Protests as ex-Donald Trump aide Steve Bannon heads to Edinburgh

Trump's former White House strategist Steve Bannon is taking part in the News Xchange 2018 conference in Edinburgh. Picture: PA/PA
Trump's former White House strategist Steve Bannon is taking part in the News Xchange 2018 conference in Edinburgh. Picture: PA/PA
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A HOSTILE reception awaits President Trump’s controversial former adviser Steve Bannon – booked to appear at an event in Edinburgh today .

More than 200 anti-racism demonstrators are expected at Edinburgh International Conference Centre to greet the White House chief strategist turned far-right polemicist.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already pulled out of the European Broadcasting Union’s News XChange summit in protest at Mr Bannon’s inclusion.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon pulls out of event involving Steve Bannon
“We call on all those opposed to the growth of the far-right to protest at the conference should the organisers not cancel Bannon’s invitation,” read a statement from Stand up to Racism.

The group also called on protestors to complain to the BBC which is co-hosting the conference.

Mr Bannon was one of President Trump’s closest aides until he quit the White House in August last year.

After a brief stint back at the right-wing Breitbart media empire, he turned his attention to Europe and plans for a populist implosion across the continent.

A supporter of right-wing political causes around the world, he championed a populist “supergroup” to gain a foothold in the European Parliament.

In September, he was disinvited from the New Yorker Festival after a vociferous backlash.

And Ms Sturgeon said last month she was pulling out of today’s event as she “will not be part of any process that risks legitimising or normalising far right, racist views”.

Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “The email the BBC sent to my office justifying Bannon’s inclusion described him as a ‘powerful and influential figure...promoting an anti-elite movement.’

“This kind of language to describe views that many would describe as fascist does seem to me to run the risk of normalisation.”

READ MORE: Darren McGarvey: Why Steve Bannon is so successful
But the head of BBC Scotland, Donalda MacKinnon, has defended the decision to invite Mr Bannon in front of MSPs.

The issue was raised by Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer as Ms MacKinnon and other senior BBC figures appeared before the Scottish Parliament’s Culture Committee last Thursday.

Mr Greer described Mr Bannon as a white nationalist who was associated with Holocaust deniers and warned that the corporation was “being played”.

He also said Mr Bannon’s invitation was part of the “long history of platforming those with extreme right wing views under the guise of challenging them for those views, but which has resulted in the absolute opposite”.

Ms MacKinnon replied: “It is really important in a conference that is absolutely about journalism that we go to the heart of our journalism and our journalistic practice, which is about holding people to account, which is about interrogating, which is about scrutiny.

“It was felt by the committee who invited Steve Bannon that it was right to do just that, and that is why he will be there. It’s about holding them to account, interrogating, scrutinising and explaining to others what they are about.”

andy.shipley@jpress.co.uk