NICOLA Sturgeon has rejected Police Scotland’s classification of some anti-fracking protesters as “domestic extremists”.

The First Minister said there was nothing wrong with peaceful democratic protest, citing her own experience of campaigning against nuclear weapons at Faslane.

It followed Green MSP Patrick Harvie complaining about Police Scotland’s decision to bracket anti-fracking protesters alongside fascists and the far right.

In its annual plan for 2017/18, the force includes the protestors under the heading Domestic Extremism (DE), which it says is dominated by the Extreme Right Wing in the UK.

It says: “There continue to be protests around shale oil and gas extraction and unconventional oil and gas extraction, both commonly referred to as ‘fracking’.

“In 2017/18, we will continue to closely monitor individuals and groups that are involved/ suspected to be involved in the DE arena and explore all opportunities to disrupt and detect their activities.”

Mr Harvie said the police’s stance was “shocking” as anti-fracking protesters were “heroes”.

Ms Sturgeon said it was up to the police to answer for “operational decisions”, but added she did not consider peaceful anti-fracking protesters as “extremists”.

She said: “I absolutely support the right of peaceful democratic protest. I have taken part in many peaceful democratic protests, including at Faslane against nuclear weapons.

“I will defend the right of people to demonstrate, whether they are protesting against fracking or nuclear weapons or anything else.. as long as they do that peacefully and democratically.

“I am happy to ask the chief constable on behalf of Police Scotland to address the point that Patrick Harvie has raised. I do not consider people who protest against nuclear weapons, fracking or anything else in a peaceful and democratic way to be extremists in any sense, and I would not expect anybody to consider them to be extremists.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Gerry McLean said: "Police Scotland supports the public’s right to protest against anything that concerns them, and will facilitate peaceful protests as long as these are conducted within the law.

"The 2017/18 police plan included a reference to issues which were of legitimate concern to the wider public at that time, but which may have been vulnerable to exploitation by people of a more extreme mindset who could undermine peaceful protest and pose a risk to public safety.

"Police Scotland's position would never be to describe peaceful protesters as domestic extremists."