Scottish independence activists ambush Labour election rally

Jim Murphy

An election campaign rally attended by the Scottish Labour leader, Jim Murphy, and the Labour-supporting comedian Eddie Izzard had to be abandoned after they were ambushed and heckled by pro-independence activists.

Amid scuffles, involving a handful of protesters and party members, Murphy and Izzard were forced to abandon an open-air rally and interviews with the media on Buchanan Street in central Glasgow, before driving away.

Several protesters who had been waiting with a banner reading “Red Tories Out” began playing music and heckling with a loud-hailer after the Labour pair arrived with supporters at about 11am.

Murphy and Izzard struggled to be heard. They and their supporters were reduced to chanting “Let’s get the Tories out” as activists on either side shouted at each other, leading to allegations from the Scottish Labour leader that the demonstrators were SNP supporters.

Footage of what happened was tweeted by the Channel 4 News reporter Alex Thomson, who said there was a small number of anti-Labour protesters at the event.

The hecklers appeared to be some of the same members of a leftwing independence group who disrupted a Labour rally in Glasgow during the party’s campaign for a no vote in the Scottish independence referendum. They were also among those who protested outside another Labour event in Glasgow attended last week by the party leader, Ed Miliband.

Murphy later condemned what he described as “the ugly face of aggressive nationalism”. “This sort of aggressive sentiment has come to the fore over the past two years. Surely we don’t want to go back to the old divisions of yes and no from last year,” he said.

“Today’s protest was clearly organised and clearly an attempt to make sure the Labour case was not heard on the streets of Glasgow. But we will not be deterred and will take our case to all corners of Scotland, as the only way to get a better, fairer Scotland is to vote Labour on Thursday.”

The SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon,described the fracas as disgraceful and “absolutely nothing to do with the SNP”.

She said: “All parties have the right to make their case and they should be listened to respectfully.”

One of the most active protesters, Sean Clerkin, claimed a disgrunted Labour member had leaked details of the event to him.

Murphy is struggling to prevent heavy Labour losses across Scotland, with polling indicating that the SNP is on course for a landslide victory on Thursday.

According to a poll released last month by the Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft, Murphy is likely to lose his East Renfrewshire seat to the SNP. However, the same poll suggested increasing numbers of Scottish Tory voters were willing to lend their votes to Murphy to save him.

Earlier on Monday, Murphy tweeted a picture of himself with Izzard and said they would be joining a rally in Glasgow city centre.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010