PROTESTERS have promised Prime Minister David Cameron and his high-ranking Cabinet ministers a rowdy reception at a major party conference to be held in Edinburgh next year.
Scottish Tories have chosen the Capital to hold their final conference before the independence referendum.
Up to 1000 Conservatives are expected to flock to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre for the three-day gathering in March.
Mr Cameron and a host of Cabinet ministers are tipped to speak at the conference, which will come at a crucial time for the party and the anti-independence campaign.
Campaigners have today vowed to take advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate their opposition to the Tories and their policies, particularly the contentious “bedroom tax” and welfare reform package.
George Lamb, a leading member of the Anti-Bedroom Tax Association and Greater Leith Against the Cuts, predicted lots of protesters would turn out. He said: “I’ve no doubt there will be a fairly lively and noisy crowd to welcome them. I can’t even count all the different groups who are likely to want to protest.
“There will be the anti-bedroom tax campaigners, disabled people wanting to raise issues around social security and cuts to council funding, and lots more. But I’m sure it will all be perfectly legitimate and peaceful.”
Black Triangle Campaign – a pressure group opposed to the bedroom tax – is also planning to turn out in numbers. Spokesman John McArdle said: “There will definitely be a protest – probably quite a big one. What we’re all campaigning for is a ‘Yes’ vote in September. We want to drag the Tories out of Scotland once and for all.”
Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw MSP said: “It is significant the Scottish Conservatives will be holding their annual conference in the Capital in the same year as the referendum, which will be a defining moment in our history.
“As the home of the Scottish Parliament there is no better place to debate the future of Scotland’s place within the UK.
“This will be one of the party’s most important conferences for several years and we are looking forward to welcoming senior Conservative figures and members from around the UK.”
Party sources said the timing of the conference, just six months before the vote on independence, meant there was increased expectations and pressure for the gathering to be a public relations success. One insider said: “This is the big one. It’s the last conference before the referendum. It needs to be a big deal.”
The EICC estimates the conference, which will take place from March 14-16, will generate £1.47 million for the Capital’s economy through delegates’ spending on hotels, restaurants and shopping.
EICC chief executive Hans Rissmann said: “2014 will live on in the record books as a historic year in Scotland’s political history and we are delighted to play our part as the chosen venue for one of the major party conferences.”