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Fortress Scotland awaits G8

Edinburgh, July 1: Steel security fences surround the Scottish Parliament building and the Gleneagles Hotel yesterday as 10,000 police officers were drafted to potential trouble spots and a blimp was prepared for use as a lookout for anarchists.

The alleged benefits associated with hosting the G8 meeting of the world’s most powerful men next week are becoming harder to discern.

Scotland’s largest peacetime security operation will cost around '50 million, to protect the eight leaders who will spend two nights at Gleneagles Hotel which is hosting the summit.

Edinburgh is braced for an invasion that will bring it to a standstill, and Auchterarder, the small town nearest to the hotel, is quaking in its sensible country shoes.

Public perceptions have changed since the venue was announced amid claims that the event was a major economic opportunity. Jack McConnell, the first minister, said it would be worth '500 million in positive publicity ' 10 times the estimated security bill. He is an increasingly lonely cheerleader.

Though central Scotland may support the aims of protests designed to win firm action on poverty and global warming, it wishes the summit was somewhere else.

There have been dire warnings of violence, confrontations between police and protesters, and direct action against financial institutions. The Scottish capital, which hardly needs the exposure, is least enamoured with its week in the spotlight.

Around 100,000 people, including Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the exchequer, are expected to walk through the city tomorrow in the Make Poverty History march. Senior police officers insist that they do not expect serious trouble but some shopkeepers are pulling down the shutters anyway, while others wonder how staff will get to work with 50 roads closed.

Supporters of Dissent, an organisation fighting capitalism and globalisation, and advocating civil disobedience, will demonstrate in Edinburgh on Monday. Protesters plan to blockade roads leading to Gleneagles. The police intend to stop them with their own blockades.

On Wednesday, the opening day of the summit, Bob Geldof wants one million people to march on Edinburgh (population 430,000).

It would be the biggest single gathering of people north of the border and has been described by police as highly irresponsible.

But there is no rally or meeting point planned, and the call may turn out to be no more than rock star rhetoric.

The one planned event in Edinburgh on Wednesday is the final Live 8 concert.

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