TWO weeks ago a group of international leaders and their followers gathered in top secret at a historic German city famed for its poets and thinkers, having travelled from 23 countries to prepare their agenda for change.
Behind closed doors and during a series of top level meetings in picturesque Tubingen, some 25km south of Stuttgart’s international airport, around 100 delegates discussed ecological sustainability, the Iraq war and international relations.
And they thrashed out just how much trouble they might cause when the despised leaders of the world’s most industrialised nations descend on Gleneagles for this summer’s G8 summit.
Between the apparently civilised agenda breaks for tea and biscuits and the perhaps less sophisticated Saturday night Anti-Repression party, there was talk of support for a blockade of a Scottish west coast nuclear submarine base, debates concerning an army-like mobilisation of thousands of anarchists from Europe and beyond, and frank discussions about Scottish police forces’ crowd control tactics. There was even talk of how to provide first aid for those unfortunate enough to be hurt during the potentially violent demonstrations.
"Ideas and inspiration have been shared, and practical preparations have begun," declared protest group Dissent UK in its open invitation to "anti-capitalists" to join in its international networking and co-ordination meeting a fortnight ago.
"Preparations are well under way. However, it’s time to step up our efforts.
"If we’re to have a serious possibility of disrupting the summit, maximising the potential for strengthening local and global networks of struggle, and developing and collectively expressing a critique of capitalism more substantial than that which will be propagated by the mainstream of the anti-globalisation movement, then there is no time to waste."
The clock is certainly ticking towards early July, when Tony Blair, George Bush and Vladimir Putin - along with leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan and their entourages - will gather at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire for the annual G8 summit.
And the international demonstrators and anarchist groups are not the only ones preparing for potential trouble.
All police leave at Scots forces has been cancelled for the first two weeks of July, and court calendars have been cleared in anticipation for an influx of criminal cases relating to the summit.
There has been talk of the former RAF Turnhouse base being transformed into a mass "holding facility" for prisoners and riot police armed with rubber bullets patrolling the streets.
Edinburgh Airport - which many of the leaders, officials and masses of bodyguards are expected to travel through - will be either closed or subjected to security the likes of which travellers have never before witnessed, while security cordons will be thrown around landmark buildings such as Edinburgh Castle and the Scottish Parliament.
It’s all part of a bid to prevent the kind of scenes that blighted the G8 summit in Genoa, Italy four years ago, when hundreds of protestors were injured and one killed following horrific scenes of rioting.
TWO years later, 50,000 protesters fought running battles with riot police in the summit town of Evian, France, and in Geneva, Switzerland, where demonstrators, unable to break through French security, had gathered.
It’s that kind of situation that police chiefs and security experts fear may happen here.
"Gleneagles is not a particular cause for concern - it will be well protected and protesters are not going to get anywhere near the hotel or the leaders," says terrorism and national security expert David Capitanchik of Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University.
"The problem will be Edinburgh and other Scottish cities."
Oil company offices, branches of McDonald’s and, in particular, the sprawling BP oil refinery at Grangemouth are all potential targets for disruption, he warns. "That is a critical part of national infrastructure - if something happened at Grangemouth, the lights would go out in London."
And it seems there is no shortage of underground groups and secretive organisations willing to help flick the switch and put the spotlight on their cause.
They are already planning their own particular brands of disruption via websites and chatrooms, mobile phones and instant text messages, deleted before international security services can catch up.
Some are happy to be seen and heard - even if their membership is cloaked in secrecy. There are groups such as TRAPESE (Taking Radical Action through Popular Education and Sustainable Everything) who have been running anti-G8 roadshows across the UK; Street-medics, the first-aiders on hand to mop up the injured; the 23 local Dissent groups dotted around the UK; the Aberdeen-based Anarchist Federation Alba; and Manchester-based Earthfirst, whose website offers a guide to surviving a riot.
And there is Wimmin Vs G8, whose events this weekend at the Roundabout Centre in Gayfield Place - a facility which has received funding from charitable donations - include an introduction to massage and a movie "Susie Bright Sexpert" billed as "raunchy and thoughtful sex talk interspersed with footage of Susie’s mates getting it off".
But, as security expert Mr Capitanchik says, they are not the groups we need to be worried about. "The big concern is not so much British-based groups, but those from the continent, the German, French and Dutch, and in particular anarchist groups who have a reputation for being violent," he explains.
"Some have a political agenda of sorts, they claim to be against, for example, world poverty or global capitalisation. It’s a sort of political ideology and agenda, but underneath they are anarchists against the whole idea of government.
"If they do come, and it looks like they will, then it is not likely that it will be to Gleneagles."
SO it is here that the International of Anarchist Federations - a group aimed at building up international anarchist structures with links to groups across Europe - is expected to target, along with fellow Europe-wide anarchist organisation, the International Workers Association. There are also anarchist federations from Italy, Spain, and Germany.
Just how many are heading to Scotland is anyone’s guess. But organisers of the charity-organised Make Poverty History march - for which Chancellor Gordon Brown has urged support - believe their talks with Dissent and other protest groups have ensured the event, four days before the summit begins, will not become a flash-point.
"We are confident there will be no trouble on our march route," says Richard Saville Smith, of Save the Children, which is involved in organising the July 2 march through the city centre.
"What they are disrupting is the G8 summit that begins on July 6. Make Poverty History will be a peaceful event on July 2. What happens on July 6 is another matter.
"They understand that disrupting the march in Edinburgh is counter-productive for anyone trying to influence or disrupt the G8."
Scottish Nationalist Lothians MSP, Kenny MacAskill, is among those who shares his hope. But he adds: "As with any demonstration there is a risk that powers who wish to undermine it for their own ends will seek to hijack it."
It is a fine balance, agrees a spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police: "We expect a huge number of people for the Make Poverty History march and there are challenging issues for police in policing them safely and giving them the opportunity to make their protest.
"The march will create some disruption in the city centre but we are hoping it will go well - we have not had specific intelligence otherwise, but we have provision available to cope if it emerges.
"It’s not possible to tell who will be coming. Of course there are things on websites but we don’t know when they will arrive or where they will be. The march could be a target for people like that - right now there is no way of knowing."