Ex-first minister threatened to expose fears over G8 security costs

Former first minister of Scotland Jack McConnell threatened he would expose fears about the cost of G8 summit security unless the UK Government paid for extra policing, newly released files reveal.

World leaders gathered at Gleneagles in June 2005 to discuss global issues such as climate change and economic development in Africa.

It was the first time the summit had been held north of the border but the Scottish Cabinet had concerns about whether it could afford to pay for the extra security.

Former Tayside Chief Constable John Vine and Jack McConnell
Former Tayside Chief Constable John Vine and Jack McConnell during a tour of facilities at Gleneagles (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Files from a Scottish Cabinet meeting in 2004 show the UK Labour Government had offered to pay for 25% of the additional cost, which was estimated to be up to £100 million.

They said: “The Treasury has indicated that they would help meet the costs but the initial offer was only a 25% contribution.

“This was potentially a very serious situation as the costs associated with the summit would inevitably be in the public domain.

“The estimated costs could, of course, escalate if there were problems with the summit or an emergency situation arose.”

The documents added: “In the event that it proved impossible to make sufficient progress Cabinet would need to consider the consequences of various options, including a major public dispute with the UK Government.

“The first minister had made it clear to senior members of the UK Government that a failure to reach agreement on the policing and security costs would place the Executive in an intolerable position which it would feel obliged to explain publicly.”

G8 Summit – Gleneagles
Then-prime minister Tony Blair (front) was among world leaders at the end of the G8 summit in Gleneagles (Kevin Coombs/PA)

Meanwhile, the administration believed the G8 summit could also be used to illustrate the benefits of Scotland being in the UK.

“We want to present a dynamic vision of devolved Scotland to an international audience,” the documents said.

“At the same time we want our domestic audience to see that the Executive is making a contribution to debates on key global issues.”

They added: “To some extent we might want to make the case that it is only because Scotland is part of the union that we have this opportunity.”

The document also show there were fears the summit may be viewed as a “poisoned chalice” and used by opponents to the Executive to make political gains.

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