These Independence Activists Are Camping Outside the Scottish Parliament Until Scotland Is Free
They're vowing to stay in their caravan to help end the Westminster tyranny.
Pitch your tent and grab a sleeping bag, because we're setting up camp with a group of pro-Indy campaigners who have occupied the Scottish Parliament grounds. And they're refusing to move until Scotland is finally declared an independent country.
It started on 27th November 2015, when a group of radical Yes campaigners decided to neighbour the Queen's Holyrood Palace and camp out on the grounds of the Scottish Parliament to educate and inform the public of their cause.
On 18th September 2014, 2,001,926 people voted against breaking the Union, but these campaigners are hoping that the presence of about ten people camping will give those in favour of independence an edge.
Indy Camp Live is a "vigil not a protest", according to camp inhabitant Garry, 46, from Hamilton near Glasgow. "The sole purpose of the camp is to bring awareness to those who still want independence for Scotland," he says.
When I visited, wooden pallets made a bridge over the sodden ground from unpatriotic, anti-Indy Edinburgh to Indy Camp. Weathered survival necessities like a washing machine drum for camp fires and gas canisters are cluttered together in between the tents and the makeshift pathway.
"We're here because we want independence. It's a tyrannical rule, we have no voice at Westminster," Garry explains. "Look – Scotland voted against going to war with Syria but we are now, and Saint Andrew was a bloody Syrian refugee!"
Garry was one of the original campaigners to arrive at Holyrood back in November. He provided a caravan and radical Indy ideology. In the caravan Garry is joined by Gayle, a 40-year-old writer from Edinburgh and Charlie, a 31-year-old from Glasgow. There's also a tall figure in black who refuses to reveal any details on his identity, presumably to keep GCHQ off his tail. In fact, none of the protesters will reveal a surname or even entertain the suggestion of a group photo in front of the camp.
Although camera-shy, these 21st century Bravehearts may be championing independence but they still welcome everyone – as long as you're north of Hull. "Listen, we're not anti-English," Garry confirms. "We want northern England to join us!"
The group is enjoying its newfound fame and supportive beeps from passing traffic keep spirits high. "People come in and out of the camp all the time," Gayle explains. "We've had everything donated. These caravans, food, fuel, wood... everything has been donated. People ask us daily if we want to use their home for a shower." Gayle, fortunately, has a home nearby.
Indy Camp has minimal shelter in the harsh Scottish climate – are they not freezing? Garry nods and laughs: "Aye, but then I lay in the caravan one night and the window was covered in frost – it was so sparkly. And I like sparkles!" His worldly look is complemented by a jacket adorned with red, blue and green rhinestones. As our conversation continues, it becomes clear that the camp is made up of a phenomenon fairly unique to Scotland right now – that of the nationalist hippy. Another clue could be found in the flag with the word "Coexist" spelled out in religious symbols.
It's not all sparkles and saltires, though. A sign on the door of the caravan states, "No alcohol; no drugs; no religion; no biggets; no hate speaches; no abuse to anyone [sic]."
"The odd person will shout something like Rule Britannia but there's been nothing major. We've had no trouble. Well except from last night, a guy started on me across the road," Garry smiles.
The two white, nameless pitbulls guarding one caravan should be enough to stop anyone starting a fight in the camp, particularly as they're backed up by a sleepy crossbreed called Benji resting quietly in the other caravan. There is someone present on the camp at all times and around six to ten people are there daily, weather-permitting. "Some of us would like the camp to grow in size, some not. We can handle it small, if it's big that when trouble would start," Garry adds.
On Wednesday 16th December 2015, the Scottish Parliament lodged its petition with the Court of Session to take back the area of land occupied by Indy Camp, and they had until 7th January 2016 to respond to the Parliament's claim, including setting out the basis of any claim they wish to make as to their entitlement to occupy Parliament property. Garry flashes copies of the documents that were submitted to the court on the evening before. These campaigners don't intend to set up camp elsewhere any time soon.
Indy Camp isn't affiliated with any political party, and while they share a common goal with the dominating SNP, don't expect Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond to be sharing a two-man tent there any time soon.
"We recognise the importance of peaceful protests in a democratic society," a Scottish Parliament spokesperson told VICE, and peaceful it is: Indy Camp is to have weekly talks and discussions on Scottish Independence to educate people. But it's not all happy camping.
"By seeking to occupy this land on a long-term basis, and refusing our request to vacate, we have had no alternative but to commence legal proceedings to return the land to wider public use," a spokesperson from Parliament explained.
With a second referendum highly unlikely in the near future and a lengthy legal battle in the pipeline, Garry, Charlie, Gayle and the other supporters are committing to a lengthy stay at Indy Camp. But even Garry is unsure what the future holds for their battle of independence. "How long's a piece of string?"
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