An expert on the far right who testified at terrorism trials in Scotland says links between the Scottish Defence League and neo-Nazi groups are “concerning”.
Professor Matthew Feldman, director of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right, advises governments on terrorism and has provided testimony at six UK terror trials in recent years.
Nicholas Waugh was active on a now defunct neo-Nazi website called Iron March and The Ferret identified him after information from the site was leaked.
Professor Feldman said the Iron March leak was significant because it revealed links between neo-Nazis and the Scottish Defence League.
He has testified at two major trials at the High Court in Edinburgh including that of Peter Morgan who was jailed in 2018 for 12 years for terror offences.
Morgan was a member of the Scottish Defence League. His flat was deemed a bomb factory by police who also found a Ku Klux Klan application form and an al-Qaeda terrorism manual.
These online fascists have been participating in some of the most extreme right-wing advocacy that anyone has seen in many decades. Professor Matthew Feldman
Feldman said the Iron March website was the “favoured meeting place for fascists around the world” and played an important role in the emergence of National Action and successor groups like Scottish Dawn.
He added: “Both have now been proscribed as terrorist organisations – and with good reason: these were some of the most extreme radical right groups since the time of the Third Reich, which they venerated.”
Professor Feldman also said that reports of links between the neo-Nazi Scottish Dawn and the allegedly more ‘populist’ Scottish Defence League were concerning.”The Iron March leak was significant in revealing these links,” he explained.
“Not just overwhelming examples of incitements to hatred and violence, and kinds of racism well-adjusted imaginations can’t conceive, but also personal details of many fascist activists dotted around the British Isles, including in Scotland. These online fascists have been participating in some of the most extreme right-wing advocacy that anyone has seen in many decades.”
The Scottish Defence League (SDL) was an offshoot of the far right English Defence League, which caused violence in English cities for some years.
The SDL formed around 2009. The group claims not to be racist but critics have long argued that it acts as a front for neo-Nazis, religious bigots and football hooligans intent on causing violence and sectarian divisions.
Last year Facebook banned the SDL for hate speech. Meanwhile, another neo-Nazi group active in Scotland has been banned by the UK government under terror laws.
System Resistance Network (SRN), an offshoot of National Action, has been proscribed along with Sonnenkrieg Division (SKD).
SRN prompted a public demonstration in Dundee in 2017 after putting up homophobic and anti-refugee posters in the city, as reported by The Ferret. SRN is explicit about its neo-Nazi political beliefs and wants a white power revolution to bring down “the System” in the UK.
Priti Patel, the UK Home Secretary, said that membership of these right wing terror groups would be illegal.
The banning orders came after nine people with immigrant backgrounds were murdered in the western German city of Hanau by Tobias Rathjen, a 43-year-old who had posted a racist video and manifesto on the internet.
They will proscribe Sonnenkrieg Division (SKD) and will recognise System Resistance Network as an alias of the already proscribed group, National Action.
Proscription renders membership of a group illegal in the UK. Anyone found to be a member of or offering support to the groups could now face up to ten years behind bars.
Patel said: “Recent attacks here and in Germany have highlighted the threat we continue to face from violent extremism.
“We are working to keep the public safe by increasing funding for counter terror police and strengthening the law to keep terrorists locked up for longer. By proscribing these groups we are making it much harder for them to spread their hateful rhetoric.”
Unite Against Fascism said: “Although groups like the System Resistance Network are very small they are still dangerous. If left to themselves they can start to grow recruit by recruit and then to organise more confidently.
“Also it has been shown that terrorists are ‘enabled’ into action by communicating with others sharing their ideas. The recent far right terrorist attack in Germany is the latest example highlighting that the far right is the fastest growing source of terrorism.”
HOPE not Hate said: “We welcome that government has finally recognised Sonnenkrieg Division and System Resistance Network for what they were: terror groups. Despite the young age of the members, they contained some of the most extreme nazis in the country.
“However, the threat posed by far right terrorism has since moved on and the government needs to respond much faster to keep step with this rapidly evolving danger.”
The Home Office decision followed a meeting of the proscription review group, which brings together representatives from the police and other partners to assess the risk posed by groups who may be considered for banning.
The Home Office previously banned National Action and its offshoot, Scottish Dawn, after an undercover investigation by The Ferret in 2017.