INDEPENDENCE campaigners who set up camp outside the Scottish Parliament face the prospect of a hefty legal bill after losing their court battle against eviction.

Following a ruling yesterday by Lord Turnbull against the campers, a spokeswoman for the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) indicated it would pursue costs.

“Our position on cost recovery remains unchanged,” she told The National. Throughout the SPCB has been mindful of its duty to use public money prudently and minimise the impact on the public purse.”

The group moved onto a side outside Holyrood in November 2015 and pledged to stay until Scotland gained independence, sparking a seven-month court battle as the parliament’s corporate body sought eviction.

But yesterday Judge Lord Turnbull ruled in favour of the parliament and granted its petition to have the campers evicted. In his ruling, Turnbull said his decision against the campaigners would not “deprive them of the essence” of their human rights.

The campaigners had argued at the Court of Session in Edinburgh that eviction would infringe their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association.

Gerry Moynihan QC, representing the Scottish Parliament, argued the group had a right to protest but not to occupy land belonging to a third party either permanently or indeterminately. He said the camp interfered with the functioning of parliament and the right of others to use the grounds as well as damaging the land.

The court heard no protesters are granted permission to set up residence on parliament grounds or stay overnight.

Groups of campaigners put forward several arguments against eviction including claiming Jesus Christ had given permission for the camp and claiming all judges were criminals and should be executed, along with the Queen.

Advocate Jamie Gardner, representing some members of the camp, claimed the continuous nature and location of the protest was of its “essence”.

Others argued that eviction would be disproportionate because they peacefully occupy a small space on the grounds and do not interfere with the rights of others. Lord Turnbull ruled against these claims.

He said “no evidence has been presented to explain why a 24-hour permanent presence is essential” and added there was no “unified focus” to the protest, as some saw it as a “peace camp”.

He accused the campaigners of being “rather selfish or arrogant” in believing their human rights trumped the right of the parliament to possession or the rights of others to use the grounds. The judge also criticised their “remarkable” behaviour in parking on the grass at the grounds opposite to a public car park, causing damage.

The parliament plans to hold discussions with the protesters to agree to a peaceful removal of the camp.

Camper Dean Halliday said: “We are clearly very disappointed with the ruling and will be considering whether to appeal.”

His solicitor John Flanaghan said he would consider the ruling and meet with his clients.

It emerged earlier this year that the activists faced financial ruin if they lost. While the Parliament refused a request in February to say how much it has so far spent on its legal case, which is being fought by one of the country’s largest legal firms on Holyrood’s behalf at Scotland’s top civil court, it confirmed it would seek to recover its costs if it wins.

In a response to a Freedom of Information request from the Herald, the Scottish Parliament said it would not reveal the costs to date for commercial reasons and said it was a “matter of regret” that it had been forced to go to court. It added: “We consider it essential that we protect the rights of all those who wish to use and access Parliament land. Ultimately, the costs involved will depend on a range of factors.

“Throughout the process the SPCB will continue to be mindful of its duty to use public money prudently and, if successful, the SPCB will seek to recover the cost of the action to minimise any impact on the public purse.”

Legal experts said that Holyrood lawyers Brodies LLP, would “not come cheap”.

A Scottish Parliament 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 access parliament land, and we welcome Lord Turnbull’s judgement .”