NICOLA Sturgeon called on pro-independence campaign group All Under One Banner not to go ahead with a planned series of demonstrations starting in Edinburgh next month.

During her daily briefing, the First Minister was asked what kind of impact these protests could have on efforts to keep the Covid-19 outbreak in check – and the SNP leader expressed concern over the events.

Earlier this week AUOB announced they would start a monthly series of pro-independence demonstrations in Edinburgh on July 20, but would not host their usual marches and rallies until it is safe to do so.

READ MORE: Scottish independence: AUOB reveal plans for demonstrations

Sturgeon said: “They will potentially jeopardise the efforts to keep the virus suppressed. As things stand right now, these kinds of mass gatherings are not advised, in fact we strongly advise against them and there are legal enforcement powers as I said in my opening remarks.

“My advice to anybody, whether it’s All Under One Banner or anybody else protesting for any other reason, or people wanting to gather in the sunshine in Kelvingrove Park – please don’t do it. because you are putting our progress at risk and if our progress starts to go backwards lives are at risk.”

However the SNP leader expressed sympathy for those wanting to protest against important political issues during the pandemic.

“I understand,” she said. “I’ve been a political activist since I was 16 years old, I’m a politician, I know how important protest is, I know how important democratic expression is – not just at elections but through marches and gatherings.

“I’ve taken part in more of these over my life than I can count. But right now they are risky – so find other ways to make your views known. I’m not asking people not to make their views known. Of course I’m not. But do it in other ways. Do it in safe ways. If we jeopardise this progress we’ll all be under these restrictions for a long longer.”

AUOB said at their announcement this week that demonstrations will be managed very carefully with “safety as the priority”.

The group had to cancel its planned series of marches and rallies through Scotland’s cities amid the pandemic, and has held been holding regular online talks on issues relating to independence since.