G8 fence guarded by armed police as security increases

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Anti-G8 protesters and police were in a tense stand-off yesterday as groups of demonstrators probed the outer defence perimeter of the Gleneagles Hotel.

Riot police were called inafter a small number of demonstrators were spotted next to the fence at the spot where trouble had flared on Wednesday.

Seven van-loads of police officers, some with dogs, were used to flush the protesters out of the fields surrounding the summit venue as security was stepped up in the wake of the London bombings.

Three protesters, one man and two women, were later escorted away from the area by police. One protester said: "They just decided they needed us out. We were going anyway."

For the first time, armed police were visible patrolling the outer cordon of the 850-acre estate, in keeping with a heightened alert at all government buildings, local airports, bus and rail stations and ports.

Despite there being no repeat of the disturbances which brought chaos to roads around Gleneagles and the surrounding area on Wednesday, police were not taking any chances.

In the early hours of the morning, up to 200 officers, many in riot gear, surrounded the campsite near Stirling, from where large numbers of protesters had set up roadblocks and fought running battles with police through the centre of Stirling the previous day.

By yesterday morning about 2,500 demonstrators remained at the site. Police decided to keep them penned in until their threat to disrupt the summit had been allayed. They were finally allowed to leave in small groups, provided police were satisfied they wouldn't pose a problem. Officers decided not to enter and instead used special police stop-and-search powers on campers as they slowly left throughout the day.

Although people staying in the eco-village claimed the police presence was provocative, the area commander, Superintendent Gavin Buist, said the operation was necessary, given the number of weapons officers had seized. "While Central Scotland Police and the other forces helping us out policing this event are completely supportive of peaceful protest, in my own professional experience peaceful protesters do not carry that kind of kit with them routinely," he said. Chief Superintendent Ian McLeod of Tayside Police said there had been more than 340 arrests across Scotland for G8 related offences since Monday. The vast majority of offences related to breach of the peace and possession of weapons, he said.

He added that a number of searches, including one of the camp at Stirling yesterday, had uncovered an arsenal of weapons ranging from an axe and high-powered catapult to pepper spray and 90 gallons of cooking oil - which demonstrators had intended to pour on the M9 to cause problems for traffic.

Of those people arrested so far, around 70 of them appeared at Perth Sheriff Court yesterday following incidents in Auchterarder while 40 more appeared at Stirling Sheriff Court to face charges relating to violent protests in and around the city on Wednesday.

Tough bail conditions were imposed on some of those who appeared on charges of assaulting police, carrying knives and breach of the peace. The Crown insisted that the accused, some of them foreign nationals, give a UK address.

Most of those arrested, who included men from Spain and Greece, faced breach of the peace charges.

The majority were released on bail under the condition that they stay away from potential protest hotspots in Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth, Kinross and Glasgow until Sunday.

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