A COUNTER-PROTEST by anti-fascists significantly outnumbered a Glasgow demonstration by the Scottish Defence League (SDL).

The SDL were holding a far-right rally in support of former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon. 

Robinson is currently serving a 13-month jail term for contempt of court.

The centre of George Square was fenced off amid ongoing construction work for the European Championships, meaning the demonstration took place towards one side.

Authorities expected members of groups such as the English Defence League, North East Infidels, Central Scottish Infidels and National Action to be among those attending.

The lack of space did not prove to be an issue for the SDL, managing only a low turnout of around 70.

The National:

Fewer than 70 people attended the Scottish Defence League rally. Photograph: Stewart Attwood

By contrast, a counter-demonstration by Unite Against Fascism Scotland, unions and other anti-racist organisers attracted almost 300 supporters.

SDL members had inititally complained about Police Scotland restricting them to only 100 participants – but then failed to draw close to that number.

The National:

Police surrounding a group on North Hanover Street. Photograph: Stewart Attwood

Speaking at the anti-fascism protest, SNP MSP Sandra White said: "Glasgow is a vibrant city. We welcome everyone. But we don't welcome [the SDL].

"I saw them letting off flares. I saw them running down the road. That is not a peaceful demonstration.That is a demonstration to incite hatred. And that is what these people stand for. Incitement to hatred.

"They are scum. Absolute scum.

"I'd like to see some of them spoken to and arrested for hate crimes.

The National:

The anti-fascism demonstration drowned out the SDL rally. Photograph: Stewart Attwood

"We're here to stand together, to ensure that the People Make Glasgow sign is not their People Make Glasgow – it's our people make Glasgow.

"We are truly in a city that welcomes everyone. There is no room for these people whatsoever.

"I saw the young kids coming down with them. I feel sorry for them. Imagine having them as your parents. It's an absolute disgrace.

"Scarves over their faces... what does that tell those kids? They're brought up on hatred, and we've got to try to educate them. 

The National:

Photograph: Stewart Attwood

"The first place to be used as an educator is the media. We wouldn't have had Farage and the rest of them if it wasn't for the media.

"I say to the media – you've got a responsiblity to society. It's time you took that responsibility seriously.

"We will not let these people run our country. Go home Nazis, go home."

The National:

The counter-demonstration was separated from the far-right rally by fencing amid construction work. Photograph: Stewart Attwood

Iain Livingstone, acting chief constable, had informed SDL organisers that they were allowed no more than 100 people at their rally and could be there only from 1pm-1.30pm.

They were also warned that they must disperse "without any group procession forming", and that it was an offence not to comply with the restrictions.

A letter from Livingstone to the SDL said "that on almost all occasions around Scotland, where there has been SDL activity, there has been the potential for serious disorder which on each occasion has required a significant police presence".

The National:

Photograph: Stewart Attwood

The letter added: "I am aware that individuals from various groups from Scotland and England, considered to be 'right wing' with views sympathetic to those of the SDL, have in the past attended SDL events.

"In particular, I refer to individuals affiliated to groups such as the English Defence League, the North East Infidels, Central Scotland Infidels, National Action and Scottish football risk supporters.

"I am also aware that it is the intention of individuals from such groups to attend on Saturday in order to participate in the SDL demonstration.

"I have had regard to the fact that the presence and/or activities of the above mentioned organisations elsewhere in the United Kingdom in the past has, from time to time, occasioned the deployment of significant policing resources to prevent and sometimes to deal with serious public disorder.

The National:

A participant of the SDL rally with an Israel flag. Photograph: Stewart Attwood

"I reasonably believe that the intended public assembly may result in serious public disorder or serious disruption to the life of the community and, to that end, give this direction.

"I am satisfied that these conditions are necessary to prevent such disorder and disruption and I am also satisfied that they are proportionate."