Police are to cut the number of officers at Scotland's largest Orange parade, with organisers expected to impose professional stewarding instead.

The conclusion of a year-long study into parades and processions by Strathclyde Police, to be published in the coming weeks, will surprise many.

The report comes on the back of a year when the Orange Order has been under scrutiny for the cost to the public purse of its marches.

Police had recently issued a study claiming anti-social incidents rose dramatically during the July parade through central Glasgow and have expressed frustration at the �500,000-plus cost of policing the event and the �1.2 million annual bill across the region.

But in exchange for a much reduced presence at future parades, organisers will be expected to impose stringent stewarding, transferring responsibility � and substantial costs � on to the Orange Order.

This may involve the employment of professional stewards or insisting on stewards being accredited with their statutory watchdog. Officers are expected to be more discreet but spotters will be deployed and the event filmed, with a debriefing afterwards determining future policing strategies. The move comes as Glasgow City Council closes its consultation on a parades policy, which could see overall numbers vastly reduced and processions largely excluded from the city centre.

Police welcomed the move, although the Orange Order has cited human rights legislation and suggested potential court challenges to the prades policy.

The Order has argued for several years that Strathclyde over-polices its parades. They cite a large parade in Perth this year where Tayside Police sent around 120 officers, another in Liverpool involving 121 officers, and the July 12 parade in Belfast, which attracted 365 officers.

The Order said Strathclyde Police usually sends in the region of 800 officers to the Glasgow parade, stating last month that “this should stop immediately”, with “a more reasonable response saving the police budget hundreds of thousands of pounds each year”.

Last night, the force's assistant chief constable, Campbell Corrigan, said: “On the basis of the concerns raised by the Orange Order, and in accordance with normal working practice, I have conducted a review of policing of parades. The findings will be discussed with the Orange Order and will be presented at the next planned meeting of the Strathclyde Police Authority.

“I would like to stress that Strathclyde Police enjoys a very positive relationship with the organising officials with the Orange Order and consider that the findings within the review will do nothing to detract from this good relationship.

“It would be fair to say that we all want to make sure that the parades happen in a safe environment, with the minimum cost to the public purse.” Ian Wilson, Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, said: “We remain strongly of the belief that the law is firmly on our side in that any legitimate organisation has the right to celebrate their own traditions and beliefs through public assembly.

“We have always maintained good relations with the police and fully expect this to continue as we find ways of ensuring the right of freedom of assembly can be achieved with as little impact as possible on the public purse.”

Sources close to the organisation have told The Herald that the Orange Order's legal advice has reinforced the view that they cannot be kept out of the city centre by a local authority policy.

It is understood the Order has opposed the idea of a ban on processions walking back to their starting point, so called “feeder parades”, on the basis that it is the most convenient way of getting members back to their lodges and that it would be too costly to hire buses. The Order also opposed the publication of costs to the public purse for policing and road closures, fearing it could prejudice the public against its organisation.

Published on the 9th of October 2010
Article taken from the Herald Scotland

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