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G8 Summit and Scotland

First to Scotland, which is now getting back to normal after the meeting of the leaders of the eight major industrial nations, or G-Eight, at Gleneagles.

The summit ended with a communique about the subject of climate change. The leaders also agreed a doubling of the annual aid to Africa by 2010, and debt cancellation for Africa's poorest countries.

As soon as the Gleneagles venue was announced, local people started to think about what it would mean for them. Some were worried about the implications, real and imagined, of staging a gathering of world significance. Others were quick to spot opportunities, both altruistic and commercial. Our Scotland correspondent Colin Blane followed the G8 summit, from the first preparations to the final conclusions.

For a small country, Scotland's hosted more than its fair share of big events: the Commonwealth Games, European football finals, huge annual New Year celebrations. But when it was decided that the leaders of the world's eight wealthiest industrialised nations should meet at Gleneagles, an hour's drive from Edinburgh, everyone here knew holding a G8 summit would touch their lives in one way or another.

What no-one could have foreseen was how the summit would be used as a trigger for a series of lethal bomb explosions more than six hundred kilometres away in London.

In the planning for Gleneagles, it was clear the spotlight would fall on Edinburgh, seat of the Scottish parliament and a key business and tourist centre. The Gleneagles golf and hotel complex and the four thousand residents of the town of Auchterarder two kilometres away would also become the focus of international attention.

But many in Scotland saw the G8 meeting not as a challenge but as an opportunity. Visiting my mother in the seaside town of Largs, for example, I saw how church and community groups there hoped to use the summit to press home calls for world leaders to act decisively on African poverty and debt. All sorts of aid organisations and pressure groups were trying to make their voices heard in the pre-summit cacophony. Some wanted trade justice; some clean water; some action on HIV-AIDS.

Scotland's First Minister, Jack McConnell, decided to match the summit's pro-African agenda by establishing formal links with Malawi. Scotland -- which sent missionaries and civil servants there in colonial times -- would be joining hands again to provide equipment for hospitals and resources for schools.

As the date of the G8 summit drew closer, worries grew about its likely impact.   In Auchterarder, in the rolling hills of Perthshire, a special community police officer was appointed to calm residents' fears. He held more than fifty meetings with mother and toddler groups, boys clubs, and shop keepers. When ground was cleared for more car-parking, a rumour swept Auchterarder that a runway was being built to allow President Bush to fly in on Airforce One. A local lady wondered whether the CIA would be permitted to shoot wild-life which strayed too close to the US president. There were reports that up to thirty thousand protesters might descend on the town's play park.

Not all the inquiries were anxious. As security teams erected eight kilometres of steel fencing around the perimeter of the conference venue, one enterprising individual asked whether he could buy some of it at a knock-down price when the summit ended.

In the days leading up to the G8 meeting the potential for trouble became more and more apparent. A call by the pro-Africa campaigner Bob Geldof for a million people to head for Edinburgh caused consternation in a city of fewer than half a million residents. Anarchist websites began to talk of causing serious disturbances. Thousands of extra police were brought in from forces across Britain.

The first and biggest protest went off peacefully when a quarter of a million anti-poverty demonstrators marched through the centre of Edinburgh. Two days later, an anti-capitalist carnival in the same streets ended in violence.  Masked youths confronted mounted police. The city's famous floral gardens were raided. Begonias, geraniums and clods of earth were lobbed at officers in full riot gear as tourists and shoppers dived for cover.

For the next few days, there were periodic disturbances in Edinburgh city centre. And close to Gleneagles the disruption was worse. A band of anarchists attacked vehicles and broke windows in Stirling; others ripped down branches to form road-blocks and a breakaway demonstration charged the security fence. Over the G8 week police made hundreds of arrests.

And then, of course, came news of the atrocities in London, and the mood at the summit was utterly transformed.The British Prime Minister Tony Blair said those who hoped to change Britain's culture and way of life through violence would not succeed.

But some now believe there ought to be a review of the G8 format. One of Scotland's leading newspapers looked back over the expense and the protests and the isolation of those at the Gleneagles meeting and asked if the work of the G8 might not be better carried out in the global forum of the United Nations.

It's a view which reflects growing unease about the mismatch between the summit's opulent, high security surroundings and its declared aim of tackling deprivation and poverty.