Attenshun! Capital to host Armed Forces Day
• Armed Forces Day will see scenes to rival the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999
Edinburgh is to become the focal point of a UK-wide celebration of Britain's armed forces in 2011, The Scotsman can reveal.
Thousands of people will be urged to take to Edinburgh's streets for an all-day festival expected to feature a spectacular military parade along the Royal Mile, fly-pasts, the visit of warships and other naval vessels, and an all-day concert in Princes Street Gardens.
The castle is also expected to play a central role, despite recent reports that the army's permanent presence at the landmark was likely to be scaled down in future years. It has been an active base since 1745.
The Prime Minister, top army figures, the First Minister and senior members of the Royal family will all be expected in Edinburgh on 27 June, 2011.
The UK government and the Ministry of Defence launched Armed Forces Day this year to honour service personnel, past, present and future.
Hundreds of events took place all over the world, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, and it is hoped the celebrations will be hugely expanded by the time Edinburgh is host city in two years' time.
The MoD is selecting a major host location every year for Armed Forces Day, with the first two going to Chatham, in Kent, and the Welsh capital, Cardiff. More than 30,000 people turned out in Chatham this year.
Officials at Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Government have been in talks with the MoD for months and the council revealed yesterday the event had been clinched for 2011.
While the MoD is expected to foot most of the bill for the event, the city council is likely to be asked to meet some of the costs and to mount its own events and activities to help promote the capital.
Norman Ireland, special projects manager at the city council, said: "Armed Forces Day was previously held under the banner of Veterans Day and there have been official events held in Edinburgh for several years.
"However, this would be a much bigger occasion and in terms of scale and spectacle would probably be the biggest event to be held in the city since the opening of the parliament ten years ago."
Prime Minister Gordon Brown is expected to extend a formal invitation to Edinburgh's Lord Provost George Grubb to host the event within the next few months. Edinburgh's status as host is expected to be officially endorsed at next June's event in Cardiff.
Lord Provost George Grubb said: "We would, of course, be delighted for Edinburgh to form the centrepiece of the national Armed Forces Day events in 2011. With so many of our brave military men and women risking their lives on a daily basis to keep this country safe, it is crucial that we pay public tribute to their immense courage and the sacrifices they make on our behalf."
A spokesman for the MoD said: "Armed Forces Day 2009 enjoyed a great success in Chatham, England, where it was announced the 2010 event would be held in Cardiff, Wales.
"We are working with the Scottish Government to identify possible towns and cities that could host Armed Forces Day 2011, and an official announcement will be made at the Cardiff event on June 26, 2010."
PARADE ON MILE
EDINBURGH city centre will be transformed when the city plays host to Armed Forces Day in 2011.
The centrepiece is expected to be a huge parade of services personnel along the Royal Mile.
Other landmarks likely to be deployed include Holyrood Park, Princes Street Gardens and Edinburgh Castle.
It is hoped the castle will use the new spectator stands, of which the Tattoo is due to take delivery in 2011.
Military vessels will berth in Leith Docks, which is already regularly visited by warships.