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

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

Section 2 Advice on good practice


40 This section of the guidance provides advice on good practice which your local authority should take account of when considering notifications under Part V of the 1982 Act. When reading this section we would recommend that your local authority pay particular attention to the section of the working group's report on how the non-statutory recommendations in Sir John's report should be taken forward. This section summarises those which are most relevant to local authorities. It is, of course, important that your local authority involves the police and the National Park Authority (if appropriate) in all the changes that they will be putting into practice when considering notifications to hold processions.

Drafting 'how to' guides

41 'How to' guides can be useful reference documents for organisers, and your local authority may want to give them these guides so that they can better plan and arrange events. The main benefits of this to your local authority are that the organisers will be working within a common framework and will be much more aware of what your local authority expect of them on the way they should plan and manage their processions.

42 We have not produced a thorough 'how to' guide to accompany this guidance as your local authority will no doubt want to draft guides to fit your circumstances. But Annex B to this guidance provides an outline of what might generally appear in a 'how to' guide. However, we would recommend that your local authority put together a guide which best fits the processions which are most commonly held in their area or draft sets of codes to cover all the events that your local authority have to deal with. It would be useful to share good practice widely and get support and advice from other local-authority contacts when preparing your guides.

Drafting codes of conduct

43 We realise that a number of local authorities and police forces will already have voluntary codes of conduct in place for organisers to follow. We also know that some organisers will have their own codes for those taking part. These codes may cover things like:

  • timing;
  • routes;
  • arrangements for assembling and dispersing the procession; and
  • conditions about where people taking part should march (such as how wide the march will be and in what part of the road), or conditions about noise (such as where and when music can be played and loudhailers used).

44 With that in mind, we have not produced a standard code of conduct to accompany this guidance. Your local authority, the police and organisers of processions should create or adopt a particular code of conduct for those involved in the procession. While this should reflect local conditions and experiences, it should also account for the new statutory framework and the good practice set out in this guidance and the report of the working group. It is also for your local authority to decide whether to adapt one code for all processions or to provide a set of codes to suit particular kinds of processions. Your local authority should provide any codes of conduct to organisers alongside the notification form. As with the 'how to' guide (see paragraphs 41 and 42), it would be useful to share good practice widely and get support and advice from other local-authority contacts when preparing your codes.

Creating 'single gateways'


45 We realise that organisers often send their notifications to a number of local-authority departments. This means that they can then find themselves dealing with a number of contacts at the local authority and the police. This can cause confusion for the organiser and may lead to inconsistent advice being given out from different parts of the organisations. Because of this, we recommend that your local authority create a 'single gateway unit' or 'single contact'. This will lead to:

  • a clear structure so that organisers can reach the right person quickly;
  • quicker response times;
  • improved communication between your local authority, the police and the organiser;
  • consistent and reliable advice being given out; and
  • fewer chances of misunderstandings developing.

The process

46 We recommend that your local authority, the National Park Authorities and police forces begin discussions with COSLA and ACPOS to discuss how best to adopt the 'single gateway' process. A single gateway could be achieved by:

  • creating a first point of contact within each organisation;
  • showing the name, official address and phone number of the contact on the notification form and all relevant material that is sent out to the public (leaflets, guidance, posters and so on), websites and so on;
  • making sure, as far as practicable, that the first point of contact in the local authority acts as the source of advice for the organiser and, wherever possible, gathers together decisions made by other parts of the organisation (for example, decisions on routing the march, managing traffic, licensing and so on) and passes these on to the organiser, the police and members of the public; and
  • making each organisation's first point of contact responsible for keeping and recording all information relating to the notification, including the information needed for monitoring purposes.

Sharing information

47 We consider that it is important for your local authority to share their experiences about handling processions more widely among other local authorities and the police so that those involved in the process can learn from others. The single gateway process (see paragraph 46) would provide a straightforward channel of communication between local authorities. Sharing information on the following would be particularly useful.

  • Local authority or police reports on processions held (if these can be released)
  • Reports submitted to local authority committees (if these can be released)
  • Methods used to consult the community
  • Local press articles
  • General guidance issued to marchers, organisers and those taking part, local authorities and police forces
  • Revisions to the codes of conduct and 'how to' guides
  • Procedures for considering risks
  • Processions which have been prohibited and why
  • Representations made by the community on specific processions, as long as your local authority have their permission to do this
  • Additions to opt-in lists (see paragraph 51 to 54 on opt-in lists)
  • Information held on processions, particularly information on any bands that may have been suspended by organisers
  • Anything that has been released under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

48 Your local authority would need to consider the sensitivities (such as data-protection issues) surrounding sharing some of the information listed above and make sure that any information released keeps to any laws, for example, the Data Protection Act 1998) which apply. As a result, they should avoid making public any personal information. For example, your local authority would need to decide - in line with your local authority's own policies - whether they wanted to share information with others on any representations they have received from the community about processions and so on.

49 Your local authority could share information by:

  • publishing it on your local authority's website; or
  • communicating the information using a general e-mail address (see paragraph 50).

50 It is likely that the main contact for this would be the same person your local authority have identified as the 'single gateway'. They could do this by creating an e-mail group, sharing good practice and experiences using a general e-mail address (a general list made up of each of the representatives from the 32 local authorities and eight police authorities together with a representative from COSLA, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE), the Society of Local Authority Lawyers & Administrators in Scotland (SOLAR), the police associations and the Scottish Executive).

Keeping opt-in lists

51 As we said earlier, section 63(10) of the 1982 Act places a duty on local authorities to make arrangements to make sure that anyone who asks for information on processions to be held in their area can receive the appropriate information. We believe that this important change makes it important for your local authority to make sure that certain individuals and organisations receive regular updates on processions to allow them to plan better and work around any problems which could be caused by the procession. This would mean that members of the public with links to these organisations and the organisations themselves are better informed of forthcoming events and can make representations to your local authority, if necessary.

52 We recommend that your local authority creates and updates an opt-in list to let those on the list know about processions that are about to be held (via e-mails or letter). Your local authority will see an example of the type of letter which your local authority could send to organisations on the opt-in list at Annex A. We suggest that your local authority give the organisations on the opt-in lists two weeks to respond with any views about holding the procession.

53 Your local authority's website should also make it clear that they let organisations on their opt-in list know about processions beforehand. The web page should also invite other interested individuals, organisations and groups to get in touch to ask for their names be added.

54 Your local authority will need to decide which organisations they should include on their opt-in list. These could include groups like:

  • local-authority committees;
  • authority-wide groups like the Local Hotels' Association and the various bus operators;
  • local groups like residents' and tenants' associations;
  • community councils;
  • relevant MP or MSP constituency offices;
  • voluntary organisations; and
  • tourist information centres;

and so on.

Consulting communities

55 We have not changed the 1982 Act to place any other specific requirements or duties on local authorities to consult communities and gather their views for each procession they are told about. This is to avoid placing expensive, time-consuming and bureaucratic processes on them. Nevertheless, we do place a lot of emphasis on community consultation and the importance of gathering community views and the need to keep them informed of what is going on in their area. So that they are aware of the local authority's position, it may be helpful for the local authority to explain to anyone with an interest the decision-making process they follow and the conditions they have to keep to when taking decisions.

56 The 1982 Act has been amended (see new sections 63(8)(a)(iv), 63(9) and 63(10) of the 1982 Act) to make sure that there are ways of considering the effect that a public procession may have on the community and for providing information to those who may be affected by it. There are also aspects of this guidance which highlight areas of community involvement, such as keeping 'opt-in lists' and holding debriefing meetings (which your local authority should invite members of community groups to), which your local authority should include in their work. In particular, the changes to the 1982 Act in making sure your local authority take account of the effect of marches and parades on the community in terms of public safety, public order, risks of damage to property and risks of disruption to the life of the community will mean more community involvement. If your local authority want to get more information from communities on these issues, they could use existing processes for involving the community to consider the issues that arise generally with processions which they believe will take place each year in their area. However, we would emphasise that restrictions should not be placed on an organiser just to please those organisations or members of the community who disagree with the purpose of the march or the opinions or beliefs held by the marchers.

57 You can find information on the community planning process, which local authorities have a duty to organise, in the Statutory Guidance published following the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003. Your local authority could use the community planning process as a basis for considering how public services could be provided for public processions which take place regularly in certain areas. It is up to each community planning partnership to decide what priorities to set for each area. However, if it is decided to discuss processions as part of this process, local authorities should involve communities in line with their existing community planning arrangements.

58 Alongside this, we would remind your local authority of the new duty placed on them by section 63(10) of the 1982 Act which means they need to provide information to those who ask for it about processions which may be, or are about to be, held in the area. The way in which your local authority provide information about processions to those who ask for it is up to each local authority to decide. However, in keeping with the recommendations in the report of the working group, and to make best use of the potential for receiving community views, we recommend that your local authority keep lists. In those lists they could say that they would like to receive any representations about holding any particular procession within a set time limit.

59 Your local authority will need to decide on the time limit, but it may be that they would want any responses from the public and those on their opt-in list at least two weeks before the date of the procession. Given that your local authority will receive notices individually here and there, they must regularly update their lists and publish revised versions. It is, of course, also important to send updated lists to those on your local authority's opt-in list and invite views (see paragraphs 51 to 54).

Precursory meetings

60 A precursory meeting is a discussion between your local authority, the police and the organiser which is an informal way of providing a useful face-to-face opportunity for everyone to go through the notification and discuss any issues or problems. This is not a legal requirement but should benefit the arrangements for holding a procession. It may also be appropriate to invite community organisations along and any business representatives to receive their views. Or, your local authority may decide that it would be better for community organisations to be represented at the full decision-making meeting of the relevant council committee and to go to the debriefing meeting (see paragraph 65).

61 Your local authority may not always need a precursory meeting and they could discuss issues surrounding routine or small-scale marches over the phone or deal with them by e-mail instead. Paragraphs 79 to 82 of the working group's report provides more information on the circumstances of when a first meeting would be appropriate and gives details of what that meeting might need to cover.

Assessing risk

62 Depending on the nature of the event, your local authority, in close discussion with the police, should carry out an assessment of the risk of holding the procession against the considerations set out in section 63(8) of the 1982 Act (including any information available on previous processions). This will lead to better and more informed decision-making because your local authority will have:

  • identified the known dangers and risks associated with holding the procession;
  • a better knowledge on which to decide whether and what precautions could be taken to reduce or get rid of risks; and
  • a better idea of what preventative measures they may need to take now and for future processions.

63 Your local authority should pass their written assessment to the organiser for comment and they may want to compare their findings with any risk assessment they have carried out (see next paragraph).

64 Again this may depend on the nature of the event, but it may be appropriate to ask the organiser to carry out a risk assessment. Your local authority should let the organiser know whether they want them to carry out a risk assessment. Your local authority can find an example of the types of things that an organiser might have to cover in a risk assessment at Annex C. Your local authority should include the organiser's risk assessment in the decision-making process and compare it against their own.

Debriefing meetings

65 Your local authority should try to arrange a debriefing meeting with the organiser and the police as soon as possible after a procession has taken place. They may also need to invite community organisations along so they can have their say on how the event was handled. These meetings will give those attending an opportunity to air their views and voice any concerns over holding the procession in the future. They may not need to hold a debriefing meeting for marches that have passed off without incident, but it would be advisable to hold a short meeting for all large-scale processions - even if these have not attracted trouble - to see if there was anything which could have been handled better. Your local authority will find examples of the types of issues that could be covered at a debriefing meeting in paragraph 90 of the working group's report. A member of the local authority should take a note of the debriefing meeting and send it to all those who come to the meeting.

Other good practice

66 The working group's report responds to all of the 38 recommendations in Sir John Orr's report. This guidance accounts for most of that analysis, but there are other aspects of good practice in the report which we do not cover here. We can summarise these elements as follows and your local authority should consider them when reviewing their practices and deciding how they might best take them forward in their area.

  • Organisers are ultimately responsible for considering the potential for combining processions, but your local authority, while continuing to respect important dates which are traditionally important to various organisations, may want to consider holding discussions with organisers about the possibility of re-routing some marches in future and combining some of them to reduce the volume. (See paragraphs 69 to 72 of the working group's report.)
  • Your local authority and the police should work together on keeping statistics of the number of processions taking place and how to work out the associated police costs. (See paragraphs 96 to 99 of the working group's report.)
  • Your local authority, the police and the organiser should discuss the content of the organiser's codes of conduct, if this applies, to make sure that it reinforces the behaviour expected of those taking part. (See paragraphs 108 to 112 of the working group's report.)
  • If your local authority have not already done so, they should work with the police to consider whether it would be necessary to put byelaws in place to prevent people from drinking alcohol in public places. (See paragraphs 124 to 125 of the working group's report.)
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