The Orange Order has hit out at plans to charge them thousands of pounds for the cost of policing its parades in Scotland.
It emerged yesterday that the Scottish branch of the order will be told to make a contribution to the estimated annual £1.5m it costs to police parades in Scotland, or a new law restricting the number of parades could be invoked.
In Glasgow, city chiefs have said they now host 250 parades a year, which they say is more than Belfast and Londonderry combined. Strathclyde Police said the bill for policing three Orange Order events in July came to almost £1m, a sum the force can ill afford, as it faces a £200m deficit.
Glasgow council said republican parades in the city would also have to contribute to costs.
Other councils, such as West Lothian and West Dunbartonshire, are understood to be observing developments and plan to introduce their own charges if the plan is invoked.
There are more than 1,000 parades associated with the Orange Order across Northern Ireland every year.
The cost of policing parades in Belfast in July, including the disturbances in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast which set off four nights of rioting, was £332,678.
However, a spokesman for the Orange Order argued that its parades brought in more money than they cost.
“Parading is an integral part of the Protestant culture,” he said.
“We are working with the tourist authorities both north and south of the border to attract more visitors to parades and the whole community is benefiting from this. As an organisation which relies on voluntary subscriptions, the cost would be crippling for us.
“We do not make any profit from our cultural celebrations, it is the community who reap the benefit. We believe charging cultural organisations for their parades could be a contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights.”
But a spokesman for Sinn Fein said the idea was “certainly worth looking at”.
“The issue warrants being looked at,” he said.
“However, it must be proportionate because if was applied to all organisations, for smaller community groups and festivals, it could financially cripple them.”