Council vows to ‘push the law’ over sectarian disorder in Glasgow

BBC News

Council bosses have vowed to “push the law” in order to protect the public following sectarian disorder in Glasgow on Friday night.

Riot police, a helicopter, and dog units were called in when an Irish Unity march was met by loyalist counter-demonstrators in Govan.

Three more marches are planned for this week including one on Monday evening.

Council leader Susan Aitken said legislation may have to be tested to strengthen the authority’s hand.

She told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I am absolutely clear that the council’s procedures are not in any way at fault here. The council made the decision that the council has the ability to make.

“Over the past year, Glasgow City Council has pushed the law as far as we can on this, to the extent of being taken to court. And it may well be that we have to do this again.”

She added: “Human rights law trumps domestic law. People absolutely have a human right to march and to protest and we have a duty to facilitate that.

“We’re at the point now, though, where that right is being abused. Therefore we have to consider as a public authority, alongside the other public authorities who have a role in this, whether we push the law in order to protect the public.”

Roads were blocked in what police described as “significant disorder” during Friday’s disturbance.

The Irish Unity march, led by the James Connolly Republican Flute Band, set off from Elder Park, Govan, at 18:30 but was soon met by a counter demonstration of “several hundred people” from loyalist groups.

Govan Road was blocked by officers and the Govan subway station was closed for a short period.

Witnesses reported the use of smoke bombs.

Two men arrested following the incident have been released by police pending further inquiries. Barry Angus, 37, and Mark Cumming, 21, are expected to appear before Glasgow Sheriff Court on October 1.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the scenes as “utterly unacceptable”.

She said: “Peaceful protest is a part of our democracy – violent and sectarian disruption is not”.

‘Real challenge’

Former first minister Jack McConnell has called for more to be done to combat the “cancer” of sectarianism in Scotland.

Lord McConnell accused the Scottish government of “taking its food off the pedal” in tackling the problem.

He told Good Morning Scotland: “Part of the problem that we are seeing in football grounds and on the streets with increasing sectarian behaviour and incidents is that there hasn’t been strong national leadership.

“Spending money is the easy part of government. It’s easy to pick up a budget and give organisations some money.

“The real challenge is in bringing people together and getting them to commit and then act on the changes that are required.”

He added: “Sectarianism is not a one-off incident at a football match or the disorder of Friday night.

“This is an issue that stains Scotland’s character.”