Glasgow council leader urges MSPs to act over Orange walks

Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken said she had sympathy with the petition calling on Orange walks to be banned. Picture: John Devlin
Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken said she had sympathy with the petition calling on Orange walks to be banned. Picture: John Devlin
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The leader of Glasgow City Council has urged MSPs to take action after a catholic priest was attacked as an Orange walk passed by last week, claiming the local authority is limited in how it can respond.

Susan Aitken, who leads an SNP minority administration, spoke out after an online petition calling for all Orange walks to be banned in the city attracted more than 70,000 signatures.

Police are investigating after Canon Tom White, who was speaking to parishioners outside St Alphonsus Church in the Calton district last Saturday, was spat on twice before being lunged at by a man with a baton.

The Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland said its members were not responsible and condemned “the bigoted actions of those involved”.

The incident has once again called into question the number of Orange walks that take place in Glasgow each year and the agreed procession routes they follow.

Ms Aitken said today she had “strong sympathy” with the petition but added the council “simply does not have the power to enact a blanket ban on parades by any organisation”.

READ MORE: Church calls for Orange Walk rethink after Priest attacked

She added: “I have instructed officers to ensure that we use the powers we do have to their fullest extent and have asked Police Scotland colleagues to assist us in doing that - the council can’t legally act without grounds being given to us by the police.

“I’ve also asked for ways of objecting to planned parades to be made much more prominent on our website and made available through the My Glasgow app. We can only act on objections made in advance, on specific applications.

“I will ensure Glasgow City Council does everything in our power to respond to the strength of feeling this petition demonstrates - but it would actually be better directed at MSPs, who have much more power than Councils here. They could strengthen the 2006 Act that governs us.

“I would urge MSPs to consider their own powers and responsibilities. Confusion among the public about who can do what is entirely understandable: parliamentarians should be better informed about their role and assist councils in providing clarity.

“We are all governed by European human rights legislation which protects the right to free assembly, even for people we disagree with. I believe in and support that right. But I will do what I can within the powers Glasgow City Council has to ensure that right is no longer abused in our city.”