Football Lads Alliance scores a flop in Scotland – Sat 25 Nov, Edinburgh

The Football Lads Alliance’s (FLA) first venture into Scotland proved to be a total flop last Sat 25 Nov. A month earlier, John Meighan the leader of the FLA had jetted into Glasgow on a fanfare recruitment drive to unite football casuals and fans of Scotland’s four main football clubs; Celtic, Rangers, Hibs and Hearts under his racist banner.

Meighan had planned to hold a joint national march with the Islamophobic led Veterans against Terrorism (VAT) group to help pull numbers to march outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. This date was careful chosen as they knew anti-racists and trade unionists would be committed to attend the annual STUC’s Anti-racism Day march in Glasgow, held on the same day.

The planned FLA launch in Scotland did not materialise the numbers that they hoped. In total about 70 veterans came to support the VAT contingent of the march and another 50 came up, bussed in predominantly from England to support the FLA.

Meghan wouldn’t speak to the congregation but the crowd were instead treated to Toni Bugle, ex-English Democrats (an Islamophobic group with roots in the fascist BNP). Bugle had been dropped from an earlier FLA march due to ‘PR reasons’ after Stand Up To Racism raised concerns about her racism and links with hardened Islamophobes like Anne Marie Waters. So much for Bugle being beyond the pale for the FLA.

Bill Weir, who spoke for the VAT/ FLA, had spoken at an EDL demo in Newcastle in September 2016. Bill Weir, an EDL supporter from the North East made a shocking admission that the flagging EDL had made gains from the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. Also on the platform was Mo Fayaz, an associate of the nazi Tommy Robinson.

The FLA backed and built a demo that had far right speakers which it claims to have rebuffed. What Stand up to Racism have been saying regarding concerns about the FLA and its far right links has been proved correct, as the centre stage was filled with far-right speakers.

The thousands of leaflets handed out by Stand up to Racism at football matches plus the support of so many political, trade union and community organisations for our unity statement exposed the FLA’s tactic of posing as anti-extremist, which is in fact a cover for Islamophobia and racism. As a result very few FLA supporters turned up on the day and it appears that almost all of them came from England. It shows that they have yet to make an inroad into Scotland. Whilst we celebrate this success we remain vigilant.

Quote from Gordon Munro Labour Councillor Leith, who spoke at the protest:
‘I have followed Hibs all my life, when I followed them in the 1970s, the fascists used to try to come in via the boot boy culture. Fascists and racists tried to make a move again in the 1980s through the casuals movement. They tried again in the 1990s, I remember bananas being thrown onto football pitches in Scotland, all stuff that the fans through their own actions and that’s the important bit, prevented that racist behaviour and showed that their club could stand up against racism, against fascism and that it had no place in our game. I think that’s why we are here today, to say the FLA are an incursion into our game that’s not welcome, it’s been done before and we have to reject them again and i think that’s why we need to make sure that our fellow fans do not fall for some of the slogans, phrases that will be used to divide and rule. What you need to do is unite with your club and fellow fans against fascism and racism. We need to stand up to racism.’

Ian Campbell, SNP Councillor Craigentinny/ Duddingston Ward, who spoke at the protest:

‘Important to stand up to racism and those that would speak against people who are different. I want to say as a representatives of this city there is no place in Edinburgh for any sort of bigotry, Islamophobia, homophobia, racism or anti-semetism. We need to stand against that hatred. I feel that many of those in the FLA have been duped, they are told lies in much of the gutter press, they are made to fear things that are not there, and out of that fear and anger comes hatred. We need to challenge what their leaders are saying.

We say no to all kinds of prejudice, we want Scotland to be an inclusive, welcoming place where everyone can be safe and recognised for who they are and given that dignity.’