MORE than 20,000 people turned out to cheer the Olympic flame as it left Scotland under sunlit skies.
On day 27 of its journey to London for the 2012 Games, the flame passed through communities throughout the Lothians.
Proceedings were kicked off by 16-year-old Raquel Matos at the Capital’s Festival Square at 7am yesterday.
The flame was then carried through towns and villages, including Dalkeith, Lasswade, Loanhead, Bilston, Milton Bridge and Penicuik, with school pupils joining locals to celebrate.
Joanna MacLachlan, a nurse from Prestonpans, carried the torch from Musselburgh’s Brunton Theatre, over the River Esk and on to the Tesco store in Mall Avenue.
Beginning her run shortly before 9am, the 29-year-old, who was nominated as a torch bearer for her voluntary work over the years with organisations such as The Women’s Royal Voluntary Service and VSO – described the experience as “overwhelming”.
She said: “It was absolutely amazing. The crowd in Musselburgh was just incredible. They were so excited – it was totally overwhelming.
“I really want to say thank you to everyone in the town who came out and supported us.”
Just after 11.20am, Ellie Wilson, a high school pupil from Liberton, carried the torch for around 300m through the Borders town of Peebles.
Nominated for her success as a handball player – she has played and coached for Scotland – the 15-year-old said it had been an “overwhelming” and “emotional” opportunity.
She said: “I got up at five this morning because I was so excited. I had to do my hair and make-up, and get my outfit organised.
“The day was really overwhelming, with everybody cheering. And it was really emotional. It was over so quickly but I enjoyed every second of it.”
Ellie’s mum, Sharon, 41, said: “I was so proud when I saw her with the torch. It was one of the best moments of my life.
“I just feel very touched and delighted because Ellie really deserved it. She always works so hard and is so passionate about her sport and getting young people involved.”
The torch left Scotland yesterday afternoon, arriving in Berwick-upon-Tweed at around 4.30pm before heading on to Alnwick Castle in Northumberland.
Councillor Joe Wallace, Provost of Midlothian Council, said the passage of the Olympic torch would inspire young people to become Scotland’s sports stars of the future.
He said: “It was fantastic to see so many people out today in Midlothian supporting the Olympic torch, and the flame bringing so many people together.
“It’s very important that young people get into sport at an early age and this event will hopefully help to inspire our next generation of athletes.”
Sports Minister Shona Robison paid tribute to those who had turned out to cheer the Olympic torch. “Over 400,000 Scots have taken in the flame tour at some of our most beautiful settings and iconic places, putting Scotland on the world stage as a destination for tourism, culture, and a guaranteed warm welcome,” she said.
Michael Moore MP, Scottish Secretary, said: “The torch’s journey has touched the people of Scotland and given us an opportunity to showcase everything Scotland has to offer.
“It shows beyond any doubt that Scotland is fully behind London 2012 and the spirit of the Games.”