If the new policy on demonstrations and parades is agreed, next year’s July Orange Order Boyne Celebrations parade through Glasgow, the largest of Scotland’s Loyal Order parades, could be diverted away from the city centre.

One suggestion could see the 8000-plus members of the organisation, bands and their followers, parade from one outlying city park to another, as local authority leaders claim the impact on ­businesses and a rebranded ­Glasgow is no longer sustainable.

Glasgow City Council also wants to end the concept of “return parades”, where individual lodges and bands return to their areas from a main demonstration.

While the council has not officially put a figure on the scale of reduction in parades it would like to see, The Herald understands the notion being discussed by the authority’s officials and political administration is a wholesale cull of Loyal Order parades by more than 90%.

The Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland was meeting last night at its national headquarters in Glasgow’s east end to discuss the proposals.

Glasgow’s plans emerge less than a fortnight after the chief constable of Strathclyde Police revealed that the bill for three Orange Order events in July alone came to almost £1m at a time when his force is facing a £200m deficit, and announced to his governing body that a report on the cost to the taxpayer of policing parades would be published next month.

It also comes as details emerged of a riot in the Glasgow Cross area of the city following a parade by the Royal Black Chapter, an elite wing of the Orange Order, in Dumbarton, which the local authority had attempted to ban.

CCTV footage obtained by The Herald shows no more than six members of a Black Chapter Lodge and an accompanying band attempting to parade up the Gallowgate, an area with a large amount of bars frequented by Celtic fans, and the subsequent disorder.

At one stage upwards of 100 officers were deployed, blocking off the Glasgow Cross area and sparking gridlock back to the city centre.

Last night, deputy leader of the authority, councillor Jim Coleman, said talks to thrash out the plan would begin in earnest once the chief constable’s report was published. He also said the recent report on parades by former Strathclyde Police chief constable Sir John Orr did not give local authorities enough power to regulate processions.

Councillor Coleman added: “The volume of parades is what we’re mostly looking at. How many parades does one organisation need to commemorate something from over 300 years ago? What was acceptable in the past is becoming untenable now.

“These groups may have important dates in their calendar, but hundreds of them?”

Ian Wilson, Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, said: “We would be very disappointed if Glasgow City Council was preparing to tear up the Orr Report and impose further parade legislation without any consultation with those affected.

“We will be contacting the council for a meeting to discuss and in the meantime we will be consulting our membership.”




It was a familiar early morning summer scene on the streets of Glasgow, heralded by high-visibility jackets, flashing blue lights and the distant rasp of snare drums.

On their way to exercise their civil and religious liberty 15 miles along the Clyde, eight middle-aged gentlemen in dark suits and black ceremonial sashes strode through one of the city’s main thoroughfares bearing the Saltire and Union Flag.

When the Rising Star of Bridgeton Royal Blacks returned from Dumbarton that evening, accompanied by a militaristic band and several dozen well-wishers, their number was just five.

Their demand, though, to parade through the Gallowgate, an area of inner city Glasgow from where the authorities have diverted other Loyal Orders in the past because of the provocation and potential for disorder, ensured that within minutes they were joined by more than 100 uniformed police officers.

Protesters from a nearby bar popular with supporters of Celtic Football Club, had spilled onto the road sparking angry confrontations that had developed into a riot.

Officers struggled to keep the groups apart, with CCTV footage obtained by The Herald showing bandsmen trading blows with some obviously drunken protesters and the 30-minute melee forcing the closure of Glasgow Cross, now gridlocked with dozens of police vehicles.

Every year in Glasgow the police are legally required to provide support to more than 250 such parades by the Protestant Loyal Orders, each one coming with its own risks, from counter demonstrations through to the behaviour of those supporters who accompany the bands.

The 20 or so parades by Irish Republican groups carry their own particular risks, with counter demonstrations by far right groups leading to them being disproportionately policed.

For all their successes in rebranding themselves over the past decade, the legacy of its sectarian past and hangover from the migration to the west of Scotland by both Protestants and Catholics from Ireland in the 1800s continues to plague Glasgow, Lanarkshire and even West Lothian.

Initiatives by former First Minister Jack McConnell and a report by former Strathclyde chief constable Sir John Orr, which sparked promises of internal “tidying” by the Orange Order, have failed to deliver in any significant way.

However, as is often the case, economics rather than political crusades are bringing the issue to a head.

Against the backdrop of a squeeze on the public purse, the authorities are exasperated, the feeling being that the price of upholding the democratic freedoms of an organisation is difficult to justify.

Businesses, particularly in a retail centre like Glasgow, can ill-afford to loose revenue as the tension generated by parades keeps shoppers away.

In all-around 35,000 hours of police work went into covering almost 1000 marches and processions in the west of Scotland in 2008-09, man hours that could be spent solving crimes and protecting the public. An estimated £1.12m was the bill.

Next month Steve House, the chief constable of Strathclyde Police, will unveil the official costs of policing all parades in his force area and has invited his governing body to explore options for recovering costs from “non-profit-making groups”.

Now the city council is signalling that it, too, feels the level of parades is untenable within the city.

Deputy leader of the authority, Councillor Jim Coleman, said: “There will be businesses in the city centre wanting us to come up with a new policy on parades. Blythswood Square, a traditional gathering place for these parades, will soon house a new five-star hotel.

“Gathering there will no longer be acceptable then. We need to look at new methods of parading around the city centre, not through it.

“We will allow the right to demonstrate but we need to strike a balance. It’s not just about democratic rights but disruption to the city. Our responsibilities extend beyond upholding the rights of the Orange Order or whoever else.”

Despite the mantra from the orders being that they have the democratic right to protest and that this is enshrined in human rights legislation, the council believes that, while it will uphold these principles, the current level of parades is unreasonable.

It also believes that there is enough scope within human rights legislation to allow it to regulate the number of parades on its streets. In fact, the council says it would welcome a court challenge to test the robustness of the policy.