A far right group that organises anti-asylum seeker protests in Scotland has links to six people in prison for race hate or terror-related offences, says a new report.
The jailed individuals include Patriotic Alternative (PA) activist James Costello who travelled from England to Erskine this year to demonstrate against asylum seekers being housed in a local hotel. Last month, Costello was sentenced to five years behind bars for race hate offences.
The report by anti-racism group, Hope not hate, says that despite splintering this year PA remains “the dominant fascist group in the UK”, and has formed links with “extremist organisations” overseas including the Nordic Resistance Movement, an antisemitic Swedish group, and National Justice Party, a US neo-Nazi group.
Hope not hate also says that Homeland, a group formed this year after PA split, is attempting to exploit local anxiety around asylum accommodation and “acts as a toxic and divisive presence in their target communities”.
Asylum seekers are now accommodated in 13 of Scotland’s 32 council areas.
Commenting on the report, the Scottish Greens said “the rise of far-right extremism in the UK is a serious threat” while the Campaign Against Antisemitism warned that PA is endangering the Jewish community and other minority groups with its “odious ideology”.
Hope not hate’s report provides insight into PA’s membership, the Homeland Party and other splinters.
It names Kenny Smith, a longstanding far right activist who led the breakaway faction from PA to form the Homeland Party in April 2023 – a group he now chairs.
Smith, from the isle of Lewis, joined the Glasgow BNP in 1991, rising to Scottish secretary and eventually national administration officer, the report notes.
It also names individuals The Ferret has reported on this year including Kris Kearney, an alleged former National Action member who became co-host of PA’s official podcast alongside Simon Crane, then regional organiser of PA Scotland. In June, Kearney was jailed for four years and eight months for disseminating terrorist material.
Hope not hate also mentions that three individuals linked to Homeland’s flagship Scottish branch were previously involved with a now defunct group called the Scottish Nationalist Society (SNS), which was branded neo-Nazi, as reported by The Ferret in October.
Another far right group active in Scotland called the Highland Division is also named by Hope not hate, which describes it as a “leaderless”, “openly nazi” group. Highland Division splintered from the Scottish branch of Patriotic Alternative in October 2022.
David Lawrence, senior researcher at Hope not hate, described PA as a “neo-Nazi organisation” and said a number of current and former activists hold serious criminal convictions. He added: “Patriotic Alternative and its offshoots, like Homeland Party, pose a real threat to communities across the country. These organisations pose as ‘family friendly’ to infiltrate communities and whip up hate, particularly around asylum seeker accommodation.”
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said that Patriotic Alternative “targets recruits, including youth, with racist indoctrination” and urged police to keep monitoring far right groups. “It (PA) cannot be allowed to use policy disagreements, even those that inflame passions, as a pretext to grow its following and endanger the Jewish community and other minority groups with its odious ideology,” the spokesperson added. “It never takes long for these sorts of groups to pose a threat to the public.”
Maggie Chapman MSP, of the Scottish Greens, said the public “must be awake to the clear and present danger the far-right represents”. She added: “In Scotland we have a proud record of keeping such groups out of our communities. We need only look to events like Kenmure Street to see the inspiring solidarity that can exist between people here. But as the hate and prejudice on display in Erskine has shown, Scotland isn’t immune.”
Kenny Smith, chair of Homeland, said: “The protests in Erskine are led by dedicated locals; is their voice worth nothing? Homeland Party members have given a helping hand from May through to September; we are not ‘far-right’. Our help will always be given to those communities willing to stand up for their people.
Smith added: “Hope not Hate is an unregulated, unaccountable far-left pressure group. Nobody should take their words seriously. They try to smear us with people and events we’re not involved with; they’re clutching at straws.
“Before our party was founded on 8th May 2023, some of our members were involved with PA for a short time, but they realised there was no commitment to real politics and left. One key factor was that PA did not work hard enough to distance itself from the anti-social cranks that can sometimes taint nationalism. Anybody with an ounce of sense can see the difference between them and us.”
Meanwhile, a member of PA has been sentenced for giving a racist speech at a conference in Scotland. Jaden Milne, also known as Jay, gave a talk at the event in Livingston in October 2021.
Appearing at Livingston Sheriff Court on 1 December, 2023, Milne was given a community payback order and ordered to perform 225 hours of unpaid work.
PA has been asked to comment.
This article was updated at 14.30 on 5 December 2023 to add a comment from Kenny Smith.