THE arrest of a Palestinian rights activist in Dundee has led to concerns over the right to protest in Scotland.

Jim Barlow, a 71-year-old socialist, is accused of taking part in a more than 600-strong demonstration against Israel’s war on Gaza in Dundee city centre on Saturday, October 28.

What began as a static protest in Dundee’s City Square moved off on a short march, much of it keeping to pedestrian walkways. At 8am on Sunday morning, Barlow was arrested at his home and detained by police for two hours.

He is set to appear in court on November 28. His bail conditions include a ban on him setting foot in the city centre area; a move that has led to condemnation from the local trades union council.

Speaking to The National, Barlow expressed concern that the well-documented restrictions on the right to protest in England and Wales, introduced by the Conservative government at Westminster, have implications for civil rights in Scotland.

He notes that, under UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s new Public Order Act, activists in England and Wales are already facing significant restrictions on their freedom to protest.

The civil rights campaign group Liberty is in the midst of a court challenge to Braverman’s changes to the law. This follows such incidents as the mass arrest of 64 members of the anti-monarchist group Republic (on the day of King Charles’s coronation in May) and, more recently, the arrests of more than 60 Just Stop Oil protesters who were conducting a “slow march” outside the Westminster parliament on Monday of this week.

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Barlow fears that such events might be repeated in Scotland. The campaigner believes that, whilst policing is a devolved power for the Holyrood Parliament, the preparedness of the police in England to so readily use their new powers opens up the possibility of Police Scotland taking a more draconian line with its existing powers.

“Although [Braverman’s Public Order Act] doesn’t apply in Scotland, they will eventually try to import those sorts of restrictions on protest up here," he says. There has in Scotland, says Barlow, “been a slow drip drip from the state and government about what you can and cannot do [by way of protest]".

The National: Home Secretary Suella Braverman

Looking at the mass protests across the UK against Israel’s bombardment, and now invasion, of Gaza, he says, “it’s clear from what Braverman’s doing and saying that they [the UK Conservative government] would really like to lock up all of the half-a-million people who were on the streets of London last Saturday. But they can’t do that."

Barlow believes that Braverman is exerting pressure on the police to take a stronger line against protesters in England and Wales. This, he argues, has implications for the way in which Police Scotland handles political demonstrations in future.

The activist also points to the “irony” of a Scottish protest against the war on Gaza being described as “illegal” when Israel’s actions contravene international laws on human rights and the conduct of war. Indeed, he says, “Israel is ignoring a new United Nations resolution calling for a ceasefire.”

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Civil rights concerns over the police response to the Tayside protest have also been raised by Dundee Trades Union Council (DTUC). A statement from the trade union body described Barlow’s bail conditions as “severe”.

In a written statement, DTUC secretary Mike Arnott stated: “Jim’s police bail conditions prevent him from being in the city centre until a hearing takes place on 28th November. Dundee TUC finds this worrying.”

The statement goes on to say that DTUC would like “answers as to Police Scotland’s handling of this situation and to the severe terms of the bail conditions".

Barlow has received legal advice from the office of the leading civil rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, and will appear in court in Dundee on November 28.