Justice Secretary Michael Matheson yesterday said inciting violence or hatred would not be tolerated by the Scottish authorities ahead of a demonstration by the anti-Muslim group Pegida in Edinburgh.
Mr Matheson promised a crackdown on Islamophobia or any other form of hatred or hate crime amid concern about the protest planned by Pegida Scotland for Saturday,
Addressing MSPs at Holyrood, he said: “The Scottish Government fully supports Police Scotland in taking all appropriate and proportionate action required.
“We do not tolerate Islamophobia or any other form of hatred or hate crime. We will not tolerate extremists who peddle hatred under the guise of protecting society.”
Pegida was formed in Germany and the acronym translates as “patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West”. German events have attracted up to 25,000 people following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. Its first UK rally in Newcastle at the weekend saw 400 people take to the streets.
Details of the Edinburgh demonstration have appeared in online adverts, one of which states: “All patriot groups welcome (No violence or racism) we have decided to have a night-time demo. We will be meeting at Waverley Station.”
Mr Matheson issued his warning after being asked about the event by the Green MSP Patrick Harvie, who expressed concern Pegida posed “an explicit threat to Muslim citizens in this country”.
“The Muslim faith is an integral and important part of Scottish society,” Mr Matheson said. “Any organisation that seeks to unpick or exploit that should not be tolerated in any shape or fashion.
“The Scottish Government will certainly not tolerate that. Pegida and the message of hatred that it seeks to peddle should not be tolerated. I give the member and the chamber an assurance that Police Scotland will deal with the issue robustly and proportionately; so, too, will the government.”
When asked if Edinburgh City Council should ban the event, Mr Matheson replied saying that Pegida had not been in contact with the local authority, but that the signs were that the demonstration would be static, as opposed to a march, which would require council permission.
Mazhar Khan, of the Muslim Council of Scotland, said: “We are quite concerned by the rise of this group Pegida and what they represent. But the key thing is that fortunately in Scotland the people have always rejected these racist and extremist organisations whether they are the National Front, BNP or EDL. People in Scotland see through the hate.”
An Edinburgh City Council spokeswoman said: “We are working closely with Police Scotland to monitor the situation.”
A Police Scotland spokesman said the event would be policed “appropriately”.