Security so tight even Putin aides are locked out

Police in Edinburgh mounted an intensive security operation yesterday for the first official visit to the Scottish capital of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

Four days after an Osama bin Laden lookalike gatecrashed Prince William's birthday party at Windsor Castle, Borders and Lothian were determined to avoid the possibility of another entertainer staging a similar stunt.

Edinburgh Castle was cordoned off by a sea of luminous police jackets as three pipers played "Scotland the Brave" to Mr Putin and his wife, Lyudmilla, when they arrived at the start of a short tour of the city.

Beneath a portrait of Russia's last tsar, Nicholas II, who was made Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Scots Greys by Queen Victoria in 1895, the visiting delegation was entertained by a display of dancing by local children. Outside the castle walls, security men mingled with the small crowd of foreign tourists who stopped to watch the cavalcade as it travelled the few hundred yards from Edinburgh Castle to the Signet Library in Parliament Square to address leading public figures.

So tight was the security that members of Mr Putin's entourage, the staff of Jack McConnell, the First Minister, and at least one well-known Scottish television presenter were barred from the library despite holding official security passes. "I've been told to let nobody through," said one officer on the gate. "After what happened earlier this week, nobody is willing to take the slightest chance."

Mr McConnell welcomed the President, who asked to visit Edinburgh because of the contribution of Scottish architects in 18th-century Russia, by claiming that his visit "clearly demonstrates that the post-devolution profile of Scotland has dramatically increased".

Mr Putin replied by telling the audience he had been eager to visit the country as he felt "at home here. I have warm memories of the direct, straightforward and open culture of Scots," said Mr Putin, who made a private to Edinburgh eight years ago. "There is a great similarity here with my people." He said such similarities could be the reason he had found such "understanding" with the Edinburgh-born Prime Minister and another Scot, the Nato secretary general, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen.

Mr Putin said problems facing the world, such as ethnic conflict, organised crime, terrorism, epidemics and weapons of mass destruction, were best responded to through solidarity, although he admitted there had been "problems" with that solidarity before the Iraq war. "Russia's position on the Iraqi problem is well known. It has not changed and events have shown that our position was well advantaged," he said, adding that any differences of opinion were not important enough to bring "the world back to crisis".

The delegation swept through the cobbled streets of Edinburgh to Holyroodhouse Palace where Mr Putin, his wife and the Duke of York ate a lunch of Scottish salmon and lamb. The only security scare occurred as Mr Putin's entourage entered Holyroodhouse and a protester threw himself in front of the President's car, shouting slogans against the war in Chechnya. He was wrestled to the ground by police and taken away.

Mr and Mrs Putin then travelled to London for a banquet at Guildhall in the City.

The Lord Mayor, Gavyn Arthur, raised a smile when he told Mr Putin that the last time a Russian head of state was entertained at Guildhall, on 18 May 1874, Tsar Alexander II had to endure a banquet of 22 courses, including seven puddings. "Tonight is a celebration of the friendship between the United Kingdom and Russia and a celebration of the confidence we have in Russia's future, following the economic resurgence of the last few years," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Masterchef cooks Tony Rodd (left), Emma Spitzer (second left) and
Simon Wood (right) posing with judges Gregg Wallace (centre) and John Torode (second right), as the three will be seen cooking their hearts out in the hopes of winning the show.
TVReview: Tired Geography teacher John Torode and shaved Scotch egg Gregg Wallace crown the champion
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week
Life and Style
The Grand Palais in Paris will be transformed into a 4,000-seat cinema, with 44 double beds at the front
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Data Analyst (SQL Server, T-SQL, data)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...

Day In a Page

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road