The Football Lads Alliance (FLA) suffered a reverse in Scotland on Saturday. It shows they are not the all-conquering force they pretend to be.
At the end of October, in a fanfare of publicity, FLA founder John Meighan announced the group’s launch in Scotland. He said he was hopeful of “real success”.
The plan was to hold a rally in Edinburgh in conjunction with Veterans against Terrorism (VAT). Saturday 25 November was chosen because the Scottish labour and trade union movement would be in Glasgow at the annual Scottish TUC anti-racist march.
But Meighan’s plan totally flopped. The crowd of 120 on the FLA gathering outside the Scottish Parliament had some 70 veterans (many in uniform) but only 50 or so football casuals, seemingly all from England.
There was not a single Scottish speaker nor an identifiable Scottish football supporter visible.
The FLA’s failure was the result of consistent efforts by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) to explain the dangers of racist division to football fans, and to build maximum anti-racist unity in advance of 25 November.
SUTR leafletted matches over several weeks and was well received.
A unity statement was issued and backed by the STUC plus all the major trade unions, political, football and community organisations.
On the day the SUTR unity rally had national and local banners from EIS and Unison, speeches from the SNP, Labour and Green parties, the Muslim Women’s Association and many more.
Statements of support were read out from the newly elected Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard, SNP MPs and Jews for Peace.
While the slogans of the Stand up to Racism rally focussed on unity, VAT and FLA claims not to be racist or extremist were belied by their speeches which focussed exclusively on attacking Islam.
The FLA has claimed to be drawing a clear line on far right involvement in its activities. But that pretence was dropped with the speakers at the Edinburgh rally. These included Ex English Democrat candidate and far right activist Toni Bugle, Bill Weir who spoke on an English Defence League demo a year ago, and Mo Fyaz, an associate of Tommy Robinson.
Individuals from the VAT came over to our SUTR rally to provoke violence but these failed too.
So Scotland remains FLA free, and we will continue to do our best to keep it that way.
But there can be no complacency about the FLA. It announced on Twitter this week, “The FLA will be marching in March and May 2018. Neither march will be held in London We are heading NORTH.”
Every anti-racist, trade unionist and socialist must be ready to oppose their attempts to build a mass Islamophobic and racist street movement.