Now Geldof calls up fleet for G8 armada

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Key points

• Sailors asked to use their boats to ferry summit protestors from France

• Up to 3,000 expected to make journey to join capital marches

• Businesses told to board up premises as a week of chaos is predicted

Key quote

"We are asking people to get into their boats in their thousands and pick up the people of France who wish to participate" - Sir Bob Geldof

Story in full BOB Geldof yesterday sparked new fears of G8 chaos as he invited thousands of French protesters to descend on Edinburgh, promising a Dunkirk-style flotilla of small ships to carry them across the Channel.

Already reeling from Geldof's call for a "million-man" march through the city's streets, Lothian and Borders Police warned protesters to stay away if they had no accommodation.

And the coastguard service, which was not told in advance of Geldof's plans, also expressed concern that his armada would be crossing some of the world's busiest seaways.

One Scottish politician also said he was worried that Geldof's plan was being "made up as it goes along".

Speaking in Southampton, Geldof urged British boat owners to form a mass flotilla and cross the Channel to pick up French supporters of the anti-poverty campaign on 3 July - the day after the first Live 8 concerts.

"What we are asking people to do is not recreate D-Day, but recreate Dunkirk, which is one of the great national legends of our country where normal people got in their boats to rescue our soldiers, 380,000 of them, who were surrounded and came back to fight another day," he said.

He chose Swanwick Marina to launch what organisers have already dubbed Sail 8.

"We are asking people to get into their boats in their thousands and pick up the people of France who wish to participate," he announced.

The Anglo-French collaboration will involve the French equivalent of the Make Poverty History Campaign, known as "Please Excuse". NRJ, a French commercial radio network, has given its backing.

The Irish singer's appeal received a powerful endorsement from record-breaking British yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur, who is also planning to join the crossing.

Dame Ellen said she supported the "Sail 8" event "because all of us are responsible for the world and the environment we live in".

Speaking to Geldof from her yacht off the coast of France, she said: "Anyone who has qualifications and a safe boat to go across the Channel, July is a good time to do it. There are many ways to cross the Channel - the Channel Tunnel, the ferries; it just doesn't have to be boat owners."

Ex-Boomtown Rats singer Geldof urged hoteliers, ferry companies and coach owners to offer their services to French visitors who wanted to support what Live 8 calls its Long Walk To Justice.

Geldof has called for one million people to converge on Edinburgh by 6 July to exert massive pressure on the G8 leaders gathering at Gleneagles in Perthshire.

Geldof initially appeared to suggest that Perthshire-based Stagecoach was providing 60 coaches to take French protesters to Scotland. Stagecoach said later it was in discussions to provide up to 1,000 cheap seats for demonstrators, but they were return seats from London to Edinburgh.

The prospect of more protesters reaching Edinburgh raised new fears yesterday.

David McLetchie, the Scottish Tory leader, said: "There must be great concern on the part of the public that this event seems to be being made up as it goes along."

Lothian and Borders Police stressed that people should only come to Edinburgh if they were attending an organised event and had somewhere to stay. "If people just came and swelled the streets with nowhere to go and no focus, that starts putting a real pressure on the city," a spokesman said.

"If people are disgruntled, and there aren't enough public loos and places for them to eat, that makes it difficult."

Meanwhile, Solent Coastguard issued a statement warning that the Channel was "one of the busiest waterways in the world" and covered the two main shipping lanes to Europe. A spokesman said: "If people are going to go to sea to support this campaign, they should make sure that their vessels are capable of carrying out the journey and that the preparations are done beforehand.

"Not everybody will heed that warning. You will always get the odd idiot out there and you can prepare for a journey but, with a lot of vessels on the water, there's always going to be accidents happening."

Geldof claimed that shipping companies, the coastguard, lifeboat rescue and marine safety organisations would all be alerted ahead of the proposed Channel crossing.

"We live in a world of timidity and this isn't the time for timidity. If you don't think it will make any difference you are wrong. We urge you to take due caution but not to take unnecessary caution," he said.

Geldof's call for a million protesters in Edinburgh sparked concern last week among police commanders.

Donald Anderson, Edinburgh Council's leader, said yesterday: "We are working with organisers to prepare for a large number of visitors and to ensure that large crowds are well managed.

"Our message remains the same. We urge anyone planning to come to Edinburgh to think ahead and act sensibly. Make proper travel arrangements and find somewhere to stay before you arrive."