An Orange Order march planned for Edinburgh just days before the independence referendum has been given the go-ahead.
The march by up to 15,000 people is scheduled for Saturday, September 13 – the weekend before voters decide the country’s future.
Members of the council’s licensing sub-committee yesterday voted in favour of allowing the event to take place, despite councillors voicing concerns.
But after receiving legal advice, they were left with no choice but to grant permission for the march.
Councillor Gavin Barrie, licensing leader, said: “All of the correspondence I have had [about the marches] was about the negative impact they have.
“But I do recognise they’re registered as a campaign group and that gives them some protection from prohibition – although they’re not completely protected.
“The law does not allow us to ban a march. It’s clear we’d rather this didn’t go ahead – our hands are tied. We have clear legal advice as to what we can and can’t do. [Banning it] wouldn’t have held up in the Sheriff Court.
“We recognise that when an organisation is registered as a campaigner in the referendum, the article on the convention of human rights gives you some protection.”
Arguing in favour of the march at yesterday’s meeting, James G MacLean, of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, denied the event would create a major safety risk and said protection of the right to free and peaceful demonstration was paramount.
He said: “I’m simply saying that we need to be very careful about encouraging people to take offence because of their particular political agenda.
“The right to demonstrate is the bedrock of any democracy. The right to express your opinion is the bedrock of any democracy. The right to express your cultural opinion is the bedrock of any democracy.
“In a democracy you should observe the maxim, ‘I may disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it’.”
• Full story at the Edinburgh Evening News.