Archive - Feb 13, 2005
The difference between Roman emperors and our present day versions of the same.
A HOLYROOD committee of MSPs is to investigate whether the Executive is making the most of Scotlandâ€™s role as the venue for this summerâ€™s G8 summit.
The inquiry by Holyroodâ€™s European and External Affairs Committee will study what opportunities the Executive has identified for Scotland to "influence and benefit from" both the Gleneagles summit in July and Britainâ€™s presidency of the European Union.
SNP MSP John Swinney, convener of the committee, said: "This is a rare opportunity for a distinctly Scottish contribution to these major international events."
The MSPs will investigate what scope there may be for the Executive to contribute to UK thinking, and what preparation has been carried out by the Executive.
Mr Swinney said: "2005 will see the UK holding the presidencies of both the EU and the G8, with the G8 summit being held in Scotland.
"The UK will also hold the presidency of the EU for the first time since devolution."
He added: "With this in mind, the committee is keen for the Executive to play a full role and contribute to UK government thinking on issues like international aid and climate change."
The inquiry will report in April or May, and a deadline of March 18 has been set for submitting evidence to the committee.
Radical groups gather to discuss tactics ... and golf
RADICAL direct action groups are meeting in Glasgow this weekend to work on protests against the G8 summit.
As government officials plan what they hope will be impregnable security measures, anarchists among the "Dissent!" network are planning to blockade the meeting of the eight most powerful men in the world.
The umbrella organisation of anti-capitalist groups, affiliated to Peoplesâ€™ Global Action, states it is committed to taking a "confrontational attitude" against "destructive globalism".
One member, contacted by The Scotsman, refused to confirm the group are non-violent - or any other details about them. He pointed out the network has no leaders, therefore no-one is able to speak on its behalf.
He said: "It is a network of groups so it makes no sense to talk about a strategy."
The venue of the meeting in Albion Street was kept secret until the last minute and a contact phone number was made available only yesterday.
Members are offered indoor accommodation, "mostly of a distinctly floor-based nature" and food will be available.
Items on the agenda include legal briefings, "solidarity action for arrests", medical help, logistical planning and a golf tournament organised by the Peopleâ€™s Golf Association.
Dissent! is one of three main groups planning protests at the G8 meeting.
Make Poverty History, a coalition of charities, is organising a march in Edinburgh on Saturday, 2 July - expected to attract 200,000 protesters.
G8 Alternatives, an umbrella group of organisations against G8, is organising an "alternative summit" and protests at the Faslane nuclear submarine base on the Clyde and the Dungavel detention centre for asylum seekers, in the days preceding the summit.
By Wednesday, 6 July many of the demonstrators will have moved up to Perthshire in an attempt to protest at the Gleneagles summit itself.
Gill Hubbard, the organiser of G8 Alternatives, is expecting protesters from around the world to converge on Scotland. "Social movements are coming to send a clear message of peace, we have no knowledge of people coming to smash up buildings or act in a violent way."
Ms Hubbard, who attended the Genoa G8 summit in 2001, where one protester was shot by police, has warned against a heavy-handed approach by the authorities.
She said: "We have had our first meeting with police and we did say we want this to be calm as opposed to chaotic, we want it to be peaceful as opposed to a riot and that means we have to learn the lessons of previous protests."
Today, campaigners are staging a peaceful parade to the Scottish Parliament to highlight the dangers of climate change in the run-up to the summit.
The Worldwide Climate Change Action Day event will coincide with similar events around the world, and will include a speech by Mark Ballard, the Green MSP for the Lothians.
The protest will include street performers, musicians, singers and face-painters, as well as protesters dressed as mosquitoes to highlight the northward march of the insect because of climate change.
ANARCHISTS will gather in Germany later this month to draw up plans to disrupt the G8 summit at Gleneagles.
Anti-globalisation and anti-capitalist campaigners will meet at TÃ¼bingen, in the southern state of Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg, to prepare their tactics.
In the clearest challenge yet to the authorities, organisers of the summer conference have said that the Scottish police are not used to dealing with large-scale demonstrations such as those at G8 summits.
But Scottish anti-globalisation campaigners have urged â€˜machoâ€™ hard-liners intent on confrontation to stay away from Scotland in July.
On a website about the â€˜anti-G8â€™ gathering, the organisers say: "The 2005 G8 summit will take place in the Scottish town of Gleneagles, about 70km north of Edinburgh. It will not be allowed to go ahead without challenge."
Referring to "Scots Law for anarchists", the guide explains that Scotland has its own police force and laws and that police north of the Border have their own tactics.
But in a statement likely to tempt would-be demonstrators into action, the website advises: "Scottish police have little experience in dealing with large-scale actions."
Moderate anti-G8 campaigners reacted with concern to the rhetoric coming from the continent. Gill Hubbard, the organiser of Scottish-based G8 Alternatives, said: "We would urge all who advocate violence to please stay away. Scotland will not be the place for them. We are preparing a peaceful alternative G8 which will come up with alternative policies for dealing with the problems of the world. We can do without the macho solutions."
Police in Scotland have been stepping up their preparations to protect the summit from the protesters, including approaching the Belgian authorities for up to four water cannons for the event.
Firing jets of water at angry crowds is not unusual at G8 summits overseas. But there is no track-record of using them in Scotland. Police sources have indicated that an approach has been made to Belgium to secure the water jets. Tayside Police have said that "no firm decisions have been made".
But the forceâ€™s chief constable, John Vine, said the use of "extreme measures" would be considered if intelligence suggested a need.
Other possible moves include banning certain people from coming to Scotland, and even building a huge perimeter around the Perthshire resort before the summit begins.
Vine said: "We are aware that establishing a perimeter around Gleneagles is a huge challenge. We are looking to have a physical barrier, whether it is a fence or a ring of police officers has yet to be decided.
"It does involve a huge number of resources because of the terrain. We are talking thousands of officers."
He added: "We canâ€™t give a cast-iron guarantee that there wonâ€™t be trouble, and I donâ€™t think anyone would expect me to. There are clearly concerns about disorder which could be caused by anarchist groups getting to the venue and making their presence felt."
A large protest march has been planned for Edinburgh for July 2 - the eve of the conference. Early estimates put the numbers for the Edinburgh march at 100,000 to 150,000, but police officers believe that may rise to 200,000.
Senior officers have repeatedly warned of the threat of extremist violence and have shown MSPs footage of the riots in Genoa in Italy and Evian, France, which accompanied recent G8 summits.
The riots in Genoa in 2001 ended with one protester dead, more than 200 people injured, and 250 arrested. Last year, the US held the summit on an island off the coast of the American state of Georgia.
The authorities sealed off the island and only those with high-level credentials were allowed into the secluded resort.
The private island could be reached only by a two-lane causeway, or from the Atlantic Ocean.
McConnell's stunning plan to beat poverty
JACK McConnell is planning to involve the Scottish Executive in the global campaign to put poverty at the top of the agenda of the G8 summit at Gleneagles.
Despite the fact that the devolved Executive has no powers over international development, the First Minister met Richard Curtis, Comic Relief co-founder and the brains behind Four Weddings and a Funeral and Blackadder, on Friday in a bid to get involved in the poverty plan.
The Make Poverty History campaign - which involves a coalition of charities, trade unions and faith groups - was set up this year with the aim of forcing political leaders to focus on the plight of the worldâ€™s poor.
McConnellâ€™s involvement will extend to a visit to Malawi, the 12th poorest country in the world, in May. While the Scottish government will have only a walk-on role at Julyâ€™s G8 summit, the First Minister wants to use his position as host to assist the poverty campaign.
As well as meeting Curtis last week, McConnell also held talks with Kevin Cahill, the chief executive of Comic Relief.
AN UNPRECEDENTED operation to secure Scotlandâ€™s ports, airports and roads will swing into action in July to prevent anarchist protesters reaching the G8 summit at Gleneagles, according to the policeman in charge of the security operation.
John Vine, the Chief Constable of Tayside Police and the senior officer tasked with co-ordinating the largest security operation in Scottish history, told The Scotsman that known activists were already being monitored by undercover officers at home and abroad.
He also revealed that thousands of officers on duty during the July summit could be used to form a barrier at the five-star resort amid concerns that dedicated protesters will attempt to breach the site to disrupt the meeting of world leaders including Tony Blair, Vladimir Putin and George Bush.
Civil rights campaigners have warned the police that they will be closely monitoring any attempts to restrict the movement of protesters during the build-up to the historic event, which is expected to bring parts of Scotland to a complete halt.
Mr Vine told The Scotsman: "We are obviously keen on identifying who might want to come to Scotland with the intention of not protesting peacefully.
"What we are currently doing is discussing with the Crown Office and the Procurator-Fiscal Service, who are responsible for prosecution policy, to ascertain what measures we can take against people intent on causing trouble.
"We are talking to the Crown about a range of issues in relation to application of the law, including restricting access to Scotland. In extreme situations we may apply to prevent entry into Scotland. As this is a reserved power this is a matter for the Home Office but would include interception at airports and ports."
Mr Vine suggested that a physical perimeter will be established around Gleneagles before the summit opens.
"We are aware that establishing a perimeter around Gleneagles is a huge challenge," he said. "We are looking to have a physical barrier, whether it is a fence or a ring of police officers, has yet to be decided. It does involve a huge number of resources because of the nature of the terrain. We are talking thousands of officers. The most important thing is we need to take steps to ensure what might be considered a terrorist target doesnâ€™t become so and also focus on the threat of violent disruption."
Despite the widespread contingency plans, Mr Vine conceded that concerns that major trouble could accompany the event were very real. He said: "I canâ€™t give a cast-iron guarantee that there wonâ€™t be trouble and I donâ€™t think anyone would expect me to. There are clearly concerns about disorder which could be caused by anarchist groups getting to the venue and making their presence felt.
"We know from our intelligence that there is a lot of activity and there may be large numbers of protesters at Gleneagles, but thatâ€™s not to suggest they wonâ€™t be peaceful. We have to be led by the intelligence picture and keep a level head.
"We have a real obligation to facilitate peaceful protest and the policing of this event has to be a fine balance between preventing trouble and allowing members of the public to express their opinions. Everyone thinks of Genoa and Seattle and what happened there and we accept there could be problems, but we have contingency plans to deal with it."
As with previous summits, thousands of protesters are expected to descend on Scotland from around the world.
It is widely believed that parts of central Edinburgh will be turned into virtual no-go areas in the biggest police operation ever mounted in Scotland.
Police are expected to lock down a campus around the Scottish Parliament and the Palace of Holyroodhouse to protect both buildings from the thousands of demonstrators who will descend on the capital for the summit. They will also set up cordons around major landmarks such as the Forth Road Bridge and Edinburgh Castle.
Security at Edinburgh Airport, the main point of entry for the world leaders and the demonstrators, will be the tightest in its history and senior police officers will liaise with customs officers.
But the Tayside Chief Constable said he believed protest will not be restricted to the cities: "Some protesters will target Gleneagles itself and obviously we will be trying to ensure that no breaches occur. Within a democracy these people have a right to let their views be known but we will come down on them hard if they step outwith the law. It is our job to protect peopleâ€™s property and well-being in the Gleneagles and Auchterarder area.
He added: "At the moment it is fair to say there are known troublemakers in the UK and Europe that we are currently looking at, as well as a number of individuals in Scotland itself."
A massive protest march has been organised for the capital for 2 July, the weekend before the G8 gathering on 6 to 8 July. Police had hoped that the march might help dissipate some of the protests planned for the following week in Perthshire, but organisers of the main protest have planned a series of rallies at Faslane, Dungavel and Edinburgh, which will turn the demonstration into a week-long event, leading up to the summit itself.
Early estimates put the numbers expected to descend on Edinburgh at 100,000 to 150,000 but police now believe that could rise to 200,000 and plans are in place to draft in thousands of officers from all over the country to cope.
Senior police officers have repeatedly warned of the threat of extremist violence and have shown MSPs footage of the riots in Genoa in Italy and Evian, France, which accompanied recent G8 summits elsewhere in Europe. The riots in Genoa in 2001 ended with one protester dead, more than 200 people injured, and 250 arrested.
A spokesman for the Scottish Human Rights Centre yesterday expressed concern over police tactics to restrict the movements of protesters.
He said: "The police have to allow peaceful protest and arresting members of the public at airports and ports before they actually get into Scotland is a huge concern, especially as they are only being detained on the assumption that they may cause trouble."