Plea to Holyrood over ‘ridiculous’ common riding law

SCOTTISH Borders Council has stepped up its bid to have common ridings and festivals exempted from legislation, enacted in April 2007, to ensure the safe and proper organisation of parades in Scotland, writes Andrew Keddie.

The procedures, to curb disorder at sectarian marches, were introduced as amendments to the Civic Government Scotland Act following a review by former Strathclyde chief constable Sir John Orr.

Councillors heard last week that SBC was under pressure to comply with the attendant regulations to promote temporary traffic regulation orders (TTROs) to cover 22 events on behalf of festival organisers.

A report indicated this would cost the council nearly £17,000 next year, including advertising costs of £9,000. “We have tried delaying tactics to stop this report coming before council,” admitted leader David Parker. “Sir John Orr believed our common ridings were a great example of best practice, yet we were included in a law which is a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

“With the very odd exception of a motorist being delayed for an important appointment or a plane flight, the current arrangements for road closures, using signs, advance advertising and without recourse to statutory orders, has served us well.”

Mr Parker called on the SNP group to tell its party’s local MSPs Christine Grahame and Paul Wheelhouse to lobby the Scottish Government in the strongest terms to make SBC and its festivals exempt from “this ridiculous legislation”.

Mr Parker revealed a request for such a derogation – the partial revocation of a law – had been sent to Holyrood by head of legal services Ian Wilkie and was awaiting a response.

SNP councillor Kenneth Gunn pointed out it was the previous Labour-Lib Dem coalition which had introduced the legislation.

“We have tried several times to have this repealed as far as our common ridings and festivals are concerned and Ms Grahame has supported this, but there is no backing from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities [CoSLA] and that has scuppered our attempts,” said Mr Gunn.

Councillor Donald Moffat, leader of SBC’s SNP group added: “I know Mr Wheelhouse is looking into this. Now we have got rid of the opposition [at Holyrood], I believe there is a realistic chance of achieving our aim.”