Festival march by far-right SDL set to be banned

The SDL march in Edinburgh last summer. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

The SDL march in Edinburgh last summer. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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A PROPOSED march through Edinburgh by the far-right Scottish Defence League is likely to be banned after police said they feared trouble.

The SDL wants to stage the march on Saturday, August 23, during the Festival.

But police said experience of recent SDL events in the Capital suggested organisers were not able to control the behaviour of the demonstrators.

And officers said they believed there was “an increased risk to public order” and “increased disruption to the life of the community” if the march was allowed.

Organisers said they expected about 80 people to take part in the march from East Market Street via New Street and High Street to the Scottish Parliament.

A report by police to the city’s licensing sub-committee said there had been six SDL events in Edinburgh over the past four years and four had been well organised with “no significant public order issues”.

But it said the two most recent occasions that a march had been allowed had been ­different with far less control.

“The organisers remained engaged with the planning process but appeared to exert little influence over large numbers of the participants who actively sought confrontation with others and disorder was only prevented through the robust policing operation.

“The events in August 2013 and May 2014 have demonstrated that groups within the SDL and groups attaching themselves to the SDL will now not necessarily comply with police direction.” The report also pointed out the Capital was very busy in August with resources already stretched.”

He added: “It is highly likely that the procession will generate a counter march which will add to the resources required and the impact on the city.”

SDL march organiser ­Graham Walker said he believed the police had been put under political pressure to object to the march.

He said he had discussed plans for the August 23 march with the police as long ago as April.

“The police said then they had no objection to the march. So what has happened between then and now? There has been political pressure on Police Scotland.”

He insisted there were no factions or groups within the SDL and rejected the ­suggestion anyone was actively seeking confrontation.

“We have stewards there on the day,” he said. “If they have any problem, the police can come to me and we can ask people to calm it down a bit.”

The council refused an SDL march in 2012, but an appeal against decision was upheld at Edinburgh Sheriff Court and the parade went ahead.

Luke Henderson, of Unite Against Fascism, said: “They want to march during the ­Festival.

“This is when Edinburgh welcomes the world and shows how we enjoy the ­different ­cultures from around the world, but the SDL wants to impose its ideas which are against all other forms of ­culture.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com