Many of you will be aware that there is a planned march by an anti-Catholic organisation which will pass St Alphonsus in London Road, Glasgow on the morning of Sunday 27 March. When the parishioners of St Alphonsus found this out from the Future Processions page of the Glasgow City Council website, a formal written objection was sent to the Processions Officer of the Council. A copy of this objection can be found here. You can see that a very detailed account of the law and the pertinent issues are raised here. Readers may also wish to know that the anti-Catholic procession is going outwards past the Church but will return by an only very marginally different route which does not pass the Church - this extends the route by a few hundred yards.
The response from GCC can be found here. It makes plain that both the Police and the Council Officers (not Councillors) have decided that there are no issues of concern which would move them to insist on a re-route of this procession.
The Parish Council sent a further response and received a reply from the Head of Democratic and Legal Services at GCC. Both emails can be seen here. What we know from this exchange is that the decision was not taken by the councillors who sit on the Processions Committee and who are accountable to the citizens of Glasgow. At this point the local MP and MSP were alerted to the situation. The Council Officer continues to emphasise her view that there was no basis on which the Processions Committee could be convened - we dispute her interpretation of the law in this regard as there is absolutely no reason why democratically-elected councillors cannot discuss this matter. She also indicates that the previous incidents of hatred by these organisation were now some time ago - one can only surmise that she has forgotten that we have had two years of pandemic, for a large part of which, there were no public processions. The Parish Council replied pointing this matter out and also pointing out that the processions which have taken place since 2021 were also marked by hatred and anti-Catholic bigotry as publicly stated by the Police Service of Scotland.
At this point, Call it Out, also wrote to the Head of DLS and asked why it would not be possible for this organisation to take the same route out as it is taking on the way back and thereby their stated purpose would be met as would the needs of the Catholic community of Glasgow.
Her response was as follows:
Thank you for your email. I can advise that the outward route notified by the organisation is considered to be the most direct route via arterial roads from their assembly point at their lodge on Tullis Street to their church service at Cathedral Square, avoiding predominantly residential side streets. Due to the timing of the return procession, the organisation made a voluntary change to the notification for their return route so as to avoid passing St Alphonsus when it will either be in service for Sunday Mass or when parishioners may be exiting.
In our response, we commented on the weakness of her argument which would be obvious for anyone who is aware of the precise nature of the route in question. The two routes (one which passes the Church and one which does not), differ only very marginally - a few hundred yards at most:
Thank you for your response but I must confess to being confused. If this organisation is explicitly agreeing to avoid the church on their return route - presumably because they know they are not wanted - why was it not agreed that they would use that route in both directions? This makes no sense and neither does the suggestion that the other route is 'more direct' in any significant or substantive sense. I presume you know the route?
We remain unconvinced that the very modest and reasonable demands of our community ie that our rights are properly balanced with those of the notifiers of this march, are being listened to at all.
You really leave us no option but to defend our community and places of worship by ourselves.
The Parish Council of St Alphonsus also sent a final communication which spelled out in clear and precise detail the issue at hand. Clearly, the lesson here is that , despite the fact that we have a sufficiently detailed legal framework and despite the fact that Glasgow City Council has, itself, successfully defended its past decisions to reroute anti-Catholic marches and been supplied with a detailed exposition of its powers by Sheriff Reid as a result they are now not willing to use those powers to properly balance the needs of the whole community. Moreover, despite the fact that the Police Service of Scotland has publicly acknowledged the misconduct of anti-Catholic marchers since the resumption of public processions in 2021, they have decided not to raise any of these issues at the point in the process where, as statutory consultees, they are able to convey this information formally to the Council. What are we to make of this? Well, that is a matter for debate and discussion but, in the meantime, we have only one option on Sunday morning at 10am outside St Alphonsus on London Road. We hope to see you all there.