Independence protesters camp out to take stand

John A Freeman ' in mask ' and Zoey Aspinall are among the group camping outside the Scottish Parliament.  Picture: Greg Macvean
John A Freeman ' in mask ' and Zoey Aspinall are among the group camping outside the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Greg Macvean
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WIND, rain and sub-zero temperatures may not seem like the ideal conditions for camping, but a fiesty group of independence campaigners believe there has never been a better time.

Wrapped in thermals and draped in Saltires, a group of 12 activists have set up camp just a stone’s throw from the Scottish Parliament, and have vowed they will not move until the country becomes independent.

Zoey Aspinall, 22, and John Freeman, 45, are amongst those minding the site – consisting of five tents and a small trailer – while others are at work.

They both said they have failed to “swallow” last year’s referendum result and are protesting in a bid to keep up the momentum for Yes supporters.

They explained their camp was inspired by a vigil at Calton Hill which lasted five years before the Scottish electorate voted for devolution in 1997.

Mr Freeman, from Linlithgow, said: “People have been bringing us food and cakes – we haven’t had to cook anything so far, it’s been great. We will be here hail, rain or shine, for as many years as it takes until we get independence. We are hoping the camp will get bigger.

“This is our attempt to show Nicola Sturgeon a sign of the will of the people.”

According to Ms Aspinall, who set up the camp with her mum, Moira Williams last Thursday, a system has been put in place to ensure the camp will be occupied at all times until Scotland gains independence.

She said: “We thought it was going to be freezing but it’s actually been all right.

“We have people setting up camp with us from all over Scotland and we hope the support will only increase. We’re not moving for anyone.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Parliament said: “The Scottish Parliament recognises the importance of peaceful protest in a democratic society.

“However, in seeking to occupy this land the protesters are preventing others from using this public space.

“We have advised the protesters that they do not have permission to camp on the parliament’s property.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation and are considering our next steps.”

Struan Ducker, 22, who lives in nearby Abbeyhill, said the camp hadn’t caused any problems so far, but said he hoped it didn’t become too big. Meanwhile, passer-by Callum Watt, 53, said the new residents should accept the outcome of last year’s independence referendum.

He said: “I think it’s ridiculous they are camping there – what an eyesore. Have they never heard of democracy?

“The people of Scotland decided against independence last year – it’s time to move on.”

A spokesperson for Historic Environment Scotland, which manages Holyrood Park, said: “Whilst we appreciate that this is a peaceful protest, this is without our permission and is in breach of the regulations that govern the park.”

Police Scotland said it was aware of the demonstration and would continue to “liaise with organisers and the land owners to monitor the area”.

courtney.cameron@edinburghnews.com