FIVE of Scotland's leading politicians from across the spectrum have joined forces with churches and trade unions to call for a march by far-right extremists in Glasgow to be banned.
The Scottish Defence League (SDL), which has been involved in similar controversial events that have ended in confrontation and violence in the city and in Edinburgh, has applied to the local authority for permission to stage a march on February 25.
Fears of further violence and disorder in the city centre and a determination not to see the SDL, an offshoot of the English Defence League, gain a foothold in the city have led to an open letter opposing the march from Blythswood Square to George Square. It is signed by SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon, and Scottish Labour, Conservative, LibDem and Green leaders, Johann Lamont, Ruth Davidson, Willie Rennie and Patrick Harvie.
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Tensions would be further heightened on the day of the proposed march with Celtic playing a home game just 30 minutes after it is due to conclude.
The Herald understands there is a reluctance within Glasgow City Council for the march to go ahead but, as the application has been made in accordance with the law, the authority has to put it through required procedures.
The council is exploring how the proposed march would have an impact on its policy on parades and processions, which has in the past steered events away from the centre.
In an open letter, the MSPs say such a march would bring "vile, toxic hate" and urges the council to reject any application for the SDL to march "on the grounds of public safety and moral decency".
It states previous SDL and EDL processions have seen "mindless thugs attack shopkeepers, business owners and taxi drivers". The letter adds: "We the undersigned express our extreme concern at our streets being used for the peddling of hatred.
"We wish to send out a loud and clear message that racism is not welcome in our city.
"We vigorously oppose giving the Scottish Defence League, or any of their offshoots, permission to hold a public procession through Glasgow."
It adds: "While we passionately defend freedom of speech – regardless of how unpleasant it may be – we do not believe vile, toxic hate should be given free rein in our streets. Glasgow has a proud history of fighting fascism and tackling racism. We are proud of our multicultural diversity and as such we wish to send out a loud and clear message that racism is not welcome in our city.
"We seek your assurances that these concerns will be taken on board and that any application for the Scottish Defence League to march in our city's streets will be rejected."
Glasgow SNP MSP Humza Yousaf organised the letter which was signed by another six Glasgow MSPs and one from Lanarkshire. Officials from Unison, the STUC, Unite, PCS, FDA, and CWU unions also backed the call for a ban. The Church of Scotland, council of Jewish Communities and Muslim Council are also behind the call.
A city council spokesman said: "The council is required to deal with any public procession in line with the relevant legislation and guidance. Where there are concerns to be addressed, this includes a period of discussion with the organiser. That is still ongoing.
"We have legitimate concerns about public safety and public order and asked organisers to consider withdrawing their notification; or to consider holding an event in an enclosed area instead. If we can't reach agreement, the proposed march will have to be called in to a public processions committee for consideration."