PROPOSALS for a Northern Ireland style parades commission in Scotland have been criticised by both the Orange Order and campaigners against anti-Catholic bigotry.

Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, Jim McHarg, described the proposal as “yet another attack on civil liberties by the SNP administration”.

While Jeanette Findlay from Call It Out said the notion of a parades commission in Scotland was “ludicrous”. 

Details of a new working group “to consider ways to promote peaceful assemblies” was announced by Justice Secretary Keith Brown on Thursday afternoon. 

READ MORE: Working group to explore Scottish Parades Commission

It follows a swathe of arrests during Orange Order walks last September.

At the time, the First Minister was urged by one of her own MSPs to “consider the creation of a Parades Commission, similar to what already happens in Northern Ireland, to take a non-partisan and independent look at the number and route of such parades”

The government says the new group will “consider whether other models used to regulate marches and parades - including the Parades Commission in Northern Ireland - can be adapted and applied to Scotland.”

Mr McHarg said the commission was unnecessary. 

“This is yet another attack on civil liberties by the SNP administration,” the Orange Order boss said. 

“Local authorities have sufficient powers to regulate marches and parades. This was recently reiterated by Dr Michael Rosie in his recently updated report to the Scottish Government on marches and parades. 

“We will be meeting with this group to emphasise our opposition to any suggestion of a parades commission in Scotland as we believe such an organisation is likely to cause more problems than it solves.”

Ms Finlay agreed, saying Call It Out and the Orange Order were as one over the issue.

The chair of the anti-Catholic bigotry group said: "The notion of a parades commission in Scotland in 2022 is ludicrous.  

"Scotland is not a post-conflict society and therefore does not need to borrow ideas from the position in Ireland. 

"Jim McHarg is absolutely right in that there is adequate legislation already in place to ensure that the needs of all parts of the community are met. 

"The problem is that legislation is not operated properly, and the needs of the Catholic/Irish Catholic community are rarely considered. 

"Local authorities do have the power to protect our places of worship, they simply choose not to."

Announcing the working group, Mr Brown said it was about trying to work out how to balance the “right to peacefully march and parade” with the right for “communities to go about their business undisturbed.”

“We are determined to achieve that balance and are open to considering all options which will help to ensure that such a balance is struck. The findings of the expert working group will help us as we make progress on this important issue,” he said.

Last September saw thousands of Orangemen and supporters take to the streets in more than 50 processions to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne.

Police arrested 14 people, primarily for public disorder and acts of anti-social behaviour, but also for “sectarian related breach of the peace.”

An Orange March was cancelled in 2018 after Canon Tom White was spat on and verbally abused while parishioners were leaving Mass at St Alphonsus Church in the Calton.

The next year saw violence during an event by the James Connolly Republic Flute Band, who were trying to take part in what they called an “Irish Unity March” in Govan.

They were met by a loyalist counter-protest. 

Riot cops were forced to kettle both sides.

At the time, a Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “The scenes in Govan tonight - and those we have seen elsewhere in the city on too many occasions in the last year - are unacceptable.

“The council is clear that the law expects it to facilitate public processions; including those that some people oppose or find offensive.

“However, this cannot continue to be at the expense of the overwhelming majority of Glaswegians, who want nothing to do with these marches, or counter-protests.

“The city needs and wants fewer marches. We are prepared to consider any action that will protect our communities from morons intent on bringing mayhem to the streets of our city.”

Northern Ireland's Parades Commission was established in 1998 following violence and unrest associated with parades in the town of Portadown, known as the Drumcree conflict.

It is an independent public body with seven members and is responsible for placing restrictions on any parades.

Last September, the SNP’s James Dornan, who represents Glasgow Cathcart, told the First Minister there were "shameful reports of Glasgow city councillors receiving death threats when any possible restrictions of Orange parades were discussed". 

He said he had "no doubt that just as in Northern Ireland, a Parades Commission would go a long way towards taking some of the heat out of the discussion of parades".