Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, has been forced to scrap half his itinerary on a trip to Scotland less than a month after he had to take refuge in a pub after being heckled and abused by demonstrators in Edinburgh.
Farage had endured a torrid half-hour of abuse and heckling from pro-independence and anti-racist campaigners who called him “scum”, a “racist” and a “bawbag” on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile last month, as they thwarted his plans for a press conference with political journalists from the Scottish parliament.
Undaunted, he arrived in Aberdeen on Tuesday to promote his party’s campaign for this week’s Aberdeen Donside Scottish parliamentary byelection. But yet again, his party claimed, Farage was forced to revise his plans after one of the city’s main hotels and its police commanders ran scared of the protesters.
Ukip claims that a booking for a large lunch and press conference at the Marriott hotel, a well-known venue beside at the city’s bustling airport, was cancelled abruptly with only a few days’ notice after an Aberdeen anti-fascist group threatened to demonstrate outside.
The hotel vigorously disputes that it had been influenced by demonstrators, insisting their provisional booking could not be taken up because the hotel was too busy.
Farage’s plans to take tea with Marie Bolton, the independent depute leader of Aberdeen city council, were subsequently cancelled with barely 30 minutes’ notice after a group of 15 anti-fascist and pro-independence activists gathered outside the city’s Town House council building.
After hosting lunch for about a dozen activists and officials in a hotel some miles from the Marriott, Farage alleged the move was caused by fear of the “undemocratic yobs” who had forced him to retreat under police escort into a locked pub last month.
That allegation puzzled the subdued bunch of demonstrators outside the Town House: there were no police officers there at all, and the Town House council offices are less than 50 metres from Aberdeen’s police headquarters. There was no sign of the anger or intemperate abusiveness of the Edinburgh demonstration.
Alec Westwood, an actor and demonstrator, was bemused by Farage’s claims of intimidation. The Aberdeen protestors said they had no intention of repeating the scenes in Edinburgh. “We don’t need to be offensive,” he said. “But we should allowed to stand up and say what we think about him.”
The Police Scotland commanders they spoke to “were perfectly happy both for those to demonstrate and for us to have a cup of tea”, said Monckton. But Bolton’s office was given a different message, said Farage.
“I was invited to have go and take tea [with Bolton]. We now know that invitation was withdrawn,” the Ukip leader said. “They told us that somebody very senior advised them not to continue so we took that advice. I’m sorry that she was pressured or felt she was pressured into not allowing this meeting to go ahead.”
However, a Police Scotland spokesman said: “The police haven’t had any part [in that decision] whatsoever.”
There was just one confrontation – and one arrest – as Farage went to a nearby pub before his flight home. After an intense debate with Farage about his views on sharia law and the status of Norway in the EU, a bearded young man was detained after spraying a drink at the retreating back of a Ukip official.