Scotland’s First Minister has branded the “violent and sectarian disruption” at a march in Glasgow as “utterly unacceptable”.
On Friday night, a full-scale riot broke out in the Elder Park area of Govan after an Irish unity march – led by the James Connolly Republican Flute Band – was met by hundreds of “disruptive” counter-demonstrators.
Riot police, mounted officers, a force helicopter and dog units were used to quell “significant disorder”.
Two men – aged 37 and 21 – have been arrested and charged with public disorder following the incident and are expected to appear at the city’s sheriff court on Monday.
In response to the disturbance, Glasgow council has vowed to crack down on the “morons intent on bringing mayhem to the streets of our city”.
The local authority now intends to review its procedures on marches and parades following the incident in Govan and those it has “seen elsewhere in the city on too many occasions in the last year”.
Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the move.
On Saturday, she stated: “What happened in Govan last night was utterly unacceptable.
“My thanks to Police Scotland for their response.
“I welcome Glasgow City Council’s commitment to review the procedures around marches.
“Peaceful protest is a part of our democracy – violent and sectarian disruption is not.”
Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s justice minister, also welcomed Glasgow City Council’s decision, adding that it was “utterly depressing to see this divisive thuggery on our streets”.
The council said it is “prepared to consider any action” to protect the city’s communities.
The local authority said: “The council is clear that the law expects it to facilitate public processions; including those that some people oppose or find offensive.
“However, this cannot continue to be at the expense of the overwhelming majority of Glaswegians, who want nothing to do with these marches, or counter-protests.
“The city needs and wants fewer marches.
“We are prepared to consider any action that will protect communities from morons intent on bringing mayhem to the streets of our city.”
Annie Wells – the Scottish Conservative MSP for Glasgow – said the council has “serious questions to answer as to why this march was allowed to take place on a Friday night on the weekend of an Old Firm game”.
She stated “Most people in Glasgow, and indeed around Scotland, will be appalled at the violence we saw in Govan last night.
“There is no excuse for this type of behaviour. It is totally unacceptable.
“The local authority needs to look again at the processes followed when considering applications like this.
“There should be absolutely no repeat of the scenes of last night, but over-stretched police officers deserve huge credit and thanks for their efforts in containing the violence.”
In July last year, a priest was spat on as an Orange Walk marched past his church in the city.
Bradley Wallace was jailed for ten months for the attack on Father Thomas White during the annual Boyne Parade outside St Alphonsus Church on London Road.
Wallace was caught after his DNA was found on the vestment worn by Father White.
Passing sentence in February this year, sheriff Andrew Cubie told him: “How does a 24-year-old not know how to behave? You took the decision to spit on a priest.
“It is disgusting and was designed to humiliate him and others around him and this incident is motivated by religious prejudice.
“A custodial sentence is unavoidable here.”
On May 18 this year, the force had to deploy more than 100 officers – including specialist riot police – to manage a parade and counter-protest outside St Alphonsus.
Although there was no reported disorder, those supporting the parade were heard to shout abuse at the counter-protesters.
Call It Out, a group that campaigns against anti-Catholic bigotry, organised the silent demo against the Dalmarnock O&P No50 District march following the assault on Father White.
In April, a number of arrests were made as protesters clashed with militant republican group Saoradh in George Square.
In May, four loyalist groups failed to overturn a council ban preventing them from marching past St Alphonsus Church.
The marches – which were held during the first weekend in June – were also due to pass St Mary’s Church in the Calton area of the city.
At Glasgow Sheriff Court, Orange Order lawyer Neil MacDougall claimed that the local authority’s decision was a breach of the European Court of Human Rights.
However, sheriff Stuart Reid awarded in favour of Glasgow City Council in the hearing, which lasted over two hours.
The processions affected involved the Apprentice Boys of Derry (Bridgeton), Dalmarnock No Surrender Branch Club, Dalmarnock Orange and Purple District 50, and the Orange and Purple District 37.
The council’s decision to reroute the parades followed “significant” concerns raised by Police Scotland.
On behalf of Police Scotland’s chief constable, superintendent John McBride noted a “distinct and frankly troubling change in the terms and tone of commentary and rhetoric” surrounding the parades passing the city’s Catholic churches.
He stated: “A difference of view about such things is, of course, nothing new but the recent language has been more strident, on both sides of the argument, and positions are becoming more polarised.
“Whilst it is to be hoped that, through engagement and discussion in the relevant communities, some of that can be addressed in positive ways in the short term, I am bound to recognise that further processions along the same route may only make things worse.”
After the ruling, the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland said it was disappointed with the outcome.
In June, the organisation announced its annual Boyne Parade would not pass St Alphonsus in the “spirit of positive co-operation”.
Rangers have also been dragged into the spotlight over sectarian complaints.
Just this week, the club was ordered to close a 3000-seat section of Ibrox for a second European match.
UEFA issued the punishment after supporters sang sectarian songs during the first-leg of their Europa League play-off with Legia Warsaw in Poland last week.
Rangers faced the same sanction during Thursday night’s second-leg victory after offensive chanting by fans against St Joseph’s earlier in the competition.
It means a section of Ibrox will now be closed for the club’s first home Europa League group stage game against Feyenoord on September 19.
Rangers have already said they will reject tickets for their first away game of the campaign against Young Boys in Switzerland.
The club said: “Those who wish to sing offensive songs must realise by now that they are insulting Rangers players, staff, and fellow fans.
“There is nothing clever, bold or even defiant in what this small number of supporters are doing.
“By supporting Rangers in the correct way the rest of us must strive to protect our great club.
“One way or another this offensive behaviour must end and it would be much more preferable if we stopped it ourselves, simply by behaving like true Rangers fans.”
In response to Friday night’s riot, chief superintendent Mark Hargreaves said “fear and alarm” was caused by the violence and stated that a “robust” investigation would take place.
He said: “Police Scotland has a duty to facilitate processions and any peaceful protest, but this kind of behaviour by persons demonstrating against the parade is utterly unacceptable.
“It is extremely disappointing to see people acting in this fashion, causing fear and alarm to members of the public as well as putting many people at risk.
“Police Scotland will undertake a thorough and robust enquiry and take any necessary action against those found to have been causing disruption.”