On the eve of its largest event in Scotland and speaking on the matter for the first time since the sectarian debate was re-ignited earlier this year, the Orange Order said it did not believe new legislation would stop at football, citing comments by ministers that more was required to tackle religious hate.
It comes as Strathclyde Police hands over the lion’s share of marshalling the “Boyne Celebrations” in Glasgow this Saturday to the Order, with the force insisting it saves public cash and allows its officers to target disorder.
However, the police said antisectarian officers dedicated to spotting and arresting people for the offence would be deployed at the parade.
Saturday’s parade, which will see almost 200 Lodges and more than 60 bands take part in the largest Orange event outside of Northern Ireland, will also be much shorter than previous years, with plans to quit Glasgow Green by 1.30pm, a reduction of more than three hours on previous years.
Ahead of the event, the Order issued a statement on a range of issues including Scottish independence, council plans to cut the number of parades and sectarianism. The statement said it “condemned the political agenda and dictatorial attitude of local government in their attempts to deprive us of our basic human rights”, adding that its heritage was “fought for over many a well-fought field and we will resist, by lawful means, any further erosion of our culture”.
Despite claiming last month to have thrown its weight behind the SNP, the Order claimed the Nationalist Government was “attempting to take away our Britishness and undermine our loyalty to Her Most Gracious Majesty”, adding “we pledge to resist all attempts to alter the British Constitution”. It went on: “The Scottish Government attempted to fast-track tough new anti-bigot laws. Are we to believe that this new legislation, Offensive Behaviour at Football Matches and Threatening Communications, is designed exclusively for football matches? We think not.”
Last year’s parade cost the public purse around £700,000, with the new plans expected to reduce that by around one-third.
Stewards from within the Orange Order have been trained up by the police and negotiations secured an overall reduction in local feeder parades and time in the city centre.
Assistant Chief Constable Campbell Corrigan said success would be measured by drops in the numbers of fixed penalties, complaints about disruption caused by the parades, its participants and supporters, as well as the avoidance of any major incidents. He said it was an “opportunity for the Orange Order to deliver what it has always promised” but stressed diverting officers away from stewarding the procession freed them up to “deal more with the trouble makers”, including those involved in sectarian offences.
Grand Master of the Orange Lodge, Henry Dunbar, said: “This has not been easy, but I believe a solution has been found. The Order is introducing a number of crucial changes designed to reduce the demands upon police time and free them up to concentrate on the antisocial behaviour of a young element that has often been an embarrassment to us in previous years as well as a blight on society as a whole.”