Anti-bank protesters occupy leafy heart of the capital

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The Occupy camp on the Meadows is overlooked by expensive property, such as the Quartermile

ANTI-capitalist protesters have moved their tents, placards and guitars in to one of Scotland’s most genteel open spaces.

The Meadows is a 60-acre playground for Edinburgh’s middle classes, surrounded on all sides by homes worth £500,000-plus.

So eyebrows have been raised by the arrival of Occupy Edinburgh protesters who recently agreed to leave the city’s financial hub of St Andrew Square.

The demonstrators say the new camp will be ‘much improved’ from the old one, and are pledging a zero tolerance policy on alcohol and drugs.

But a confrontation is looming after the city council said camping was banned and it would be “liaising” with police.

The park is surrounded by some of the capital’s most desirable property including the newly-built Quartermile development, where flats sell for up to £800,000.

It consists of wide open grass fields, a large play park, tennis courts, cricket and croquet pitches and several tree-lined walkways.

Alastair Philip, Secretary of Marchmont and Sciennes Community Council said they were worried about the camp.

He said: “It’s on the cricket square which will cause more concern.

“I know we have had reservations about people camping there before, and we’ve certainly had a lot of concern about barbequing in the Meadows.”

Monitor

Mr Philip said the grounds could get ‘churned up’ if many people stayed there.

He continued: “There is an increased police presence there anyway due to a number of incidents.

“I’m hopeful that they monitor the situation.”

Originally set up to protest at economic inequality, The camp at St Andrew Square was plagued by cases of anti-social behaviour.

These included accusations human excrement was found lying on the site, which the protesters strenuously denied.

This morning around half a dozen tents had appeared on The Meadows.

But the group says the camp will be a new start.

Demonstrator Pete Nicholson said: “We’ve had a lot of people taking interest, people are very supportive of the cause.

“We will have a zero tolerance policy on alcohol and drugs, that’s very important.

“The thing about the St Andrew Square demonstration was we didn’t get our ‘safe spaces’ policy right from the beginning.

“The fact it’s common land means we have the right to stay here.

“We have been in dialogue with the council but we need to see what kind of reaction we get.”

He added: “It will be a much improved camp.”

He said there was ‘room for negotiation’ on the use of the cricket grounds in the park.

But a senior figure with Edinburgh City Council suggested there was no room for negotiation.

Environment Leader, Cllr Robert Aldridge, said: “The Council’s position is quite clear – we do not allow camping on the Meadows.

“We are aware of the Occupy Edinburgh protest and will be liaising with the police and protestors.”

A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: “Along with our partners at City of Edinburgh Council, we will monitor the situation at the Meadows, and will deal appropriately with any allegations of criminal behaviour reported to us.”