Man living in a tree to oppose Edinburgh corporate hotel development


Simon says: Tree protester surviving on donations in eighth day of Edinburgh protest 

A RESIDENT OF EDINBURGH’S Grassmarket is approaching a whole week living in a tree in a protest against a multi-million pound hotel development approved by the council. 

The man, who insisted on only being called ‘Simon’, claims the protest is a desperate last resort following the failure of various community campaigns to preserve the site for an extension of the community library. 

Simon climbed the tree a fortnight ago to set up a makeshift tree house of plywood, and then returned on Tuesday 28 February. He has since been in continuous residence in the tree, surviving on the rations he brought with him and the various donations from the local community. 

Police visited the tree to serve a notice on Simon, at which point he moved his tree house higher into the tree’s branches. 

“This was public land for years,” he told CommonSpace. “It’s Andrew Caregie’s legacy for the public library. It’s been spat on. It’s disgraceful. This isn’t about me. I’d rather call myself ‘Jock Tamson’. 

“There’s not much the community can do. The community is so weak now. We need the government to realise what’s happening right under their nose in the old town of Edinburgh. There’s been hundred of letters and petitions — but it’s all been ignored.”

“What Carnegie did [donations for public libraries across the world] is the greatest gift to humanity since the industrial revolution. It was inspired by the age of enlightenment and Robbie Burns. We dishonour all three if we allow this ugly hotel development.”

The ‘Let there be light’ petition against the development attracted 4,400 signatures, and a petition of “no confidence” in the council planning department sits at just under 6,000 supporters. The council passed the controversial £60m hotel development by Jansons Property

Simon threw down paper airplane leaflets from the tree explaining his campaign to the people below. He has a pulley system to deliver food and recharge his phone, with help from supporters. Messages have also been inscribed on the wall below reading: “Keep the land for the Central Library extension” and “We need more housing for local people, not more hotels”. 

Passersby, revelling in one of Edinburgh’s busier streets, gave a mixed response to Simon late on Saturday night. Some shouted support: “Stick in mate.”, “Tree person is a legend!”, while others targeted him with drunken abuse. 

The land below the tree, now sealed off, had recently been used by the homeless community – but they were evicted. 

In a more formal statement, the ‘Let there be light’ campaign said: “The local community considers this development will have very serious, long-term implications for the Old Town and the reputation of the city, and regard the council’s planning report for the hotel to have been significantly flawed, presenting insufficient, misleading, contradictory information, representing a clear conflict of interests. 

“Moreover, key evidence obtained since the decision had been withheld from councillors which would almost certainly swung the vote from eight votes to six in favour of refusal.”

The council did not wish to comment on Simon’s protest. 

Picture: CommonSpace

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