Unionist group target Nicola Sturgeon in Northern Irish Flag protest

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  By a Newsnet reporter

The spectre of Northern Ireland flag protests hitting Scotland’s streets loomed tonight after reports that Scottish Unionists have vowed to target Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

According to the Herald newspaper, pro-Union demonstrators angry at the decision to limit the days the Union flag can fly over Belfast City Hall are planning to protest outside the constituency office of Ms Sturgeon, who is the local MSP for Govan.

The protest, earmarked for a week tomorrow, follows similar flag demos in Ayr and Airdrie and is also being billed as an anti-independence rally.  Protestors are calling for the Union flag to be flown every day of the year over Belfast City Hall.

According to the Herald, one demonstrator has said the planned protest at Ms Sturgeon’s office was a “no to independence and to protect the union”.

The paper reports that a protester wrote on Facebook: “All the rallies have been peaceful but enough’s enough.  Sturgeon is forgetting her history and needs reminding.  We’re standing firm with Ulster as we have since 1912.”

Although the protest has no connection to the official “Better Together” campaign, pro-Union campaigners will be keen to avoid links with the situation in Northern Ireland which has witnessed a month long series of violent protests and death threats against politicians.

This week the violence escalated as ten police officers were injured when petrol bombs were hurled at them by a mob and cars were set on fire.  Masked demonstrators have also burned the Irish Tricolour.

Loyalist protestors have refused to engage with local politicians and are now calling for a return to direct rule, which means disbandment of the democratically elected administration and the province being directly ruled from Westminster.

According to the Belfast Newsletter an official spokesman for the protestors said:

“We unanimously supported a return to direct rule and we agreed we will not be talking to politicians until they re-engage with people on the ground.

“We are saying that the flag has to go back up on Belfast city hall; one-sided inquiries about the past have to stop; the demonisation of the security forces [during the Troubles] has to stop and there must be an inquiry as to how the £1.5bn peace money from Europe was spent. Who got it?”

The violent protests have been described as “completely unacceptable” by NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers who expressed concern that the pictures being beamed around the world were harming the image of the province.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, she said: “The incredibly damaging thing is the image it projects of Northern Ireland around the world,” adding “Northern Ireland is in a global race for investment and jobs and we need to be projecting the reality of a forward-looking, modern Northern Ireland, not one which is tied up in the kind of conflict which is associated with its past rather than its present.”

Ms Villiers said she had not spoken to the leaders of the two main NI Unionist parties, Mike Nesbitt and Peter Robinson, who have announced the setting up of a Unionist only forum aimed at strengthen British cultural identity in Northern Ireland and exploring peaceful ways of addressing the Union flag issue.