A huge Orange march consisting of 35 bands will make its way around Edinburgh city centre this summer in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
An application by The Loyal Orange Institution of Scotland to hold the controversial procession in the capital on Saturday, June 11, was one of three Orange order marches approved by the City of Edinburgh Council’s licensing committee.
Along with marches planned on June 4 and 25, they will be the first Orange walks held in the city since 2019, and will all use the Royal Mile as a key part of the route.
However, the parade to mark the Queen’s 70 years on the throne is set to be the largest — with the committee hearing that 35 bands or more could take over the centre of Edinburgh.
James MacLean, grand treasurer of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, told members at the meeting on Monday that the organisation has been conducting processions in Edinburgh since 1902.
He said: “These have always been conducted in accordance with any instructions given by the police on the day, we have never envisaged any serious problems in connection with our processions.
“This particular one is to mark the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and not for any other purpose.”
The committee also heard how the council has received a number of objections to the march going ahead.
However, a report said that the event, which it noted “may be considered controversial”, can only be banned or restricted to “prevent public disorder, risk to public safety, damage to property or excessive disruption to the life of the community”.
Conservative councillor Cameron Rose raised concerns about the potential impact of the procession on city centre traffic.
He said: “There is a difference this year to previous years in that the North Bridge is partially closed.
“My concern is the seizing up of the whole of the centre of Edinburgh, we’re talking about 35 bands, are we really talking about as many as that? I know we’ve got a noteworthy occasion but there will be people going about their businesses.”
Councillor Rose asked MacLean: “Have you any mitigation in relation to my concerns?”
MacLean responded: “There are vast roadworks all over the city of Edinburgh, it’s perhaps unfortunate that they all occur at the same time. We’ve suggested several measures to mitigate traffic disruption.
“It’s not our aim to disrupt traffic, our aim is to celebrate this jubilee.
“Every procession — whether it’s the Lord Mayor’s procession of the city of London or the Durham Minor’s Gala — will disrupt traffic.
“It is very unfortunate that this event occurs at a time that Edinburgh is vastly dug-up but we feel that our rights, our democratic right of freedom of peaceful public assembly, guaranteed in the common law of Scotland, the statute law of Scotland and the UK and the European Convention of Human Rights, would outweigh the undoubted inconvenience that is going to be caused to motorists.”
Councillor Rose assured MacLean there was “no question about the democratic right to demonstrate or to march or the occasion”.
He added: “It is simply of mitigation as best can be done of what will inevitably be huge congestion with in-particular the North Bridge being closed. Is that 35 bands, are you fairly confident that’s what you’re going to have?”
MacLean said the figure provided for the number of bands participating is “extremely unlikely to be exceeded”.
He added: “It may not, we will update Edinburgh Council and the police as the event organisation progresses as to attendance. There’s a possibility that there might be a number fewer bands than originally quoted. Our organisation, like many others’, has been mothballed for the best part of two years – it’s difficult for some bands to get up and running again.”
Green Party councillor Susan Rae asked if any “extra security” would be in place for the march.
PC Greig Stephen from Police Scotland’s Licensing Department said this was not currently deemed necessary, adding: “There’s no further intelligence to suggest that we need to bolster any resources.”