Police response to Scottish Defence League protest probed

Police are investigating allegations that officers allowed an extreme right wing racist group to protest illegally in Glasgow city centre after it hijacked an organised demonstration backing asylum seekers.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie raised the issue with Alex Salmond, branding the Scottish Defence League (SDL) “obnoxious and disgusting”.

Mr Harvie said the allegations centred on a council-approved protest by the Campaign to Welcome Refugees in George Square. He said the SDL disrupted the event, leading to police telling organisers it had to end early for public order reasons.

Mr Harvie said the SDL was then permitted by police to hold a short demonstration in the square despite having no prior official permission and then marched down Buchanan Street before leaving the city centre.

He said: “These are people who are clearly breaching the peace and should have been taken off the streets. If there is a threat to public order it should be the people who pose that threat who should be removed from the streets.”

The Glasgow MSP said he feared the SDL would increasingly use this tactic of targeting legitimate events in the city.

Mr Salmond said he had every confidence in Strathclyde Police to investigate the matter. He said: “Patrick Harvie and I are at one in his description of the Scottish Defence League. The chief constable of Strathclyde, in whom I have great confidence, is pursuing the investigations. The results will no doubt inform lessons for the future.”

A previous SDL march through the city earlier this year was called off after discussions with police and council officials following calls for it to be banned by Glasgow politicians. A static protest took place instead in St Enoch Square, with a heavy police presence around the square and in the city centre as SDL members were bussed in and out of the city

A spokeswoman for Strathclyde Police said: “We can confirm officers from Strathclyde Police met with representatives from All Scotland’s Refugees Welcome Here organisation on Friday, June 22. Further investigations in to the policing operation is under way. It would be inappropriate to comment further.”

The Herald, 29 June 2012