occur, these can be dealt with constructively and in an environment of good faith.


Post-Notification Engagement

  • While recognising that final discussions and decision-making has to take place with the most up-to-date information available, in keeping with the spirit and recommendations of the Orr Review, at a minimum, both the local authority and police should issue acknowledgement of a notification and raise any issues that are clear from the outset at an early opportunity. This will ensure that organisers are apprised of any likely issues or problems and are given a reasonable time to prepare and, if necessary, make any appeals. (2.11)

Community Engagement

  • Local authorities and police should give further thought as to how meaningful and proactive engagement involving the community, and as set out in the Orr Review, can take place. (2.21)


  • Police Scotland and march and parade organisers should prioritise dialogue with a view to establishing/re-establishing fuller police engagement with steward training and deployment. (2.49)

March and Parade procedures

  • Police, local authorities and march and parade organisers should work together to ensure clear procedures are in place for all marches and parades, with clear and consistent briefing, including agreed written action plans. Where appropriate - e.g. where additional conditions were attached to a march or parade, or where issues of concern are raised by any of the key parties - Police Scotland, local authorities, march and parade organisers and local communities - de-briefing should take place. (2.54)

Static Demonstrations

  • The Scottish Government should continue in dialogue with those who may have concerns over static demonstrations, such as local authorities and Police Scotland, to explore what support and advice can be given. (3.6)
  • Some consideration should be given by the Scottish Government as to whether a change in the legal definition of a 'public assembly' (reducing it from 'twenty persons or more', perhaps in line with the previous change in England & Wales) would have a positive impact on Police Scotland's powers to deal with static demonstrations where public order is threatened. This consideration should take into account the effectiveness of such a change in light of any issues around proportionality and on the human rights of those demonstrating. (3.7)

Information and Guidance

  • Local authorities should give consideration to how they present information and procedures on marches and parades, ensuring that clear and consistent information is readily accessible online. If information is not given online, clear guidance about where it can be accessed is essential. (3.13)

Presentation of Notification Procedure

  • Local authorities should give some thought to the way in which their notification process is presented and explained, such that adequate recognition is given to the rights and responsibilities of march and parade organisers. Good practice examples to facilitate any general 'refresh' of materials are readily available. (3.19)

Processing Notifications

  • Local authorities and police should give further serious consideration to using Event Planning and Operations Group ( EPOG)/Safety Advisory Group ( SAG) process as used by The City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Borders Council respectively, as a model that could be adapted to local circumstance. (3.30)
  • Those few local authorities who still require organisers to separately notify Police Scotland should consider adopting the single notification model used by the majority of local authorities. (3.31)

Codes of Conduct and Standard Conditions

  • Those local authorities who do not have clear codes of conduct and guidance on standard conditions should adopt a policy of providing these as per the recommendations made following the Orr Review circulated in 2005 and 2006. Those who do have such policies should ensure that they can be readily accessed, that they are written in plain English and that they are easily understandable. (3.33)

Stewards and Marshalls

  • Where guidance is not already provided on what (minimum) level of stewarding might be expected, local authorities should consider providing this. This need not be formalised as a 'standard condition' but could be in the form of indicative guidance. (3.36)


  • It would be good practice for those local authorities who currently make no general comment on the hours of the day when music will be normally acceptable to consider doing so. This can be worded in a flexible way that allows for local contexts and considerations to play a full part in the notification process. (3.39)
  • Local authorities should consider whether standard conditions relating only to 'places of worship' are fit for their intended purpose. If the intent is to protect 'solemn occasions' from unreasonable noise, then they should be broadened to encompass a wider range of places (The City of Edinburgh's formulation offers a good example of how to do so). This, however, places a clear onus on local authorities to give clear and carefully explained guidance to both organisers and police. (3.46)
  • Local authorities should consider whether a 'blanket ban' on music around places of worship or places where religious, cultural or legal ceremonies take place regardless of whether a service or ceremony is taking place is disproportionate. (3.47)

Weapons and Halberds

  • Wherever possible, clear details of what can be allowed on the day, including on issues such as allowing spear-tops on banner poles, should be set-out and recorded in advance of the march or parade to avoid uncertainty on the day itself. (3.50)

Information for the Public

  • Local authorities should review the information on future marches and parades they currently provide. Where a clear and comprehensive list of marches and parades, with full information on matters such as the process for comment and/or objection, is not already provided online, local authorities should give consideration to how this information can be provided. (3.58)
  • Those local authorities with an existing information opt-in list or key interest groups list should make this fact clear on their websites to ensure those interested in being included have the opportunity to do so. Where a local authority does not have such a list, one should be introduced. (3.62)
  • Local authorities should provide clear and concise guidance on how to make comments or objections about marches and parades and on what considerations can be taken into account. (3.68)

Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders ( TTROs)

  • Clarity is urgently required on a number of issues relating to Police Scotland's current position on their (lack of) emergency powers relating to pre-planned marches and parades. If Police Scotland have received legal advice on this position then they should be encouraged to publish it. They should also be encouraged to publish details of any consultations they have carried out with external bodies, not least local authorities, in relation to their position. (3.90)
  • It remains unclear (to a lay reader) whether marches and parades fall under the definition of events as described in the existing legislation, and the extent to which multiple TTROs can be issued for the same stretches of public roads without the express permission of Scottish ministers. If necessary, legal advice should be urgently secured and published. This could be jointly sought by Police Scotland, local authorities and the Scottish Government. (3.91)


Back to top