ORGANISERS have defended their decision to hold today’s pro-independence march five days before the General Election after an SNP candidate urged party members not to go.

All Under One Banner (AUOB) submitted an application for the March for Independence event late last year, long before Prime Minister Theresa May announced a snap General Election in mid-April.

Initially the non-party group aimed to show support for a second referendum and opposition to Brexit. However, organisers say the event has taken on a new significance ahead of Thursday’s vote and have urged all Yes supporters to join the procession and “show that we are completely against the policies the Tories want to impact on us”.

Last night they insisted they are right to go ahead after the SNP’s Stewart McDonald urged party members to stay away.

Posting on Twitter, McDonald, who is seeking re-election in Glasgow South, said: “If you’re an SNP member please use your time to support your local constituency. Marching won’t win us any votes.”

Explaining his position, McDonald conceded participants could do both but, with the vote less than one week away, argued local campaigning would be “more helpful” to the cause.

He then said a comment by Scottish Labour communication director Alan Roden, which stated that his side “certainly hope as many SNP activists as possible join the march”, proved his point.

Responding to McDonald’s remarks, Neil Mackay of AUOB denied that the event would disrupt efforts to send Yes-supporting MPs to Westminster, saying: “What wins votes is a massive question – how does he know that marching doesn’t win votes? People can do both.

“A lot of the people who are going to be there aren’t engaged in local constituency politics, some for good reasons.

“Branch level politics isn’t very exciting for a lot of people, which is why they don’t join or they don’t attend meetings. They get something different out of this, it’s another way to show support.”

On Roden’s comment, Mackay dismissed the notion that it could aid Labour, saying: “As if that’ll help them. They don’t stand a chance in a lot of areas. Some people might vote Labour who voted SNP before because of Corbyn, but I don’t think that will be enough to win them any seats.”

He went on: “Independence supporters have a choice in this election of the SNP and, in some seats, the Greens. We are saying to every one of them to get out and use their vote.”

The comments were made just hours before stewards were due to convene for the final preparations for the march, which run through Glasgow from west to east.

The event will begin at Kelvingrove Park at 11am, with crowds expected to gather from around 10.30am, and the final walkers are set to reach Glasgow Green by around 12.30pm.

AUOB hope the crowd will mirror that of previous marches, taking in families and including people from different ethnic, religious and economic groups to reflect the country’s diversity.

Those attending are urged to bring “flags, banners, pipes and drums”.

Organisers had feared they would not win permission to host their seventh event in the wake of criticism of the last, which took place in July 2016. According to police, it attracted numbers of up to 3000, with the group arguing that the total topped 5000.

Both figures are higher than were initially planned for and council officials ruled that the group could not repeat the feat unless they paid for professional security guards.

A five-figure deal with Core Security followed, but the firm will no longer be involved in today’s activities as a result of a split, and volunteer stewards will now be used as a result of continued discussions with the local authority. Speakers include Brian Quail of Scottish CND, who is known for staging one-man roadblocks to stop nuclear convoys.

Connor Boyd of the Scottish Greens will also address the crowds, as will a representative of the Yes Bikers and blogger Craig Murray.

Musicians will also take the stage, with poetry another addition to the post-march bill.

Almost 20 acts will appear in total, with the curtain set to fall at 2.30pm.