A decision by Police Scotland not to send officers to an anti-asylum protest and counter-protest in Erskine has led to "in your face violence", campaigners have said.

The Home Office has been using the Muthu Hotel to house asylum seekers since January of 2023, a move which was protested by the far-right group Homeland, which split from Patriotic Alternative in April last year.

A weekly counter-protest by trades unions, anti-racism groups and community members has gathered outside of the hotel every Sunday.

In recent months people from inside the hotel have come out to engage in activities such as football, rugby and drawing but in December Police Scotland said it would no longer attend the protest and counter-protest.

The Herald: Drawings by children housed in the Erskine hotelDrawings by children housed in the Erskine hotel (Image: Newsquest)

That has led to increased tension, with an assault taking place on December 24.

Alex Meyer of Stand Up To Racism says she had punches and kicks aimed at her, while a group of men allegedly assaulted Euan Mitchell with his own walking stick.

Ms Meyer said: "We knew a lot of the asylum seekers who have been placed in the hotel are Christian and many would be celebrating Christmas, alongside other religious groups that recognise and celebrate Christmas. We also knew how hard it must be away from family when holidays are celebrated.

"When I arrived at the hotel, the far-right protesters had already decided to start to try and approach the hotel, moving away from their usual 'space'.

"When we got there we could hear them repeating slurs and myths about people living in the hotel. 

"I started videoing with one woman who then objected to being called a racist by someone behind me, when I told her she was a fascist she pulled the phone out of my hands, and tried to punch me. 

Read More: Meet the barber who cuts hair for Erskine asylum seekers

"A disabled person who was present and had also been involved locally in the Erskine campaign tried to move in between, as soon as he moved, a group of three or more people took his walking stick from him, two people punched him and the rest tried to get him to the ground.

"I couldn't believe that on Christmas Eve people would spend their time harassing asylum seekers who've fled war and persecution."

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We were made aware of a disturbance involving two groups in the Erskine area around 11.50am on Sunday, 24 December, 2023.

“Officers attended but the groups involved had dispersed. No one presented as injured and no further complaints were made to Police Scotland.”

The Herald:

Paisley and District Trades Council's Robert Parker said: "Since the police told everyone that we’re not turning up every week anymore things seem to have gone from nothing to full in-your-face assault.

"The week before I'd parked the car up near the roundabout hoping they wouldn’t turn up, three Patriotic Alternative folk turned up rather than locals, then there was a bit of to and fro.

Read More: Far-right invasion: Inside the hijacking of a Scottish community meeting

"We kept asking the guy to stop filming us and at one point he kicked the front of the car.

“As soon as he moved out of the way we were off. Then you get to Christmas Eve, they’re there and we’re there.

"This woman walked down and was standing on the path where the road into the hotel is, sticking a finger up and making unkind comments to us - you name the drivel, she was coming out with it.

"She disappears off and another guy comes down, holds his hand out and is talking about Merry Christmas.

“My response was. ‘you think we’re going to say Merry Christmas to you after what your friend has just been doing and saying to us?’.

“I kind of noticed that the rest of them were coming down the path toward us, we were standing where we’ve always stood and they were confronting us on the grass on the road into the hotel, screaming and bawling.

“I was standing talking to a guy, one of the PA guys who insists he’s local but definitely is not, and the shouting started getting louder and louder behind me.

“I heard people half-screaming and realised that Euan had been hit, they grabbed his stick and started hitting him with it.

“At that point there was a kind of general melee, I’d started phoning the police and was going around in circles and getting nowhere."

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "We continue to monitor the protests at the Erskine Muthu Hotel and apply a proportionate police response each week.

"We continue to liaise with our partners and will assess whether officers are required to be deployed at the hotel, or if they can respond to any incidents as required.”