The indycampers are morons. There's no getting around it, no sugar-coating it: stone cold morons. In -- legitimately -- resisting the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body's attempt to expel their small camp from Holyrood's grounds, the group have argued their case in a fashion which has lapsed from the divinely ridiculous to the grotesquely insulting. They have consistently ignored substantial legal arguments they might use to win their case, spending hours instead on eccentric, invariably doomed political points and barrack room lawyering. They are their own worst enemies.
This morning, they returned to Lord Turnbull's court, explaining that - months into their case and months after his first option - they still haven't tracked down a lawyer to represent them. The spokesmen for the camp went still further. They accused the judge of blasphemy, demanded the Queen appear to give evidence, demanded a jury hear the case, suggested that a key "spiritual" argument should be addressed by the court, declaring that "Jesus Christ the second is here and we're going to get our independence."
I have the utmost sympathy for litigants -- ordinary folk -- trying to formulate legal cases without the assistance of a lawyer. This is hard, sometimes impossible, work. The logic of our courts puts them at a clear disadvantage when faced - as the indycampers have been faced - with professional opponents, whose bread and butter work is understanding legal procedures, rules and principles.
Having to do all this on the hoof - for yourself - without access to legal databases, without inbuilt legal know-how gained over the years, is tough. The inequality of arms can lead to injustice. Some judges are sympathetic to the plight of party litigants, others less so. Some try to take an active hand, focusing the ordinary punter's attention towards the key legal arguments and issues, rather than letting them dangle in the wind. They try to even up the odds, between the represented and the unrepresented party. They keep their patience, and try to see justice done as best they can.
Lord Turnbull is such a judge. We can only presume he lost the card-cut in the judicial dining room in Parliament House, to find himself landed with this case. And despite all manner of provocations, interminable, boring and irrelevant submissions -- this Court of Session judge has exhibited the patience of a saint. He had bent over backwards to accommodate the indycampers. He has treated their arguments as seriously as he could. He has tried to find any crumb of substantive legal argument in their digressive, and often just plain oddball submissions to the court. And by gum -- Lord Turnbull actually found one. The judge lit up this arguable point with neon lights in his first opinion in the "sovereign indigenous people of Scotland" case. He told them to focus on it. He sounded sympathetic.
And what have the indycampers done with this helping hand? On the evidence of today's hearing, they've completely ignored it, abandoning a potentially winnable legal point which could block Holyrood's eviction plan, preferring instead to indulge in more antics and insults. It is frustrating. It is baffling.
Here's the short version of how they might survive. The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body is a public authority. Under the Human Rights Act 1998, the actions of public authorities must conform with the rights protected under the European Convention. Article 10 protects free expression, Article 11 your right to freedom of assembly and association. Both of these are engaged by Holyrood's eviction plans, and both are qualified rights.
That means the state is entitled to interfere with your rights to speak your mind and freely to assemble -- but only if particular conditions are met. The restrictions on your rights must be (a) according to law and (b) in pursuit of a legitimate aim -- national security, public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals -- that kind of thing. Lastly, any interference must also be proportionate, striking a fair balance between collective interests pursued by the legitimate aim, and the fundamental rights of individuals to express their views, and to assemble. This is for the court to decide.
And in his first opinion, Lord Turnbull actually sounded reasonable skeptical about whether evicting this small camp would represent a proportionate measure by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body. Distinguishing the situation involving the indycampers from other nearly analogous occupations, the judge had this to say:
 I have heard no evidence on the extent to which the respondents in the present case do, or do not, constitute an interference with the rights of others to access the grounds of the Scottish Parliament, or on any other matter which might fall to be weighed in a proportionality assessment. As a resident of Edinburgh though, I am familiar with the layout of the grounds surrounding the Scottish Parliament building and the general location of the Camp. As indicated by the petitioner, the Camp presently appears to occupy a small area at the very edge of the grounds which it owns and at the furthest point away from the entrance to the Parliament building. It is not immediately obvious that the presence of the Camp would inhibit the use of the grounds by others for picnicking, dog-walking, or the like, as founded upon by the petitioner. Nor is it immediately obvious that there are any real security or logistical concerns of the sort drawn attention to by the petitioner and which might weigh the proportionality balance in its favour.
Abandoning their ridiculous antics, ceasing gratuitously to insult the trial judge, focusing on this legal argument -- might actually get them somewhere. But after this morning's session, that looks like a fool's hope.