SBC aims to ease administrative load on local festival organisers

COUNCIL officials will try to ensure that the administrative burden falling on organisers of common ridings and other local festivals as a result of legislation covering parades in Scotland is kept to a minimum, writes Mark Entwistle.

That was the unanimous agreement of councillors attending last week’s full meeting of Scottish Borders Council.

It was back in July that Scottish Government community safety and legal affairs minister Roseanna Cunningham, informed Scottish Borders Council that, while she understood concerns over the additional burden of the notification requirements for processions under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act as amended by the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006, she did not think it appropriate for the Borders events to be granted an exemption.

The requirement on the council to advertise the temporary traffic regulation orders (TTROs) for road closures during common ridings and festivals next year will now cost £17,000.

The amendments to the legislation were introduced after a review by former Strathclyde chief constable Sir John Orr and were aimed at curbing disorder during sectarian marches.

Although Sir John had recommended that Borders common ridings and festivals should be granted exemptions from this process, the Scottish Government has taken a different view.

Ian Wilkie, SBC’s senior legal officer, pointed out to councillors that his staff already “bend over backwards” to assist organisers of common ridings and festivals with legislative requirements.

Selkirkshire Conservative councillor Carolyn Riddell-Carre said this region was being lumbered with legislation aimed at tackling problems in the Central Belt.

“Our common ridings and festivals are wonderful ways of bringing together local communities and precede bodies such as Lothian and Borders Police and the Scottish Parliament, as well as things like the United States of America and the Union of the Crowns,” she said.

“They continue to exist because of the goodwill and sheer hard work of volunteers. This paper is right – it should be the lightest possible touch when it comes to the burden on these local communities when it comes to staging these events.”

Her fellow Selkirkshire member, SNP councillor Kenneth Gunn, said he was disappointed by the Scottish Government’s stance on the issue.

“Our common ridings and festivals have nothing to do with sectarian marches in central Scotland,” he said.

“But I think there is clear sympathy for our position contained in this letter and believe it gives us hope. Therefore I think we should contact all the other regions, right up to those staging the Up Helly Aa [festival in Shetland] to get support.

“We should take up the suggestion in the letter and contact all our fellow councils.”

However, council leader David Parker said it was not necessary to contact other local authorities and share experience and practice when it came to the legislation.

“That’s because these other councils ask us for advice,” he said.

“This is something for our government and parliamentarians to put right. I would suggest he [Councillor Gunn] has a long chat with Christine Grahame [SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale] and whoever else and do something about TTROs and this legislation.”