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 3: Issues Raised

Static demonstrations

3.1 One of the issues raised by this study, and flagged up to all (potential) respondents, was that of 'static demonstrations', that is protests and demonstrations which do not involve a procession from point A to point B. Such events are not covered by the marches and parades legislation and do not require prior notification (though many are notified to local authorities by the organisers). In recent years they have been most associated with controversial (and heavily policed) events held by the Scottish Defence League ( SDL) in various parts of Scotland, as well as counter demonstrations to these and to other events. They have also been associated in and around Glasgow with relatively small protest events held by the Regimental Blues, a group associating itself with Scotland's 'Protestant-Unionist-Loyalist' community.

3.2 Parading organisations had little comment on static demonstrations per se, but several noted frustration with a public tendency to roll together all Loyal Order and associated parades or all Irish Republican groups. Key organisations felt that a poorly stewarded or disruptive event by a smaller group could attract media attention and public concern that would, unfairly, reflect on themselves. There was also a concern that some small groups might be subverting the notification procedures which key parading organisations were adhering to. This might arise where a highly controversial static demonstration was called at location A and the organiser called on members to rendezvous at location B (for example a railway station). In such circumstances police would feel obliged to 'escort' participants from point A to point B, in effect a parade which might have been prohibited under the normal Notification process.

3.3 We did hear some concern over static demonstrations from local authority officials and from Police Scotland. In particular, senior police officers noted that it was difficult to impose conditions on static demonstrations even where there were demonstrable concerns. The terms of Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 allow for restrictions only where police can show that the event was likely to result in "serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community" and/or where the purpose of the demonstration was "the intimidation of others". Restrictive conditions may only apply to the number of people who may take part in the demonstration, its location, and its maximum duration. There is nothing in the Public Order Act that allows the prohibition of a static demonstration. [8] That such events do not require to be Notified in advance to local authorities or to police raises obvious potential difficulties and requires good police intelligence of the likely plans and intentions of groups holding static demonstrations. Police are also limited by the legislative definition of a "public assembly" under Section 16 of the Act: "an assembly of 20 or more persons in a public place which is wholly or partly open to the air". In England & Wales this definition was amended to "two or more persons" some years ago [9] , and senior police officers feel a similar amendment would be useful in Scotland. At present an assembly of, say, 15 people can only be addressed through common law (i.e. breach of the peace) - senior officers believe that statutory powers are "always better", and offer more consistent and transparent police decision making.

3.4 We heard concerns raised by one particular authority with regard to static demonstrations. The local authority officers in question expressed some disappointment that these issues had been previously raised with the Scottish Government without significant progress. The local authority raised two specific issues. Firstly, prior behaviour at static demonstrations cannot be taken into account when considering march and parade notifications from the same organisation. Secondly, it is very difficult to engage with the smaller groups who tend to hold static demonstrations. These groups tend to differ from Parading organisations in three particular ways which make it difficult to build dialogue and relationships: they often have volatile membership; they may take 'hard-line' positions where they do not wish to engage with local authorities and/or police; and they may find such engagement difficult through organisational inexperience.

3.5 It should be stressed here that static demonstrations were not seen by senior officers as a major challenge to policing, though they sometimes offer more immediate challenges and resource implications than notified marches and parades, not least when a static demonstration is faced with a counter demonstration. In comparison to the many hundreds of notified marches and parades across Scotland each year, static demonstrations are relatively infrequent and tend to be small scale and in urban centres. It was notable that they were raised as an issue at only one of our local authority meetings, suggesting that they are geographically restricted in their impact.


3.6 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.

3.7 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.

Accessible information and guidance

3.8 It is not always easy to find clear information about forthcoming parades. Parading organisations themselves often tend to 'advertise' events only to (potential) supporters, and local authority websites are sometimes difficult to navigate. Clear accessible information for ordinary citizens whose lives and businesses may be inconvenienced is at a premium, although there are some excellent local authority websites whereby information is easily findable, informative and clear.

3.9 The 2008 Consultation on Marches and Parades asked (amongst other things) local authorities to provide details about what information they made available and through what means. Of the 32 local authorities, 17 responded. For the purposes of this study we adopted the perspective of a member of the public who might wish to organise a march or parade, to know about marches and parades in their area, or to make comments on or objections to a march or parade. We have already noted police views, as cited above, that there were wide inconsistencies in the provision of such information.

3.10 To assess this, the websites of all 32 local authorities in Scotland were perused, searching for 'processions', 'parades' or 'marches'. If we did not find information on the websites, we hoped to find directions on where such information was held, and how it could be accessed. For the most part, at least some information was readily available. This was not, however, the case for several local authorities. The website of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, for example, noted only that "Notification Of Public Processions" was amongst "the various licences, permits and permissions issued by the Comhairle" [10] . No further information could be found about marches and parades or who in the local authority might furnish this. The website of Midlothian Council did not appear to contain any apparent guidance on, or information about, parades, marches or processions - although some very limited information about processions and traffic management was found in an Environmental Health Event Safety Guide for Large Events. Much of the following, therefore, is based on analysis of the remaining 30 local authority websites. This includes Edinburgh City Council, which does not carry any clear information on its key website, but has devolved it to an ancillary one. That website is very difficult to find and navigate, even for those who know where to look, and there are no obvious directions from the Council's main site.

Information for organisers

3.11 Some informative and accessible websites represent templates which other local authorities might emulate. Falkirk's website offers a clear summary of key considerations for organisers and downloads which are well-presented, clear and informative. The Notification form is accompanied with clear Standard Conditions with Guidance notes written in accessible plain language. South Lanarkshire also offers simple and clear 'how to' guides relating to responsibilities and to procedures; allows organisers to give Notice online; and presents a clear Code of Conduct.

3.12 Other websites offer examples of good practice: Glasgow's website offers a very clear overview for organisers, not least of what they can expect the Council to do once a Notice has been received; allows Notices to be completed online; and provides a clear and comprehensive Policy and Code of Conduct on Public Processions. Substantial and clear guidance is also provided by Dumfries & Galloway; East Dunbartonshire; West Dunbartonshire; and West Lothian. Whilst many websites make reference to the legislative framework, North Ayrshire's website provides direct weblinks to the text of this legislation, again a useful and helpful practice. There are, however, clear improvements which could be made in the way that local authorities present information and procedures.


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

A 'licensing mentality'

3.14 Several contributors - from a variety of roles - described a "licensing mentality" in some local authorities whereby marches and parades are seen as requiring the 'permission' of local authorities. In almost all of Scotland's local authorities it is the Licensing Departments and Committees which process and consider Notices - some local authorities may thus fall into the habit of treating marches and parades in the same manner as other licensing issues before them. This is, at the least, strongly implicit on a number of local authority websites which treat marches and parades as activities that require to be 'approved', 'licensed' or 'permitted' by the local authority. One local authority, for example, explicitly describes the notification process as "applying … for this particular licence", stating that: "Every public procession in [x] will require the approval of [X] Council and [Y] Police". Notably, the pre-amalgamation police force was named, suggesting that no meaningful revision of the web information had been undertaken for some years. Whilst this was the most explicit misrepresentation of the Notification process, several other local authority websites framed marches and parades in similar terms of 'permission'.

3.15 This is not simply a matter of semantics: such information is misleading and implies a quite different set of relationships between, and responsibilities of, the various parties interested in marches and parades (the organiser, the local authority and other public authorities, and the police). Building and maintaining strong and mutually respectful relationships between these parties is crucial. Such relationships would ensure continued good practice on all sides and contribute to reassuring the general public that the vast majority of marches and parades in Scotland pass without significant public disorder or anti-social behaviour. Any 'licensing mentality', in this respect, is unhelpful, and may set an inappropriate and limiting 'tone' in the relationship between organiser and local authority from the outset.

3.16 Good practice in how to frame a more positive and helpful relationship can be found on other local authority websites which give a more balanced view of duties, rights and obligations. Two good examples are North Ayrshire and West Dunbartonshire.

3.17 North Ayrshire frames its guidance in the following clear terms:

Generally, if you intend to hold a public procession, march or parade in North Ayrshire, you'll need to submit a notice of proposal to the council.

The legal position of processions is different from the licences we grant, for example to drive a taxi or run a public house. We are not granting a licence or allowing the procession. The question we ask is "should this procession be prohibited?"

North Ayrshire Council can only prohibit a procession for specified reasons laid down by legislation […] We cannot prohibit a procession because the views of the participants are controversial. [11]

3.18 West Dunbartonshire also offers a useful general framing:

The European Convention of Human Rights gives a 'right to freedom of peaceful assembly', and the Council has a positive obligation to protect that right. However that right can be restricted, for example to protect public safety or prevent disorder. The Council cannot prohibit a procession simply because some people may be offended by it. [12]


3.19 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.

Processing Notifications

3.20 A key recommendation in the Orr Review was that both local authorities and police "should set up 'single gateways' within their organisations to deal with procession notifications" [13] . Good practice in this regard is widespread, with most local authorities having gone somewhat further than the minimum expected. Whilst Orr assumed that Notifiers would give Notice to the local authority and police separately, most Scottish local authorities now take responsibility for passing Notices to Police Scotland, in effect offering one Single Gateway. Doing so saves time, reduces the possibility of confusion or error between the two state agencies, and creates a simpler system for parade organisers.

3.21 On several occasions during this study two particular arrangements were described as 'best practice': Edinburgh's Events Planning and Operations Group ( EPOG) and Scottish Borders' Safety Advisory Group ( SAG) process.

3.22 Edinburgh's EPOG arose out of the advisory groups recommended for large sporting events and has now been used in non-sporting contexts for 20 years. The EPOG can be defined as:

A co-ordinated multi-agency approach to event and crowd safety [providing] all participating agencies with consistent information throughout the planning process.

3.23 The EPOG considered over 150 events during 2014 and thus constitutes a considerable saving of inter-agency time and effort [14] . Perhaps just as importantly, the regular meeting of these agencies with parade organisers - often in less formal and intimidating surroundings than Council Committee rooms - helps to build good relationships upon which trust can be invested and difficult decisions made through dialogue.

3.24 We heard the EPOG system highly praised from a number of sources - from police and local authority respondents, as well as from Parading organisations. Notably the EPOG model was picked up and developed by Scottish Borders Council from 2012.

3.25 Scottish Borders' 'Safety Advisory Group' brings together key agencies and event organisers. Representatives of Scottish Borders Council, Police Scotland and Trunk Roads operators are present at each meeting, with standing invitations to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Ambulance Service who attend when they feel appropriate. Other agencies may attend depending on the event in question.

3.26 The benefits of such a multi-agency approach are varied, but key here are that it "provides a 'one stop shop' for event organisers. Prior to the introduction of SAG, event organisers had to send emails and make phone calls to many agencies and departments. Now they have everyone they need to meet around the table". In working with the SAG event organisers are required to produce and event plan clearly outlining the safety elements to their proposed event, and "are provided with multi-agency assistance in producing these plans, where required". [15] Repeated engagement through the SAG thus builds the organisational capacity of organisers and builds good relations and trust. The SAG process has, for example, markedly improved the stewarding of key 'Common Riding' events in the Borders, reducing the police resources required.

3.27 In 2015, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( CoSLA) recommended the SAG model to its members, and it is anticipated that this model will be rolled out across Scotland.

3.28 Whilst we welcome that initiative, and the pooling of resources, knowledge and best practice that it will promote, we would note some recent issues relating to Edinburgh's EPOG system. We heard concerns expressed both by parading organisations and some local authority officials about the capacity of Edinburgh's EPOG to continue to deliver the good relations noted above. In recent years there appears to have been a rising number of marches and parades which, notwithstanding the EPOG process, are remitted to Edinburgh's Licensing Sub-Committee [16] . Parade organisers reported that 'agreements' made within the EPOG - which has delegated powers to make decisions where notifications are not remitted to the Licensing Sub-Committee - have been called into question, or reversed, at Committee. Several felt that the dialogue and long-built relations of trust built up through EPOG were undermined at Committee, in some part through a 'licensing mentality', in the formalised style of its meetings and the 'politicisation' of the process through increased involvement of elected members. The principle of the EPOG process itself is viewed in very high regard but recent procedural changes have appeared, in effect, to have undermined good relationships built up over a number of years.

3.29 It seems clear that those few local authorities who still require organisers to separately Notify Police Scotland should adopt the practice of most local authorities and take responsibility for this. The good practice as found in, for example, Edinburgh and Scottish Borders has been shared with other local authorities through CoSLA - and the Scottish Government might give some thought as to how to best support CoSLA in encouraging the widest dissemination and implementation of good practice in planning around marches and parades. Crucially, where decision-making powers are not delegated to 'safety advisory groups' this needs to be clear to march and parade organisers so that they understand the basis of the discussion. Thought should also be given to the unintended consequences of procedural changes to the relationships and dialogue built up previously.


3.30 Local authorities and police should give further serious consideration to using the 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.

3.31 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.

Codes of Conduct and Standard Conditions

3.32 Most Scottish local authorities (21 of 32) provide very clear online documents relating to the 'Code of Conduct' and/or 'Standard Conditions' applied to all marches and parades in their area. There is much, therefore, by way of good practice in this regard and ample and varied templates for Codes of Conduct/Standard Conditions which could be easily tailored to local conditions.


3.33 Those local authorities who do not have clear codes of conduct and/or 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.

3.34 There are several other issues relating to Codes of Conduct/Standard conditions which were raised by our contributors and are worthy of further consideration.

Stewards and Marshals

3.35 Most local authorities make specific comment on the expectation they have of organisers providing adequate stewards and marshals for their march or parade. Effective stewarding is central to a successful event and can allow organisers to take control of their event whilst reducing demands on police. Many local authorities expressly define the required ratio of stewards to participants as 1:10, whilst others state no particular ratio, noting only that "sufficient stewards and marshals shall be present to ensure that participants comply with directions". There is no reason why a definitive ratio should be given by all local authorities, not least since local conditions and contexts should be paramount, and given that some organisations have highly skilled and trained stewards whilst others do not.


3.36 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.

Music (time restrictions and other specific exclusions)

3.37 Around two thirds of local authorities (22 of 30) make specific mention of the music/bands accompanying marches and parades. This is of obvious relevance to both Loyal Order and Irish Republican parades: both have musical traditions which form intrinsic parts of their events. Both, more broadly, also feature parades organised by bands (or band alliances) quite separately from the key organisations. Local authorities make two types of limitation specific to the playing of music - those relating to time of day and those relating to the cessation of music around specific places or buildings.

3.38 There is considerable variation across those local authorities who place explicit time restrictions on the playing of music at marches and parades reflecting local conditions and contexts, and many local authorities are quite clear that these are guidelines which may be varied under certain circumstances. [17] Such flexibility is laudable given that music can be at the very heart of the culture of a given march or parade, but may simultaneously be - especially during the early morning near residential areas - the aspect of the parade most disruptive to the general community.


3.39 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.

3.40 The other restriction many local authorities make around music relates to particular spaces and places, the most common of which is a 'place of worship'. Most Councils who make standard conditions on music stipulate that bands should cease to play when approaching or passing a place of worship when a service is in progress; sometimes adding the provision "as instructed by the police". Other local authorities ask bands to cease playing when passing a place of worship per se, with East Renfrewshire and Glasgow adding the explicit codicil "irrespective of whether a service is in progress". Several respondents, particularly (but not only) the Loyal Orders, noted practical difficulties around interpretation and application of these Conditions with regards to music.

3.41 Firstly, the provision "as instructed by the Police" suggest a flexibility on what actually happens on the day. That flexibility can be a positive for paraders, in that it puts the onus on Police to indicate which places of worship might be conducting services. But it may also be a negative, should commanding officers lack local knowledge or appear to 'contradict' past practice. The question arises: whose responsibility is it to identify 'places of worship' along a march or parade route? This is important since not all such places will be (architecturally) 'obvious' to ordinary citizens. Glasgow Council notes that such places are those which "have been established by the Council as being in regular use for the purpose of religious observance". This takes clear responsibility for such definition and communication of such to organisers and police and represents best practice.

3.42 A second point relates to why only 'places of worship' might be thought sensitive to musical disruption. It is not at all clear, for example, why a marriage ceremony in a Registry Office or other venue should not be deserving of the same considerations as one in a place of worship. This is of practical importance since most marriage ceremonies in contemporary Scotland - about three in every four - do not take place in a place of worship [18] . Edinburgh Council offers a broader definition suitable for a multi-faith and considerably secularised Scotland: it asks that music ceases whilst passing "any place of worship or any other location where a recognised religious, cultural, or legal ceremony is taking place". This covers a very wide range of possible 'solemn occasions' which might be seen as needing a reasonable degree of quiet (and upon which we heard no disagreement from any parading organiser who readily accept the need to respect such occasions). It does, though, re-emphasise the need for local authorities to take the lead in identifying likely places where such ceremonies might be taking place so that march and parade organisers and police can be adequately briefed beforehand. This could go some way in reducing perceptions that some parades are unreasonably disruptive because of their musical traditions.

3.43 Other local authorities also note that "further restrictions may be required after considering the type of premises on the proposed route e.g. residential developments, places of worship, football grounds and public houses." Although vague, this formulation retains considerably flexibility and alerts march and parade organisers to the fact that local circumstances and contexts need to be considered in the processing of their notification, and might form part of the dialogue and negotiation around proposed timings and routes.

3.44 A final point relates to the implication (or, in some cases, direct stipulation) that music should cease when passing a place of worship irrespective of whether or not a service or ceremony is taking place. Whilst such a 'blanket' rule might offer more ready interpretation on the day (not least if the place of worship is architecturally distinctive, such as a traditional church or mosque), the three Loyal Order's view this as having a disproportionate and negative impact upon their parades.

3.45 There does indeed seem to be a good case to suggest that such 'blanket' restrictions may well be disproportionate. Concretely, this relates to the decision by Edinburgh Council in 2014 to add the words "whether or not services are in progress" to their Standard Condition (a decision that seems to have been taken without wider stakeholder consultation). When the Council's Licensing Sub-Committee sought to apply the amended Condition to two notified parades, a legal challenge was mounted and the parades took place without the added restriction on music. Subsequently Edinburgh noted that the additional clause "would likely be regarded as unlawful by the Sheriff" and the Council removed the words "whether or not services are in progress". [19] It is not clear whether this legal advice was shared with other local authorities, not least those with the identical clause, nor what relevance it might have for future legal challenges.


3.46 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 Council'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.

3.47 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.

Weapons and Halberds

3.48 Another issue brought to our attention by some organisers was claimed inconsistency on whether or not spear-tops on banner poles (generally, if rather inaccurately, described as 'halberds') were acceptable.

3.49 This issue is mentioned by 13 Local Authorities, of whom 11 make the unequivocal statement that 'No halberds or weapons of any description shall be carried'. Two Local Authorities carry standard conditions open to considerable interpretation. Falkirk passes responsibility to the police to decide the (presumably relatively rare) occasions when such adornments are acceptable. Glasgow insists that such items are prohibited, except where prior agreement has been made. Whilst these positions seem sensible - allowing for some contextual flexibility - Glasgow's final clause notes that prior agreement is subject to ratification 'on the day' by the Police commander. This seems unnecessarily vague and open to possible feeling that prior agreements may be 'reneged upon'. Wherever possible such details should be discussed and agreed prior to the actual day of the march or parade, and adhered to by all parties (unless a genuinely unforeseen contingency arises).


3.50 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.

Information for the public

3.51 There is a very mixed quality of accessible information available online to those who might wish to find information about marches and parades in their local area and/or who wish to make formal comments on or objections to a march or parade. The 2008 Consultation on Marches and Parades found that individuals respondents (though notably few in number) were, "in the main, unaware of when marches take place in their communities" (p4). This is disappointing since such information relates directly to several recommendations made in the Orr Review:

[9] Local authorities should prepare an annual digest of processions with organisers at the beginning of the calendar year and update it every quarter and ensure the digest is well publicised and accessible.

[10] Local authorities should provide up-to-date information about forthcoming processions to local communities using the most appropriate means.

[11] Local authorities should maintain an 'opt-in' list for organisations to receive information about processions

[12] Local authorities should establish mechanisms appropriate to their areas to ensure that communities are able to express views on processions.

[13] Local authorities should take into account wider views, including community views, when taking decisions on procession notifications.

[14] Local authorities should put in place clear procedures for considering community views.

3.52 The Scottish Executive's Guidance for Scottish local authorities of 2006 noted (point 36) that it would be 'good practice [for Councils] to keep and regularly update a list of processions on their website'; recommended [point 38] facilitating those who may wish to make representations or objections by defining the acceptable time limits and appropriate contacts; and, recommended [points 51 through 53] that "opt-in lists" be created to circulate information to those who wished to be informed [20] . Whilst making these available online goes beyond the strict statutory obligations of local authorities, they seem sensible and cost-effective ways to meet the letter and the spirit of the 2006 Act.

3.53 It is somewhat disappointing to note, therefore, that almost a decade on from that guidance the websites of twelve Local Authorities appear to give no information (nor indication of where one might find such information) whatsoever about forthcoming or past marches and parades; and only 16 Local Authorities' websites furnish any information about making representations about, or objections to, a forthcoming parade (though in some cases this information is vague). Clear information on opt-in lists is relatively rare. Good practice in these areas of information can be found on the websites of many local authorities, and the following sections highlight some of the best of these.

Future Marches and Parades

3.54 Of the 32 Local Authority websites explored, approximately one third (n = 12) appeared to contain no information about future marches and parades and nor did they indicate where such information might be held and how to access it. Best practice related to future marches and parades (and, indeed, a digest of past marches and parades) would provide accessible information about all Notified marches and parades with sufficient detail on the purpose/organiser, start time and date (with estimated end time), and details of the route. Good practice in this regard is found on the websites of, amongst others, Glasgow, Inverclyde and North Lanarkshire Council, although the sheer volume of marches and parades in these areas means some kind of search or browse function would be extremely useful.

3.55 Very good practice is represented by Falkirk Council which provides a clear and accessible list of forthcoming marches and parades, with good information on dates, times and routes. Usefully each march or parade description is followed with information on how to make a comment or objection, and to whom and by when the comments should be made.

3.56 Best practice is represented by the website of South Lanarkshire Council which offers a clear and comprehensive list of marches and parades with full information including a clear indication of the deadline for comments and/or objections. In most cases, information on confirmed marches and parades is accompanied with a downloadable map of the route. The list of marches and parades can be browsed by A-Z of organisation, or by date (past/this month/forthcoming).

3.57 It is clear that some local authority areas are faced with far more marches and parades than others and thus face a considerable administrative task in assembling relevant information and making it available in an accessible form. Many local authorities already utilise the Tell Me Scotland web portal to provide information on public notices on traffic, planning and licensing and Renfrewshire currently advertise their march and parade Notifications through the site. This may be one option for local authorities who do not currently have adequately comprehensive and accessible lists online.


3.58 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 can be provided.

Opt in lists

3.59 Very few local authority websites referred to 'opt-in' lists, let alone gave clear details on their purpose and how to be added. Two examples stood out as good practice.

3.60 Highland Council offer a clear flagging up of where and how individuals and organisations can add themselves to a geographically-defined area list for information on notified marches and parades. Similarly, South Lanarkshire offers a clear opt-in form allowing applicants to choose from 14 local areas and indicate how they wish to be kept informed.

3.61 Notably the 2008 Consultation on Marches and parades reported that 14 local authorities "indicated they now had an 'opt-in' or key interest groups list, to whom they sent details of forthcoming marches and parades" (p7). It is clear that most of those local authorities are not advertising that fact on their websites, and they should be encouraged to do so as to include as wide a range of interested individuals and organisations as possible. Those without opt in lists (which appear to be a majority of local authorities) should introduce them.


3.62 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 on such lists have the opportunity to do so. Where a local authority does not have such lists, they should be introduced.

Facilitating Representations and Objections

3.63 A key element in facilitating representation about, and objections to, notified parades is knowledge about them, and it will be grasped that in some local authority areas the lack of any online information about what events have been notified (or on how to access or receive such information) sorely undermines the capacity of 'ordinary' people to make their views known.

3.64 Less than half the local authority websites (n = 15) give information on how to make comments or objections about marches and parades, and for a number of these the information and guidance is vague or limited.

3.65 There are however, several examples of good practice that could be usefully emulated. East Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire and West Lothian invite representations and comment and provide clear contact details and dates by which comments should be made. On the West Lothian site, helpfully, the process for Objections is given equal prominence to that for Notifications - this means that information is very clear and up front.

3.66 Relatively little guidance, however, is given on what kinds of comments and objections local authorities can meaningfully act upon. This would be useful since we heard the frustration from some local authority officials that many of the Objections they received fell outside what could be acted upon. We also witnessed one Licensing Committee accepting into the record a late Objection about a parade based on the claim that it would disrupt a wedding which, it transpired, would not take place until several hours after the march or parade had dispersed. It would seem useful for local authorities to carefully screen Objections such that those which fall outside what local authorities can act upon, or which are inapplicable for other reasons, are not needlessly or uncritically introduced into negotiations with organisers. This might be made more transparent, for all parties, through clearer guidance and processes.

3.67 Such guidance need not be long-winded nor heavy handed. Best practice in this regard can be found on the website of Falkirk Council. This offers Guidance Notes on How to make Representations which are given as much prominence as the other downloads and are clear and concise with full contact details. Helpfully they note: "We consider the effect that the public procession would have on public safety, public order, damage to property and the disruption to the life of the community when deciding whether to prohibit the holding of a procession or impose conditions on it".


3.68 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.

Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders

3.69 The above report has commented repeatedly on issues related to Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders. This was a subject repeatedly raised by parading organisations and by local authority officials without prompting, and was highlighted as an area in need of urgent clarity and consistency. Strikingly, several questions - which appear anything but new - have exercised local authorities and parading organisations, not least when and why a TTRO might be necessary for a march or parade.

3.70 These issues were illuminated through three relatively small Orange Order parades in the east of Scotland in the summer of 2015, all of which saw differing arrangements around the securing of a TTRO [21] . Angus Council arranged for the TTRO which Police Scotland had defined as necessary for an Orange parade in Forfar; likewise Midlothian Council (after some discussion) did so for a parade in Penicuik. In Perth, however, Perth & Kinross Council's Licensing Committee heard that Police Scotland had no objections to a proposed parade "providing a TTRO is in place". Since no TTRO had been applied for - the Licensing Committee's view being that it was the notifier who should apply for the order - Police Scotland's view was treated as an 'objection' [22] . The Perth Orange Lodge was told that all public marches and parades required a TTRO on the basis that Police Scotland were unable to use their emergency powers for pre-notified events. The Perth parade was thus made subject to the condition that a TTRO was put in place by the notifier [23] . This condition was challenged in Court, and the Council subsequently agreed to arrange and pay for the TTRO.

3.71 These three cases highlight quite different ideas about who need apply for a TTRO in relation to a march or parade (although in each case, ultimately it was the local authority who applied) - but in each there was a determination, by Police Scotland, that a TTRO was required. Throughout this study we heard confusion on the part of parade organisers on just when (and why) a TTRO would apply to one of their parades, were told of marked differences by local authority areas about when (or whether) a TTRO would apply to any march or parade in that area, and heard of different local authority processes. It seemed clear that in some local authority areas, march and parade organisers knew little about TTROs because the local authority dealt with them in their entirety: in other areas, organisers were faced with what seemed to be inconsistent local authority policy.

3.72 What does seem to be consistent is that the TTRO issue springs, in key part, from Police Scotland's interpretation of the limits to their capacity to stop and hold traffic, even temporarily, under their 'emergency powers'. This interpretation appears to be fairly recent (although, as noted above, there has been some question over the legal position over a number of years) and it is not (yet) clear whether this interpretation is being acted upon across Scotland, or only in certain territorial Divisions. Police Scotland's Dundee Division wrote, for example, to Angus Council in January 2014 to notify them of "changes in the way that Police Scotland will deploy to events, which may have the potential to impact upon events run by you". Crucially these included the claim that police could not stop traffic for a planned event (here expressly including parades) without a TTRO:

"Only where a TTRO exists do police officers have the legal powers to direct traffic on the public highway other than in an emergency situation […] You should be aware that whilst officers deploy to parades on the public highway, and will continue to do so, police officers are not entitled to utilise their emergency powers at parades or other planned events".

3.73 The logical outcome of this position is that all marches and parades, whatever their size and purpose, will require a TTRO if it is to occupy any portion of the public highway. This report does not discuss whether or not such an interpretation is legally sound - though such a discussion would be extremely worthwhile. Instead it outlines (a) the extent to which this interpretation differs with the (perhaps implicit) role/understanding of TTROs in the recent past, and, (b) various impacts the interpretation will have on marches and parades in Scotland considered in the round.

TTROs - a changed understanding?

3.74 It is quite striking that traffic and road related issues barely feature in the Orr Review, despite the very broad scope and activity of his review and the knowledge and experience, as a retired police officer, Orr brought to bear. Indeed Orr's index contains just a handful of references to road closures or traffic legislation. Even here, his report is merely suggestive: references to TTROs are framed within "other legislation which might apply to marches and parades depending on the particular facts and circumstances of each march/parade" (5.46). It will be immediately grasped that such a contextual framing is incompatible with the view that every march and parade will require a TTRO.

3.75 The Guidance for Scottish local authorities 2006 refers to the Galas and Events guidance of 2005 but neither document highlights TTROs in any significant way and is vague on when and why a road would need to be closed for the kind of march or parade considered here. Strikingly, and as noted above, the Galas and Events document followed a Scottish Executive consultation on a range of traffic issues in which some local authorities noted considerable confusion on when a TTRO would be required and the status of police action related to marches and parades and traffic where an order was not in place.

3.76 Traffic regulation did not feature at all prominently in the Scottish Government's Consultation on Marches and Parades of 2008, in Strathclyde Police's Loyalist and Republican Parade Review of 2010, or in the Community Impact of Public Processions report. Neither Glasgow City Council's Review of Policy on Public Processions nor the subsequent Policy and Code of Conduct for Public Processions it agreed in 2014 emphasise traffic management issues. Notably, Glasgow's 2014 policy notes only that "In certain circumstances a TTRO (Temporary Traffic Regulation Order) will be required to allow the Procession to be undertaken safely" (p16).

3.77 Little further information or guidance can be gleaned from local authority websites. References to TTROs and marches and parades were found on only seven local authority websites. At best, the information available referred to the 2005 Galas and Events guidance, but more frequently noted only that a TTRO 'may' be necessary under 'certain circumstances'. Nowhere are such circumstances further explained. Perth & Kinross Council's website notes only that organisers "are responsible for meeting the cost of a Road Order if it is necessary to close a public road for your event". No context is given as to what makes it necessary to close a road, although the Council had previously informed a parading organisation that all marches and parades would require a TTRO (see above).

TTROs as an urgent issue

3.78 There seem to be at least five issues relating to the legal context that need to be urgently explored and clarified:

  • Marches and parades of the kind discussed here are not specifically referred to in Section 16A of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 and Sections 16A-C of the Road Traffic Regulation (Special Events) Act 1994 . These Acts specifically refer to "relevant events" defined as "any sporting event, social event or entertainment which is held on a road". Notwithstanding their explicit absence from the wording of these Acts, are marches and parades to be included?
  • What powers (if any) do Police Scotland have in temporarily stopping and holding traffic to accommodate a march or parade in the absence of a traffic order?
  • What arrangements (if any) are required (or have been made) to accommodate increasing use of TTROs to the stipulation of The Road Traffic Regulation (Special Events) Act 1994 ( Section 16 B (6)) that only one TTRO may be made on a given stretch of roads in any calendar year without the special permission of Scottish ministers?
  • Given the clarification of the above questions then two broader questions could be answered: when is a TTRO required in relation to a march or parade, and for what reason?

3.79 These issues are urgent because of the impact they are having on local authorities and on parade organisers and upon the relationships between them. Without guidance on the when and for what reason questions, local authorities cannot provide clear guidance to organisers - and we have already seen that some parading organisations are willing to take local authorities to court over such issues. It would be preferable for all parties that the issues here are clarified without recourse to lengthy and costly court proceedings.

3.80 Local authority officials noted that facilitating small marches and parades and managing traffic can be made more difficult where a TTRO is in place. Whilst local authorities understood and appreciated that, for very large events, TTROs can be worthwhile and helpful, they believe that the vast majority of smaller marches and parades and events can be facilitated more effectively - and take place more quickly - without the need for a TTRO. As an example, a minor march or parade can go down one side of the road only, avoiding the need for road closures. TTROs can take away the flexibility of rolling road closures and means whole stretches of road are closed unnecessarily, having a disproportionate impact on traffic flow and heightening public inconvenience.

3.81 There are also pressing questions over the costs of securing a TTRO and implementing any resultant Traffic Management Plan, and over who should meet such costs. If local authorities are to absorb these costs, this will be a very major burden on already hard pressed budgets. If some or all of the costs are passed on to march and parade organisers, then it might make it practically impossible for some organisations to continue to parade - and here we must consider the impact on all organisations who currently parade, not simply those that are the focus of this report. If all marches and parades must secure a TTRO, and if costs are passed on to organisers, then it is difficult to see how many charitable, local community or gala events could continue.

3.82 It might be noted that during the final editing of this report precisely such uncertainties surfaced in Falkirk Council, who - in the absence of clear policy - decided to temporarily meet the £725 fee in securing a TTRO for a march or parade, and consider, on a case by case basis, awarding organisers some funding towards meeting the costs of the resultant Traffic Management Plans. That this issue arose with regards to an Orange Order parade meant that the Council's decision met with considerable (and largely hostile) media coverage [24] . The underlying issue facing the Council, however, was that all marches and parades now appear to 'require' a TTRO and would therefore incur similar costs.

3.83 Local councillors were quoted as feeling that the police had "washed their hands" of their traffic responsibilities and complained about the lack of prior consultation. In response, a senior police officer told the local press: "It's a difficult situation, but we've got to draw the line somewhere in terms of what we can do and what we cannot do. We don't have a legal responsibility for the closure of roads or the enforcement of traffic restrictions at pre-planned events." [25]

3.84 This report makes no judgment on whether or not the Police Scotland interpretation of their emergency powers, or lack thereof, in terms of pre-planned marches and parades, is correct or reasonable. However, it seems absolutely clear that the current situation is sorely lacking clarity and has potential to do damage to existing procedures and relationships. We might add here the grey area of whether passing costs on to organisers would be reasonable or proportionate under Human Rights legislation and - even if they were strictly legal - whether they would be desirable from a broader democratic perspective. The urgency of these questions are thus relevant to every community and organisation in Scotland, not simply parading organisations.

3.85 We would conclude here with two very specific reasons that urgent action is necessary. Firstly, several local authorities have already altered - or are preparing to alter - their general guidance to reflect the tension between the lengthy period required to secure a TTRO and the 28 days required from organisers. This may also reflect the fact that 'block advertising' TTROs on a quarterly, rather than ad hoc or monthly, basis may have considerable cost savings. Whatever the motivations, the outcome may be a tension between legislation and practice.

3.86 West Lothian Council, for example, note in their event guidance that "In order that we can issue an order in plenty of time prior to your event it is recommended that at least 3 months' notice is given of your event, longer if it is a large event likely to require a road closure". Midlothian, in their Event Safety Guide for Large Events , note that given the potential need for a TTRO "A minimum of twelve weeks' notice should be allowed when applying for permission to hold processions, marches and parades in public places. " City of Edinburgh Council are reviewing their Policy and Code of Conduct on Public Processions and propose the following guidance:

Section 2: "Where a road closure or parking restriction is required a TTRO would be necessary to close any roads or to prohibit parking etc. The application process for a TTRO under the Road Traffic Regulation Act for processions and the timescales associated with this process means the Road Services team will require longer than the normal 28 day notification period required under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982. A minimum of 12 weeks' notice is required to allow the Council to meet its statutory obligations." [26]

3.87 Given that the underlying questions of when and for what reason a TTRO might be applicable to a march or parade remain opaque, and given evidence that Police Scotland may regard a TTRO as required for every such march and parade, then we are faced with a clear conflict between the practices of local authorities and the 2006 Act. Edinburgh are concerned that they require 12 weeks' notice "to allow the local authority to meet its statutory obligations", yet the only statutory obligations for organisers is that they give 28 days' notice. The potential here for legal challenge is obvious, though we should also note the general unreasonableness of saying to organisers on the one hand that they must give 28 days' notice, and then on the other say that it will not be possible to facilitate their march or parade for three months.

3.89 That 'unreasonableness' is acutely felt not only by parading organisations (which are understandably vexed upon this issue), but also by local authority officials. The confusion this issue is contributing to, and the creation of additional work for local authorities, is seriously eroding the good relations built up over a number of years between local authority officials and parade organisers. One senior official told us that the TTRO issue had 'set back [Council-organiser] relations' in their Council area 'by twenty years'. Key parading organisations, most notably the Orange Order, strongly agree. The TTRO issue is not simply undermining the legislative outcomes of the Orr Review, but the good relations, often tentative and fragile, that it encouraged. The Orr Review was a major piece of consultation, which raised the minimum statutory notification period to 28 days after careful consideration and with a very broad consensus between all key parties. That consideration, and that consensus, is now seriously undermined.


3.90 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.

3.91 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.


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