THE Orange Order has been given the go-ahead for a 10,000-strong pro-Union march just days before the independence referendum.
Edinburgh city councillors agreed to allow the 13 September demonstration after organisers conceded to a host of conditions in relation to musical instruments not being played near places of worship and no militaristic uniforms.
Organisers hope to see more than 100 coach-loads of supporters set off from the Meadows at 11am and march along George IV Bridge to the Canongate before finishing at Abbeyhill.
A smaller march commemorating the Grand Lodge’s 75th anniversary on 30 August was also passed.
Police Scotland had expressed concern in relation to the three events but offered no formal objection.
City councillors debated the parade submissions at a meeting of the licensing committee yesterday afternoon.
Licensing convenor Gavin Barrie made clear to the Orange Order’s agent, James MacLean, the council’s position on the 13 September “Referendum Rally” when he said: “No-one on this committee believes this rally lends anything to the referendum debate.
However, the Orange Order is a recognised campaigner and in terms of free speech and under the articles of the convention of human rights we have no power to prohibit this parade from taking place.”
Councillor Barrie also told how he had received numerous e-mails from objectors who believed the parade would act as a beacon for “unsavoury elements” to take part in antisocial behaviour. In defence of the Orange Order, Mr MacLean said: “I think it wise not to submit to a hecklers’ veto. Those who turn up to cause trouble should not prohibit others from their right to march.”
Sweeping aside concerns in regards to public disorder given the fact Hibs play at home that day, he added: “The debate up to now has not been categorised by physical violence but more verbal gymnastics. The right to march is a bedrock of democracy and being able to bite your tongue and say live and let live is another bedrock.”
Following the meeting, Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland member Ian Wilson released a statement in which he spoke of how two referendum rallies promoting a Yes vote have already been held in the city “untroubled by any organised opposition” and how he anticipates “a carnival atmosphere”.
However, public safety concerns have been raised in recent weeks as a result of a 12-year-old girl being hit with a bottle when a fight broke out as she watched an Orange parade in Glasgow.
Upon being informed of the council’s decision to allow the 13 September march just days before voters decide Scotland’s future, a spokesman for Yes Scotland said: “Organisations are entitled to campaign in the referendum as they wish. We are very confident of success in September.”
Despite the Orange Order’s staunch pro-Union stance the Better Together camp was quick to distance itself from the event.
A spokesman said: “This organisation is not part of our campaign and never will be. The best way for people who believe that we are stronger and better together as part of the UK to get involved in the campaign is by speaking to undecided voters, not marching in the streets.”