ROYAL Mile publicans have been warned to expect clashes between football fans during an Orange Order march through the city centre tomorrow.
The Evening News understands pub owners have been told by police that groups of Hibs and Rangers fans are planning to cause trouble at the controversial event, being held just days before the referendum.
With supporters set to arrive from as far afield as London, it is also understood a counter-demonstration will be held at Holyrood.
However, police and city licensing chiefs today said they were unaware of any official protest scheduled to coincide with tomorrow’s procession, which will see around 12,000 Orange Lodge members march from the Meadows to Regent Road.
Organisers said the event would be the largest held in Scotland since July 1951, when at least 50,000 marchers met in Edinburgh to mark the Lodge’s recovery after scores of followers were killed in the Second World War. Several main roads in the city centre – including The Mound, George IV Bridge, Market Street, Jeffrey Street and Forrest Road – will be closed between 10.30am and 2pm, with warnings of significant congestion.
Orange Lodge leaders stressed only “fully paid-up members” able to offer a guarantee of good behaviour had been “authorised” to take part.
They said “several hundred” individuals from Northern Ireland-based lodges in Belfast, Londonderry, Antrim and County Down, as well as the Provincial Grand Orange Lodge of Liverpool, would also participate.
James MacLean, grand treasurer for the Scottish Orange Order, said: “We have worked very closely with Edinburgh City Council and Police Scotland to ensure that we have a trouble-free march and that the undoubted inconvenience is kept to an absolute minimum.”
Campaigners opposed to the march said they had urged supporters not to organise counter-demonstrations.
Jim Slaven, chair of the James Connolly Society, said: “The Orange Order represents the past – the referendum offers us an opportunity to build a new Scotland without sectarianism.”