THE Scottish Police Federation came under fire from politicians, lawyers and equality bodies last night after claiming both sides in Wednesday’s George Square disorder are “as guilty as the other”.

At least six people were arrested following scenes labelled “disgraceful” by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as loyalists understood to be linked to the far-right Scottish Defence League targeted a No Evictions rally in central Glasgow which called for better living conditions for refugees.

Some sang Rule Britannia and large numbers of police were deployed. Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins said Police Scotland witnessed “people intent on hijacking a peaceful event and intent on violence and thuggery”.

Telling people who “hijack a peaceful event for other purposes” to “prepare to be arrested” for any repeats, he said: “We have no tolerance any longer. There is no place for it in Glasgow or anywhere else in Scotland. It doesn’t reflect the Scottish society in which we live.”

That statement came after the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), which represents rank and file officers, suggested the peaceful protesters were as much as fault as the loyalist aggressors and no demonstrations should take place under coronavirus rules.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: George Square thugs must feel full force of the law

Chair David Hamilton said: “There is no moral high ground to be claimed. Right or left; green or blue; unionist or nationalist; statue wrecker or statue protector, your side is as guilty as the other. There is no hierarchy of culpability. The sad reality is that there are too many opposing factions who need no excuse to use a protest as an opportunity to cause disorder.

“Police officers should not be used as political pawns to advance or decry the actions of a particular group. The sooner our politicians decide what matters more, appeasement or the health of our nation, the sooner we can stop wasting valuable resources on the managing of illegal gatherings.”

That statement provoked outcry from figures including Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken, who said: “To say peaceful asylum seekers and far-right thugs are as bad as each other is simply wrong. It’s the latter Glasgow needs our police to protect the city from.”

Lawyer Aamer Anwar said: “What a shamefully grotesque statement which appears to equate the actions of thousands of peaceful Scottish protesters with the actions of far-right racist thugs who attacked an asylum seeker rights demo and officers on Sunday and Wednesday.”

Saying the “inflammatory rhetoric does a disservice to our officers who have faced violence from the far-right”, he went on: “The federation is looking increasingly backward whilst abandoning any sense of proportionality in this intemperate commentary. In a civilised democracy we do not expect our modern police service to be neutral on racism or fascism.”

READ MORE: Anger over BBC's 'both sides' treatment of George Square violence

And, referencing a spit attack on a Catholic priest and aggression towards Black Lives Matter activists, umbrella body Bemis, which represents black and ethnic minority organisations, he said: “Asylum seekers campaigning for better housing are not equivalent to racists trying to attack them.

“At all of these instances in the last two years, the violence directed towards the police and diverse citizens exercising their democratic rights has originated from a common denominator. Glasgow has a problem with organised far-right street violence, intimidation and significantly disproportionate aggression. The Scottish Police Federation does itself no favours by being unable to make these basic distinctions.

“The mere existence of racial and religious minorities does not make them equally culpable for the hatred expressed towards them and to suggest so is absurd and illogical.”

Earlier, Nicola Sturgeon called for the racist thugs to face the “full force” of the law. Speaking in Holyrood, she said: “It was not people protecting statues or the Cenotaph, it was a bunch of racist thugs seeking to pour out their prejudice and find prejudice against asylum seekers and refugees. It is not what Scotland is about.

“Welcoming refugees and asylum seekers is part of who we are and we should stand against the scenes we saw in Glasgow last night.”