Instances of environmental activists attempting to access business premises in order to have their say are becoming more frequent. If your business finds itself the focus of such a protest, what action can you take?

Legal action

The first issue to consider is where to raise proceedings – the local Sheriff Court or the Court of Session in Edinburgh (Scotland's superior court). Sheriff Courts have jurisdiction over their individual districts, while the Court of Session has a wider jurisdiction extending over all of mainland Scotland, its islands and its territorial waters.

Interdict and Interim Interdict

If you have a "reasonable apprehension" that an environmental group intends to carry out unlawful activities impacting your business, you can apply to the court to have an interdict granted in your favour. An interdict serves the same purpose as an injunction and aims to prevent an anticipated legal wrong from occurring or to stop a legal wrong which is already in progress. An interdict granted by the court can last indefinitely and, if it is breached, the court can impose quasi-criminal sanctions, including fines or imprisonment.

Stopping unlawful activities can be time critical. When raising proceedings, you should therefore also seek an order for interim (temporary) interdict. If granted, you will obtain an enforceable order at the beginning of the court process, rather than at the end.

Be aware that, while it may be possible for an application for interim interdict to be heard privately in chambers, a contested application for interdict will be heard in open court. At that point, the matter becomes public and may be reported in the media.

Order for Removal

If an unlawful activity is already in progress (for example, activists are occupying your premises), you can seek orders for removal from the court. It is prudent to combine this with an action for interdict, to prevent the same parties carrying out the same unlawful acts in future.


It may be open to your business to seek damages. Any damages awarded by a court will be calculated based upon losses that your business can demonstrate were suffered as a direct result of the activists' wrongful actions. In practice, it may be difficult to recover damages from individual activists.

Practical tips

Be prepared for the possibility that an environmental group might target your office. You should consider implementing a policy or issuing guidance to employees. This could include:-

  1. Reminding personnel to wear their security pass at all times while on the premises and ensuring the contact information the company holds for them is accurate.
  2. Advising personnel not to communicate with protesters or the media.
  3. Appointing an emergency response team and identifying a process to be followed in the event of protest – consider who will take the lead on communications and proactively or reactively engage with the media.
  4. To contain a protest, identifying an area within the office grounds where protesters can gather safely - ideally this will be separate to the route that personnel use to access the office and away from company signage.


If you have a reasonable apprehension that your business is going to be targeted, seek legal advice without delay. There are steps which can be taken in order to protect your business and the sooner these are put in place, the more effective they will be.