Pro-independence campaigners who vowed to camp outside the Scottish Parliament until Scotland separated from the UK have lost their legal battle to maintain the vigil.
Lord Turnbull ruled at the Court of Session that Holyrood’s corporate body can now proceed with “legal authority” to remove the protesters.
He then branded the actions of the people behind the so-called “indy camp” as “selfish” and “arrogant”.
He said: “In essence the respondents’ position seems to be that their rights under article 10 and 11 should trump both the petitioner’s right to possession and the rights of others to enjoy undisturbed use of the grounds.
“This rather selfish or even arrogant approach was well illustrated in two ways.
“First by the way in which the respondents felt able to hold a barbecue and social gathering in and around the area of the camp which they openly advertised on social media.
“Second, the affidavits provided, as taken along with the photographs, make it plain that damage has been caused to the grounds of the Parliament by vehicles being parked on the grassed areas and by other means”.
Protesters opened the camp in November, 2015. The group were inspired by campaigners who maintained a vigil for Scottish devolution from 1992 until a referendum on the question was held and passed in 1997.
Lord Turnbull added: “No explanation has been offered to explain this, to my mind, quite remarkable conduct. It would be perfectly obvious to anyone parking their vehicle on the grassed area of the grounds of the Scottish Parliament that to do so would cause damage.
“That conduct displays open disregard for the rights of others to enjoy the grounds in their undisturbed form”.
During the case one protester, Richard McFarlane, told the judge Jesus Christ communicated with the group and was asking Lord Turnball to halt the proceedings.
— Philip Sim (@BBCPhilipSim) July 27, 2016
The Scottish Parliament’s corporate body argue the camp inhibits other members of the public using the parliament’s facilities.
A 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.”
An email has now been circulated from the office of Sir Paul Grice, Holyrood’s chief executive, to all MSPs expressing hope that Wednesday’s judgement signals an end to the saga.
It says: “I am writing to update you on the Corporate Body’s legal action to remove the protesters currently occupying part of the Parliament estate without permission.
“Earlier today Lord Turnbull issued his ruling which makes clear that the protestors are occupying Parliament land unlawfully and grants the SPCB’s petition for their removal. We will now seek discussions with the protesters in early course to agree plans for a peaceful removal of the camp from Parliament property.
“Throughout this process the Corporate Body has made clear that it regrets being 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 endorsement of that position today.
“I am hopeful the protesters will now respect the decision of the court and co-operate fully with the Parliamentary authorities to ensure the land is returned to public use in a planned and orderly way.
“Notwithstanding this, the parliamentary authorities remain open, as we have throughout, to exploring alternative options with the group to enable them to express their views while ensuring the land remains available for the use of others. I will of course keep Members updated on our progress.”
The campers, however, have said they plan to appeal and hope to stay in the spot meantime.
One, Dean Halliday, told the BBC that it was a “sad day for Scotland”, saying the group would appeal against the judgement.
He described the campers as “middle aged tea drinkers” who represent the “Yes” movement for independence, saying they had gathered outside Holyrood in response to Nicola Sturgeon asking for the “voice of the people”.
— Philip Sim (@BBCPhilipSim) July 27, 2016