The Scottish Defence League (SDL) has submitted a request to hold a march in Edinburgh on 26 May. The prospect of a gang of thugs marching through the streets of Scotland's capital to promote racism and islamophobia should outrage every decent person in Scotland, not just citizens of Edinburgh. Astonishingly, Lothian and Borders Police have already said that they have no objection to the march being approved.
The SDL have visited Edinburgh before (and have been seen off by large anti-racist demonstrations) but they have never before been given permission to hold a march in the city. We need a nationwide campaign to make sure they don't get permission this time.
Please support the statement below.
What You Can Do
- Support the Unity statement - email your support to address above
- If you live in Scotland, urge your MSPs to support the statement. Contact all your regional list MSPs as well as your constituency MSP. You can contact your MSPs using www.writetothem.com.
- If you live in Edinburgh, urge your Edinburgh City councillors to to support the statement. You can contact your councillors using www.writetothem.com.
- Contact Nick Fraser (Senior Solicitor, Legal and Administrative Services , Edinburgh City Council) to express your objections to the SDL march - (if you don't live in Edinburgh, be sure to explain why the march nevertheless concerns you).
- If you are involved in any community group or organisation that has a relationship with any of Scotland's police forces (and especially with Lothian and Borders Police), tell the police that they cannot expect business as usual with your community if they collude in the promotion of racism by facilitating SDL events.
- Ask your trade union or trade union branch to support the Unity statement.
- Spread the word, share this page with friends, family, work colleagues... anyone you can think of.
The SDL in Edinburgh
The SDL visited Edinburgh on 20 Feb 2010 and were met by a large anti-racist demonstration, with a well-supported anti-racist rally being held in Princes Street Gardens. People from all walks of life and a wide range of political views, from socialists to Conservative Party representatives, came together to oppose the SDL's message of hate. The little group of SDL supporters who came to the city seem to have spent their visit in the pub.
On 10 September 2011 the SDL again visited Edinburgh, this time holding a static demo near the east end of Princes Street. They were again met by an anti-racist demonstration, large and lively despite the rather dispiriting physical barriers erected by the police.
The SDL have now applied for permission to hold a march in Edinburgh city centre on Saturday 26 March, having withdrawn a prior application for a march on 2 June. The report of Edinburgh City Council Liicensing Sub-Committee, including the response from Lothian and Borders Police, can be found at:
Notification of procession - Scottish Defence League (pdf document).
The proposed march would assemble in St Giles Street, then go along the High Street, to George IV Bridge, on to Victoria Street and finish with a rally in the Grassmarket.
The Edinburgh City Council report and the police report take a very narrow view of the march, looking only at the possible disruption caused on the day, at environmental issues etc. The word "race" doesn't appear anywhere in the report, unless you count the usage of the word in the appended regulations, where it signifies a sporting event. Neither does the word "islamophobia."
The police report gives no consideration at all to the likely effect of the SDL march in encouraging acts of discrimination, race hatred and violence over the hours, weeks, months and years after the march finishes. The City Council report also omits any mention of these issues, but notes that an equalities impact assessment has been completed and is to be submitted to the committee. Even if the assessment turns out to be of some substance, it is unacceptable that the consequences of allowing racists to march through Edinburgh should be dealt with only through a specialised assessment and ignored in the main report.
By handling the matter in this way, Edinburgh City Council and Lothian and Borders Police are undermining any confidence placed in them by Edinburgh's minority communities. They need to think again.
- Edinburgh Evening News report on SDL protest: Far-right on collision course with anti-fascist protesters
- The Scottish Sun report on the recent SDL protest in Glasgow
- Video of SDL protest and UAF counter protest in Glasgow on 26 Feb
- For more background about the SDL's closely-related English counterpart, the EDL, see The EDL – violent racists and fascists and The EDl Unmasked