IT is now almost three months since Edinburgh was “occupied” as part of a protest movement which started in Wall Street and spread across the world.
At the time, the News expressed doubts about what the movement actually stood for, but we noted that tents had sprung up in St Andrew Square without the sort of trouble seen elsewhere, especially at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
We said: “For the moment, the protest camp is welcome to stay.” It is time for that welcome to be revoked. It is time for the protesters to leave.
For a start, there are signs that the tented village is starting to prove a troublespot and there are doubts over how many genuine protesters actually remain.
Firefighters were called there on Wednesday after a blaze broke out, and witnesses suggested basic fire guidelines were being flouted.
On the same day, a protester was remanded at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on an assault charge. He gave his address as St Andrew Square and told the judge: “I don’t follow your jurisdiction.”
More generally, the camp is an eyesore in what should be one of Edinburgh’s beautiful green places.
After a £2.6m makeover three years ago, St Andrew Square is supposed to be for all to enjoy, not just a handful of people with nothing better to do than “spread our peaceful anti- austerity, anti-corruption message”.
There would be no shame in a voluntary departure – Occupy Glasgow gave up Kelvingrove in mid-December, while last week Occupy Leeds voted to leave its City Square camp.
They obviously feel they have made their point – even if most of us are still unsure what it is exactly.
If our local campers won’t go of their own volition then Edinburgh should follow the example in Bristol and Sheffield, where cathedral authorities in both cities are taking or considering legal action to evict their protesters.
We hope it doesn’t come to that. If Occupy Edinburgh leaves peacefully and clears up any mess then they will be a colourful footnote in our history. If they don’t they’ll be remembered as wasters and chancers.
The fact the SNP is even considering increasing its number of candidates in May’s local election is a clear sign of the party’s optimism.
Buoyed by Alex Salmond’s stunning victory at Holyrood, it thinks it can achieve another “impossible” majority at the City Chambers.
A coalition of some sort is still most likely – but the gauntlet has been thrown down by the SNP.