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by Kirsteen Paterson
02 November 2022
'No need' for Northern Ireland-style Parades Commission in Scotland, report finds

'No need' for Northern Ireland-style Parades Commission in Scotland, report finds

There is "no present need" for a Northern Ireland-style Parades Commission in Scotland - but politics have fed into football divides causing tensions, a report has found.

A working group on processions set up by the Scottish Government last year has now reported.

Last year First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that experts would consider whether to adopt a Northern Ireland-style approach to approving contentious marches following a number of arrests at Orange Order processions, with Police Scotland condemning "racist and sectarian singing" by some of those supporting the events.

At the time, Chief Superintendent Mark Sutherland, divisional commander for Greater Glasgow, said that policing was not the only solution to tackling the "unacceptable" behaviour, calling for it to be addressed "in a collective, collaborative manner".

A total of 17 recommendations have now been put forward, including improvements to notifications around marches to ensure relevant information is available to communities, better regulations that ensure human rights are upheld, and a reduced need for public order policing through training for stewards and other measures.

Extra steps are also recommended for "Glasgow in particular", where "independent civic actors" could be appointed to the local council's Processions Committee.

There are "significant pressures" on that authority and some others, the report found, and "there are some very significant issues in Glasgow and surrounding areas that arise from long-standing issues around sectarianism and a football sub-culture in the city into which the issues of the future of Scotland and Brexit have fed".

"It is very clear that some of the parading organisations are highly suspicious of potential political interference" in the decision-making process, the report found. "Trust in the legitimacy of the process may be in decline, whether that lack of trust is justified or not."

The Scottish Government, Police Scotland, Cosla, human rights experts and councils in Glasgow and Edinburgh will now consider the report's findings.

Justice secretary Keith Brown said the Scottish Government is "committed to freedom of speech and upholding the human rights" of those seeking to participate in marching, parading and protesting, but "a balance must be struck" with the rights of communities impacted by such events.

He stated: "We will continue to hold meaningful and productive dialogue with march and parade organisers, community representatives, Police Scotland and local authorities to ensure that, collectively, we continue to work towards achieving the correct balance of right for all."

Working group chair Dominic Bryan, of Queens University Belfast, said the recommendations "offer a sustainable way forward".

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