INDEPENDENCE campaigners were left furious after Labour-run Dumfries and Galloway Council refused three times to allow them to stage a May Day gathering in the local park.

Now they are planning to hold an unofficial teddy bears picnic and family fun day in Dock Park after being told a Yes2/Freedom Convoy event on May 1 cannot be held because it “could be perceived to give support to a particular political party”.

Yes2 co-founder John McHarg said: “After clearly explaining our very strict multi-party participation criteria we were astonished at the line the council’s democratic services department is taking in denying the people of Dumfries and Galloway an opportunity to gather at Dock Park for a family day of independence discussion and debate.

“The irony of the department’s name seems completely lost on them. The information and reasoning we have been given seems dishonest at best and deceitful at worst in regards to the use and non-use of Dock Park on the day.”

McHarg accused the council of refusing them permission to use the park on political grounds and is urging independence-supporting local people to make a complaint to the council and call for an explanation.

He added: “It is clear to Yes2 that this is a political decision being made on the most tenuous of grounds.

We have never been refused an event on the grounds of ‘perception’ and again we explained fully that this is not to the benefit of a single political party but to the citizens of Dumfries.

“The council has shrugged it off as an inconvenience and maintained a line that is in every way indefensible, I would urge the people of the area to exercise their democratic strengths and contact the department for an explanation as we have still many questions unanswered and ignored.”

McHarg said in the first refusal to the Dumfries Yes2 group, the council told them that it was because a licence had been granted for a Union rally on the same day, which he says was confirmed by the council when he intervened in the request for a licence. However, when The National contacted the council about the Union event, a spokesman said they were not aware of a Union May Day event. Lorna Taylor, co-organiser for the Freedom Convoy, said: “This was supposed to be just a gathering of independence- supporting groups all fighting for the same thing but the council refused to allow it on the grounds it was too close to the local elections and that they believed it was a political event, which is wasn’t.”

Taylor said that instead there will be a teddy bears picnic on Monday, May 1, at 12.45pm with a peaceful lunch. Supporters of independence are being asked to bring their teddy bears. Some of the Yes Bikers group are also expected to turn up.

Taylor added: “I’m doing this because I’m fighting for the freedom of my kids and grandkids,. It is their future that we hold in our hands.

I think what Dumfries and Galloway Council has done in refusing permission for a peaceful gathering is totally disgusting. It had nothing to do with any particular party.

A council spokesman said: “The Local Government Act 1986 prevents councils from allowing their premises and other resources to be used in a manner which could be perceived to give support to a particular political party. We aren’t aware of a ‘Union May Day Rally’ being held on council premises.”