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.

Section 1: Background

1.1 In 2012, the (then) Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, appointed an Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland ('the Advisory Group') to provide independent, impartial advice on developing work to tackle sectarianism in Scotland. The Advisory Group published a Report on Activity in December 2013, followed by its Final Report in April 2015.

1.2 The Scottish Government also commissioned a number of independent research projects to inform the Advisory Group's work, which were published in February 2015. These comprised:

1.3 The Scottish Government's Justice Analytical Services also published An Examination of the Evidence on Sectarianism in Scotland in June 2013, with an extensive Update published in May 2015.

1.4 Amongst the key conclusions of the Advisory Group were that:

A very substantial body of evidence consistently corroborates the evident perception in Scotland that 'sectarianism' (however defined) is widespread and worrisome. There is, though, rather less clear evidence about its actual form, character and extent. This 'gap' was amongst the key conclusions of Scottish Government reviews of evidence in 2005, 2013 and 2015 [and] we wish to emphasise the importance of this finding […] There are consistent patterns to beliefs about the seriousness and extent of sectarianism, as well as to what contributes to its continued existence.

[ AGoTS, 2015: p6]

1.5 Notably, the most striking supposed 'contributors' to sectarianism, and in particular to perceived sectarian violence, were very public events:

The perception that sectarianism is closely associated with violence remains very strong in many people's minds, particularly when it comes to the more visible areas where sectarianism is seen to be a problem - football and marches and parades.

[ AGoTS, 2015: 1.9.3]

1.6 In its meetings, the Advisory Group heard "consistent and clear" perceptions about the key role in sectarianism of particular institutions and contexts. These were "neatly mirrored and encapsulated" in the findings of the Public Attitudes Towards Sectarianism in Scotland research project which found that "Very substantial proportions [of respondents] mentioned football (88%), Orange Order/Loyalist parades (79%), and Irish Republican marches (70%)" when considering the "aspects of Scottish life they felt 'contributed' to sectarianism":

Very strikingly, when asked which aspect of Scottish life most contributed to sectarianism, 55% identified football, with much smaller proportions identifying Orange Order/Loyalist parades (13%) or Irish Republican marches (3%).

[ AGoTS, 2015: 3.11.10]

1.7 Similar opinions were found in the Community Impact of Public Processions research, which highlighted "negative views" about Loyal Order and Irish Republican parades "in contract to most other types of procession". Loyal Order and Irish Republican parades were regarded as associated "with a range of social problems" such as community tensions and anti-social behaviour (pviii).

1.8 Further, the Public Attitudes research found that a majority of respondents (53%) opposed "the right of loyalist organisations, such as the Orange Order, to march along public streets in Scotland" with a similar majority (56%) opposing the rights of Irish Republican organisations.

1.9 Relatively few respondents (respectively 14% and 11%) supported the rights of such organisations to march (pp35-36). We can thus say, with some confidence, that Loyal Order and Irish Republican parades are perceived as amongst the important contributors to sectarianism in contemporary Scotland - though not necessarily the most important - and that many Scots are opposed to them.

1.10 Despite this clear evidence on the perception of such parades, the Community Impact of Public Processions research revealed that attitudes around, and experiences of, such parades were actually rather complex. There was little evidence of widespread public misbehaviour (let alone serious disorder and criminality) in and around the parades they observed.

1.11 Notably, the main parading organisations have made some efforts towards improving the organisation, planning and stewarding of their events. The Advisory Group met with two key parading organisations and saw considerable potential to assuage negative perceptions of parades whilst upholding freedoms of assembly and expression. The Advisory Group concluded:

Such progress would require fuller acknowledgement of the impact of events on others and a willingness to take responsibility for management of parades and their consequences.

[ AGoTS 2015: 3.11.11].

1.12 It might be noted here that many within parading organisations claim to be very keen "to take responsibility for management of parades and their consequences", not least in shifting towards a strong emphasis on self-stewarding rather than what they sometimes see as 'over policing'.

1.13 There has been, as the Community Impact of Public Processions report noted, increasing professionalization of parade organisation, particularly with regard to the largest Loyal Order and Irish Republican parades. Key parading organisations have developed a wide pool of experienced and responsible stewards/marshals, and considerable expertise in developing event management plans.

1.14 Improvements in stewarding and the training of marshals has facilitated changes in the policing model for the largest Orange Order parades, with declining numbers of arrests and Fixed Penalty Notices.

1.15 For the Glasgow Boyne Celebration events, the largest and most complex of the annual parades, there has been a reported saving in police costs of approximately £250,000 over three years [1] . For the Orange Order, this has reduced their own feeling that such events are 'over-policed' and has underlined the importance of their own initiatives in training and supporting marshals and stewards.

1.16 The Advisory Group:

[…] were struck by the planning that goes into parades, large and small, organised by [the main Orange/Loyalist and Irish Republican] groups, as well as the effort given over to stewarding. This impression was confirmed by the independent research into marches and parades, which noted that most events organised by these key organisations passed off peacefully.

[ AGoTS 2015: 4.26]

1.17 The Final Report reiterated a point made in its interim Report on Activity, in that:

Marches and parades have been the subject of a number of reviews in recent years but continue to give rise to allegations of sectarianism and to complaints that they are associated with an increase in unruly behaviour and street violence.

[ AGoTS 2013: 6.58]

1.18 It concluded that:

More work needs to be done by march organisers to reassure the general public about the nature of these parades, and issues of public safety and public order associated with them

[ AGoTS 2015: 4.28]

Remit and contributors

1.19 At the conclusion of the work of the Advisory Group, the then Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Mr Paul Wheelhouse, MSP, tasked Dr Michael Rosie, a member of the Advisory Group, with investigating further the issue of marches and parades. This arose from the seeming difference between the highly negative public perception of Loyal Order and Irish Republican parades, and the evidence heard by the Advisory Group - and underlined by the Community Impact of Public Processions report - that whatever issues and problems arose through such parades, they were, in general, well-managed and orderly.

1.20 The remit of this study was as follows:

  • To assess the current processes and procedures for arranging and running marches, parades and static demonstrations in Scotland from the perspectives of those seeking to march, parade or demonstrate and those who need to authorise and police such events.
  • To identify the issues arising from these, both positive and negative, and to do so in light of the changes since the Review of Marches and Parades in Scotland in 2005; the report on the Community Impact of Marches and Parades in 2015; and the report on Sectarianism and its Consequences by the Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland in 2015.
  • To report to Scottish Ministers in early 2016 setting out recommendations for any actions identified to achieve the correct balance of rights between those who wish to march, parade and demonstrate and the communities that these events impact upon: this can include the sharing of best practice from events such as those recognised as having a positive community impact.

1.21 As well as this remit, the following broad questions were provided prior to meetings with police, local authority officials and parade organisers (see Appendix A for the full text of the letter sent to contributors):

  • Has the organisation, administration and policing of marches and parades in Scotland improved since the publication of Sir John Orr's Review of Marches and Parades in Scotland, published in 2005?
  • What are the current issues and/or problems that you currently experience and what action would you like to see taken in response to these?

1.22 Contributors to this study were drawn from three of the key parties to any march or parade: the police, the local authority, and the parading organisation itself. Those contributing included:

  • Apprentice Boys of Derry (Scottish Amalgamated Committee)
  • Cairde na hÉireann
  • Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA)
  • Glasgow City Council
  • Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland
  • Highland Council (via email)
  • James Connolly Society
  • North Ayrshire Council (via email)
  • North Lanarkshire Council
  • Orkney Council (via email)
  • Police Scotland
  • Provincial Grand Black Chapter of Scotland
  • Scottish Borders Council (via email)

1.23 This study consisted of lengthy face to face discussions with the bodies noted above and/or email contributions. As background to previous work with the Advisory Group, and continued as part of this study, Dr Rosie observed a number of marches and parades, attended (as a member of the public) several relevant local authority licencing committee meetings, and researched the documentation and guidance available online.

The Orr Review, 2005

1.24 Sir John Orr was commissioned in 2004 by the, then, Scottish Executive to undertake a review of marches and parades in Scotland. His remit covered five specific areas: the period of notice required from organisers; community involvement in decision making; determining when and why parades should be restricted or prohibited; the volume of parades and their community impact; and the policing of marches and parades.

1.25 Orr published his Review of Marches and Parades in Scotland in 2005. The key legislative changes which came into effect from April 2007 were that:

we have increased the minimum amount of notice that organisers must give to your local authority about their intention to march (from seven days to 28 days);

we have removed the ability that a local authority previously had to exempt certain processions from the requirements to give notice;

your local authority must consider a range of issues when deciding whether to prevent a procession or place conditions on it;

your local authority must take account of whether a procession may place too much of a burden on the police;

your local authority must take into account the effect that a previous procession had on public safety issues and how far those involved kept to any code of conduct or guidance; and

your local authority must keep a list of processions that have been held in their area, or which have been prevented, to allow the public to see which processions happen regularly and which are likely to happen in the future.

( Consultation into Marches and Parades in Scotland , 2008, p4)

1.26 Following consideration of the review and the publication of the Report of the Working Group on Marches and Parades in December 2006, the then Scottish Executive issued Guidance for Scottish local authorities in December 2006 to assist local authorities in addressing the changes to march and parade legislation put in place by the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act, 2006.

1.27 The Scottish Government undertook a Consultation into Marches and Parades in Scotland , reviewing how the procedural and legislative changes were working, in 2008. This asked the general public (and particularly march organisers and community organisations), local authorities, and the (then) eight Scottish police forces, to reflect upon the key legislative changes introduced in 2007. The Scottish Government subsequently published their Analysis of Consultation Responses in 2009.


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