THEY look beaten, Britain’s far-right extremists.

As a wave of radical authoritarian populism sweeps across the globe, parties like the BNP and the National Front appear almost defunct.

And yet their ideas are spreading like never before - thanks to a feverish social media eco-system where almost anything goes.

Hope not Hate, a group which monitors racist and fascist activity, has long spotted this paradox.

“Organisationally, the movement is weaker than it has been for 25 years. Membership of far right groups is down to an estimated 600-700 people,” “ it said in its annual review for 2018.”

“Yet, at the same time, the far right poses a bigger threat – in terms of violence and promotion of its vile views (particularly anti-Muslim views) – than it has in many years.”

Scotland was always a mere outpost of British rightism. Hope not Hate recorded just four rallies or protests in the country in 2017, involving groups like the Islamophobic Scottish Defence League (SDL) and the now banned identitarian group Scottish Dawn.

Some rightists have tried to position themselves with British unionism, holding minor counter-demos to Scottish independence marchers.

The SDL’s spokesman earlier this year - in an anonymous interview - admitted their protests were badly attended because feared being beaten up.

Scotland’s rightist social media activists, however, are far less peripheral. And they are very much plugged in to albeit splintered international networks, from the American white supremacist alt-right who helped get Donald Trump elected president to European identitarians.

Last weekend Scottish YouTuber Colin Robertson was a keynote speaker at a far-right conference in the Netherlands, for a grouping called Erkenbrand.

Mr Robertson, who was outed earlier this year as the vlogger Millennial Woes, in a new deleter message declared that a “civil war is inevitable between us native Europeans and the various immigrant groups.”

Like convicted fraudster and anti-Muslim campaigner Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who styles himself as Tommy Robinson. Mr Robertson has secured support in the United States. Rightists last month took to social media to protest Mr Robertson’s ban from Twitter.

Supporters included another Scottish YouTuber, Mark Meechan, who vlogs as Count Dankula, and was this year convicted after posting a video of his girlfriend’s dog doing a Nazi salute as it reacted to “Seig Heil” and “Gas the Jews”.

Hope Not Hate said it was more concerned about this troll army, who may not belong to any group, but indiscriminately share social media memes or extremist content.

It said: “With increasingly negative views towards British Muslims – and Islam more generally – there is a growing pool of possible recruits for the far right and, with some now having huge social media platforms, they now have ways to reach people that were unimaginable in the past.”

Mr Robertson is more hardline than some anti-immigrant figures on social media referred to as “alt-light” rather than alt-right. Mr Yaxley-Lennon has a million Facebook followers. Unapologetic Nazi sites in the US are attracting tens of thousands of visits from Britain.

UK police - ever since the assassination of Labour MP Jo Cox - have been as openly concerned about the far right as they were about violent Islamism. “The two ideologies are both fuelling each other,” Neil Basu, of the Metropolitan Police, said last month.

Police Scotland also has the remnants of Northern Ireland-related terrorism to handle. But new figures suggest how seriously it and its partners are taking the rise of the right.

The number of Scottish rightist extremists referred to de-radicalisation programmes nearly doubled un 2016-2017. There were 15 such referrals under the Prevent strand of the anti-terrorism strategy for the far right in the year, compared with eight in the 12 months before,

These are the same schemes used to lure vulnerable individuals away from violent Islamism. However, just 13 people were referred for what the police term “international extremism”, a catch-all which includes those vulnerable to Jihadist terror.