COUNCILLORS have been praised for their decision to ban a planned far-right parade through Edinburgh amid fears it would create a “flashpoint” of violence.
The Scottish Defence League’s rally would have seen around 200 people take to the streets on the day before the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York.
The controversial march attracted a flurry of objections over the group’s “racist and homophobic” views, with Justice Secretary Kenny McAskill claiming it “could pose a threat to public safety”.
The council’s licensing committee voted unanimously to throw out the plans yesterday.
Aamer Anwar, a human rights lawyer and organiser of Scotland United, said: “We welcome the council’s decision to ban the SDL march. Neo-Nazis masquerading under the flag of Scotland will never be welcome in our capital city.”
During the meeting yesterday, Councillor Joanna Mowat said she feared the parade could turn violent.
“Given the tension there is in the UK, along with what has happened in England, I think this could be a flashpoint.
“There could very well be a risk to public safety.”
Asked to explain the views shared by SDL members, regional organiser Paul O’ Donnell told councillors: “The main issue is the rise of militant Islam in the UK and how we feel the Government is not doing anything about it.
“We feel that when peoples’ lives are being put at risk because of Islamic extremists, we’ve got to stand up.”
Fellow organiser Graham Fleming added: “The EDL have members who are BNP members, we ourselves are trying to get these people out. We do offer moderate Islams the chance to stand beside us.”
But the pair were grilled over photographs of an SDL event in Irvine, which showed participants carrying banners proclaiming “No more mosques”.
Mr Fleming insisted the people carrying the banners had no connection with the SDL, but Councillor Louise Lang said: “The concern I have is over the lack of proactive action over those placards.
“I would not be comfortable in supporting this on the basis of public order.”
Lothian and Borders Police did not object to the bid, but Superintendent David Carradice said in a statement: “If previous experience in February 2010 is anything to go by, any opposition rally is likely to be significant in size with some of the opposition wanting to find themselves near to SDL with a view to registering their concerns at the views being expressed.”
Asked whether the SDL would appeal the decision, Mr Fleming said: “We will need to sit down and work out what is the approach now for the SDL.”