The far-right Scottish Defence League’s (SDL) planned march through Edinburgh has been stopped by the unanimous decision of councillors on the city’s licensing committee to refuse permission.
The SDL is an offshoot of the English Defence League, whose marches and rallies in England have often been associated with violence and confrontation. The English Defence League was founded in order to protest against what its members perceive as as the spread of Islamism, Sharia law and Islamic extremism in England. However many have criticised this stance as being a thinly veiled cover for racist views.
Although the SDL describes itself as a “non-racist” organisation, a report in the Herald newspaper in Dec 2009 detailed numerous links between the SDL and the BNP and established that there was a significant overlap in membership between the two.
Politicians and the Scottish Trades Union Council had put sustained pressure on councillors to ban the march. The intended date of the march was September 10, and the SDL wished to rally close to the American Embassy buildings in the east of the city centre. It is believed that the organisation wished to capitalise on the following day’s anniversary of the attack on the Trade Towers in New York.
Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Council (STUC), said: “The STUC welcome the decision of the regulatory committee to reject the application by the Scottish Defence League to spread their hatred on the streets of Edinburgh. This sends out a clear message that racism and fascism has no place in Scotland’s towns and cities.”
All SNP MSPs representing the city wrote to the licensing committee last week asking them to stop the march from going ahead.
Colin Keir, MSP for Edinburgh Western and a member of the Parliament’s Justice Committee, praised the decision by the council and said:
“Common sense has prevailed. I congratulate the licensing committee for making the right decision.
“The united stance of all Edinburgh SNP MSPs in voicing this objection has helped to ensure that the SDL don’t bring their extremist views to Edinburgh.
“It would be completely inappropriate to allow a racist group to march on the eve of the tenth anniversary of 9/11.”
Jim Eadie, Edinburgh Southern MSP, also applauded the decision to ban the march, saying:
“Given the recent events in London and other parts of England it would have been completely irresponsible to allow this fascist march to go ahead.
“Everyone has a right to freedom of speech but bitter hatred should have no place in modern Scotland.
“The SDL have proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted – and this sends out a clear message that their politics of hatred are not welcome in Edinburgh.”