AN Orange Order march planned for Edinburgh days before the independence referendum risks tarnishing the Capital’s image in the full glare of the international spotlight, city leaders fear.
The march by up to 15,000 people is proposed for Saturday, September 13 – the weekend before voters will decide Scotland’s future.
Police have raised no objection to the event despite the increased tensions expected so close to the big vote.
But senior councillors have voiced private concerns that any trouble would be beamed around the world and badly damage Edinburgh’s reputation.
One said: “I have really serious concerns about the public order implications of the march.”
Earlier this month, a 12-year-old girl was left covered in blood at an Orange walk in Glasgow after being hit with flying bottle when a fight broke out as she watched the parade.
The senior councillor said they feared the police are “underestimating the potential for trouble”.
“The Glasgow parade was a march of 4500, so the one proposed for Edinburgh is significantly larger. Feelings will be heightened by the proximity to the referendum,” he said.
“The whole world is going to be looking at Edinburgh during that week and it could be a really bad advert for the city if it goes wrong.
“There will be lots of press here and lots of cameras that week. Edinburgh could find itself in the news for all the wrong reasons.”
The councillor said a police report raising no objection to the huge Orange walk may have been compiled before the Glasgow incident and called for the force to reconsider its stance.
Councillor Gavin Barrie, convener of the city’s licensing sub-committee, which will make the decision on whether the march goes ahead, said: “We will give due consideration to professional advice and make a balanced decision, taking account of people’s right to march. We have to have an extremely good reason for refusing that.” The march – billed as a referendum rally against independence – will come hot on the heels of the Commonwealth Games and the Edinburgh Festival and just ten days before the start of golf’s Ryder Cup in Gleneagles.
Robert McLean, executive officer of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, said he did not expect any police objection to the march.
He claimed the fighting which broke out during the Glasgow march was “nothing whatsoever to do with the Orange parade”. And he said: “We have paraded through Edinburgh on many occasions without problems.”
He dismissed the idea that the larger numbers increased the risk of trouble.
He said: “This is an all-Scotland march so we have members from all over the country. We had an all-Scotland march in Edinburgh in 2007 with 15,000 to 20,000 people and there were no problems at all.
“There won’t be any trouble from the Orange parade.”