Short Life Working Group on Facilitating Peaceful Assemblies: report

The Short Life Working Group on Peaceful Processions in Scotland has reviewed processions in Scotland. The report uses the comparison between Northern Ireland and Scotland as a basis to discuss how well the legislative framework and related processes are working in Scotland.

10. Road closures and 'TTROs'

10.1 We heard about difficulties surrounding the process, timeframe and resources involved in putting in place Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders (TTROs).[95] We note that this is a long-standing problem that took up a great deal of discussion in Rosie's 2016 review.[96] Many – particularly those involved in organising processions – welcomed the more recent agreement that the associated costs would now be covered by local authorities.[97]

10.2 Like the applicable law in Scotland (section 16A of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984), Schedule 3A of the Road Traffic Regulation (NI) Order 1997 in Northern Ireland establishes the power to close a road to facilitate a special event, to enable the public to watch it or to reduce the likely traffic disruption caused by it.[98] Importantly, however, 'public processions' are expressly excluded from the definition of 'special events' in the Northern Ireland legislation – so Schedule 3A cannot be invoked in relation to marches or parades[99] including the provision that allows the relevant authority to recover any costs incurred in connection with or in consequence of making an order.[100]

10.3 Under international human rights law, State authorities have positive duties to facilitate peaceful assemblies and to make it possible for participants to achieve their objectives. These duties may include blocking off streets or redirecting traffic.[101] Moreover, '[r]equirements for participants or organisers either to arrange for or to contribute towards the costs of policing … or other public services associated with peaceful assemblies are generally not compatible with [the right of peaceful assembly under] article 21 [ICCPR].'[102]

10.4 It is clearly important to ensure that traffic is managed in such a way as to ensure the safety of all road users – including those exercising their right of peaceful assembly. Nonetheless, the Working Group was surprised to learn that TTROs were, in some cases, regarded as appropriate for even relatively small-sized processions.

10.5 We heard that the process of putting in place a TTRO was bureaucratic and time-consuming – often taking 21-days (and sometimes longer) of the 28-day notification period. As noted above, the possibility of undertaking such a process only arises in consequence of the inordinately lengthy 28-day notification process. This in turn potentially skews the process in a way that affords undue pre-eminence to traffic considerations.[103] Over-reliance on Section 16A Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 thus risks instilling an understanding of the roads as being primarily for vehicular or pedestrian traffic and not also as spaces for participation.

10.6 In our view, traffic considerations should not occupy such a central place in the notification and adjudicatory processes. The powers of the police to impose temporary traffic regulations ought to be sufficient for the vast majority of processions that take place – and a review of the powers of the police to undertake short-term traffic regulation (including under the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984) would be beneficial.

10.7 The working group welcomes the agreement on TTROs between COSLA and Police Scotland and agrees that the determination of the road traffic requirements of any march or parade must depend on the individual circumstances of the event. Moreover, measures relating to temporary traffic regulation should be agreed between the police and Local Authority in a way that protects the different rights engaged and also makes best use of public resources. Nonetheless, drawing on the example of Northern Ireland, the working group also considers that public processions and related open-air public meetings could be expressly exempted from the category of 'special events' to which TTROs pertain.



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