By a Newsnet reporter
A pro-Union campaign calling itself “Scotland says No!” has recently been launched. In a press release the organisation says: “Following the recent proclamations of Alex Salmond and the SNP, a coalition of pro-Union loyal factions have declared their intent to launch a wide-reaching, professional campaign to safeguard the United Kingdom, called Scotland says NO!” The press release mentions that the campaign will be officially launched in Edinburgh in April, with a march and rally.
“Scotland says NO!” is led by former BNP councillor Mike Golding, who resigned as a councillor in Sevenoaks in Kent in 2011 after local residents complained that he had “done nothing”. He later left the BNP to found his own right wing extremist party, calling it the Britain First movement.
The organisation’s Scottish head is Gary Raikes, who was chief of the BNP in Scotland from 2007 until he left the party to sign up to Mr Golding’s new organisation after the BNP dismally failed to make any impact during the Scottish Parliamentary election in May last year. Gary Raikes stood as BNP candidate for the North East Scotland regional list seat during the last Holyrood election, when he polled a paltry 1925 votes representing 0.72% of votes cast. Mr Raikes claimed at the time that his main priority was “stopping immigration”. Now it seems he has shifted his focus to stopping Scottish self-determination.
All the persons listed by “Britain First” as its leadership team are former members of the BNP. Deputy Chairman and Treasurer Andrew McBride was formerly a regional organiser for the BNP. Administration Manager Jim Dowson is a Belfast businessman who leased the BNP premises in the city to use as a call centre and was a close aide to BNP leader Nick Griffin. Kevin Edwards, ‘national nominating officer’, was a BNP community councillor in Llandybie in Wales. Mike Howson, ‘group development officer’, was a BNP official in Wales.
The BNP in Scotland has long been suspected of having close links to extremist Northern Irish Unionist groups.
The high profile attempt by former BNP members to latch onto the pro-Union campaign will come as an embarrassment to mainstream anti-independence parties who now find themselves in the same camp as extreme right wing political organisations.
In its publicity material, the “Scotland says NO!” campaign repeats scare stories which have been aired by mainstream Unionist parties, such as the claim that Scotland would be bankrupt the moment the oil runs out, and that after independence Scots would have to choose between higher taxes or cuts to public services.
The “Scotland says NO!” campaign invites members of the public to sign a petition demanding “that Scotland remain at the heart of the Union”, and to “condemn the bigotry of Alex Salmond”.
In using such language the extreme right wing are copying the example of Labour’s Johann Lamont, who recently claimed that Alex Salmond’s opposition to David Cameron was based upon the fact that the Conservative Prime Minister is English, and Labour MP Tom Harris who claimed that independence supporters bearing placards saying “End London rule” were propagating an “anti-English” message. The use of such language by Labour and other mainstream Unionist parties legitimises the extreme right and risks giving them a foothold in Scotland which they would otherwise be denied.
The entry of the extreme right into the No campaign will be deeply disquieting to many in Scotland. In their zeal to find stones to throw at the SNP, the leadership of the mainstream anti-independence parties risk finding themselves open to the charge of providing ammunition to neo-fascist groups and opening the door to right wing extremism in Scotland.
Note: The anti-independence campaign launched by Britain First has no connection with another website and organisation which is also called “Scotland says no”(without the exclamation mark) www.scotlandsaysno.org.uk. This is a legitimate organisation campaigning against domestic violence and offering support to victims of domestic abuse.