The Scottish Government is to consider setting up a non-partisan parades commission in light of accusations of anti-Catholic bigotry at an Orange Order march in Glasgow.
Thousands took to the streets of Scotland’s biggest city last Saturday, resulting in 14 arrests and reports of “racist and sectarian singing”, according to Police Scotland.
As a result, Nicola Sturgeon has instructed Justice Secretary Keith Brown to assess the merits of a non-partisan commission to regulate marches and their routes, similar to a body set up in Northern Ireland.
Set up in 1998, the Parades Commission has the power to cancel, re-route or amend marches, including by barring the playing of music or the banning of certain individuals from attending.
Currently, it is for local authorities to make decisions on marches and processions.
Responding to a question from SNP MSP James Dornan, who said a commission would “go a long way towards taking the heat out of some of the discussion around the parades, the First Minister said: “In regards to the specific proposal of a parades commission, yes I’m happy that the government gives that further consideration.
“I have already asked the Justice Secretary to consider what action could be taken to maintain the important balance of rights between peaceful procession, freedom of speech but also the ability for people to go about their daily lives without feeling unsafe and being free from harassment.
“So I’ll ask the Justice Secretary to consider the possible creation of a parades commission as part of that.”
Ms Sturgeon added: “I think it is important to stress that peaceful public assembly and freedom of expression are fundamentally important rights and I know we’re all committed to upholding these.
“But it is also a fundamental right of any person and any community to go about their daily business without fears for their safety.
“I know that members will join me in unequivocally condemning all instances of anti-Catholic bigotry which we have seen on our streets in recent times.
“There is no place for it in a modern Scotland and we must all show zero tolerance towards it.”