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Last Updated: Friday, 1 July, 2005, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Auchterarder prepares for the G8
By Alan Mackay
For BBC Scotland's news website

Pic courtesy of Gleneagles
For once golf will not be high on the agenda for Gleneagles visitors
Who would have thought it? A keen golfer rolling up in anticipation to the world famous Gleneagles Hotel and golf courses - and no clubs in the boot of the car.

Along with 2,499 other accredited journalists (plus hundreds watching out only for demos) events on this beautiful Perthshire estate are the focus of my attention.

After many weeks of speculation it's G for Gleneagles and the G8.

The agenda for G8 leaders is the wider world's generosity of spirit to the African continent and what climate change will mean to people who live on our planet a century and more ahead.

But rightly or wrongly, how the meeting is to be greeted by anti-globalisation demonstrators has made many of the headlines thus far.

For many months the people who live in the small town of Auchterarder, nearest large settlement to the conference venue, have lived with knowing that the first week of July could herald violence on their doorstep.

The people here are becoming less nervous about possible damage to property

At the same time, Scotland's chief constables have burnt much midnight oil in planning how to police the event and accompanying demonstrations across Scotland.

One mile from the hotel now and through the windscreen it's not the familiar rolling fairways and coloured pins which first catch the eye - but the sombre-looking metal fence.

Along with 10,000 police the temporary structure stands next week between the world's most powerful political leaders and the outside world which many people want them to change for good.

As I step out the car in the nearby town of Auchterarder a smiling local jokes "Wrong village - it's all happening in Blackford!" (five miles away).

Auchterarder village high street-
Auchterarder High Street could fill with record numbers

In fact Auchterarder knows only too well why the news media is beginning to swarm through this normally quiet town.

Police numbers have gone up here in recent times and for residents to get around during the summit they're being given passes which police are desperately trying to avoid calling ID cards.

The idea got good local backing and anyone without the pass will probably be stopped just that bit longer by the roadside check squads.

I meet dress shop owner Maggie Robin, once famous with her husband as owners of Hercules - the performing grizzly bear.

She's having brightly painted boards made ready for her windows but is veering towards opening up during the G8. The people here are becoming less nervous about possible damage to property, she says.

A neighbouring shopkeeper tells me he's definitely boarding up and leaves this Sunday for his holiday abroad.

It will be strange, he says, searching this site for news of what's going on in his home town.

An older lady, who looks like she keeps her finger on the pulse, asks if I'm looking for a story when all I really want is a coffee.

Reassurances working

Auchterarder is proving to be a very open place - she doesn't hesitate to confirm what I already knew that the SAS are staying a few miles away.

A businessman who I already know says the community are starting to believe police advice that the trouble will take place elsewhere, possibly not a million miles from one of Scotland's major roads.

He's been told by the chief constable that with respect "Auchterarder's not high profile enough" to be a target for violence.

What he means is there are no names above shops that are worldwide brands and therefore associated with globalisation and capitalism.

Auchterarder village sign
The quiet village lies close to Gleneagles hotel

I've picked up enough local intelligence by now to reward myself with a coffee.

A café owner in the centre of town astutely can see a business opportunity in the G8. As I pay, alongside the till a notice announces specially extended opening hours next week.

Hardly out the door, I hear some banging from a few doors away. It announces the alternative point of view.

The first shop - admittedly an empty unit - is being boarded up. In unison shutters snap open as photographers capture a newsworthy image. But it may not reflect the way many Auchterarder people are beginning to feel, a week from the arrival of Blair, Bush and the rest.

I sense that reassurances from police and others are working and the biggest concern from locals is the sheer numbers of people who may descend on the town creating traffic as much as tension.

Then I return towards Gleneagles Hotel and see police squads checking drains for suspect devices.

Soon we can report what really happened.


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