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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 March, 2005, 17:12 GMT
Ministers promise G8 demo rights
Tom McCabe
Tom McCabe vowed to allow campaigners the right to protest
Ministers have promised campaigners the right to protest at the forthcoming G8 summit as long as they do so within the bounds of the law.

MSPs discussed arrangements surrounding the Gleneagles event during a Holyrood debate on Thursday.

The Scottish Socialist Party leader, Colin Fox, sought assurances about the public's right to protest.

Public Service Minister Tom McCabe said there would be no bar on demonstrations as long as protesters obeyed the law.

Thousands of anti-capitalist, anti-poverty and environmental campaigners are expected to descend on Scotland during the summer to protest against the gathering of world leaders at the summit.

As the G8 fails to deliver on promises to eradicate poverty and instead drives ahead with a naked imperialist agenda they are creating a huge worldwide movement of opposition
Colin Fox
SSP

Up to 200,000 people are expected to take to the streets of Edinburgh on 2 July for a Make Poverty History Campaign rally while G8 Alternatives, a loose coalition of campaigners, is planning various peaceful protests across the country.

Most activists have urged troublemakers to stay away but some aim to disrupt events. Up to 10,000 police could be in place during the summit.

The SSP used its parliamentary time to stage the debate. During his first major speech as the SSP's new national convener, Mr Fox claimed people's right to protest was already being "eroded" by scare stories.

Over-zealous police preparations were also helping to create an atmosphere of "fortress Gleneagles" for the July event, he said.

He added: "As the G8 fails to deliver on promises to eradicate poverty and instead drives ahead with a naked imperialist agenda - especially in the third world and the middle east - they are behind them creating a huge worldwide movement of opposition."

Self-fulfilling prophecy

The Scottish National Party also raised the fear of violent protests effectively being provoked by the police.

Perth MSP Roseanna Cunningham said: "We need to uphold Scotland's tradition of peaceful protest and there is actually a real danger that all the talk of armed police, surface-to-air missiles and holding compounds will make the fears of violence, understandable after Genoa and Seattle, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"Some of it looks suspiciously like the police effectively saying: 'Come on if you think you're hard enough'."

I have to weigh up the priorities of the world leaders, safeguard the rights of local inhabitants to go about their business and facilitate lawful protest
Chief Constable John Vine
Tayside Police

However, Tayside Police Chief Constable John Vine - the man in charge of security at the G8 summit - said he was disappointed at her comments.

"That is a misrepresentation of anything we've said from Tayside Police," he said later.

"We clearly say that it's our responsibility to look after the rights of lawful protesters.

"I've constantly said our policing style will be very much community-based.

"But we have to have contingencies for more violent protests and I have to weigh up the priorities of the world leaders, safeguard the rights of local inhabitants to go about their business and facilitate lawful protest."

During the debate, Liberal Democrat Andrew Arbuckle warned that the G8 gathering could be spoiled by "civil disobedience" and those wanting to use Perthshire as a "physical battleground".

I hope the people of Scotland will feel proud that they have hosted a G8 summit which made a difference and marks a turning point."
Tom McCabe
Public Service Minister

However, Tory MSP Phil Gallie believed Scotland would be able to cope responsibly with any protests that developed.

He said: "I'm quite sure that in the UK our justice system is fair and humane and I feel sure that the way in which individuals who attempt to disrupt will be dealt with in a fair manner."

In response, Mr McCabe insisted that the Scottish Executive was committed to letting protesters have their say as long as it was within prescribed legal limits.

He said: "Let me put on record immediately the executive's commitment to facilitating peaceful and legitimate campaigning in line with the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"Protesters have responsibilities as well as rights. They must show proper respect to the residents of the areas in which they plan to protest."

Fair hearing

He praised the police for their preparations for the event, in particular the Tayside force which is co-ordinating the plans.

He also urged the media to produce positive stories about the summit and give it a "fair hearing".

He concluded: "I hope the people of Scotland will feel proud that they have hosted a G8 summit which made a difference and marks a turning point."

Prime Minister Tony Blair will be joined by the leaders of the other G8 nations for the summit which is due to take place at the Perthshire resort in the first week of July.




SEE ALSO:
G8 call for relaxed police policy
23 Feb 05 |  Scotland
G8 'could call' on 10,000 police
21 Feb 05 |  Scotland
Plan to cash in on G8 protesters
14 Feb 05 |  Scotland
G8 officers consider water cannon
11 Feb 05 |  Scotland
Policeman lost G8 summit pictures
06 Feb 05 |  Scotland
G8 security measures for capital
28 Jan 05 |  Scotland
G8 crackdown for eight-year-olds
28 Dec 04 |  Scotland


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