Ban on UDA 'should cover whole of UK'

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT was yesterday urged by the Labour Party to widen the ban on the Ulster Defence Association to cover the entire United Kingdom.

Labour also claimed that a UK proscription of front organisations who raise cash for terrorist action was essential if such activity was to be outlawed in the future.

John McFall, Labour's Scottish Home Affairs spokesman, said he will be urging the Scottish Secretary, Ian Lang, to re-examine the Government's decision to confine the ban to Ulster. Although Labour wants the ban extended to mainland Britain, there is particular concern that Scotland could see a relocation of some of the UDA's administration.

Scottish-based fund-raising for the UDA is an open secret. East Glasgow, the Falkirk area and districts of both Cumbernauld and Edinburgh are known to be a focus for loyalist Protestant groups who are thought to raise tens of thousands of pounds each year for the UDA. Ten per cent of the UDA's funds are thought to come from Scottish sources.

Glasgow, widely recognised as Britain's second city of sectarianism, has generally seen its Roman Catholic IRA sympathisers and Protestant loyalist supporters learn to live with their differences. Like New York, the west of Scotland, with its high Irish-origin population, is also a source of fund-raising for the IRA.

Scotland is also a suspected source of smuggled arms to both the UDA and the IRA.

In calling for the ban to be widened, Labour also acknowledged the importance of Scotland in funds sent to the UDA, mainly believed to be raised through the Loyalists Prisoners' Aid organisation, which purports to raise money for the wives and families of loyalist prisoners.

Brian Wilson, Labour MP for Cunninghame North, said it was 'essential' for the ban to apply throughout the United Kingdom.

Mr McFall said there was no political logic to the ban only applying in Ulster.

However, Professor Ross Harper, a leading Scottish lawyer, said the ban ought not to be extended unless there was evidence that the UDA was becoming more active outside Northern Ireland.

He warned that a blanket ban would potentially infringe civil liberties. 'One should look at bans with great care. It is difficult to ban unless there is a real reason for doing so.'

He said that although a legal ban only resulted in an organisation being driven underground and becoming less open to scrutiny, should the UDA's activities threaten the population, then action would have to be taken.