Socialist Worker

Report criticises Scottish cops' handling of racist SDL

by Margaret Woods, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees
Issue No. 2338

The Glasgow demonstration to welcome refugees last summer  (Pic: Duncan Smith)

The Glasgow demonstration to welcome refugees last summer (Pic: Duncan Smith)

An official investigation has seriously criticised the policing of a pro-refugee demonstration in central Glasgow last June.

Strathclyde police dispersed the protest an hour earlier than agreed.

They then escorted a racist Scottish Defence League (SDL) counter-protest into the area where the pro-refugee rally had been held.

After their rally the SDL ran amok in Buchanan Street, threatening stall holders and shoppers.

The report was by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).

It found that the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees demonstration was a family friendly event making a serious point on a subject of public concern.

But it states, “The actions of the police and SDL marred the intentions of the event on the day.”

It invited members of the committee of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees to a meeting at police headquarters last week to receive an edited version.

We were accompanied by Green Party councillor Martha Wardrop who had co-signed our complaint.

The full report has yet to be released because of potential prosecutions relating to the SDL protest, but will eventually be available to the public.


The decision to bring the SDL into George Square was described as an “error of judgement”.

The report notes that officers failed to take robust action at clear criminal and racist behaviour from the SDL.


Strathclyde police told the investigation that it ended the anti-racist demonstration early because of a “communication error”.

The force has not disputed the report.

Our group was pleased with the report’s findings but it offers no real explanation of why the policing of the protest went so badly wrong.

HMIC told us that it was a frequent police tactic to gather evidence and arrest people after the event .

It said the arrests would have happened without our complaint.

But we feel that the SDL members were only arrested because of complaints made at two meetings with the police.

The investigation was only announced after the meetings.

And witnesses and testimony provided by the campaign helped with the arrests.

We were assured that policing around these issues would improve as a result of our complaints and the review. We expressed serious doubts about that.

The day before our meeting police escorted some SDL supporters to the Pollokshields area to lay a wreath—against the wishes of many people.

Legal hearings against the evictions of refugees continue.

Campaigners protest outside and attend each hearing

If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Article information

Fri 15 Mar 2013, 15:32 GMT
Issue No. 2338
Share this article

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.