NIGEL Farage had to be rescued from a locked pub by the police after his attempts to raise Ukip’s profile in Scotland were greeted by angry protests.
Ukip’s attempt to host a press conference in a bar on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile descended into chaos when it was hijacked by demonstrators who accused Mr Farage of being a “racist”, “fascist”, “homophobe”.
Two attempts to leave the Canon’s Gait pub by taxi were thwarted as the vehicles were surrounded by around 100 protesters, some carrying a giant “Vote Yes for Scotland” banner. Others carried a placard proclaiming themselves to be the “Campaign for Radical Independence”.
Met with a barrage of abuse that included the refrain, “You’re a racist, go home to England”, Mr Farage twice had to emerge from a besieged taxi to confront the crowd when it was clear both drivers were reluctant to drive him away from the scene.
On the second occasion, he responded to questions about his reception in Scotland, saying it was: “Clearly anti-British and anti-English. They hate the Union Jack [sic]… maybe that’s what it is all about.” It was then that police decided to escort him back into the Canon’s Gait where the doors were locked to keep the mob out, who continued to chant “scum, scum, scum”.
Mr Farage was trapped in the pub until help arrived in the form of a police riot van. He emerged to face the crowd once more as he was escorted to the van, which, third time lucky, managed to drive him up the Royal Mile to a chorus of abuse.
Earlier, he had attempted to explain Ukip’s controversial policies on Europe, immigration and Scottish independence to journalists who had joined him in the pub.
But the event slowly got out of control as Mr Farage addressed a huddle of television cameras and political journalists.
As a real ale lover, Mr Farage had felt it was a good idea to be photographed drinking a pint of heavy in an Edinburgh pub as he came north to begin campaigning for the Aberdeen Donside by-election where the party is fielding a candidate, Otto Inglis, an advocate and the party’s Scotland secretary.
The wisdom of his decision began to be questioned as protesters gathered outside before working their way into the pub, where they gatecrashed his press conference.
Pub regulars looked on in bemusement as Mr Farage was tackled on subjects from his party’s “well-documented history of racism” to his former colleague Robert Kilroy Silk and the future of Tory MP Nadine Dorries.
As he attempted to defend his party and outline his hopes to win over more people in Scotland, the Ukip leader spoke of his objections to opening the door “unconditionally” to 29 million people from Romania and Bulgaria next year.
Despite being excluded from the Better Together campaign, Mr Farage said he would return to Scotland to campaign against independence.
But he conceded that the drive for more powers for the Scottish Parliament was inevitable and indicated that he would have nothing against a devo-max deal.
He even managed to announce a Scottish policy change saying that he was now prepared to recognise the Scottish Parliament, given that it had been voted for in the 1997 referendum. That was a change from Ukip’s previous position which was to replace the 129 MSPs with Scottish MPs, who would rotate between London and Edinburgh.
Despite coming to campaign for an Aberdeen by-election, Mr Farage’s lack of local knowledge was cruelly exposed. Interrogated by a reporter from the North-east, he confused the word “quine” with “clown” and wondered whether “loon” meant “lunatic”.
An already farcical situation began to escalate as the protesters, who were mainly made up of left-wing students, herded into the pub it was clear that there was going to be little time for a detailed study of the nuances of Ukip’s Scottish policy.
“He’s a scumbag and he should go back to London,” was shouted out to applause from the protesters.
“You’re racist, you shouldn’t be here in Scotland,” was another contribution to an increasingly chaotic press conference. “What’s your position on multiculturalism?”
As the hubbub increased to a roar, it was time for the publican, who had no inkling of the press conference until contacted by the police two hours before, to intervene.
“Would everyone please get out, including Mr Farage. We have got bookings,” was the cry from behind the bar. By now, there were police officers positioned at strategic points in the bar and the slow process of clearing it began to a background of abuse.
Outside, Mr Farage was mobbed by the crowd as the cries of “scum” wore on.
It was then that the two abortive attempts to get a taxi to his next venue, where he would be dining with potential party fund-raisers, took place.
It must have been with some relief that Mr Farage managed to escape in the police van.
But later Mr Farage found the strength to tweet to his followers: “Am okay after the Edinburgh fracas, but if that is the face of Scottish nationalism then it is pretty ugly.”