Should pro-Palestinian marches go ahead in Scotland on Armistice Day?

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has urged organisers to call off demonstrations scheduled to take place on day of national remembrance.

Should pro-Palestinian marches go ahead in Scotland on Armistice Day? ANDY BUCHANAN / Contributor

Tens of thousands of people across the UK are expected to take part in pro-Palestinian protests on Armistice Day.

Among the nationwide protests scheduled to take place on Saturday are demonstrations in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and Forres in Moray.

The protesters are calling for a ceasefire in the ongoing war in Gaza, but the UK Government has objected to pro-Palestinian marches taking place on the day of national commemoration for Britain’s war dead.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called in Metropolitan Police chief Sir Mark Rowley for an emergency meeting about a march planned in London, saying he would hold the Scotland Yard boss “accountable” if there was any trouble.

It comes amid rising tensions in the UK Conservative party after home secretary Suella Braverman accused the Metropolitan Police of “playing favourites” with pro-Palestinian protesters in an article she wrote for The Times without getting sign-off from Downing Street in advance.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservatives are calling on organisers to postpone marches scheduled to take place across Scotland on Armistice Day.

Scottish Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw said: “This is the day when our whole nation comes together to pay tribute to those who gave their lives for their country, defeated tyranny, including the Nazis in World War Two, and sacrificed all in conflicts before and since.

“It is also a profoundly moving day for the surviving relatives, descendants and friends of those who made that sacrifice.

“Sadly, legitimate pro-Palestinian protests across the UK in recent weeks have been visibly marred by a minority spouting blatantly anti-semitic and dangerously provocative rhetoric, which has inexcusably struck fear in Jewish communities across the UK.

“Surely, this weekend when we remember the fallen, among whom are many of those who fought and helped to end the Holocaust, other demonstrations can pause to allow us all to do so quietly and in confidence.”

First Minister Humza Yousaf said earlier this week he was beyond angry at the UK Government’s response to the marches planned for Armistice Day.

He said it was “disgraceful” and “unacceptable” to describe the protests as “hate marches” and has accused the Braverman of “wanting to drive every issue into a culture war”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Remembrance period serves a vital purpose in allowing everyone a moment to pause, reflect and be thankful to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

“The right to peaceful public assembly and freedom of expression are important rights. These rights must also be balanced with ensuring public safety. The Scottish Government fully supports Police Scotland to take appropriate action in response to any public order issues arising from protests.”

This weekend’s marches in Scotland are being organised by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, an affiliate of the Scotland-wide Gaza Genocide Emergency Committee.

Mick Napier, a spokesperson for the committee, said he had no concerns about the prospect of any trouble at this weekend’s marches.

“The pressure is solely coming from the UK Government in London and it is not getting much purchase anywhere else,” he told STV News.

“We are marching against genocide in Gaza – it is completely separate and there will be no overlap with commemorations planned at cenotaphs.

“It is extremely relevant to march this weekend. One of the wars being commemorated is the defeat of the Nazis in the Second World War but there are others that are less defensible, such as the British conquest of Palestine in 1917-18 – there is a straight line between that and the doom of the Palestinians who are being driven from their homes.

“There is maybe a smattering of people who think us marching on Armistice Day is inappropriate but we enjoy great public support. We understand we are marching in step with Scottish public opinion.

“We decided to move away from George Square but the idea that people will disturb commemorations at the cenotaph is a non-story – it is not an issue for us as we know it won’t happen.”

Police Scotland has not asked organisers to consider postponing any pro-Palestinian demonstrations on Armistice Day.

Assistant chief constable Gary Ritchie said: “Public safety is our priority and an appropriate policing plan is in place this weekend.

“We continue to engage with those organising demonstrations to ensure rights to peaceful assembly are protected while minimising disruption to communities.

“Hate crime, violence or abuse do not represent legitimate protest and we will respond professionally to offending.”

Poppyscotland, and Legion Scotland, who are the custodians of Remembrance in Scotland, declined to comment.

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “Marches are primarily a matter for the police and we understand there are ongoing discussions to ensure that protests do not disturb or impact Armistice Day events. Attempts from the home secretary to stoke division on this issue simply make the police’s job harder.

“Any protests planned for Armistice Day should be respectful and should take into serious consideration how important this weekend is to many in Britain and around the world.”

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