THE pro-Union camp last night accused the independence movement of “giving credence” to a group which advocates violent revolution after it emerged its members were preparing to join Alex Salmond and other Nationalist figures at a major rally this week.
In a move that significantly raised the temperature in the pre-referendum debate, the Better Together Campaign said the First Minister should withdraw from the event rather than stand beside the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement (SRSM).
The SRSM is among a list of groups scheduled to take part in the March and Rally for Scottish Independence, which is to gather in Edinburgh next Saturday to support calls for Scotland to leave the UK.
Its website includes images of men burning the Union flag, while its mission statement argues that “revolution will be a time of violence as well as liberation”.
But after being alerted to the views on its site, organisers of the rally immediately announced the group would be barred from attending, saying it would not tolerate “offensive, inappropriate or… extreme views” on the march.
Organisers blamed an oversight for allowing the group to join others attending the event, saying they had acted immediately once the details of its views had become clear.
Other speakers at the event include Green party leader Patrick Harvie and Independent MSP Margo MacDonald.
But the pro-Union “Better Together” campaign, which raised the question of the SRSM’s involvement, said the decision to remove the group did not change the underlying facts.
Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy MP said: “On Friday, the First Minister cheered our athletes who competed under the British flag. The very next week he was prepared to stand next to people who delight in burning it.”
“The fact that the organisers have taken fright and kicked these hardliners out does not take away from the fact that Alex Salmond and so many top SNP members were ready to give credence to these people and their outrageous views.
“Flag burning isn’t the Scottish way of doing things and many Scots will remember the type of company the SNP are keeping,” he added.
However, a spokeswoman for the SNP last night said Salmond had been invited prior to any SRSM involvement. She added that the SNP “does not support actions like those conducted by the SRSM”.
The spokeswoman went on: “Saturday’s event has been organised independently, and the First Minister was invited to speak alongside Dennis Canavan, Margo McDonald, Patrick Harvie and other figures from public life such as Ruth Wishart, Aamer Anwar, Cameron McNeish and a speaker from the Labour for Independence group to celebrate the opportunities that come from Scotland being an independent nation.
“In contrast, Better Together seem mired in negativity without any sign of public support. The First Minister fully supports the actions of the organisers in removing the SRSM group from Saturday’s event.”
The SRSM is thought to be a small organisation which campaigns under the slogan “Revolution not Devolution”. It says is exists to overthrow “economic, political and cultural Imperialism in Scotland” and backs independence.
Images contained on the website include pictures of men burning and standing on the Union flag. A song denigrating the British Armed Forces including the lyric: “When I was young, I had a twist for punching babies with my fist, and so I thought I should enlist and join the British Army.” There was no-one available to speak for the group yesterday.
One of the march organisers, Jeff Duncan, a former RAF serviceman who previously ran the ‘Save our Regiments’ campaign, said last night: “Saturday’s march and rally for independence is an opportunity for a wide range of organisations from across Scottish society to make the positive case for an independent Scotland.
Duncan added: “Behaviour which is offensive, inappropriate or represents extreme views will not be tolerated by the organisers of the march.”