MP criticises Hampden fundraiser for veterans’ charity with BNP links

The black-tie Pegasus Ball will take place at Hampden Park in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin
The black-tie Pegasus Ball will take place at Hampden Park in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin
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Protests are expected tonight outside Scotland’s national football stadium as a fundraising dinner for a veterans’ charity with links to the British National Party (BNP) is held.

The black-tie Pegasus Ball at Hampden Park in Glasgow, where tickets cost £75 each, will raise money for the charity Soldiers Off the Streets Scotland, (SOTS) whose head organiser north of the Border has twice stood as a British National Party (BNP) candidate at Westminster elections.

Walter Hamilton was the BNP candidate for Glasgow Central in 2005 and stood for Glasgow North East in 2010.

Money raised will go to a new housing project for veterans in Scotland run by SOTS, with the remaining funds going to the Pegasus Appreciation Group for a permanent memorial statue for the Parachute Regiment statue in Aldershot.

The evening will be hosted by Rusty Firmin, an SAS veteran who took part in the operation to free hostages from the Iranian Embassy siege in London in 1980.

However, anti-facist opponents say such charities with far-right connections are exploiting vulnerable veterans who can be struggling with a range of issues including mental health and homelessness when they leave the forces.

Paul Sweeney, Scottish Labour MP for Glasgow North East and Shadow Scotland Office minister, whose remit includes responsibility for defence matters in Scotland, said inadequate government funding for veterans created a “vacuum” for unsuitable organisation.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to our armed forces for the sacrifices they make in our name.

“That the government fails to fund services for veterans is a breach of the military covenant and should be a source of national shame. That abdication of responsibility by the authorities creates a vacuum which can be exploited by people and organisations with suspect motives.

“The principles upheld by our armed forces around the world are far removed from the warped values of hateful groups like the BNP.

“It is disappointing to find out that a worthy cause has been hijacked by such an unsavoury character.”

Mr Hamilton said he did not want to comment on the fundraising event.

The charity said it offered help to Darren Greenfield, the veteran who begged in Princes Street and died a week before Christmas last year.

Mr Greenfield refused offers of help.

In February the far-right Scottish Defence League protested outside Bute House in Edinburgh, holding placards reading “Veterans Before Refugees.”