BRIAN BRADY WESTMINSTER EDITOR
ONE of Scotland’s most famous hotels could be plunged into a nightmare of riots and transport chaos if it is chosen to host a prestigious international summit, a nationalist MSP warned last night.
Roseanna Cunningham sounded the early warning against the plan to "foist" the G8 summit on to Gleneagles Hotel when the high-profile event is next staged in Britain in 2005.
Government officials last night confirmed that the hotel is the early favourite to stage the meeting of the world’s eight richest nations, largely because its remote location is seen as a vital weapon in keeping hundreds of thousands of anti-capitalist protesters away from the event.
The chance to host the prestigious gathering of the leaders of the UK, the United States, Germany, France, Japan, Canada, Italy and Russia has been seen as a mixed blessing in recent years. The protests that have dogged the annual event have often exploded into rioting, notoriously leading to the death of one demonstrator in Genoa in 2001.
Foreign Office officials admit Gleneagles’ location, in rural Perthshire, is as much of a draw as the scenery and golfing.
But Perth MSP Cunningham, the SNP deputy leader, said: "Whitehall mandarins may think Perthshire is remote, but all that shows is that they know precious little about Scotland.
"Crucial strategic transport links are right on Gleneagles’ doorstep. The A9, Scotland’s northern artery, together with both major road and rail routes to the North-east, run right through the area.
"If these were to be closed or even simply disrupted in the name of security the effect not just on the local economy but on everywhere north of the Tay would be immense."
The authorities in France and Switzerland were forced to deploy 25,000 police and troops around the spa town of Evian when the summit was held there in June. Experts estimate that a similar security operation would require the Scots to send 9,000 police officers - almost two-thirds of the nation’s police strength - to Gleneagles if the summit were held there.
But government officials have already carried out reconnaissance visits to the hotel and returned impressed. G8 organisers have decided to favour out-of-town locations for future summits because a similar move in Canada last year was seen as key to limiting the number of protesters. The area’s historic links with golfing is also seen as a major attribute.
Senior Tayside police officers were last night reported to have confirmed speculation that Gleneagles was one of a number of locations under consideration. Superintendent Brian Powrie, head of operational support at Tayside Police, said:
"Without a doubt it will be a significant operation. We are aware that an event of that scale is likely to require mutual aid. It is not the first time there have been big conferences at Gleneagles and we have relied on mutual support."
"the scotsman" article