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Corpus Christi processions ‘under threat’ in Scotland after police ruling

Catholic faithful participate in the Procession of the Feast of God (Procession de la Fete Dieu, in French) to mark the celebration of Corpus Christi, in the commune of Petion Ville, Port-au-Prince (Getty Images)

Catholic parishes and dioceses could face big legal bills and red tape if they want to hold Corpus Christi and First Communion parades thanks to a new ruling from Police Scotland.

Dr Michael Rosie, of the University of Edinburgh, said a new policy introduced by the police could stop many small community processions or protests. Mr Rosie, whose independent report on marches, parades and processions was published a year ago, said inconsistencies were bound to happen after the force insisted officers had no powers to close roads in non-emergency situations.

“A wee parish who wanted a parade could give up because it is too complicated and expensive to seek a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO), while a bigger organisation like the Orange Order would have the resources and the gumption to refuse [to give up],” he said. “Local campaigners against school closures could face being charged to exercise that right. But it’s not a right if you have to pay.”

Mr Rosie said obtaining a TTRO could cost up to one thousand pounds and take three months.

Police Scotland will next week tell the police oversight body, the Scottish Police Authority, that without a TTRO, its officers will no longer close roads for marches and processions. Mr Rosie said Police Scotland should publish the legal advice on which their decision is based, because of the implications for free speech and free association.

A report to be heard by a Scottish Police Authority committee next week says the change of policy will mean councils have to seek TTROs for any marches necessitating road closures.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: “It is to be hoped that parishes or dioceses who wish to parade in public for occasions such as Corpus Christi will not be restricted or compromised in any way and nor should they face onerous requirements.”

Police Scotland assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins has admitted the cost of orders is likely to be passed on to organisers, with some marches and parades no longer viable.

“Existing legislation does not contain powers to enable police to regulate traffic for pre-planned events,’ he said.

This article first appeared in the Scottish Catholic Observer