The Scotsman: Police plan tightest-ever security for Gleneagles G8 summit
Sat 12 Feb 2005
PICTURE: A Protester tries to engage riot police in Geneva on 1 June 2003. Demonstrations against the G8 turned violent later that day.
Picture: Ian Waldie/ Getty Images
AN UNPRECEDENTED operation to secure Scotland’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 doesn’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 can’t give a cast-iron guarantee that there won’t be trouble and I don’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 that’s not to suggest they won’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 people’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."