INDEPENDENCE campaigners who set up a protest camp just a stone’s throw away from the Scottish Parliament have been told they must pack up and move on in two days.
The activists – who previously vowed not to budge until Scotland becomes independent – were served a notice to leave by sheriff officers yesterday afternoon.
The document, ordered by the Scottish Parliament, threatens the group with court proceedings if they don’t vacate the site by 5pm tomorrow.
Senior SNP politicians said the decision was for the Holyrood authorities to make. But yesterday campers branded the eviction notice an “empty threat” and insisted they would not move voluntarily.
Moira Williams, 46, from Polmont, denied the peaceful protest was blocking public access to the land as authorities claimed.
The SNP voter said: “We’re not blocking any public land at all. This land belongs to the people and we have as much right to be here as anyone.
“It’s very heavy-handed moving us in this way, but we’ll remain peaceful. We’ll stay until it goes to court, but if they try to remove us forcibly we won’t be able to do much about it. We will be peaceful whatever happens all the time.”
Gayle Miller, 40, from Edinburgh, who is also living on the camp, added: “It is over-the-top to react like this.
“It’s quite upsetting to have this happen when it’s only a small space we’re occupying and where we aren’t doing any harm.”
Set up by a group of 12 independence supporters at the end of November, the camp’s occupants previously said they were inspired by a vigil at Calton Hill which lasted five years before the Scottish electorate voted for devolution in 1997.
In a letter sent to MSPs and staff, Paul Grice, the chief executive of the Scottish Parliament, said the protesters had been given 48 hours to move.
He insisted the “strong preference was to resolve the issue through mutual agreement” but added “it is clear that we must consider alternative routes to return this land to public use”.
He wrote: “We have been in discussions with our legal adviser and now believe we have sufficient grounds to pursue a legal remedy to the situation.
“As a first step, therefore, we have this afternoon issued the protesters with a formal letter asking them to vacate the parliament’s grounds, together with their possessions, within 48 hours.
“We very much hope the protesters will comply with this request and parliament staff remain open to discussing alternative options with the group to enable them to express their views while ensuring the land remains available for the use of others.”