The rights to march, to demonstrate and to celebrate traditions and beliefs are integral to democracy in all diverse multi-faith and multi-cultural countries. In Scotland we have a rich history of such cultural and political events and we are committed to protecting this right. Such rights are enshrined in legislation, ensuring that we can embrace our own unique and varied identities, while collectively celebrating our commonality and community as modern Scots. However, these rights do not exist in a vacuum and need to be balanced with responsibilities and the rights of others to go about their business unfettered.
When Sir John Orr carried out his extensive review into marches and parades in 2005, he expressed the hope that his package of recommendations would lead to an improved experience for those involved with marches and parades, including organisers, facilitators and communities. Sir John's aim was to ensure people were better informed, that disruption was minimised and that conduct was improved, helping to professionalise and modernise the decision-making process.
10 years on from the Orr Review is the right time to consider whether these hopes are being realised and whether the laws and procedures are still relevant to the current landscape. Much has changed since 2006, when legislative and non-legislative changes were made to improve the experience of those wishing to march, those facilitating that right, and those impacted more widely in communities.
I was therefore delighted that Dr Michael Rosie agreed to carry out a scoping exercise on Marches, Parades and Static Demonstrations in Scotland, following on from his membership of the independent Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland. And I am now pleased to welcome the publication of Dr Rosie's report, alongside the Scottish Government response, which addresses each of his recommendations in turn.
The thoughtful and constructive conclusions and recommendations contained within Dr Rosie's report are all aimed at ensuring we continue to have processes that are fit-for-purpose and which work towards maintaining the correct balance of rights between those marching and those communities which are directly affected by such events. I was heartened by Dr Rosie's conclusion that his recommendations 'have the ambition to fine tune a system that, by and large, works very well indeed' and to hear of the professional approach taken by the three key parties involved (the parading organisations, local authorities and Police Scotland).
This is a strong basis on which to make the improvements recommended in the report and I am confident that where further clarity is needed, and where engagement can be improved, those with responsibility for taking action - local authorities, Police Scotland and march, parade and static demonstration organisers themselves - will be able to work together to achieve this.
This Government will give full consideration to all the recommendations and, where responsibility for action lies with other organisations, will encourage those organisations to consider the recommendations and deliver improvements by building on existing positive relationships and working in partnership to achieve the best and most balanced outcomes for those wishing to march and parade and for communities themselves.
I am grateful to Dr Rosie for all of his hard work in delivering this report. But even more importantly, I would like to thank all those who met with Dr Rosie, or otherwise contributed to his report, for taking the time out of their busy schedules to participate in this work - march and parade organisers, local authorities and Police Scotland have all provided valuable insight. Positive and constructive engagement makes all the difference and will take us forward to ensure the balance of rights is achieved, keeping marches and parades in Scotland fit for the 21 st century.
Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs
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