By Martin Kelly
The leader of Glasgow Council has been urged to clarify the local authority’s policy on Orange Walks after concerns were raised that bands may be allowed to play music outside places of worship.
Labour’s Gordon Matheson has come under pressure to clarify his party’s stance on parades following recent revelations that he attended an Orange Order hustings in the days leading up to the local authority elections.
Mr Matheson’s attendance at the Hustings is reported to have ended with the Labour council leader claiming, to loud applause, that the council’s policy on Orange Parades was wrong. It followed threats by the Order to campaign against Labour.
Today MSP Humza Yousaf called on Glasgow City Council to reaffirm its commitment to the Parades and Processions Code of Conduct which was described by police chiefs as a “template” for other local authorities.
Mr Yousaf, SNP MSP for Glasgow, has been pressing Mr Matheson for the detail of his proposed review following a letter from the council leader which fails to clarify exactly what changes the council will look at implementing.
Mr Yousaf said:
"My concerns lie in finding the balance between protecting the rights of those who come to Glasgow in order to march and the rights and safety of the people who live, work, play and worship here.
"Mr Matheson's letter outlines an area which will be reviewed is the restriction on playing music on passing places of worship - this is something that I am deeply uneasy about.
"The code of conduct states that parades should not play music while passing places of worship be it a Chapel, a Synagogue, a Mosque or any place of worship. Any relaxation of this would be unwelcome.”
According to the Herald newspaper, the Labour run council is currently looking into increasing the number of processions throughout the city and allowing religious and political parades to start playing their music earlier and also allowing music to be played later.
However, in a letter to Mr Yousaf, Mr Matheson denied this and suggested that he was in fact looking to reduce the number of parades.
The SNP MSP was also concerned that public cash had been handed over by the Labour council to allow the Orange Order to stage events commemorating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
"I'm also keen to know precisely why the Orange Order was given pockets of public money to hold parades across Glasgow during the Queen's Jubilee celebrations.
"The Jubilee is meant to be a time of inclusive celebration and I'm not convinced this is something which the parades in Glasgow at the weekend achieved. It would be good to know exactly how GCC measure how inclusive parades and marches are."
Mr Matheson has previously claimed that there were no plans to alter the policy and that an annual review had always been scheduled. However, in the eighteen months since the introduction of the policy no such review has ever taken place.
Speaking last month, Anne Keay, of the Merchant City Community Council who worked with Mr Matheson when the policy was being drafted, accused the Labour Councillor of changing his position and of having let her down.
She said: "Gordon Matheson has changed his stance and I feel enormously let down. He has continually given the impression at our meetings that he is in favour of reducing marches through the city centre and re-routing them."
Members of the Catholic community in Glasgow have expressed concern that the large number of Orange Order Marches in the city encourages and promotes sectarian behaviour.
Monsignor Peter Smith, the former chancellor of Glasgow Archdiocese, described the attitude of many marchers towards Catholics as 'appalling'.
Hear Mr Yousaf being interviewed on BBC radio Scotland