Parades Commission

– in the Scottish Parliament on 23rd September 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

The First Minister will have seen the reports last week of the disgraceful anti-Catholic singing during the Orange Order marches throughout Glasgow, including in my constituency. At least three of the routes involved marching past Roman Catholic churches, which caused great distress and concern to the members of those parishes and the wider church in Scotland.

Given those events, will the First Minister consider the creation of a parades commission, similar to that in Northern Ireland, to take a non-partisan and independent look at the number and routes of such parades? Anyone old enough to remember the annual battles at Drumcree will verify the difference that the commission has made in Northern Ireland.

There were also shameful reports of Glasgow city councillors receiving death threats when any possible restriction of Orange Order parades was discussed. I am in 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. I am sure we can all agree that, if those parades are to go ahead, they should do so in a way that least threatens and intimidates those of another faith or opinion.

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Regarding James Dornan’s proposal for a parades commission, I am happy for the Government to give that further consideration. I have already asked the justice secretary to consider what further action could be taken to maintain the important balance of rights between peaceful procession and freedom of speech and the ability of people to go about their daily lives without feeling unsafe or facing harassment. I will ask the justice secretary to consider the possible creation of a parades commission as part of that.

It is important to stress that peaceful public assembly and freedom of expression are fundamentally important rights. I know that we are all committed to upholding them. It is also a fundamental right for any person or community to go about their daily business without fearing for their safety. I know that members will join me in unequivocally condemning all the instances of anti-Catholic bigotry that we have recently seen on our streets. There is no place for that in a modern Scotland, and we must all show zero tolerance towards it.

I confirm that we will give the specific proposal consideration and will report back to Parliament in due course.