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Row as thousands are set to join disputed Orange parade

THOUSANDS of members of the Orange Order are to gather in an affluent coastal town, sparking claims the parade is disruptive, divisive and unrepresentative of the local population.

Opposition to 6000 members of the organisation and supporters commemorating the 1690 Battle of the Boyne Celebrations in Helensburgh, Argyll, has raged for months, with clergymen, residents and MSPs voicing concerns and senior councillors attempting to halt the parade.

Organisers of the procession have also faced criticism for originally proposing to march past a Catholic Church three times, with the local Anglican minister calling for the decision to allow the parade to go ahead to be revoked because of the "sectarian ethos" of the Orange Order.

But the organisation success-fully argued it had democratic right of freedom for public assembly and that every procession carried a degree of disruption and inconvenience. They also argued the people of Helensburgh would not have their rights impinged by the proposed procession and the concerns over behaviour and toilet facilities were being addressed.

They also claimed other parades in the area had passed without incident, that banning the parade would be legally challenged, while one senior figure at a meeting on the parade said drawing attention to organisers' religious persuasion was "akin to the Nazis".

Around 3500 members of the Orange Order and band members will take part in Saturday's Boyne Celebrations, with a further 2500 expected to watch the event.

It has been organised by The County Grand Lodge of Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and Argyll and follows a rotation of the town where it is staged. Despite claims of no Orange presence in Helens-burgh, the organisation said it had a lodge there which has an annual parade, and others in Dunoon, Strachur and Campbeltown.

Permission was granted for the parade in March but after 187 objections and petitions signed by hundreds, a meeting was held recently to review the decision. A motion to halt the procession was defeated five votes to three, with the civil right to hold the procession out-weighing disruption on community life.

But last night, local Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said: "It can only be seen as a deliberately provocative act to want to march past St Joseph's Church three times. We do tolerate the views of others but this is a throwback to days long past, about centuries-old battles and divisions Helensburgh cares nothing about.

"Shopkeepers are shutting for the day and others leaving until this parade is over. All shades of people, across the political and religious divide, oppose this.

"And there will be a significant police bill which we pay for."

At the recent meeting, local Kirk minister Rev David Clark said celebrating "a 300-year-old skirmish" was not relevant for Helensburgh, adding: "You have the right to expression and freedom of expression but you don't have to exercise it."

Alex McCaig, the Order's County Grand Secretary, said: "We have always enjoyed a good working relationship with Police Scotland. I ask that the members of the Orange Order and bands behave in a dignified manner and make it a day to remember for all."

Police Scotland said represen-tations were made to Argyll and Bute Council, however no objections were submitted.

The Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland has registered as a "permitted participant" in the independence referendum campaign.

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Local government

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