Bob's million is symbolic, says Midge

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Midge Ure has urged authorities in Edinburgh not to "panic" over calls from his fellow Live8 organiser Bob Geldof for a million protesters to come to the city during the G8 summit.

Amid emergency meetings between police and local authority officials over how to accommodate the crowds, Ure suggested yesterday that his friend's figure was "symbolic".

"I heard a police chief in Edinburgh quoted as saying it's totally irresponsible what we're doing and this gives anarchists the chance to hijack a high-profile event. But this is just scaremongering, it's just crazy," Ure said.

"Don't panic. People have taken this figure one million literally but it's purely symbolic, it's just Bob being Bob. He [Geldof] could have said 10 million, he could have said a billion, Mars is going to crash into Scotland, it doesn't matter. It was a symbolic call for people to stand up and be counted."

But the prospect of great numbers of anti-poverty protesters assembling in Edinburgh and Gleneagles has alarmed organisers and the city authorities. A series of hastily organised talks between police, local authority officials and representatives of the Make Poverty History campaign tried to come up with an emergency plan to deal with the wave of demonstrators.

Make Poverty History, an amalgam of some 300 aid agencies and pressure groups, had hoped to get more than 100,000 people to march in Scotland's capital on 2 July, four days before the G8 summit of leading industrialised nations. Other groups, including Stop the War, G8 Dissent and G8 Alternatives, also plan demonstrations in Edinburgh and near the heavily guarded summit venue at Gleneagles Hotel.

One of the largest problems facing the city is that many expect Geldof's comments to attract more demonstrators than previously anticipated and there is nowhere for them to stay.

Yesterday the council's director of city development, Andrew Holmes, said officials were working hard to identify camping sites for protesters but one of the problems was a shortage of portable toilets. He said there were none left in the UK or the Republic of Ireland and sources in Europe were being contacted.

Fears that such a high number of people in a relatively confined space could lead to frustration and violence has also forced the council to consider wider measures to ensure safety.

Ure, a former singer with Ultravox and an organiser of Live Aid 20 years ago, tried to calm fears over the G8 anti-poverty rally. But he did admit there was likely to be trouble. "There will be an element of troublemakers, no doubt," he said.

In an attempt to deprive G8 protesters of makeshift weapons, all scaffolding and road works are to be cleared from the city centre. Police fear giving potential rioters access to metal poles, cones and barriers could lead to more serious injuries. The council also plans to ensure that any loose paving stones or brickwork is secured before July. All new road works will be cancelled.