Saturday, 12 August 2017

Reclaim the Streets

Picture: TSPL

I contacted my local MP and MSP after writing about my experience of the Orange Walk in Glasgow back in July both, I'm pleased to say, were supportive.

John Mason MSP wrote to me by email to say he broadly agreed with what I had to say and Alison Thewliss responded as follows. 

Dear Mark ,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Orange Walk over the weekend.

Decisions on processions and parades are a matter for Glasgow City Council, who are responsible for assessing applications for marches, parades and processions in the city. I am informed that the decision to allow these marches to go on pre-date the change in administration at Glasgow City Council. I understand that the new SNP-led City Government is aware of the wider concerns about the impact that these marches can have on people and places across Glasgow.

Councils have a responsibility to protect people’s right to gather, however it is important to ensure that there is a better balance between the right to gather and the disruption caused by such gatherings in the future, and that some of the issues that you have raised in your email about the conduct of those attending parades and marches is minimised. I understand that the police have launched investigations into specific allegations made regarding anti-social behaviour and sectarian abuse and I understand that any such incidents will be taken into account when decisions are made on future processions in the city.

I have also been informed that the new City Government intends to form a cross-party working group to examine the licensing and enforcement powers that lie respectively with Glasgow City Council, Police Scotland and the Scottish Government and bring forward recommendations for an updated approach to the numbers, location and management of marches in future years. I would suggest that, if you haven't already done so, to contact your local SNP councillor to highlight your concerns and receive updates on the activity of the working group.

I hope you find this response helpful. If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best wishes,

Alison

Alison Thewliss MP
SNP Member of the UK Parliament for Glasgow Central



Now I haven't actually received a reply from Glasgow City Council to my original complaint letter, but I am interested to learn about this cross party working group.

So I will be writing to my local Glasgow councillor to ask how an ordinary citizen like me can have some input into these discussions and a say over the way similar events are organised in future.

I have no problem with people's having marches, but if you ask me the police should always be in visible control of the proceedings and should ensure that the citizens of Glasgow can go about their everyday business without undue disruption and as normally as possible.


  



Processions vs Pedestrians (02/07/17)Picture: TSPL

Photo from The Scotsman and TPSL

I don't have any interest in Orange Walks, with their non-inclusive, sectarian ways, but I do object to their marching bands behaving as if they own the public highway.  

So I decided to do something about it after my experience yesterday - and here's my letter to the Leader of Glasgow City Council, Cllr Susan Aitken which has been copied to my local councillor, other local politicians and the Chief Constable of Police Scotland.

Let's see if it has any effect.

1 July 2017

Dear Cllr Aitken

Glasgow Orange Walk - Saturday 1 July 2017

I would like to register a complaint about the stewarding and policing of the Orange Walk in Glasgow earlier today.

I left my house to do some shopping in town at 11.20am and planned to cross the High Street at Glasgow Cross, as normal.

Unfortunately, I could not cross the road because of the Orange Walk which I knew about already, of course, but I waited patiently for a break in the procession so that I could go about my business in town. 

After several minutes and with no sign of an opportunity to cross, I spoke to a police officer who said I would need to wait until the procession stopped or until the whole thing was finally over which seemed completely absurd to me, but rather than make a big fuss I set off for Morrisons on Barrack Street to pick up a few things.

Fifteen minutes or so later I returned to the corner of High Street and Bell Street with the intention of continuing my journey into town, but again my path was blocked by the procession and looking further up the High Street there was no sign of a police vehicle or likely pause in the line of marching bands.

So I decided that 'enough was enough' and that I would cross the High Street to continue on my route into town, in between two of the bands which had come to a halt nearby. As I did so one of the band's uniformed members tried to accost and prevent me from crossing the road, but I avoided his rather ungainly and unsuccessful attempts to block my passage, so to speak, before arriving safely on the other side of Bell Street a few seconds later.

I spoke to a police officer on the west side of Bell Street and shared  my experience to him in the hope that he would feed this back to his senior officers. The officer told me that occasional police vehicles accompanying the marchers were supposed to stop the march periodically to allow pedestrians cross the road at sensible intervals.

But if this policy was in operation on the day, then I have to say it was not working properly; in effect, the rights of local Glasgow citizens to go about their normal business, without undue interference, took second place to the Orange Walk - a case of the tail wagging the dog, if you ask me. 

So my suggestion is that these processions should be stopped at regular intervals, at designated crossing points which are under the visible control of the police, so that local citizens and other pedestrians can go about their business.

In my experience, the 'system' that was in operation on Saturday plainly did not work and, left to their own devices, the organisers of the walk and their marching bands seem to think that they - not the police - are in charge of the public highway.

I am copying this letter to my local councillor (Greg Hepburn), MSP (John Mason) and MP (Alison Thewliss) as well as the Chief Constable of Police Scotland (Philip Gormley).

Kind regards



Mark Irvine