Glasgow Council vows to “push the law” to ensure public safety after sectarian disorder

The leader of Scotland’s largest local authority has vowed to “push the law” to ensure public safety after sectarian disorder erupted in Govan last week.

Riot police deployed on the streets of Glasgow last Friday. Picture: PA
Riot police deployed on the streets of Glasgow last Friday. Picture: PA

Susan Aitken, who leads the SNP administration on Glasgow City Council, said existing legislation may have to be tested in the courts to strengthen the authority’s hand when dealing with the dozens of applications it receives annually for marches along public highways.

Riot police were called out to Govan, in the south of the city, on the evening of 30 August after an Irish Republican procession was met by a group of Loyalist counter-demonstrators.

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Several businesses reported shutting their doors to protect customers inside, while the local Subway station was temporarily closed to passengers during an incident described by police as “significant disorder”.

Glasgow councillors have faced repeated criticism for allowing too many marches in the city which disrupt traffic and encourage anti-social behaviour.

But Ms Aitken said the council was legally obliged to facilitate processions.

“I am absolutely clear that the council’s procedures are not in any way at fault here,” she said yesterday in an interview with BBC Radio Scotland. “The council made the decision that the council has the ability to make.

“Over the past year, Glasgow City Council has pushed the law as far as we can on this, to the extent of being taken to court. And it may well be that we have to do this again.”

Former first minister Jack McConnell called for more to be done to combat the “cancer” of sectarianism in Scotland.

Lord McConnell accused the Scottish Government of “taking its foot off the pedal” in tackling the problem.

He told Good Morning Scotland: “Part of the problem that we are seeing in football grounds and on the streets with increasing sectarian behaviour and incidents is that there hasn’t been strong national leadership.

“Spending money is the easy part of government. It’s easy to pick up a budget and give organisations some money. The real challenge is in bringing people together and getting them to commit and then act on the changes that are required.”

He added: “Sectarianism is not a one-off incident at a football match or the disorder of Friday night.

“This is an issue that stains Scotland’s character.”

On Saturday, Holyrood’s justice secretary Humza Yousaf said the Scottish Government would work with the council on any proposed action it may take.

He added that the blame for the disorder in Govan “lies with the grown men who think it is OK to fight centuries 
old battles on our streets in 2019”.