Nigel Farage faces barrage of Edinburgh protest

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Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Corn Exchange to tell Nigel Farage that Edinburgh would not stand for his brand of politics.

People of all ages and of a variety of political persuasions brandished placards against Ukip policy as Mr Farage launched the Scottish leg of his European election campaign inside the Chesser venue.

Protesters outside the Corn Exchange. PIC: HEMEDIA

Protesters outside the Corn Exchange. PIC: HEMEDIA

Momentum had been gathering since the controversial leader’s last visit to the Capital a year ago, when he was forced to lock himself inside the Canons’ Gait pub on the Royal Mile to avoid an angry mob outside before being escorted away in a police van.

Despite the far-right group Britain First promising to use armoured vehicles to “protect” Mr Farage last night, the handful of members who did turn up were warned off by protesters, with chants of “Nazi scum, get off our streets”.

A heavy police presence made sure that the small group of far-right supporters was separated from the 300-strong anti-Ukip protesters, and the demonstration was generally peaceful.

Campaigners gathered round to hear speeches from the likes of the Green Party’s lead European election candidate, city councillor Maggie Chapman.

Protesters outside the venue. Pic: Ian Swanson

Protesters outside the venue. Pic: Ian Swanson

She attracted loud cheers when she said: “There is no Ukip representation in politics in Scotland. Let’s keep it that way.”

Speaking to the Evening News afterwards, Cllr Chapman said: “One of the best things about this event is its diversity.

“We have people who are very committed members of different political parties, and people who have shunned party politics.”

Meanwhile, John McArdle, of disability rights group the Black Triangle, said: “Ukip is deceiving the British people by
saying that all the problems are caused by the immigrants. It’s not the case.

Protesters at the Corn Exchange. Picture: Kaye Nicolson

Protesters at the Corn Exchange. Picture: Kaye Nicolson

“We are absolutely not anti-English – the whole point is to say that Scotland welcomes refugees and immigrants.

“We oppose scapegoating for the financial crisis, and disabled people have been scapegoated and subjected to £28 billion of cuts.”

Scottish Socialist party joint national spokesman Colin Fox had his speech cut short when his audience broke off to target far-right campaigners.

But Mr Fox said he was pleased with the turnout and claimed the overall message was positive.

On his last visit to Edinburgh, Nigel Farage was accosted by demonstrators on the Royal Mile. Picture: Jane Barlow

On his last visit to Edinburgh, Nigel Farage was accosted by demonstrators on the Royal Mile. Picture: Jane Barlow

“Here’s the guy [Mr Farage] that’s the merchant banker coming to Scotland and blaming immigrants for the banking crisis,” he said.

He said if Ukip topped the polls south of the Border in the European vote later this month, it would boost the Scottish independence campaign by showing it “wasn’t two different countries, but two different worlds”.

The vocal protesters also sang along to a range of carefully chosen songs broadcast on a PA, including I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor, Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana and the Village People’s YMCA.

People of all walks of life were among the crowd, which was a sea of placards with messages including “Don’t be used by Ukip” and “No to Ukip’s racist lies”.

Among the protesters was Vonny Moyes, 26, who was carrying a sign which read: “Scotland rejects all racism, misogyny, homophobia and inequality. Say no to Ukip and Yes to a better future, today.”

Meanwhile, Isaac Jack, 39, said: “I’m neither for nor against independence, but I’m here on an anti-racist basis.”

Chris Newlove, 27, of the Stand Up Against Ukip group, which helped organise the protest alongside the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), said: “We believe Ukip is a racist party. I think today has gone really well.

“The turnout is really good. From the people I have spoken to, the main issue is that the party is scapegoating.”

An RIC spokesman said: “The real story here is that Ukip haven’t been able to come here unopposed. Immigration isn’t the problem.

“Ukip are covering up for the establishment by hiding behind immigration.”

As Mr Farage sneaked out the Corn Exchange – a former slaughterhouse – through the back door, his 50 or so supporters faced a barrage of heckling as they trickled out of the front entrance.

Protesters repeatedly yelled “scum” and “shame on you” at the Ukip members – some of them in their 70s and 80s – as police kept a watchful eye.

‘People like to hate someone’

NIGEL Farage’s UK Independence Party won a tiny 0.91 per cent of the regional vote across Scotland in the 2011 Holyrood elections.

The party north of the Border has experienced nothing like the surge it has seen in England, where it has the Tories running scared.

Yet Mr Farage knew his visit to Edinburgh to address a European election rally was guaranteed to get widespread media coverage.

His last appearance in the Capital hit the headlines when he had to lock himself inside the Canons’ Gait pub in the Royal Mile, right, before police escorted him away as protesters chanted outside.

He later described the demonstrators as “deeply racist with a total hatred of the English” and hung up the phone during a radio interview, accusing the BBC presenter of “hatred” as well.

Twelve months on and having enjoyed plenty more publicity, Mr Farage returned to the Capital for last night’s members-only rally at the Corn Exchange.

There was supposed to be a press conference at 5pm and all the media turned up, but rather than deal with journalists en masse, Mr Farage opted to do interviews with a few at a time, giving priority to some of the more right-wing titles.

The Evening News was left till last.

Asked about the hundreds of people demonstrating outside, he said the protest was “bigger and more organised” than last year. But he added: “Clearly people like to hate someone, but the things they are accusing us of are so wide of the mark they have picked completely the wrong target.”

Despite the broad spectrum represented among the protesting crowd, Mr Farage seemed to see them mostly as nationalists of one brand or another – prompting what might be seen as the rather ironic comment: “A little bit of nationalism is a very good thing in life and very healthy but too much nationalism engenders and breeds something deeply unpleasant.”

Looking to the May 22 European elections, Mr Farage insisted the underlying level of Euroscepticsm in Scotland was not that different from south of the border – it just needed a voice.

He claimed Ukip was “on course” to win one seat – possibly even two.