A far-right organisation has threatened to take court action or stage an illegal gathering in Edinburgh after its bid to stage a formal parade in the city was thrown out.
The Scottish Defence League said it is likely to appeal to Edinburgh Sheriff Court on the grounds of "freedom of speech" after councillors ruled it posed a "significant risk" of disorder. Two members failed to convince councillors of the merits of holding the event after claiming they were opposed to the "rise of militant Islamists" in the UK and wanted to highlight the need for "drastic action".
The group had been planning to hold a demonstration passing near the American Consulate the day before the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. But the application attracted more than 1,000 complaints from politicians, anti-racism groups, community organisations and trade union leaders, who were concerned the group would trigger racial unrest in the city. SDL representatives told the council the group had distanced itself from more hard-line members but struggled to explain photographs taken at recent rallies showing placards featuring racist phrases, claiming they were not made by an official members of the group.
The SDL also claimed it had no links with the notorious English Defence League, which has been linked with Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik.
The parade would have started at Regent Road and included a rally at the Wellington Statue at the east end of Princes Street. SNP councillor Rob Munn, chairman of the council's licensing committee, said although he valued "freedom of speech and freedom of assembly", this had to be balanced with potential disruption to the life of the city.
He added: "I have no doubts that the police would be able to deal with any eventuality, but there is just too great a risk to public safety and public order. We take these decisions on behalf of the people of Edinburgh with the safety of the city in mind. We haven't been convinced, on the basis of the information provided to us, that our concerns about safety, order and disruption can be addressed and resolved."
Tory councillor Jo Mowat said: "This is a very difficult decision for the council as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are very important in the UK. It's with a very heavy heart that we make this decision, but there is a risk that this event could be a potential flashpoint." SDL spokesman Graham Fleming said after the hearing: "The SDL has changed a lot over the last few months.