The Edinburgh Summit: Different drumbeat echoes in Scots' palace of power: Neal Ascherson reports that Europe's visit has revived the clamour for Home Rule

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The Independent Online
AS THE summit began its second day, 20,000 Scots marched through Edinburgh yesterday to demand a Scottish parliament. An 'unknown citizen', a young woman, read out a 'Democracy Declaration' signed by all the main Home Rule parties: Labour, SNP and Liberal Democrats. Scottish politics, comatose since the shock of the April election result, have been revived by Europe's visit.

'This is the first time since 1638 that Scots have agreed on their political future,' said an enthusiastic Presbyterian minister. He was recalling the Solemn League and Covenant, signed - often in blood - in Greyfriars churchyard. Allowing for hyperbole, the declaration and march at least marked a truce in the savage squabbling that has prevented the Home Rule parties from finding a common platform for nearly 20 years, even though last April they won a combined 75 per cent of the Scottish vote. A poll published on Friday showed 42 per cent of the sample for independence and 35 per cent for self- government within the UK. Nine months ago, only 30 per cent wanted independence.

In 1820, when rebellious weavers were expected to sack the city, Lord Cockburn observed that 'Edinburgh was as quiet as the grave, or even as Peebles.' Last week, the city belonged to those who had business with the summit: delegations, protesters, cultural impresarios and policemen. The grey streets were almost empty as many offices, fearing summit congestion, gave staff the day off on Friday.

In this strange quiet, the demonstrations resonated powerfully. Yesterday morning's march dominated the whole city centre, drumbeats echoing down the Royal Mile to Holyrood where the European Council was meeting. On Friday, stocky, distressed- looking men tramped through the rain to 'save the Scottish regiments'. Buses disgorged 120 Greek-Macedonian mayors, a squad of Orthodox priests and a crowd of schoolchildren to make an amazing noise on the Mound. 'Major, Mitterrand and Kohl, putting workers on the dole]' caroled another crowd. Scottish fishermen also had a march.

The Consumers' Association set up a 'Delors deli', a shop stocked with food at two prices: with and without the Common Agricultural Policy. Flanked by shelves of sugar (68p a kilo inside the Community, 33p outside), butter, vegetables, fruit and meat, speakers claimed that the CAP added more than pounds 10 a week to a family of four's budget.

At the press centre in Meadowbank stadium, 2,400 journalists swarmed in luxurious internment. Maddened by a bagpipe tape playing the first bars of Scotland the Brave once a minute over the television circuit, many resorted to the free restaurant's unlimited wine from Navarre.

One London paper had the gall to complain that Edinburgh was not offering free gifts and baubles to visiting journalists, as summit capitals should. Outraged, the district council ordered bottles of gin and whisky to hand out to accredited hacks.

Among the black limousines of the delegations, shooting through cleared streets behind police cars, a convoy of elderly Rolls- Royces bore the Queen about Edinburgh. Opening the refurbished City Art Gallery, she halted, fascinated, before the original of Monarch of the Glen, Landseer's huge Victorian study of a Highland stag at bay. For minutes, she stared at it, lost in her thoughts. Nobody needed to offer her an ecu for them.

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