Unionists launch smear attack against Salmond over pro-independence rally


  By a Newsnet reporter
The anti-independence Better Together camp has launched an attack on First Minister Alex Salmond over his attendance at a forthcoming rally and march aimed at promoting Scottish independence.
In a co-ordinated smear, the Tory led group has claimed that the rally, to be attended by political leaders of the Scottish Greens, SSP and SNP, is being used in order to “give credence” to a group who advocate violent revolution.

The claims centre around a group calling themselves the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement who had been listed as attending the rally to be held next Saturday, September 22nd.  However organisers moved swiftly to ban the group once it became aware of their planned presence.

Rally organiser, Jeff Duncan, who is a former RAF serviceman who previously ran the ‘Save our Regiments’ campaign, confirmed the group would not be allowed to attend: “Saturday’s march and rally for independence is an opportunity for a wide range of organisations from across Scottish society to make the positive case for an independent Scotland.” he said.

Mr Duncan added: “Behaviour which is offensive, inappropriate or represents extreme views will not be tolerated by the organisers of the march.”

However, anti-independence politicians immediately took the opportunity to smear First Minister Alex Salmond by accusing the SNP leader of “being prepared to stand next” to people who burn the Union Flag.

Scottish Labour MP Jim Murphy, who two days ago claimed that “huge crowds” had booed Alex Salmond at the Glasgow Olympic celebrations on Friday added: “The fact that the organisers have taken fright and kicked these hardliners out does not take away from the fact that Alex Salmond and so many top SNP members were ready to give credence to these people and their outrageous views.

“Flag burning isn’t the Scottish way of doing things and many Scots will remember the type of company the SNP are keeping,”

The Scottish Labour MP’s claims were rubbished by a spokeswoman for the SNP who pointed out that Mr Salmond had been invited prior to any SRSM involvement and that the SNP “does not support actions like those conducted by the SRSM”.

The spokeswoman pointed to a host of guests from across Scotland who would be in attendance, including a Scottish Labour party member, and added: “Saturday’s event has been organised independently, and the First Minister was invited to speak alongside Dennis Canavan, Margo McDonald, Patrick Harvie and other figures from public life such as Ruth Wishart, Aamer Anwar, Cameron McNeish and a speaker from the Labour for Independence group to celebrate the opportunities that come from Scotland being an independent nation.

“In contrast, Better Together seem mired in negativity without any sign of public support.  The First Minister fully supports the actions of the organisers in removing the SRSM group from Saturday’s event.”

Mr Murphy’s claim that, by being at the same event, Mr Salmond was prepared to give credence to an undesirable group, leaves the Scottish Labour MP open to accusations of hypocrisy.

In April 2010, the former Scottish Secretary was himself the centre of a scandal after it emerged a guest at one of his own fundraising dinners was a convicted gangster.

Lewis Rodden, known as Scooby, and who was jailed in 2005 for his part in an extortion campaign, attended on of Jim Murphy’s fundraising dinners on March 19 at the Thistle Hotel in Glasgow.

According to the Herald, Rodden and others were sentenced to 17 years for a campaign of intimidation against construction firms in Ayrshire.  They were accused of seizing security jobs at the companies through threats, assaults and fire-raising.

Judge Andrew Hardie said the behaviour was like “organised crime in the United States last century”.

Challenged at the time, a spokesman for Mr Murphy said: “Jim is shocked.  The Labour Party did not invite Mr Rodden, he did not book a table and the Labour Party did not receive a single penny from him.  Mr Murphy does not know this man and to the best of his knowledge has never met nor spoken to him in his life.”