Despite party expulsion threat, some individuals have joined both camps
Links between the BNP and the right-wing Scottish Defence League can today be exposed by the Sunday Herald. Both groups have publicly tried to distance themselves from each other, with the BNP claiming it would expel members found to be active in the Scottish Defence League (SDL) and its English counterpart, the EDL.
But one long-standing BNP member in Scotland told the Sunday Herald the party and the SDL shared many members and supporters, adding that the threat of expulsion was merely “a publicity thing” designed to placate the media. He said: “I am a member of the BNP and a supporter of the Scottish Defence League. A lot of the supporters are the same.”
On the threat of expulsion, he added: “That is a publicity thing. We both have the same views on radical Islam and we both don’t want Sharia law in Britain. We created our group [the SDL] to support what was happening down south with the English Defence League. I couldn’t say that the SDL was set up by BNP activists, but I was one of the early ones to support it.”
The leagues are loosely organised groups which claim to campaign against Muslim extremism in the UK but are widely perceived to be racist organisations. This charge has been denied by the groups, as have suggestions that they are linked to the BNP.
Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, alleged the claim about the publicity stunt of the expulsion threat had been made by a “liar”. He said: “I can imagine that there will be people with really no understanding of our position who support both organisations, but that would be an incredibly misguided position.”
He said that “not for one moment” did he believe a “genuine” BNP member would support the SDL or EDL.
“That is because they would be more aware of our position on these organisations. There are clear, sensible, mainstream political ways in which to make points about issues such as radical extremism rather than parading in the streets. We have very little in common with the EDL and the SDL. We understand their opposition to radical Islam … [But] there are simply no connections between [them and] the BNP. We wouldn’t want any. The EDL are doing something that we abandoned nearly 10 years ago. We don’t want to spend time stomping up the street making a nuisance of ourselves.”
When asked why it was so dangerous for the BNP to be linked to the SDL, Mr Griffin said: “These organisations are very provocative. One day they will spark an almighty riot and the Left will try and demonise us for that.”
Gary Raikes, national organiser of the BNP in Scotland, said yesterday that every party member in Scotland received a newsletter informing them that anyone found to have links with the SDL or to have attended any of their demonstrations would be expelled from the party.
The claim that the expulsion threat was a publicity stunt was dismissed as “preposterous” by the party’s national press spokesman, who questioned the authenticity of the member who made the allegation. However, information gathered by David Miller, a professor of sociology at the University of Strathclyde and a co-founder of the campaigning website Spinwatch, alleges that at least three BNP members are also Defence League supporters. One is BNP Scotland member John Wilkinson. He leafleted on behalf of the party in the run-up to the European Elections, and is involved with running the SDL website.
SDL supporter Iain Brooks, from Glasgow, is also listed on a leaked BNP membership list. And Adam Lloyd, the BNP organiser for Bridgend in Wales, is another listed as an SDL supporter, according to Prof Miller. The Sunday Herald contacted all three via email.
The SDL protested in Glasgow last month, their demonstration tightly controlled by police. Officers stopped the SDL marching into the city centre. South of the Border, English Defence League marches have ended in arrests and violence. The English Defence League was set up following Muslim extremist protests at the homecoming parade of the Royal Anglian Regiment troops in March this year, during which soldiers were branded the “Butchers of Basra” by a small number of demonstrators.
EDL members were then mobilised from within football hooligan groups – it is understood that football intelligence officers from Strathclyde Police have been used to pinpoint activists in Scotland.
Aamer Anwar, a high-profile lawyer who led the Scotland United anti-racism and anti-facism march last month, said that “he was not surprised at all” that the SDL was linked to the BNP. He claimed that the extremist group was simply creating a “street army” for the political party, which polled more than one million votes in this year’s European election, winning two MEP seats, and has 58 councillors.
Mr Anwar said: “The BNP denied they had links [to the EDL/SDL] because they were trying to win electoral respect. What they can’t get away from is that at the root of their politics is fascism and racism. It is the same scenario as Adolf Hitler and the Brownshirts. Hitler denounced them, but they were central to the organisation. The whole thing is trying to mould a street army from racists, football hooligans and groups such as Combat 18. If the group was open and democratic it … wouldn’t operate in the way that it does. The whole basis of the SDL is simply to create street terror.”
The Sunday Herald was unable to reach the Scottish Defence League yesterday. Supporters have consistently refused to identify themselves by name to the media.