THE definition of extremism being broadened by the UK Government should be regarded as a threat to Scots’ rights to campaign for independence and constitutional change, an MP has claimed.

Rishi Sunak has asked Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove to update the Government’s definition of extremism so it encompasses more broadly those who “undermine” British values and institutions.

The change is expected to be announced later this month and is expected to include a list of groups that fall foul of the new definition.

Ministers are also considering proposals put forward by the Government’s adviser on political violence, John Woodcock, to ban MPs and councillors from engaging with certain protest groups such as Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Extinction Rebellion.

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard has told The National he has “no doubt” this move should be deemed as a threat to Scottish independence campaigners and others who wish to see political change in the UK. 

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“If people don’t rally together to stop this nonsense then they will just keep on broadening the definition of what is acceptable and not acceptable, and within a very short period of time, that could encompass people who wish to protest against the constitution of the country or for serious constitutional change,” said Sheppard.

“I have no doubt we should regard it as a threat to our right to argue for democratic change and it should be resisted.”

Sheppard added: “This government has got form on being the most draconian, illiberal, anti-freedom-of-speech government probably that we’ve had in my lifetime. It has passed serial legislation to prevent protest and demonise people who wish to protest against aspects of the status quo.

“It’s not just pro-independence marches [this could affect]. It could also affect groups who want to change the monarchy or wish for change to aspects of foreign policy. It’s outrageous.

“Anyone who goes against what this Conservative Party wants is now in their sights for these sort of restrictions.”

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Sheppard’s concerns come after the UK Government intervened to prevent an Irish band which opposes the Union from receiving a grant.

The Belfast-based rap group Kneecap had been approved for a £15,000 grant by an independent selection board, but the Tory government stepped in to prevent it going ahead.

A spokesperson for Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch said: “It's hardly surprising that we don't want to hand out UK taxpayers' money to people that oppose the United Kingdom itself.”

Kneecap claimed in a statement that they'd been told their 2019 Farewell to the Union tour poster "pissed off the Tories". 

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Alba MP Neale Hanvey also suggested independence activists could find themselves "at the wrong end of extremist legislation" down the line.

He said: “All expressions of hate wherever and whenever they occur are unacceptable and should be subject to the full force of the law. 

"However Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) specifically safeguards the right to freedom of assembly and association.  Both of these are now under full scale and repeated attack from the most right-wing and draconian government in living memory.  

"The UK Government has already denied Scotland its right to self-determination and has denied arts funding to performing artists who do not support the Union. 

“We should not be surprised if supporters of independence find themselves silenced or on the wrong end of such extremist legislation and at risk of prosecution for undermining so-called British values and institutions."

Sunak warned in a surprise speech outside Downing Street on Friday that democracy is being targeted by extremists and there are “forces at home trying to tear us apart”.

It came after George Galloway won the Rochdale by-election after running a campaign heavily focused on the atrocities in Gaza.

Sunak said the victory of Galloway was “beyond alarming” and vowed to bring in a “new robust framework” for policing protests.