JANE HAMILTON - CRIME REPORTER
EDINBURGH faces a massive shortage of police cover next year because of an international summit of world leaders planned for Scotland.
All police leave has been cancelled for the first two weeks in July in anticipation of the G8 summit due to be held at the luxury Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire.
Up to 1000 officers from the Lothians may be drafted to the area to help provide 24-hour cover for world leaders attending the summit.
But there are fears that security will be so tight around the hotel that mass protests will instead be held in Edinburgh, where many leading financial and government offices have headquarters.
The annual summit assembles leaders of the worldâ€™s major industrial democracies - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US - to discuss international economic, political and security issues.
A secret memo, obtained by the Evening News, reveals Lothian and Borders Police have slapped a ban on annual leave for two weeks.
Even officers who have booked holidays in advance next July will be asked to cancel them. As well as assisting in the national security effort, local police are also facing the prospect of thousands of anti-capitalist protesters descending on Edinburgh to demonstrate at the Scottish Parliament, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, banks and foreign consulates.
Scotland has around 15,000 officers - and at least 9000 of those will be required to protect world leaders who attend.
Police sources said planning for the summit was "creating a headache" within the force and already some officers are claiming it is too late for them to back out of holiday plans.
The source said: "As well as coping with the added security for demonstrations and protests, police officers will still be expected to carry out their normal duties and police the city.
"Some officers are already claiming they have booked holidays for next July, but we find that hard to believe, although you can understand people are frustrated.
"The cancellation of the leave will put more pressure on periods either side of July 1-14, and itâ€™s going to be a complete mess with lots of people scrambling to get their holidays."
However, the assistant chief constable in charge of specialist operations at Lothian and Borders Police, Ian Dickinson, said a yearâ€™s notice was enough for officers and support staff.
In a memo issued to divisional commanders and department heads across the force, Mr Dickinson said: "In early July 2005, quite exceptional operational demands will be made on the force. I emphasise that these operational demands are unprecedented and will take place in an environment where the threat from terrorism has never been higher."
Mr Dickinson added: "No annual leave will be granted for police officers. Any such leave that may have already been granted may, subject to the exigencies of duty, need to be cancelled."
The memo said support staff would also be affected and exceptions would only be made for staff whose personal circumstances dictate an emergency need for leave, such as marriage or bereavement.
"A restriction such as this can place considerable demands on families - particularly during school holidays.
"It is for this reason I am circulating this requirement with over a yearâ€™s notice so that all affected may make plans as far in advance as possible," the memo said.
But a police source warned: "The force may need to implement our full counter-terrorism arrangements, which are very resource intensive on both police and support staff, making everyone almost indispensable."
A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said the force could not comment on the issue. Early speculation that the meeting would be held in Scotland has already led to the creation of new anti-capitalism groups.
One states on its website: "In 2005, we want to make the champagne-sipping elite inside the G8 tent sweat. We want them to feel under siege."
Scottish Tory Leader, David McLetchie said: "Itâ€™s obviously a very prestigious event to come to Scotland and these plans by the police also illustrate the massive security operation required when the most powerful leaders in the world come together."
The MSP added: "It underlines the dedication of the police service in making sure there is the highest level of security, not only for the dignitaries, but also for the public."
This yearâ€™s G8 summit is to be held next month in the US at the five-star Sea Island resort in Georgia.
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