THE number of Orange walks in Scotland is still on the rise following the lifting of pandemic restrictions, while Glasgow has seen a decrease for the first time, an exclusive Sunday National investigation has found.

As the country was under Level 3 and Level 4 Covid-19 restrictions in 2020, there were no loyalist marches held. Only 30 managed to go ahead in the summer of 2021 across 10 council areas, with a further 14 planned but later cancelled.

In 2022, the number of loyalist parades jumped by sixfold - to 184 across 15 local authority areas.

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And this year, the number has continued to rise to 213 Orange walks across 16 local authority areas, an increase of 16%.

However, the figures still pale in comparison to figures from 2019, where a staggering 414 loyalist marches took to Scotland’s streets, with the majority held in Glasgow (192).

And this year, while Glasgow still tops the Sunday National’s rankings for the local authority area with the most notifications for Orange walks scheduled to take place, this has dropped from 81 in 2022 to 58 this year (-28%).

Conversely, neighbouring local authorities North and South Lanarkshire, as well as other authorities which historically have seen a higher number of loyalist marches, have seen an increase since 2022.

North Lanarkshire will host 36 Orange walks (+6), South Lanarkshire 35 (+14), Falkirk 22 (+10), and 14 in Renfrewshire (+10).

One council source told the Sunday National that Glasgow saw a “significant” reduction in parades after introducing a code of conduct for processions in 2006, which has been updated on a number of occasions, but that in general “more notifications means more parades”.

“You could argue that there had been some displacement into the city from surrounding areas as things got ugly in the pre-pandemic years and that is maybe re-setting,” they said.

“But equally, I’ve heard people say that it is down to internal changes in some of the orders, their numbers and resources.

“I know there have been prosecutions relating to some of the disorder in 2019, but I don’t know if that would be enough to change the appetite for more processions.”

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Tensions flared between loyalists and Irish republicans at a parade organised by the James Connolly Republic Flute Band in Govan in 2019, leading to a full-scale riot with fires breaking out and missiles were thrown.

It came after Canon Tom White was spat on by an Orange Order member outside of St Alphonsus Church on London Road in the East End of Glasgow in 2018.

The Catholic priest had been attempting to return inside the church but was attacked by Bradley Wallace, 24, who later pled guilty to the assault in 2019.

There have been numerous calls in the wake of the incident for protestant parades to be banned from passing Catholic churches.

Dave Scott, director at anti-sectarian charity Nil By Mouth, said: “Marches of this sort are often controversial and there is a balance to be stuck between freedom of expression and the rights of the communities which host them. 

The National: Nil By Mouth director Dave Scott suggested a model similar to the one used in Derry would be good for ScotlandNil By Mouth director Dave Scott suggested a model similar to the one used in Derry would be good for Scotland

“In the past, the communities have seemed an afterthought but the recent Independent Review of Marches and Parades contained many sensible ideas and strategies for striking such a balance and we are supportive of its work being continued over the summer. 

“The Derry model has been used with much success across the water and it has much to commend it in terms of march organisers pledging to uphold good behaviour to host communities and accepting responsibility for what occurs in and around parades. 

“It's certainly a model we can work with in Scotland.”

The Derry model saw representatives from loyalist marching organisations, residents, business leaders and political leaders brought together to reach an agreement over contested parades in 1990. 

In November last year, the Scottish Government ruled out the creation of a Northern Ireland-style parades commission as it was not necessary, but campaigners hope a similar scheme to the Derry model could be on the cards instead. 

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Elsewhere, North Ayrshire, which did not have figures available in 2019 or 2022, but saw four loyalists parades held in 2021. This year the local authority will see eight loyalist processions.

However, West Lothian, which had 20 loyalist walks registered with the local authority last year and came third in our 2022 rankings, saw the number drop to 11 (-9). South Ayrshire saw a decrease from two loyalist marches last year to one this year, while East Renfrewshire, who had two processions logged in 2022, had none registered so far in 2023.

The figures this year also saw Highland appear on the list for the first time since 2019, with two Orange walks scheduled for this year.

The number of loyalist marches in Falkirk have also returned to pre-pandemic levels - with 22 registered this year, the same number as 2019.

Other local authorities saw a smaller number of increases, such as East Lothian, which saw eight in 2022 and 11 this year (+3), and East Ayrshire has the same total as last year (4).

Perth and Kinross and East Dunbartonshire had an increase from one march to three, while West Dunbartonshire and Inverclyde saw an increase from one parade to two.

Edinburgh, which had three loyalist parades in 2022, only had one registered with the local authority this year.

Historically, the largest of the Orange walks are held in Glasgow. Feeder marches from across the city’s north, south, east and west congregate in the city centre. For this year’s event on June 25, the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland have notified Glasgow council there will be 1875 taking part.

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For the annual Boyne celebrations, scheduled to go ahead on July 1 this year, the County Grand Orange Lodge Of Glasgow have registered 5400 people taking part in the parade.

However, the largest single march this year will take place in South Lanarkshire, where 8000 members of the County Grand Orange Lodge of Central Scotland will march on July 8.

“There is a presumption in law that organisations that wish to hold processions have the opportunity to do so, meaning the main drivers in the number that take place are the organisers,” a spokesperson for Glasgow City Council said.

“The council recognises the impact that processions – and, in particular, frequent events – can have on the life of the wider community and established a code of conduct for organisers and those participating in processions.”

The National: The majority of loyalist parades are held in Glasgow, but this year the city saw a drop in the number registered with the councilThe majority of loyalist parades are held in Glasgow, but this year the city saw a drop in the number registered with the council

South Lanarkshire council said that they don’t categorise applications for parades by organisation, but said overall they had 47 notifications overall so far in 2023. Therefore, loyalists parades (35) make up 74% of all parades in the local authority area.

“There was a significant decrease in parade notifications during the period when pandemic restrictions were in place,” a spokesperson for South Lanarkshire said.

“Since restrictions were lifted there has been an increase, but the numbers are less than in the years immediately preceding the pandemic.”

North Lanarkshire declined to comment but advised that the total number of processions registered this year was 190, the same figure as in 2018.

The Orange Order did not respond to our request for comment.