Orange Order in legal threat over risk to parades

The Orange Order could launch a legal challenge on human rights grounds if there is a failure to reach an agreement on the holding of marches and parades.

A marcher takes part in the annual County Grand Orange Order Parade in Glasgow. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The future of a number of public events is currently under threat after Police Scotland obtained legal advice last year confirming its officers lack the power to hold up or divert traffic without a court order. It means local authorities will be required to apply for Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders (TTROs), with the cost likely to be passed on to the organisers of events such as parades and political demonstrations.

In an update provided to the Scottish Police Authority’s policing committee, which discussed the matter yesterday, Assistant Chief Constable Nelson Telfer said work was ongoing to create a “consistent framework” across the country where TTROs are
put in place as a matter of routine.

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But he warned: “Failing to reach consensus may result in legal challenge from the Orange Order who have communicated their belief that it is their human right to parade on historical, religious, cultural and political grounds.

“It is believed that the Orange Order have also sought legal advice that supports their position.”

Robert McLean, executive officer of the Grand Orange Lodge in Scotland, said the situation was “farcical”.

He said: “The Scottish Government should tell Police Scotland that they should be policing all events and if they can’t, the Scottish Government should bring in legislation that allows them to do it.

“We’ve always been clear on this – if someone comes along and says we can’t parade, we’ll look at that. If it’s infringing on our human rights, then we’ll take legal advice.

“We taken legal advice from a senior QC and we know what our rights are. That’s why we’ve asked to sit down with Police Scotland and the Scottish Government to see if we can resolve this.”

Police Scotland took legal advice last year following the publication of a report by Dr Michael Rosie, of Edinburgh University, on marches, parades and demonstrations, which found the majority of events to be well-organised and well-stewarded.

But the report also recommended Police Scotland seek urgent legal clarification about the force’s involvement where marches or parades necessitated road closures.

Legal advice obtained by the national force confirmed officers have no power to close roads or restrict traffic flows at pre-planned events.