NI-style Parades Commission ruled out for Scotland

There is “no present need” for a Northern Ireland-style Parades Commission in Scotland, a working group set up by the Scottish Government has concluded.

The group accepted that in areas such as Glasgow, “there are significant pressures on the local authority in dealing with processions”.

But rather than endorsing any “one size fits all” approach, the group suggested working in “focused areas” could improve the way in which processions are governed.

Its report concluded that changes involving “improved capacity, a shifting of resources, and better processes” could have an impact.

But the report’s authors insisted: “We have not heard evidence that would justify the transplantation of the NI Parades Commission model to Scotland.”

Set up in 1998, the Parades Commission has the power to cancel, re-route or amend marches in Northern Ireland, including by barring the playing of music or the banning of certain individuals from attending.

After an Orange Order march in Glasgow in 2021 where thousands took to the streets and the police made arrests for “racist and sectarian singing”, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon ordered Justice Secretary Keith Brown to assess the merits of adopting a similar approach in Scotland.

The Parades season in NI provides is a magnet for thuggery, sectarianism and antisocial behaviour

The Short Life Working Group on Processions in Scotland published its 18 recommendations on Wednesday.

The group also concluded there are a “number of ways” which could reduce the need for public order policing at marches and similar events.

These could include training for stewards, and providing organisations with resources to allow for this to happen.

According to the report: “Such funding offers a community policing alternative to the deployment of public order resources and thus potentially saves money.

“Moreover, it also underpins the state’s commitment to protecting the right of peaceful assembly and other rights and freedoms.”

Chair of the working group, Professor Dominic Bryan of Queens University Belfast, said: “We believe that our recommendations will offer a sustainable way forward for the facilitation and regulation of processions in Scotland reflecting important human rights considerations.”

Mr Brown said: “A balance must be struck between protecting the rights of those who seek to march or protest and those of the communities impacted by such events.”

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