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Defence leagues humiliated in Edinburgh

The Scottish Defence League was routed in the capital yesterday as anti-fascist campaigners vowed the far-right in Scotland was finished as a political movement.

About 100 far-right protesters tried to congregate in Edinburgh, but were faced down by a coalition of over 2,000 anti-fascists, including Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill and Scottish Labour Holyrood leader Iain Gray.

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More than 700 officers were used to police the day’s events and prevent confrontation between the groups.

The low turn-out in Scotland is markedly different from recent gatherings of the SDL’s sister organisation the English Defence League,which has stormed into English cities with more than 1,000 protesters and caused mayhem.

At least 1,500 thugs descended on Stoke-on-Trent recently, smashing up the town centre and embarking on a what has been described as a “pogrom” aimed at Islamic communities. The trouble was so bad EDL commanders were forced to deny responsibility.

But in Edinburgh, police corralled SDL activists into several pubs around the city while anti-racist demonstrators marched through the capital celebrating multicultural Scotland.

The Holyrood end of the Royal Mile was locked down for most of the day as about 30 SDL supporters -- including women and teenage boys -- were trapped inside Jenny Ha’s pub.

About 100 metres up the Royal Mile, separated by a police barrier, anti-fascist protesters chanted as SDL foot-soldiers looked on.

The Sunday Herald attempted to question Don, the group’s shadowy leader, at Jenny Ha’s, but he had imposed a total media blackout and simply said: “F*** off out of here.”

English Defence League campaigners travelled up from England, but were quickly detained by Lothian and Borders police.

Mickey, who runs the Casuals United website and is one of the founding members of the EDL, was detained as he got off the train at Edinburgh, along with other EDL members.

He said: “What an abuse of power. All our lads were either arrested or turned away ... A nation that makes peaceful protest impossible makes bloody revolution inevitable.”

As the SDL march petered out, thousands congregated at Princes Street Gardens to hear speeches from trade unionists, anti-fascists and politicians including Mr MacAskill and Mr Gray.

Ahead of his speech, Mr MacAskill said: “The fact there are so few Scottish Defence League supporters here is testament to good police work and shows that there is no traction in Scotland for their foul and evil views.”

Aamer Anwar, a prominent human rights lawyer who helped lead the 2,000 anti-fascist demonstrators through the city, stopped for a minute’s silence in front of Edinburgh mosque to commemorate victims of racist violence.

He said: “Whenever the Scottish Defence League raise their head, we will put another nail in their coffin. This was not a national mobilisation, it was a humiliation.”

The last SDL march in Scotland was almost as big a fiasco when they tried to parade through Glasgow in November.

Mr Anwar added: “That’s 2-0 to Scotland, I think. We said, ‘Don’t bother coming back, don’t raise your heads again’.”

Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism, said: “This showed how weak the SDL is in Scotland.”

Bennett warned that although the battle seemed to have been won in Scotland, the English Defence League was still a threat. He called upon supporters of Scotland United -- the anti-fascist coalition north of the Border -- to stand against the EDL in Bolton next month.

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