Glasgow preparing for far-right rally as fears grow of Scottish rise of neo-nazis

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Tensions surge after BNP comes fourth in Glasgow North East byelection

Police in Glasgow were preparing for angry confrontations between anti-racist campaigners and supporters of the far-right English Defence League tomorrow as fears of a rise in activity by Scottish fascist groups grew.

Tensions over the activities of racist and neo-nazi organisations surged after the British National party achieved its best result so far in a Scottish election, coming fourth in Glasgow North East with only 62 fewer votes than the Tories.

The BNP result – which saw the party lose its deposit by only 20 votes – came as anti-racist groups, mainstream party leaders, trade unions, and religious and community groups prepared for a major protest rally and march by the English Defence League in Glasgow.

The organisation, which has orchestrated violent confrontations with Muslim groups and anti-racist groups in England, is staging its first rally in Scotland under the Scottish Defence League name.

It had originally intended to march on Glasgow central mosque, but Aamer Anwar, a lawyer and the co-organiser of the Scotland United counter-demonstration, said Strathclyde police and Glasgow city council had refused to allow it near any mosque in the city.

Its applications to march through Glasgow had been rejected on public order grounds.

"This will be the worst outcome for them," Anwar said. "It will be the worst turnout and the most demoralising because they've been driven off the streets and away from any iconic sites in Glasgow."

The Scotland United counter-demonstration will be lead by Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's deputy first minister and the MSP for Glasgow Govan, which has the country's largest Asian community, Annabel Goldie, the Scottish Tory leader, and Mohammed Sarwar, the UK's first Muslim MP, who represents Glasgow Govan.

"Scotland is rightly proud of its multicultural diversity," Sturgeon said. "A place where people from all backgrounds – irrespective of their race, faith, belief and place of birth – feel respected.

"As the far-right Scottish Defence League prepares an anti-Islamic demonstration in Glasgow on Saturday, it is important for the whole nation to send a clear message condemning all forms of bigotry and discrimination."

Anxieties increased with this week's conviction of Christopher Miller for the racist and unprovoked murder of an Indian naval officer, Kunal Mohanty, in the Gorbals earlier this year.

Miller celebrated with a friend after he killed Mohanty by slashing him across the neck.

The BNP has yet to win any councillors or MEPs in Scotland, but its candidate in Glasgow North East, Charlie Baillie, claimed his performance yesterday had given the BNP a platform for the Scottish parliamentary elections in 2011.

Baillie said the BNP result "shows us to be a credible alternative".

"This one footstep will be the springboard for further success for the Holyrood campaign," he added.

The party could win a Holyrood seat if it can win more than 7% of the vote across Glasgow, but Glasgow MSPs believe that remains highly unlikely.

The BNP has shown no signs of replicating its performance in Glasgow North East elsewhere, and Sturgeon believes its gains yesterday were tiny. It won 4.9% of the vote, but took 4.4% in the European elections in the area and 3.2% in 2005.

Alex Salmond, Scotland's first minister, believes the BBC and other media are partly to blame for Baillie's increased vote after the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, appeared on the BBC's Question Time and newspapers highlighted fears of a BNP surge in the byelection.

Salmond's sentiments are privately shared by senior Tories, who claim Labour helped generate publicity about the BNP in Glasgow North East in order to mobilise its supporters.

"I bitterly regret the irresponsibility of the BBC and others for generating the ridiculous and wholly unwarranted volume of publicity the BNP received in Scotland," Salmond said. continues here

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