Far right on collision course with anti-fascist protesters

An SDL and EDL demonstation in Edinburgh in September
An SDL and EDL demonstation in Edinburgh in September
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A FAR-RIGHT group is on a collision course with anti-fascist protesters when both demonstrate in the Capital on the same day.

The Scottish Defence League (SDL) has applied to hold a procession from St Giles’ Cathedral to the Grassmarket on Saturday, May 26.

The SDL demo in Waterloo Place last September

The SDL demo in Waterloo Place last September

Edinburgh United Against Fascism (UAF), which has described the SDL as “racist and homophobic”, has said it intends to hold a counter march in the city that day.

A spin-off of the English Defence League, the SDL describes itself as standing against the rise of Islamic extremism.

As the Evening News revealed in December, the group has allied itself with the ultra far-right North West Infidels and North East Infidels, which have previously threatened to tear opponents “limb from limb”.

The SDL staged a demo at Waterloo Place last September – after being refused permission to march – which attracted a counter demonstration.

Police warned there was a “possibility” of disorder if the SDL was allowed to march.

Bill Skelly, assistant chief constable at Lothian and Borders Police, told councillors: “If previous experience in Edinburgh is anything to go by, any opposition rally is likely to be significant in size, with some of the opposition wanting to find itself near to the SDL with a view to registering concerns at the views being expressed.

“If the event goes ahead, there may be disruption to daily city business and it would be wrong to totally discount the possibility of disorder.”

He added that security arrangements put forward by the SDL, involving 30 of its own stewards, were an improvement on last September. Police have already placed strict conditions on the proposals. The march, to be held in the afternoon, would only last for 45 minutes rather than the 90 minutes requested.

Councillors were set to vote on the application today following a deputation by the SDL.

Margaret Woods, a founding member of UAF, said the details of its march were still be worked out.

She added: “We always mobilise to demonstrate when Nazis or far-right racists attempt to march through our cities.”

Graham Walker, the SDL’s regional organiser, insisted the group’s march would be peaceful and said it had been treated unfairly.

He told the Evening News: “We’ve had nine demos, including Glasgow and Stirling, and we’ve had no arrests.”

Mr Walker refuted claims that his organisation was anti-Islam, anti-Semitic or homophobic.

rory.reynolds@edinburghnews.com