OCCUPY Edinburgh has announced it will leave St Andrew Square voluntarily to avoid a forced eviction.
Protesters who have mounted their campaign in the square for the past three months were today expected to vacate the privately owned area, days before a court decision was due on Essential Edinburgh’s bid to remove them from the site.
The group said its actions would save public money and its cause would go on.
Occupy Edinburgh wrote on Twitter: “To avoid needless waste of public money, Occupy Edinburgh is moving the camp and vacating the square. You can’t evict an idea!”
Business leaders and local politicians breathed a sigh of relief that scenes in which court officers may have had to drag campers from the site would now be avoided.
The movement announced the decision last night after a meeting in Tollcross.
A spokesman for Essential Edinburgh, the square’s manager, said it “warmly welcomed” the decision, but added that the legal process would continue in order to protect Essential Edinburgh’s position.
Occupy Edinburgh initially enjoyed significant support, including from the city council and Essential Edinburgh, but it has ebbed largely due to the condition of St Andrew Square.
Several of those associated with the movement have also appeared in court in connection with antisocial behaviour.
In a statement on its website, the Occupy Edinburgh group said: “We have been in talks with the businesses who own the square, but they have abandoned negotiations.
“This means an extremely expensive eviction process has begun at great cost to the public purse. To avoid this disgusting waste of public money, Occupy Edinburgh are moving the camp and vacating the square.”
City centre Tory councillor Joanna Mowat said she was “very pleased” that protesters were leaving St Andrew Square, but had concerns about where they might move on to.
“It’s very welcome if they have decided to leave of their own accord,” she said. “It has always been the outcome I have been asking for rather than having costly eviction processes being undertaken.
“I’m pleased that they’re leaving but not terribly supportive of them springing up somewhere else.
“There was potentially an unsafe situation where they were attracting people who weren’t members of the movement. It was a volatile mix.”
She added: “They do make a valid point, but I don’t think sitting in squares is a particularly constructive way of doing it.”