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Police keep the peace as Ukip leader returns to Edinburgh

NIGEL Farage's return to ­Edinburgh wasn't quite as chaotic as the Ukip leader's last campaigning visit a year ago - but not by much.

divisive: Nigel Farage was greeted by noisy protesters on his return to Edinburgh. Picture: Gordon Terris
divisive: Nigel Farage was greeted by noisy protesters on his return to Edinburgh. Picture: Gordon Terris

By the time he and his ­supporters were safely ensconced in the Corn Exchange for a Euro election rally yesterday, a noisy group of about 300 protesters were making their voices heard inside.

"Don't believe Ukip racist lies," read one banner. "Gandhi would have smacked you in the head," suggested another, slightly more subversive, poster.

About 300 protesters carrying anti-Ukip banners gathered outside the Corn Exchange as Mr Farage gave interviews.

A handful of right-wing ­activists attempted to enter the hall but were halted by police.

Four police vans and about 30 officers were at the rally in the west of Edinburgh.

A scuffle broke out as police separated the groups.

Socialist Worker supporters jeered suited supporters of Ukip as they entered the rally.

But there was no repeat of last year's infamous "Siege of the Canon's Gait", named after the Royal Mile bar where Mr Farage had to be barricaded in for his own safety after a protest threatened to turn altogether more unpleasant.

Ukip may have avoided that, but there was no sign they have been transformed into anything resembling a modern, professional political party in Scotland in the intervening 12 months.

When a promised press ­conference last night should have been starting, the assembled media were being harangued by the first, and at the time only, protester on the scene. The angry, Shakespeare-quoting demonstrator felt Mr Farage should be ignored.

Meanwhile, the sole Ukip supporter waiting for the rally, Peter Campbell, 76, from Greenock, waved a large Saltire with "EU Referendum Now' printed on it.

Mr Campbell, a born-again Christian and reformed alcoholic, who has been a Ukip member for 10 years, said: "If William Wallace was alive today he would have voted Ukip.

"Nigel Farage is speaking the truth. He has the gift of the gab."

Monika Ciska, who is Polish and works at Napier University, was one of a group of Eastern Europeans invited to quiz Mr Farage.

She said: "We are asking how he can be against immigration if he has Polish people in his party. Would he want to stop British people living in Poland also?"

Protester John Mcardle, of Edinburgh, said: "I'm also here as a Jew. I'm a member of the Edinburgh Jewish community. We are all immigrants. We are against Ukip policies that are against immigration."

Craig McFarlane, of Glasgow, said: "I've come specifically to protest against fascism. If we don't stand up to fascism it will take over."

Heather Armstrong, 24, a ­politics and sociology student, said: "It's pretty scummy that we have people like Ukip telling us that people who come from other countries are the problem in this country, when it's really the ones at the top that are the problem. Rich men, like the high-up ones in Ukip, are ruining the country. People like Farage are scum.

"I think that it's disgusting that the capitalists in the country are slipping through the net and the workers are being demonised."

Jim McDougall, 61, a benefits adviser from Glasgow, said: "It's a noisy, but peaceful protest and people are showing a lot of solidarity.

"We will continue to show this sort of solidarity when Ukip turn up. I'm severely objected to their fascist policies. Their policies are racist and they have no place here in Scotland. They are basically fascists."

Inside, when a disorganised press conference finally began, the Ukip leader tried to persuade journalists his party was on course to win one, possibly two, seats in the May 22 European election.

Putting down his glass of red wine, he said a seat would give Ukip a "legitimate voice" in ­Scottish politics, adding: "It's far more important in Scotland in the run-up to the referendum."

He claimed the SNP's support for the EU made true independence impossible.

"We think if we can inject that into the Scottish referendum debate we might make people re-think their position."

Earlier, Alex Salmond said Ukip should be defeated at the ballot box rather than hounded out of Scotland by demonstrations. He said the battle for the sixth European seat in Scotland was between the SNP and Ukip.

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