Anti-war protesters march past NATO summit

Scottish anti-war protesters took their message to the doorstep of Nato chiefs today.

Up to 1,000 demonstrators against the Afghanistan conflict marched through Edinburgh city centre this morning where the annual Nato Parliamentary assembly is currently taking place.

Politicians and families of dead soldiers were joined on the march by union, student and anti-nuclear groups.

The protest even involved some delegates from the assembly itself, including Dutch senator Tiny Kox. They joined their fellow legislators inside the city’s conference centre, after marchers passed outside.

SNP MSP Bill Kidd, who hosted an anti-nuclear reception in the Scottish Parliament last night, was among the leaders on the march and he later addressed a rally in Princes Street Gardens.

He told demonstrators: “All those countries who shelter under the nuclear umbrella, those countries which maintain Trident and other weapons of mass destruction, are as guilty as any President of America who threatens to use them in a first strike.

“I believe that war is an abomination and that Trident is an abomination and that the money paid out for Trident is an abomination – anywhere between £35 and £100bn (€39.2-€111.9bn).”

Joan Humphreys, whose grandson Kevin Elliott, a 24-year-old Black Watch private, was killed in Afghanistan in August, addressed the crowd, calling for British troops to be returned home.

Mrs Humphreys, from Dundee, said: “I would like the troops to come home walking – not on stretchers or in body bags.”

The march snaked through the city centre this morning, but police barricades kept demonstrators about 300 yards away from the entrance to the conference centre in Morrison Street.

The marchers stopped at the barricades, chanting and letting off flares.

John Cannell, of the Stop the War Coalition, said: “The only solution has to be a political one, but we need the troops out now to make the space for that political solution.”

Former MSP Colin Fox, the leader of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), was also among those on the march.

He said: “We’re speaking on behalf of the population of Britain – 65% in three polls in the last 10 days have shown that they want the British soldiers brought back home.

“They believe this to be a pointless, senseless, unwinnable war.”

The rally was later addressed by Rae Street, of the CND international committee.

She said: “Nato is not a peace group – it’s a military alliance, and nothing proves that more than the number of casualties coming back almost daily from Afghanistan.”

The Nato assembly, which began yesterday, will focus on six themes before drawing up resolutions.

These will include reinforcing nuclear non-proliferation and “moving beyond” the economic crisis.

Nato-led operations in Afghanistan feature prominently on the agenda and relations with Russia will also be key issues.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband is due to address the 55th annual assembly, hosted by the UK government, when it closes on Tuesday.

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