By Shaun Milne
POPE BENEDICT XVI has arrived at Edinburgh Airport from the Vatican in Rome for the start of his UK wide Papal visit this morning amid brilliant sunshine.
The plane carrying His Holy Father – call-sign Shepherd One – touched down at 10.16am.
As it taxied from the runway a Union Jack and Vatican flag were flown from its cockpit as it was then slowly guided towards the recently refurbished main airport terminal.
Airport workers and members of the public joined waiting media craning their necks for a glimpse of the leader of the Catholic Church as excitement mounted.
The Duke of Edinburgh, who arrived shortly before the plane touched down, waited with Cardinal Keith O’Brien as the Pope emerged at 10.34am.
Prince Phillip laid a discreet hand at the back of his Holiness to keep his robes from flying up the gusty wind, but even he failed to stop it whipping over the Pope’s head at one point.
Kilted soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Scotland – made up of the Royal Scottish Borderers, the Black Watch and the 52 Lowland Regiment – were lined up in salute forming a guard of honour as he emerged from the plane.
The greeting party then entered a 17 strong convoy of cars flanked by police outriders which was whisked through the airport grounds, onto the A8, towards the city centre.
Around the same time the Reverend Ian Paisley arrived in the city’s Grassmarket where he was top lead protests against the visit.
A second group were to hold a static protest in the Lothian Road area as crowds , many of them schoolchildren, began seeking vantage points along the city streets.
A red carpet, staff in top and tails and a band from the Royal Regiment on Scotland in place along with around 400 guests at Holyroodhouse where the Queen was ready to greet their VIP visitor as crowds gathered outside the palace gates.
At 11.06 the Pope arrived at Holyroodhouse where the Queen, dressed in grey and wearing black gloves, shook hands with the Holy Father.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond wearing a Papal tartan scarf and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg stood nearby.
The Royal Regiment of Scotland then played the national anthems before the Queen led the Pope towards the greeting line, starting with Edinburgh Provost George Grubb and including the Moderator of the Church of Scotland Right Reverend John Christie.
Five minutes later they repaired inside the great house, followed by other invited guests.
Greeted by a battery of pool photographers, the Queen also presented the Pope with a gift of drawings from the Royal Collection.
They were then to be let alone in the Morning Drawing Room to continue their talks in relative private.
As they did, the St Ninian’s Day Parade began on Princes Street, with thousands gathered waving mini Saltire flags.
A worldwide audience of one billion is expected to watch his visit to Edinburgh and ending with a Mass this evening at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow.