Hundreds of protestors gathered yesterday outside Dungavel demanding the permanent closure of the notorious refugee detention centre and branding it a 'scar' on Scotland.

Over 300 people rallied at the base against the practice of indefinite detention of refugees.

Despite being held by police halfway along the road to the site's perimeter, the crowd made their way to the gates of Dungavel, banging the steel fence while chanting and singing.

Signs with messages such as 'Scotland Welcomes Immigrants' and 'Nobody is Illegal' written on them were hung upon the barbed wire fence, alongside flowers and flags, as the noise from the crowd grew even louder.

Although the fence obscures almost all view of the former castle, through the smallest of gaps it was possible to see detainees in the grounds of the detention centre, clapping and chanting back to the crowds.

Representatives from the SNP, Scottish Greens, STUC, Church of Scotland and the Muslim Council were all among the organisations backing the protest.

Grahame Smith, General Secretary of the STUC, described Dungavel as a "blight on our immigration system" and demanded the Home Office relax the prison-like security inside the detention centre.

Smith said: "We want to see an end to detention. We want to see a different, more humane immigration system, and we want to see the UK living up to its global responsibilities and providing safe haven for those who need it.

"The people behind these walls are not a threat to our country. They are just people looking for a better life. We can have an asylum system without the need for detention."

Human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, SNP MP Natalie McGarry and former Dungavel detainee Pinar Asku were also amongst the demonstrators.

Before taking to the microphone to lead chants of "Shut it down", Anwar claimed that this "barbaric system", which under the control of the UK government, was a danger to civilised life in Scotland.

"Asylum seekers today are portrayed as threatening a "civilised" way of life but there is nothing civilised about prison camps like Dungavel which allow indefinite detention," Anwar said. "Westminster's operation of a barbaric system allows for little hope but scapegoats the weakest.

"None of those held in Dungavel have been charged with a criminal offence and most have experienced violence, torture or sexual abuse before detention.

"It is time that this scar on the Scottish landscape was torn down, offering a beacon of hope to those incarcerated in such camps across England and Europe," he said.

Former detainee Aksu said: "We need a system where people are treated properly. We cannot have innocent people who are fleeing persecution in their homeland locked up like criminals.

"The UK needs to first look at why people are fleeing their countries instead of blaming every problem in society and the economy on asylum seekers and refugees.

"Dungavel and all detention centres need to be shut because they are a crime against humanity," she added.

Other speakers at yesterday's rally included Sally Foster Fulton of the Church of Scotland, chair of Justice and Peace Scotland Ellen Charlton, Dr Salah Beltagui of the Muslim Council of Scotland and former Glasgow Girl Amal Azzudin.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Detention and removal are essential parts of effective immigration controls. It is vital these are carried out with dignity and respect and we take the welfare of our detainees very seriously.

"That's why the Home Secretary has commissioned an independent review of detainees' welfare to be conducted by the former prisons ombudsman Stephen Shaw. This is expected to be completed in the autumn.

"Detention is only ever used as a last resort, and for the shortest time possible, after all attempts to encourage individuals to leave voluntarily have failed."