Orange walks at risk following fresh legal advice

Street marches, including those organised by the Orange Order could be cancelled due to fresh legal advice that is likely to increase the cost of parades.
Fresh legal advice to Police Scotland could put events such as the Orange Walk at risk.   Pic Ian RutherfordFresh legal advice to Police Scotland could put events such as the Orange Walk at risk.   Pic Ian Rutherford
Fresh legal advice to Police Scotland could put events such as the Orange Walk at risk. Pic Ian Rutherford

In the past, road closures for Orange marches, and other religious, political or cultural parades have been arranged informally by officers and the local council when necessary, however, Police Scotland have now been informed that they lack the power to divert or hold up traffic without a court order, unless responding to an emergency.

Adhering to such legal advice will inevitably raise costs for councils according to a paper to be presented at the Scottish Police Authority (SPA).

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The increased cost will be passed on to event organisers meaning that events such as Orange Walks may be unable to go ahead, or may be reduced significantly.

Smaller events face a greater risk of being unable to go ahead due to the increased costs.

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The SPA paper warns “Adopting a robust stance in relation to counsel opinion may result in local community events being affected due to them being less viable.”

SPA assistance chief constable Bernard Higgins stated that the new legal advice will come into order from April.

He said: “Counsel’s opinion is that police officers have no power to close roads or restrict traffic flow at pre-planned events.

“If a roads authority believe restrictions are required, a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO) should be obtained.”

Such orders have rarely been required in the past, but without such an order going forward, police will have limited powers, only being able to close roads in ‘extraordinary circumstances’ or if there is an emergency or ‘immediate risk to the safety of the public’.

According to the Herald, this is a significant step away from current planning application and that seeking such orders could be costly and that ‘cash-strapped councils’ would likely pass such costs on.

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The report also recommended that Police Scotland seek legal clarification about the force’s involvement when marches or parades require road closures and that officers could not continue to act without lawful authority.

Higgins is expected to urge to SPA to take a ‘robust stance’ in implementing the legal advice at a briefing on Tuesday and warns that failure to do so would “risk compromising event commanders and individual officers by expecting them to undertake duties for which there is no legal basis.”

As well as requiring new planning permission, organisers could face planning issues due to time restraints.

TTROs can take weeks to secure, which is in direct conflict with existing legislation that only requires organisers to give 28-days notice to local council and police.