Review of Marches and Parades In Scotland: Guidance for Scottish Local Authorities

Guidance for Scottish local authorities on marches and parades in Scotland.

Guidance on Public Processions - General Information


1 This guidance is issued by the Scottish Ministers under Section 65A of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982. It sets out the changes to the law of public processions made by the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006 ('the 2006 Act') and what your local authority need to take account of when assessing notifications to hold a procession. It also sets out the steps that your local authority should take when considering whether it is necessary for them to prevent a procession from taking place or place conditions on it under Part V of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 ('the 1982 Act'). The guidance has been prepared by a working group chaired by the Scottish Executive and involving those with an interest from the police and COSLA.

Relationship to the report of the working group on marches and parades

2 We recommend that you read this guidance with the working group's report 'Review of Marches and Parades - Report of the Working Group on Marches and Parades' which is available at The working group's report gives you detailed information on how Scottish Ministers recommend that your local authority put all 38 recommendations in Sir John Orr's report 'Review of Marches and Parades in Scotland' into practice.

What this guidance contains

Section one of the guidance sets out the law changes made by the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006.

Section two summarises some of the good practice highlighted in the working group's report which we encourage your local authority to adopt.

Section three gives your local authority a practical step-by-step guide through the administrative process and how the changes should fit in to the process for considering notifications.


Annex A is an example of a letter which your local authority could send to any organisations your local authority keep on their 'opt-in list' (see paragraphs 51 to 54 about the purpose of opt-in lists).

Annex B is a brief outline of what might appear in your local authority's 'How to' guide so that organisers can better plan their events.

Annex C provides an example of a risk-assessment form which your local authority could ask organisers to fill in.

Annex D is a standard notification form for organisers to complete.

Annex E is a process chart to take your local authority through all the major steps for assessing notifications. This is a separate document which your local authority can pin on the office wall.

Who should read this guidance

3 We have drafted this guidance for local-authority use. It sets out the new duties and powers placed on local authorities by the 2006 Act and also suggests standard practices they should take account of and may want to adopt when considering notifications under the new arrangements. However, it is also particularly relevant to the chief executives of the two national park authorities in Scotland, the chief constables of the eight police authorities and will be of interest to all marching organisers. As a result, we have sent copies of this guidance to them along with the report of the working group.

Organisations covered by this guidance

4 This guidance applies to all marches and parades held in Scotland. The 2006 Act has removed the ability for local authorities to exempt people and organisations who organise marches and parades in their areas from the requirement to give notice that they plan to hold an event. The only processions which are exempt from the notification process are those organised by funeral directors. This change will help to make sure that communities, local authorities, the police and the National Parks Authority (if it applies) have a full picture of all the processions that may be taking place in a particular local authority area. Any procession whose organiser will be exempt from the requirement to give notice, will be mentioned in an order made by the Scottish Ministers (see paragraphs 23 to 25).

Categories of notification

5 Although from 1 April 2007 notifications of all processions (apart from funeral processions and any exempt processions) must formally be made to the relevant local authority and the police (and the National Parks Authority, if appropriate), we do not want to introduce too much paperwork. This is particularly true for events which are low-key or routine. As a result, your local authority may want to categorise notifications and consider - in line with the aim of making sure that they keep communities well enough informed and consult the police (and National Parks Authority, if appropriate) - how much of the good practice highlighted in this guidance would be necessary in cases where your local authority class the notification as:

  • a traditional event;
  • a routine march;
  • a procession which is not contentious; or
  • a procession which has a good history in the past.

6 There will be little point, for example, in beginning a community-consultation exercise if the event is a traditional one which, by its very nature, involves the community as a whole in marking or celebrating significant events in the past (Common Ridings, for example). However, we would emphasise that all local authorities must follow the legal duties imposed by the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.

7 When considering whether your local authority should class an event as low-key, non-contentious or routine, they may want to consider the notification with the police and assess the factors listed in section 63(8) of the 1982 Act. If this assessment suggests - and the police agree - that your local authority can class the notification as low-key, not likely to cause a disturbance, or routine, they could 'fast track' it and handle most arrangements by phone or e-mail. It is also likely that your local authority would not need to hold a meeting (see paragraphs 60 to 61) or assess the risk against other tests (see paragraphs 62 to 64). These are, in any case, not legal requirements. However, we would remind you that it is a legal requirement for your local authority to consider the effect of a procession against the factors listed in section 63(8) of the 1982 Act. It is also a legal requirement for a local authority to consult the police before making an order which prevents a procession from taking place or places conditions on it.

8 If a number of similar events which are not likely to cause a disturbance take place regularly in communities throughout your area, your local authority may want to consider setting up a system with the police and organisers to make sure that your local authority take any new legal requirements in the 1982 Act, or lessons from previous experience fully into account. Your local authority may also want to arrange a meeting with the organiser and the police.

Monitoring local authorities and the police

9 We do not presently collect and centrally hold any information on marches and parades in Scotland. In line with recommendation 7 of Sir John Orr's report, we want to have procedures in place to make sure that local authorities and the police are putting the new processes into practice in a way which is appropriate to their circumstances. As a result, we met the Accounts Commission and HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary and others to discuss how we might collect relevant information. Your local authority can find more information on monitoring, and when it will be collected, in the working group's report. We will also write to your local authority at a later date to explain how we plan to take the monitoring forward and what it will cover. However, to give a broad idea of activity, we may ask your local authority to provide information on:

  • how they have put into practice the main changes to the legislation;
  • the methods they use for letting communities know about processions;
  • the number and types of processions being held in the area;
  • the methods used for promoting lists of processions kept under section 63(9) of the 1982 Act and how the information needed under section 63 (10) of the 1982 Act is kept; and
  • how information is shared between local authorities.

Legislation to be aware of when considering notifications

Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights

10 It is important for your local authority to keep in mind that the 'right to freedom of peaceful assembly' is protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. In particular, Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights sets out this right. The right to 'free assembly' is not an absolute one, and can be restricted if needed to:

  • protect national security or public safety;
  • prevent disorder or crime;
  • protect health or morals; or
  • protect the rights and freedom of others.

The restriction to be placed on the right to free assembly must also be in proportion so it is compatible with Article 11 of the Convention.

Other legislation

11 Depending on the nature of the event, there is other legislation which may also apply to processions. This could include:

  • the Public Order Act 1936, which forbids people from wearing uniforms signifying association with any banned organisations;
  • the Public Order Act 1986, which relates to the powers of chief constables during or immediately before a march or parade; and
  • the conditions in the Terrorism Act 2000 relating to being members of or supporting, or fund-raising for, an organisation forbidden by law. Local government licensing laws may also apply as may some conditions of road-traffic laws.

12 The following laws may also be relevant.

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (to see what measures your local authority need to take for events which may carry a risk to health and safety).
  • The Food Safety Act 1990 (where food is provided or sold at the event).
  • The Occupiers Liability (Scotland) Act 1960 (duty of care so that people do not suffer injury and so on).
  • The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 (for making orders to temporarily prevent people from having rights of access to land).
  • The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 as amended by the Road Traffic (Temporary Restrictions) Act 1991 and the Road Traffic Regulation (Special Events) Act 1994 for any restrictions which are to be put in place such as closing roads, diversions, signs or traffic cones (see paragraph 29 for more advice).
  • The Road Traffic Act 1967 (the conditions which set out the powers of the police).
  • The Control of Pollution Act 1974 (for the use of loud speakers).

13 This is not a full list and there may be other laws which apply. Your local authority will need to consider each case on its merits and consult the police when appropriate.

Licences, permits and certificates

14 Depending on the nature of the procession, your local authority may also need to provide licences, permits and certificates for it. These could include a public-entertainment licence, a liquor licence, a street trader's licence, a licence for using a park or open space, a lottery permit, a licence for a charitable collection or a market operator's licence. Your local authority should consider whether any type of licence is needed and give organisers a note of any fee which may apply.

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