Pressure mounts on Matheson over Labour leader’s Orange Order stance

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By G.A.Ponsonby
 
Glasgow Labour leader Gordon Matheson is coming under increasing pressure to explain his stance on Orange Order parades after it was claimed he admitted his council’s policy on limiting marches was flawed and in need of review.
 
SNP MSP Humza Yousaf has written to the Labour leader of Glasgow Council asking him to clarify what areas of the policy he believes are flawed and how many times he has met with Orange Order groups.

By G.A.Ponsonby
 
Glasgow Labour leader Gordon Matheson is coming under increasing pressure to explain his stance on Orange Order parades after it was claimed he admitted his council’s policy on limiting marches was flawed and in need of review.
 
SNP MSP Humza Yousaf has written to the Labour leader of Glasgow Council asking him to clarify what areas of the policy he believes are flawed and how many times he has met with Orange Order groups.

According to the Herald newspaper, in his letter to Mr Matheson, Mr Yousaf said: “Can you clarify which part of the policy is, in your opinion, flawed and in need of review?”

He added: “Can you confirm how many meetings you or indeed any Glasgow City Council officials have had with Orange Order groups during the last council session and what was discussed?”

The questions follow revelations by Herald journalist Gerry Braiden that the Labour Council leader had spoken in front of a cheering crowd of Orange Order members days prior to the local elections.

According to eye witnesses, the Labour front man claimed the 18 month old policy aimed at restricting the number and duration of marches was wrong and promised to review the policy should Labour win the upcoming local elections.

Mr Matheson’s pledge to the Order followed polls that showed his Labour group trailing the SNP.  It was also alleged that the Order had threatened to campaign against Labour over the council’s parades policy.

Mr Matheson later claimed that there were no plans to alter the policy and that an annual review had always been scheduled.  However, in the eighteen months since the introduction of the policy no such review has ever taken place.

In fact the council has repeatedly hailed the policy a success, with disputes being resolved quickly.  Police chiefs have also described it as a “template” for other local authorities.

According to the Herald, the Labour run council is currently looking into increasing the number of processions throughout the city and allowing religious and political parades to start playing their music earlier and also allowing music to be played later.

Mr Matheson’s hustings meeting with the Orange Order received no coverage from the Scottish media and many believe had reports been published, then his party would have suffered at the hands of the electorate.

Anne Keay, of the Merchant City Community Council who worked with Mr Matheson when the policy was being drafted, accused the Labour Councillor of changing his position and of having let her down.

She said: “Gordon Matheson has changed his stance and I feel enormously let down.  He has continually given the impression at our meetings that he is in favour of reducing marches through the city centre and re-routing them.”

Members of the Catholic community in Glasgow have expressed concern that the large number of Orange Order Marches in the city encourages and promotes sectarian behaviour.

Monsignor Peter Smith, the former chancellor of Glasgow Archdiocese, described the attitude of many marchers towards Catholics as ‘appalling’.