Cowgate Occupy Camp
In response to the threat of the loss of associated public assets, including the NHS Cowgatehead Church homeless clinic, individuals from the homeless community valiantly took up occupation of the Cowgate gap site for 5 months, before being evicted in October 2016, following court action.
With the Old Town long associated as a refuge for those fallen on hard times, this lovable motley crew of dedicated individuals endured some degree of scorn and even serious abuse, with seemingly numerous deliberate arson attacks of tents on site. Yet in defiance, and in spite of very unpleasant living conditions, camped next to such a noisy, polluted arterial road, frequented by flocks of passing tourists and hordes of drunken revellers by night.
The Occupiers were very genuinely committed to raising public awareness of the plight of the Library in defence of the Cowgate gap site, so that it might realise its long intended purpose of enriching Carnegie’s cultural jewel, and thereby honour those who had toiled to create such a legacy for the benefit of future generations.
With the threatened closure and disposal of the adjoining Cowgatehead Church homeless clinic, the camp was also taking a stand against the loss of this vital, long standing service, so wickedly under threat from the predatory, heartless forces precipitated by the chicanery of the so called ‘banking crisis’, which had led to the imposition of austerity, exacerbated by the dire financial predicament of Edinburgh Council through its maladministration.
In response to the camp one local resident commented that he would rather the presence of a few humble so called ‘down and outs’ than the insidious gentrified corporate creep of soulless speculative hotels and student accommodation blocks, conspiring with the Air B&B phenomenon to destroy community, bleed the local economy and further trash the area by encouraging late night anti-social ‘end of the world’ party culture, so otherwise unbecoming of a City of Literature, World Heritage and Enlightenment.
While some passers by may have been quick to dismiss the ‘illegal’ occupation, taking offence at the unsightly paraphernalia so typically associated with the plight of homeless individuals, the presence of the camp served to disturb the sensibilities of minds sanitised by the influence of litigious health and safety and to prick the conscience of a deluded civilised society needing to get its house in order.
For a Council that promised to be “willing to listen to local people and work together with local communities… A council where cooperation, fairness, accountability and responsibility really matter…” to then, behind closed doors without any public consultation to discuss alternative options, sell off the prized gap site in the heart of the Old Town, together with the Cowgatehead Church and the tenement on Victoria Street, all for a knock down price of £3.5 million, is a disgraceful affront to this City of Literature, World Heritage and Enlightenment.
While politicians spin the lie that in such times of austerity “we’re all in this together”, to those who have become even wealthier ingratiating themselves with such predatory speculative bargains, these sums are but lose change. Even the famous children’s writer, who has crafted a livelihood imbibed by Auld Reekie’s aura, such a figure is evidently sweetie money when according to the tabloid press twice the sum went up in a puff of smoke involving the depreciation of a luxury yacht:
Auld Reekie, wale o’ilka toon…