AROUND a dozen activists have set up camp next to the Scottish Parliament and promised to remain there until the country becomes independent.

Five tents and a small trailer currently form the camp, just yards from the main entrance at Holyrood, which organisers say is inspired a vigil at Calton Hill which lasted for five years before the Scottish electorate voted for devolution in the 1997 referendum.

Moira Williams, who organised the protest, said she had decided to act as she believed the pre-referendum vow of significant further powers for Holyrood had been broken and wanted to keep up the momentum for independence.

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She insisted that the campers were within their rights to remain on the land for as long as they want, although a spokesman for the Scottish Parliament said they had not granted permission and bosses are "considering next steps".

Those at the camp said they expected to see more pro-independence activists join them in the coming days. A 'freedom cake' has been donated by well-wishers while others have passed on blankets and other supplies. Some of those present said an eight-berth caravan is expected to arrive this week, while drivers were heard sounding their horns in support.

Ms Williams said: "Nothing was ever achieved without a people movement. That's always been what's changed things. Nicola Sturgeon asked to see a sign of the will of the people and I think camping in winter shows quite a bit of will."

According to SNP supporter Ms Williams, who has set up camp with her daughter Zoey and dogs Flash and Ruby, a system would be put in place to ensure the camp will be occupied at all times until Scotland is assured of independence. Some within the group leave for work and return in the evenings, she said, while other may spend a few evenings a week there.

She added: "I thought it was going to be freezing but I've got thermals and been sleeping right through. We've had a lot of support, with people donating quilts and sleeping bags, and are working with the police liaison. The police from parliament know we're within the law.

"Some people have jobs, others are carers and have other responsibilities. But we'll be rotating and make sure it will not be abandoned."

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The campers also take inspiration from the Declaration of Arbroath, the 1320 document that stated "as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we be on any condition brought under English rule".


A Scottish Parliament spokesman 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."

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Historic Environment Scotland, which manages neighbouring Holyrood Park, said "a small group of individuals" had been moving their campsite between land under its jurisdiction and land under the parliament's control.

A spokesman added: "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. We are monitoring the situation and considering options in regards to next steps."