Pay to march, Orange Lodge told
THE Orange Lodge will have to pay thousands of pounds in costs under secret plans being drawn up by police and council chiefs, if traditional parades continue.
The Scotsman can reveal that the Lodge will be warned that unless it contributes a share of the estimated annual 1.5 million policing bill, a new law restricting the number of marches could be invoked.
The threat signals a tougher approach to the parades, especially in Glasgow, where city bosses have run out of patience after discovering that the city now hosts 250 parades every year – more than Belfast and Londonderry combined.
Glasgow city chiefs say financial penalties would also apply to Irish Republican marches which are increasing in number.
Other councils, such as West Lothian and West Dunbartonshire, are understood to be observing developments and plan to introduce their own charges if the plan is invoked.
Glasgow City Council and Strathclyde Police have received complaints from business and tourism bosses. In one case this summer, a full-scale riot broke out in the east end of Glasgow after a parade attempted to pass through the area.
The new chief constable of Strathclyde police, Steve House, one of the driving forces behind the tougher approach, has claimed that the main July parade cost his force 590,000 alone to police.
A similar operation in Larkhall, Lanarkshire, left the taxpayer with a bill of 215,000 and another parade in Ayrshire in July totalled 40,000. The drive to crack down on parades also has the support of Glasgow council leader Steven Purcell.
The contribution will be voluntary because, as a non-profit organisation, the Orange Lodge is exempt from paying for any policing. However, police and council chiefs will warn that if the Lodge does not pay, they will restrict the number of parades which can take place every year.
One senior source said: "A reasonable starting point is the deal the police have done with the football clubs. We want to say to the Orange Lodge, let's talk about how you contribute to the cost of this. It would be a voluntary agreement that reflects the fact that the council is prepared to voluntarily grant a reasonable amount of expressions of freedom."
If the Lodge refuses to pay, the source said, then "the authorities will be more prepared to refuse them permission, and that includes the Irish organisations which have been deemed to be inflammatory". The source added: "We are also considering going to the Scottish Government and saying we need legislation that allows us to limit the number of parades which draws a limit of what is deemed to be an acceptable number on what freedom of expression is."
The Lodge says it is prepared to cut down on the total number, but last night warned it would vehemently oppose any payment regime.
Ian Wilson, the grand master of the Orange Lodge, said: "I don't think it would be just us who would oppose this. This is a libertarian matter.
"The police force is a public service. This is a democratic society and we should be free to demonstrate."
Mr Wilson also pointed to the last review on parades, headed by former chief constable Sir John Orr, which concluded that parades should not be forced to meet any policing costs.
"We are a voluntary organisation and so paying for policing, as Sir John Orr said, does not come into it," he added.
Glasgow is now regularly playing host to Protestant and Republican parades from Northern Ireland which join in with Scottish lodges and organisations to walk through the city.
The council is understood to have received a letter recently from a visitor looking to buy a property in the city who decided not to after witnessing violent scenes.
OUT OF STEP
MUCH of the cost of policing and managing Orange Walks comes in the additional logistical support.
A march in Larkhall cost 214,000, money which went towards paying for the extra policing needed, including the use of a helicopter, hiring extra vans to transport officers and a catering unit to feed them.
Glasgow City Council also incurred 12,000 costs, including 2,841 in traffic management and 7,160 loss of revenue of city centre parking bays.
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