Far-right activists have pledged to make “armoured vehicles” available to protect Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Scotland today after his previous visit saw protests that led to him being barricaded inside a pub.
Mr Farage’s return north of the Border comes a year after chaotic scenes at Edinburgh’s Royal Mile as nationalist protesters prevented him from leaving a bar where he was holding a press conference.
A Ukip rally will take place at Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange tonight and pro-independence campaigners have organised a protest.
Andrew Ashe, of the Radical Independence campaign, says it will demonstrate outside tonight’s rally to “stage a vibrant and broad civic society protest against Ukip’s policies which are homophobic, misogynist and anti-immigrant. We will be there to make our voices heard and are definitely not planning on any violent action”.
But the far-right group Britain First announced it would “deploy armoured patrol vehicles and ex-military volunteers to protect” the Ukip leader.
A spokesman for the group said: “While no great fans of Ukip, Britain First has hundreds of ex-British Forces street activists and several armoured ex-army Land Rovers and we now put our men and our resources at Ukip’s disposal during the period of election campaigning.
“We shall continue to fight Ukip for votes at the ballot but we will not allow fellow patriots to be bullied off our streets by un-elected thugs who do not stand for election themselves.”
A police spokesman said: “Police Scotland are aware of the visit of Nigel Farage MEP and will supply the appropriate resources as required.”
Mr Farage told The Scotsman yesterday his party was poised to make a breakthrough in Scotland in the European elections on 22 May, and he claimed Ukip would “fundamentally change” the debate on Scottish independence.
He will make a keynote address to Scottish delegates, with support for Ukip standing at about 10 per cent in the polls.
He said: “I think Ukip will have a voice in Scottish politics and the people who have the most to fear are the so-called nationalists who are not nationalists at all – they want Scotland to become a province of the European Union.
“I think the so-called independence referendum is a farce and the Scottish people are not having a genuine, proper debate about what the word independence really means. I think Ukip can change that.
“I think if people who felt that there was an argument that Scotland should be a genuinely independent country realised they weren’t being offered it, I don’t think they’d vote for it.”
Mr Farage said the Euro elections could be an “important moment in the whole Scottish debate” and he believes lead candidate David Cockburn can take a seat, probably from the Liberal Democrats.
He said his return to Edinburgh showed he would not be deterred by his experience last year when a demo by pro-independence campaigners resulted in him being locked inside a pub, before he was escorted to safety by police.
“That was a deliberate attempt last summer to actually stop me speaking, which shows you how scared the nationalists are of this argument,” he said.
Mr Farage will deliver a speech tonight setting his troops on an election footing. He said: “I’m going to tell them to go out, work hard and spread the message and confound those that say Ukip shouldn’t have a voice in Scotland.
“We have a voice in England, we have voice in Wales, we have an elected voice in Northern Ireland. We are a UK independence party; we don’t oppose devolution for Scotland or the pride and self-respect of Scotland as a nation itself at all. In fact, we’re probably in many ways pro a federal United Kingdom.
“But frankly all of these discussions are pretty subservient to our membership of the European Union.”
First Minister Alex Salmond came under fire last year after he refused to condemn the protests that met Mr Farage in Edinburgh.
Last night a spokesman for Mr Salmond said Ukip had no mandate in Scotland and insisted its message “does not resonate” with Scots.
He said: “As things stand they have not got a single elected office bearer or politician at any level in Scotland.
“They’ve consistently failed to hold their deposit in any electoral contest that has been held in Scotland. If you look at any opinion poll whether it’s for European elections or any other type of election in Scotland, they consistently poll very, very low numbers.”
Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie last night called on the First Minister to speak out against any prospect of a repeat of last year’s hardline protests.
“Alex Salmond needs to call off the dogs ahead of Nigel Farage’s visit to Edinburgh,” he said.
“Scotland has a long and proud history of standing up for free speech. I disagree fundamentally with Nigel Farage’s opinion on many things but his unpleasant and dishonest agenda will be defeated by argument, not aggression.”