Monday, July 18, 2005

Councils demand: allow us to ban Orange marches in Scotland

Liam McDougall:

THE head of the body which represents Scotland’s 32 local authorities is to hold talks with ministers to demand new powers that would allow councils to ban sectarian marches marred by violence and disorder.

The move comes just days after senior police officers condemned the “disgraceful” scenes at an Orange march in the east end of Glasgow commemorating the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne. Two weeks before that, police made a record 85 arrests at another march held in the city centre.

Pat Watters, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), confirmed he would be contacting justice minister Cathy Jamieson and seeking a meeting before the end of the month.

He said he would press the minister for new laws that would bolster councils’ powers, and seek assurances that the Scottish Executive would meet the costs of implementing measures made in Sir John Orr’s recent review of marches and parades.

Included in the report was a recommendation that councils should consult with march organisers and local communities before they went ahead.

Under current legislation, councils are powerless to ban marches – only the chief constable has the authority to stop a march from going ahead.

Last night, the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland condemned Watters’s plan , saying it was a “threat to our democratic right to peaceful procession and assembly”.

But Cosla will tell the minister that it is “pointless” having the power to consult if there is no legislative back-up to implement the views of its constituents.

Watters said: “We’re in favour of getting the responsibility, being able to consult with communities and the march organisers to try to alleviate problems that might be caused or to address the perceived problems. But to do that we need proper legislation to back up any decision that we take and the necessary finance to do it properly.”

He pointed out that in the space of just a few days, scores of marches can take place in Glasgow. Watters added: “If consultation over a 28-day period has to take place for each, that’s some amount of staff time that has to be devoted to do this. We need the finance to actually do it and if there is a problem [with a march] we need to be able to act on that problem. Our ability to do anything at this present time is very narrow.”

Watters denied that he was “asking the minister to write a blank cheque” but said: “What we’re asking is for is an assurance that they [the Executive] will meet the necessary expenditure, whatever it is.”

Although Watters said the plans for a meeting with Jamieson were not prompted by the scenes at Orange marches in Glasgow this month, there was nevertheless an “urgency” for councils to have the power to deal with disorder.

Last Wednesday, police condemned the “disgraceful” scenes at an Orange march which resulted in 20 arrests at a parade in Glasgow. Police said the march on July 12 in the east end of Glasgow was marred by drunkenness, sectarian singing and general disorder.

According to police, a “much higher level of disorder” could have resulted had police not received the “good co- operation” of pub licensees in the Gallowgate area who agreed to keep their doors closed as the parade passed.

Of the 19 men and one woman arrested, 13 were detained on suspicion of sectarian hatred, while seven others faced breach of the peace charges.

The trouble happened less than two weeks after a 270% rise in the number of arrests at the largest Orange walk in Scotland, which was also held in the city. Some 85 people were arrested at the parade.

Councillor Jim Coleman, deputy leader of Glasgow City Council, said he had received letters from members of the public complaining about the behaviour of those who turned out to watch the recent marches in the city.

He also said he would be in favour of tough new powers to regulate or ban problem marches. “ This story is going out all over Britain, all over the world, and it’s doing the image of the city no good.

“The first thing that people say is, ‘why don’t you just ban them,’ but we don’t have the power to do it. The only person who has the power to do that is the chief constable under the existing law, which is out of date in our opinion and in Cosla’s opinion.”

Apparently, even Scottish people hate the Orange parades.

Police condemn Orange parade disorder


At 10:14 AM, Anonymous DavidB said...

Yes even the Socttish you claim to have so much issue with!

At 10:54 AM, Blogger Diarmid said...

The only Scots that I have a problem with are the ones that want to maintain British colonial rule in the north of Ireland.


Post a Comment

<< Home