The year 2015 marked the tenth anniversary of the publication of Sir John Orr's Review of Marches and Parades in Scotland. The implications of the publication of this document in 2005 may now seem vague to many of us, but it is important that we remember the significance of this report. It was the first full scale review of marches and parades undertaken in Scotland and Orr's recommendations were important in helping to move towards standardisation of the arrangements for such events across Scotland.
Much can change in a decade and 2015 felt like the right time to revisit the review, take stock and consider how things may have moved on. In particular, it felt like the right time to examine how the current arrangements were working in light of both changing circumstance and recent research. It also felt like the right time to expand the scope of the original review to include static demonstrations, an issue that was not a feature of the Orr Review but has subsequently risen in significance.
I am therefore pleased to present this report on marches, parades and static demonstrations in Scotland. I was invited by the Scottish Government to carry out a scoping exercise and provide independent advice on these issues, and this report follows full and constructive conversations with those involved in the marches and parades process - those seeking to march, parade or demonstrate and those with statutory duties to facilitate and police such events - allowing me to gain insight from various perspectives.
I wholeheartedly thank everyone who took the time to meet with me and share their views and experiences. Without such generous input this report could not have been written.
The independent research report on the Community Impact of Public Processions (carried out by the University of Stirling and published in February 2015) had noted the continued contentious nature of some marches and had reiterated the need for the correct balance between rights and responsibilities to be achieved, as well as noting some concern around static demonstrations. In addition, the reports by the independent Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland, which I was a member of, made a number of recommendations in relation to marches and parades.
I hope that this report and its recommendations add constructively to the discussions taking place, building on these existing pieces of work and helping to further increase our collective understanding of the issues involved. Good understanding on all sides can ensure that the process produces the best possible balance of rights between those marching and parading and the communities they pass through.
As I state in my conclusion to this report, it is my view that the process involved in the marches and parades system, by and large, works well the majority of the time. I heard many positive examples of best practice, which I have highlighted. However, there is no room for complacency, and I have also highlighted areas where further attention is needed to ensure equity within the process and to encourage the good relations, constructive dialogue and trust built up between parading organisations, local authorities and the police to be built upon further and not lost.
Dr Michael Rosie
Senior Lecturer in Sociology at The University of Edinburgh