A MAJOR security operation was in full swing today in the historic heart of the Capital as final preparations were made for the royal wedding.
Officers from Lothian and Borders Police have taken up a 24-hour watch on the Canongate Kirk and it is understood police snipers will cover the Canongate Kirk from high vantage points as the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips marries former England rugby star Mike Tindall tomorrow.
While the wedding is a private ceremony, the guests include the Queen, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and other celebrities and sports personalities, making it a huge security challenge for the police. And they were taking no chances yesterday, with six officers in high-visibility gear making sure no unauthorised visitors were allowed into the church.
Other officers were patrolling the grounds of the historic church, which was a flurry of activity yesterday, with technicians and florists among those being ushered in by officers.
And around Holyrood the first safety barriers were being erected and "no parking" bollards placed along the roadside.
Superintendent Ivor Marshall, operational commander for the day, said: "Given the couple's status as well-known sports stars, the fact many of their guests are going to be well-known, and the fact Zara is a member of the royal family, that's going to draw people to the event and we are preparing for that."
The operation is expected to cost around 500,000 - to be paid for from the public purse. And today Independent MSP Margo MacDonald voiced disquiet at the costs. She said: "No-one is begrudging them a lovely wedding, but they should be sensitive to the fact that it's costing a lot of public resources and, at a time when resources are stretched, I think they could have offered to pay a bit."
It is expected more than 2000 people will turn out in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the royal couple. And interest in the event was shown by the small pack of photographers camped outside yesterday.
The couple will no doubt be hoping for better weather than the downpour that greeted their florist.
Royal attractions on the Royal Mile have reportedly experienced a boost with the Palace of Holyroodhouse enjoying 17 per cent more visitors in April to June than during the same period last year, The Queen's Gallery up 15 per cent and retail sales in the palace's shop up 47 per cent.
Reverend Neil Gardner, who will marry the couple, headed out of the Canongate just before noon and returned two hours later. The minister - who also acts as Chaplain to the Queen in Scotland - looked relaxed as he left the church beneath a large royal blue umbrella.