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by Margaret Taylor
23 May 2024
Parliament seeks police help to close down pro-Palestinian protest camp

The Gaza Solidarity Camp Scotland was established in April | Alamy

Parliament seeks police help to close down pro-Palestinian protest camp

The head of security at the Scottish Parliament has said she is working with Police Scotland to find a way of closing down a pro-Palestinian protest camp outside parliament.

Activists set up the camp on parliamentary grounds in April, raising Palestinian flags around their tents and declaring the area a “liberated zone”.

Calling themselves the Gaza Solidarity Camp Scotland, the group has accused the UK and Scottish governments of “complicity” in the “ongoing genocide” in Gaza and issued a series of demands, including a permanent ceasefire, an arms embargo and recognition of Palestine.

Protestors have said they will not leave the site until these demands are met.

In a letter issued to MSPs today, parliament's security head Becky Thomson said that peaceful protest is welcomed at Holyrood and that the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) has a policy in place that “facilitate[s] demonstrations and protests on our land in a way that ensures the safety of all, allows the parliament to carry out its essential democratic role, and respects the rights of others to engage with the parliament”.

However, she noted that while the SPCB has “sought to engage with the organisers to find a solution which allows the group to carry out their protest in a way that satisfies these requirements” it has not received any response.

“We have made it clear to the organisers that camping on the land and attaching structures to it is a breach of our protest policy,” she said.

“Exclusive and indefinite occupation of the land in this way is a matter of serious concern.  It impacts on the rights of others to use the space – be that for other protests, events or simply to enjoy the space socially.

“Regrettably we’ve already had to relocate a number of public engagement events as a result of the camp’s presence.

“The camp’s presence also raises health and safety concerns and we have been made aware of complaints in that regard. The increasing size of the camp is a cause for concern too in terms of security, and the prominent flags and banners erected may undermine public confidence in the institution's impartiality.”

Thomson added that parliamentary staff would “continue to work closely with Police Scotland to explore all available options to bring the encampment to an end as swiftly as possible”.

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