The people who vowed to camp outside the Scottish parliament until Scotland regains its independence believe they have stumbled across a legal loophole that could result in the dissolution of the Act of Union.
The camp sprang up at the end of November last year but the Scottish parliament's corporate body has started legal proceedings to have the campers removed on the basis they're "at odds with the political neutrality" of the Holyrood site.
On Tuesday, around 40 people who have either stayed in the camp or support its continued existence appeared at Edinburgh's court of session to present a petition that, if passed, would have seen the Scottish parliament's case for their removal thrown out.
The judge, Lord Clarke, very quickly brought an end to the session after reminding the campers they already have a hearing scheduled in March.
He said consideration of the case would have to wait until then, but the camp's legal team told BuzzFeed News they plan to use 1707's Act of Union between England and Scotland to defeat the case against them.
They did not want to go into detail for fear of "compromising the case", but one member, who called himself Neil McNeil, said ahead of Tuesday's hearing that he believes the case against the camp has been brought forward under UK legislation, rather than the separate Scots law.
The campaigners argue this breaks a passage in the 1707 act that said "private rights" can't be interfered with.
"Oh yeah, it's the Treaty of Union they'll be breaking," said McNeil. "It's almost true to say that, whatever way they go, they have literally broken the Treaty of Union. At that state, there is no Union, and Scotland starts again. The reset button is hit."
Asked to go into more detail, McNeil said it was "all a bit fuzzy", adding: "I'd have to give you the details of the case to explain it, but they're bringing this case under UK legislation which is prohibited by the treaty.
"It can't affect private rights. Any legislation which is made has to be made under the utility of the people of Scotland, that's the only way to add to the treaty. They're breaking the treaty if they deny our case."
Another member of the camp's legal team, who did not want to be named, confirmed after the court session that their case to remain on the parliamentary ground will invoke the Act of Union and, if it fails, they believe the act will be "compromised" to the point of dissolution, meaning Scotland will once more be independent.
"The Act of Union is involved entirely, yes, and it might be compromised, but that's for the court to decide," said the source. "The court will have to decide [if the Act of Union will be dissolved], but it's possible, we'll see. We'll see."
He added: "It's that important, you're talking about defending the lives of millions. We need to focus on what's right, what's wrong, what's happened to the court systems, what's happened to people's rights to the ground."
The source also said the ground where the campers are stationed, to the southeast of the Holyrood building, is "sacred" because it's on "the dragon line", which he said has been used as an important ceremonial site for Scots for centuries.
Two independent MSPs backed the independence campers on Tuesday ahead of the court session, with John Wilson telling The National: "My own view is that I don't think it is appropriate for the parliament to be taking legal action against a group of people calling for a second independence referendum."
Sean Clerkin, a member of the pro-independence pressure group the Scottish Resistance, was at court to support the independence campers and, for his part, said his group will now "intensely lobby" the MSPs who make up the Scottish parliament's corporate body, which includes two SNP MSPs.
He said: "We at the Scottish Resistance will be targeting the five MSPs for intensive lobbying; we'll be phoning them, visiting them at surgeries, but we will not be going after them in their own homes or anything like that."
The case will return to the court on March 9.
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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