Police have been praised by a host of groups for their handling of a Scottish Defence League rally — and counter-protest — in Perth.
Chief Inspector Ian Scott, area commander for Perth and Kinross, said police usually get “very little” feedback on their operations but revealed officers on duty at a protest march on September 10 were praised for “minimising disruption, keeping people safe and engaging well.”
The city centre protest was staged by members of the SDL against a new mosque proposed for Perth and attracted hundreds of anti-fascist objectors.
In what could have been a potentially violent flashpoint, only one arrest was made at one of the biggest police operations ever mounted in Perth.
Officers used horses and riot vans and closed off some streets during the march.
Mr Scott said: “In this case there has been a fair bit of positive dialogue from a range of sources including, residents, businesses, elected councillors and even some protestors.
“The themes were in relation to minimising disruption, keeping people safe and officers engaging well.”
He added: “Whilst the policing plan included keeping space between both sets of demonstrators, the delay in the SDL protesters starting their march was to do with the late arrival of some of their members, the subsequent restlessness of the counter-demonstrators, coupled with some traffic issues.
“It probably isn’t for me, or Police Scotland to say what a great job we did or otherwise, but I would like to thank the public, businesses, Perth and Kinross Council and other interested parties for supporting the police before, during and after the event, and also pay tribute to the staff who planned and policed the demonstrations and the commitment, dedication and professionalism they displayed throughout.”
Michael White, owner of Willow’s coffee shop and restaurant in St John’s Place, Perth, which closed off its outdoor seating area and did not sell alcohol during the march, praised the police handling but underlined the damaging effect the event had on the business.
“Our takings were down by 70% on the day,” he said.
“There were a couple of groups of protesters near our restaurant during the march but the police dealt with them very well. However, the event affected business.”
JD Wetherspoon, in Perth’s Tay Street, did not open until 5pm on the day of the protest march due to concerns over possible violence.
Spokesman, Eddie Gershon, said: “The police never asked us to shut since they didn’t see us as a high risk pub but we are the cheapest in town. We were supposed to re-open at 4pm but we held back due to police advising there was no chance it would be finished before then as they were still using horses to control the crowd.
“We decided to shut based on not wanting to be seen to be involved in any way, and to keep all our staff and customers away from any risk.”