Police insist they can handle SDL march in Capital

Police search SDL memberson the Royal Mile last February

Police search SDL memberson the Royal Mile last February

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Police chiefs have said they have no objections to a controversial far-right parade going ahead in the streets of Edinburgh, despite Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill admitting that the event could “pose a threat to public safety”.

It has emerged that Mr MacAskill is one of a series of politicians to have opposed the Scottish Defence League’s planned rally, which is due to take place the day before the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on New York.

Police have told councillors, who will make a decision on whether to approve the application to hold the rally tomorrow, that they should consider it in the context of the riots that spread through the streets of many English cities last week.

But they conclude that the group of 200 SDL members expected to converge on Edinburgh on September 10 do have the right to protest and that they will be able to handle the protest.

Council chiefs have warned that counter demonstrations against the SDL are expected but say they have no idea how many people will take part.

In a formal police response sent to councillors, Superintendent David Carradice, of Lothian and Borders Police, said: “There can be little doubt that the media and certain sections of the public are linking SDL to both the English Defence League and, by default, recent events in Norway.

“It is imperative that any applications such as this should be considered in the context of the major unrest across the country.”

He said that experience from the last event indicates that any opposition rally will be “significant in size”.

However, he added: “Whilst there can be no guarantees that there will be no disruption to the daily business of the community, Lothian and Borders Police is confident that, with the assistance of the council, an operation can be put into place to minimise this. Accordingly, Lothian and Borders Police has no objections to the application being approved.”

A cross-party series of politicians have urged councillors to reject the application, including Mr MacAskill.

He said: “There has been a history of arrests in previous SDL demonstrations. Accordingly, I am concerned that this march could pose a threat to public safety.”

The Unite Against Fascism group said more than 1000 organisations and individuals had signed its “unity statement” against the rally.

The parade is due to start at 12.30pm at Regent Road, before moving on to Waterloo Place then the Wellington Monument at the east end of Princes Street.

Councillor Rob Munn, convener of the licensing sub-committee of the regulatory committee, which will make a decision on the application, said: “While we note the strong opinions held about the SDL, that in itself is not one of the factors the committee can use to form its view, in terms of the legislation on public demonstrations.

mblackley@edinburghnews.com