Scotland gears up for 200,000 poverty campaigners - news from ekklesia

Scotland gears up for 200,000 poverty campaigners - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
14 Feb 2005

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Scotland gears up for 200,000 poverty campaigners

-14/02/05

Scotland is gearing up for up to 200,000 protestors, including many Christians, as the G8 summit at Gleneagles draws closer.

Campaigners, many of whom are part of the drive to Make Poverty History, are even being offered specially tailored short-break packages by a Scottish tourist board.

The Make Poverty History coalition sees the G8 meeting as a unique opportunity for the UK to influence industrialised countries through trade justice, debt cancellation and more and better aid.

Around 22,000 people packed into Trafalgar Square recently to hear Nelson Mandela issue a challenge to world leaders to act to make poverty history in 2005.

The G7 Finance Ministers failed to agree a breakthrough when they met in London, but they accepted for the first time that a massive increase in aid is urgently needed along with a new deal on debt. The Chancellor Gordon Brown praised the churches for the part they had played.

The Scotsman now reports that Edinburgh and Lothians Tourist Board is hoping to attract campaigners attending the G8 summit in July summit, who will be lobbying the leaders from the worldís top industrialised nations.

Many will be combining their protest with a short city break, tourism leaders say.

Graham Birse, of Edinburgh and Lothians Tourist Board, said: "The Make Poverty History campaign, that is supported by [U2 rock star] Bono, have organised a protest which will attract a substantial number of people. They contacted us and said a number of protesters will be coming up from London and the south-east and [asked] what support and advice could we provide on accommodation and packages.

"It turned out that, in spite of the image that most of us have of protesters, perhaps, as dangerous and reckless individuals, they are, in fact, known to be a peaceful protest and many of the people coming are much like you and I and your readers: they have mortgages and jobs and stuff."

He added: "They may wish to enjoy a city a break in Edinburgh when they are here. So we asked a local tour operator to get to work on potential packages, which we could then offer to the Make Poverty History campaign to stick on their website, providing access to the usual transport and accommodation, local attractions and what is on ... that sort of stuff."

Early estimates put the number of protesters expected to descend on Edinburgh at 100,000 to 150,000, but police now believe that figure could rise to 200,000 and plans are in place to draft in thousands of officers from all over the country to help the local force cope. The policing bill is expected to be about £150 million, which will be picked up by the Foreign Office on behalf of the UK government, as the G8 host.

It is understood that Stirling Universityís halls of residence have been earmarked as accommodation for the huge influx of officers from London and elsewhere called in to help, while others may end up staying in Edinburgh Universityís Pollock Halls.

City residents have also been warned to expect thousands of demonstrators sleeping rough, many of them gravitating to the big parks, unable or unwilling to pay for hotel or guest house accommodation.

A spokeswoman for Travel Scot World said it was working in conjunction with the Make Poverty History campaign and would be organising a variety of excursions for what it described as "middle class protesters". These will include a visit to a distillery, a walking tour of Edinburgh and other local attractions.

The spokeswomen said: "They are intelligent, nice people who believe in the cause. There has been very negative press coverage of the nuisance protesters that will come to the G8 summit and cause havoc. But that is obviously completely different to the protesters that have been invited to this event."

Alan Rankin, the chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Forum, said: "Scotland is a country where free speech is welcomed so the principle of going to protest at any event is open to anybody as long as it is done within the confines of the law.

"But if this helps to attract spending tourists to Edinburgh, that is great. And if it helps to move tourists throughout the country and also to promote expenditure, that is a further bonus for the country."

Scotland is gearing up for up to 200,000 protestors, including many Christians, as the G8 summit at Gleneagles draws closer.

Campaigners, many of whom are part of the drive to Make Poverty History, are even being offered specially tailored short-break packages by a Scottish tourist board.

The Make Poverty History coalition sees the G8 meeting as a unique opportunity for the UK to influence industrialised countries through trade justice, debt cancellation and more and better aid.

Around 22,000 people packed into Trafalgar Square recently to hear Nelson Mandela issue a challenge to world leaders to act to make poverty history in 2005.

The G7 Finance Ministers failed to agree a breakthrough when they met in London, but they accepted for the first time that a massive increase in aid is urgently needed along with a new deal on debt. The Chancellor Gordon Brown praised the churches for the part they had played.

The Scotsman now reports that Edinburgh and Lothians Tourist Board is hoping to attract campaigners attending the G8 summit in July summit, who will be lobbying the leaders from the worldís top industrialised nations.

Many will be combining their protest with a short city break, tourism leaders say.

Graham Birse, of Edinburgh and Lothians Tourist Board, said: "The Make Poverty History campaign, that is supported by [U2 rock star] Bono, have organised a protest which will attract a substantial number of people. They contacted us and said a number of protesters will be coming up from London and the south-east and [asked] what support and advice could we provide on accommodation and packages.

"It turned out that, in spite of the image that most of us have of protesters, perhaps, as dangerous and reckless individuals, they are, in fact, known to be a peaceful protest and many of the people coming are much like you and I and your readers: they have mortgages and jobs and stuff."

He added: "They may wish to enjoy a city a break in Edinburgh when they are here. So we asked a local tour operator to get to work on potential packages, which we could then offer to the Make Poverty History campaign to stick on their website, providing access to the usual transport and accommodation, local attractions and what is on ... that sort of stuff."

Early estimates put the number of protesters expected to descend on Edinburgh at 100,000 to 150,000, but police now believe that figure could rise to 200,000 and plans are in place to draft in thousands of officers from all over the country to help the local force cope. The policing bill is expected to be about £150 million, which will be picked up by the Foreign Office on behalf of the UK government, as the G8 host.

It is understood that Stirling Universityís halls of residence have been earmarked as accommodation for the huge influx of officers from London and elsewhere called in to help, while others may end up staying in Edinburgh Universityís Pollock Halls.

City residents have also been warned to expect thousands of demonstrators sleeping rough, many of them gravitating to the big parks, unable or unwilling to pay for hotel or guest house accommodation.

A spokeswoman for Travel Scot World said it was working in conjunction with the Make Poverty History campaign and would be organising a variety of excursions for what it described as "middle class protesters". These will include a visit to a distillery, a walking tour of Edinburgh and other local attractions.

The spokeswomen said: "They are intelligent, nice people who believe in the cause. There has been very negative press coverage of the nuisance protesters that will come to the G8 summit and cause havoc. But that is obviously completely different to the protesters that have been invited to this event."

Alan Rankin, the chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Forum, said: "Scotland is a country where free speech is welcomed so the principle of going to protest at any event is open to anybody as long as it is done within the confines of the law.

"But if this helps to attract spending tourists to Edinburgh, that is great. And if it helps to move tourists throughout the country and also to promote expenditure, that is a further bonus for the country."

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