THOUSANDS of pro-independence supporters will march through the Old Town under plans for a rally to mark the first anniversary of last year’s referendum on whether Scotland should leave the UK.
The Yes 2 Scotland event would see around 5000 participants gather next Friday to march along a route which includes King’s Stables Road, the Grassmarket and the Cowgate, and is due to finish on Horse Wynd.
Although organisers have still to receive the green light, senior council sources said they would be “surprised” if proposals were not approved during tomorrow’s meeting of the city’s licensing sub-committee.
The rally will take place exactly one year on from 2014’s historic referendum on the nation’s constitutional future, when Scots voted to remain part of the UK.
Political figures have urged the council to approve Yes 2 Scotland’s plans, which they said were aimed at building on the “hope and optimism” of the pro-independence campaign.
And they stressed it was important to allow public gatherings to take place provided they do not pose a risk to safety.
Deputy Lord Provost and SNP councillor Steve Cardownie said: “This is a legitimate march – [the organisers] want to celebrate the political activity of the people of Scotland over the last year.
“The organisers want to refer to the hope and optimism of the campaign. My understanding is that the police have no problem with it and I am looking forward to a weekend of celebration.
“We have a tradition in Edinburgh of allowing people to exercise their democratic right. The [referendum] result did not go as we would have liked but, nevertheless, the mood in the Yes camp was positive and I think people are right not to let that go.”
Council sources have indicated that, should Yes 2 Scotland’s plans be approved, strict conditions would be imposed aimed at minimising disruption to traffic and the public.
As well as a police presence, it is expected that a series of rolling road closures will be in place on the day to ensure marchers can proceed safely.
But the proposal has come under attack from figures on the No side, who dismissed it as “gesture politics” given the margin of victory for the pro-union campaign last year.
Cameron Buchanan, Conservative MSP for Lothian, said: “I think it’s ridiculous.
“There’s no point in banning these things but I am not in favour of the march – I think it’s rather gesture politics.
“The [referendum] result was a resounding ‘No’ and I don’t believe much has changed in that respect. I am a No voter but I respect everyone’s point of view.”
A report due to be considered by the city’s licensing sub-committee tomorrow states: “The council has limited powers in respect of marches.
“It can take no action and the march would proceed as the organiser intends. Alternatively it has the power to attach conditions or, under limited circumstances, to ban the march.
“These powers should only normally be exercised to prevent public disorder, risk to public safety, damage to property, or excessive disruption to the life of the community.”