Extremists win march rights as judge axes SDL ban

150 members of the far-right group demonstrated in the city last September.
150 members of the far-right group demonstrated in the city last September.
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FAR-right extremists have won the right to march in the Capital tomorrow after a judge overturned a banning order.

Members of the Scottish Defence League will march along Regent Road to St Andrew’s House after their appeal against last month’s ruling by city council leaders to stop them holding a procession was successful.

The appeal was upheld by Sheriff Kathrine Mackie, who said the council’s licensing committee had failed to explain why it had rejected assurances given by police, its own officers and the SDL when it issued the banning order over public safety and disorder concerns.

Critics today attacked the ruling and said it would increase racially motivated violence in the city and “tarnish” the Capital’s reputation.

During a march in Glasgow in February, SDL members were photographed holding a banner which said “No Muslims, No Mosques Wanted in Britain”.

The city council said it would liaise with police ahead of the procession, which the SDL predicts will attract between 150 and 200 people. In September, around 150 SDL activists attended a static rally in Waterloo Place.

Anti-fascist protesters are now in talks with police and the council over holding a counter-demonstration at the same time and criticised the council for failing to stop the march.

Luke Henderson, committee member for Unite Against Fascism in Edinburgh, said: “I do not think that the council presented adequate evidence in court to show that where the SDL is given a voice, intolerance and racial tensions increase.

“There may not be violence during the march itself but the increased confidence of the SDL means there will be more racial violence after the march.”

The SDL said the decision proved the group had the right to exercise “freedom of speech”.

Graham Walker, the east coast regional organiser, said: “We welcome the decision of the court to overturn the ban on our procession this weekend.

“The decision has proved that Edinburgh City Council has tried to violate our human rights and discriminate against our group.

“It has shown that the SDL is very able to mount an effective legal challenge against unreasonable attempts to undermine our right to peaceful assembly.

“The decision shows that we were treated very unfairly”

He added: “We have legitimate concerns about the extremist expression of Islam, and we have the right to communicate our concerns.”

But Muslim groups in the Capital said the decision would increase tensions on the city’s streets. Zahid Ali, station manager at Radio Ramadan Edinburgh, said: “Muslims will be very disappointed in this decision, that Edinburgh would allow racists and Islamophobes to march in the city.

“It tarnishes community relations and the reputation of Edinburgh as a multi- cultural place. It leaves the Muslim community living in fear of increased harassment and violence.”

A police spokesman said: “A detailed policing plan is in place and the priorities will be to maintain public safety, minimise disruption to public order and daily business and facilitate the rights of freedom of assembly and speech.

“Police will also provide an appropriate and proportionate response to any anti- social behaviour and criminal activity.”

A city council spokesman said: “We are aware of the sheriff’s ruling and will liaise closely with Lothian and Borders Police over the planned procession this weekend.”