Indycamp Campaigners Lose Court Battle

27 July 2016, 14:19 | Updated: 27 July 2016, 14:25

A group of independence campaigners who set up camp outside the Scottish Parliament have lost their court battle against eviction.

The Indycamp group set up outside Holyrood in November 2015 and pledged to stay until Scotland gained independence, sparking a seven-month court battle as the parliament's corporate body sought eviction.

Judge Lord Turnbull ruled in favour of the parliament and granted their petition to have the campers evicted.

In a written judgement published on Wednesday, he found the ruling against the campaigners would not "deprive them of the essence'' of their human rights.

The campaigners had argued at the Court of Session in Edinburgh that eviction would infringe their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association.

Gerry Moynihan QC, representing the Scottish Parliament, argued the group had a right to protest but not to occupy land belonging to a third party either permanently or indeterminately.

He said the camp interfered with the functioning of parliament and the right of others to use the grounds as well as damaging the land.

The court heard no protesters are granted permission to set up residence on parliament grounds or stay overnight.

Groups of campaigners put forward several arguments against eviction including claiming Jesus Christ had given permission for the camp and claiming all judges were criminals and should be executed, along with the Queen.

Advocate Jamie Gardner, representing some members of the camp, claimed the continuous nature and location of the protest was of its "essence''.

Others argued that eviction would be disproportionate because they peacefully occupy a small space on the grounds and do not interfere with the rights of others.

Lord Turnbull ruled against these claims.

He said "no evidence has been presented to explain why a 24-hour permanent presence is essential'' and added there was no "unified focus'' to the protest, as some saw it as a "peace camp''.

He accused the campaigners of being "rather selfish or arrogant'' in believing their human rights trumped the right of the parliament to possession or the rights of others to use the grounds.

The judge also criticised their "remarkable'' behaviour in parking on the grass at the grounds opposite to a public car park, causing damage.

He found eviction "does not substantially impair the ability to protest at the grounds of the Scottish Parliament''.

He added: "It may interfere with the respondents' wish to conduct their vigil in the manner and form of their choosing, but they are mistaken in considering that they have an unfettered right to make this choice.''

Lord Turnbull said he was "firmly in favour'' that the "targeted and limited'' interference with the campaigners' human rights caused by eviction is "proportionate''.

A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said: "The Corporate Body regrets that it was forced to take this action, however given the protesters' refusal to vacate the land or consider alternative options to make their protest, we were left with no choice.

"We took this action to protect the rights of all those who wish to use and access parliament land, and we welcome Lord Turnbull's judgement in our favour today.''

The parliament plans to hold discussions with the protesters to agree to a peaceful removal of the camp.