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Scotland is the subject of much attention, not least from those who, like me, are mere temporary residents. I am based in Edinburgh but elsewhere a wave of people will be arriving this weekend in time for the opening of the grouse season on Monday.
But what is consuming permanent residents at the moment is neither the festival nor how many wealthy people will be walking over the heather to stand in a grouse butt. The hot topic here is the independence referendum in September 2014, when the people of Scotland will decide if they wish to be self-governing. Opinion is divided. For visitors to the Fringe it is a shock to discover that they are but a minor distraction compared with the real agenda.
I am trying to hear both sides of the story. On Saturday I am interviewing, live on stage, Michael Moore, secretary of state for Scotland and representing the Better Together campaign. Next weekend, I will interview Nicola Sturgeon MSP, deputy first minister of Scotland and deputy leader of the Scottish National Party, who is clearly in the Yes camp.
Does Scotland really need independence? Before entering politics, Moore practised as an accountant; Sturgeon as a solicitor. In both those professions Scotland has always been independent: the Institute for Chartered Accountants of Scotland is a totally separate organisation, and Scottish law is a distinct legal system within the UK.
I hope we can get to the realities of the argument – what will life be like financially if Scotland leaves the union? Not at the country level but at the personal level. Will people’s mortgages go up? Will their state pension entitlements change? I am not Jeremy Paxman and this will, I hope, be fun as well as informative, but these are serious questions and I hope to shed more light on the debate, which carries the hashtag #indyref.
Some people think Scotland is already independent. Each Cost Centre has been allowed someone to stay for the time we are in Edinburgh, and #2 has chosen his Best Girl Friend (as opposed to Best Girlfriend), who was at school with him. Apart from six terms at a boarding school in Berkshire, and despite possessing a British passport, she has no experience of living in the UK, being the daughter of a very international family currently living in southern Europe. A few days before her arrival she emailed #2 with some questions. When reading these, please bear in mind that this is a girl who got the maximum 45 points in her International Baccalaureate and starts at Oxford University in October.
1. Is it cold enough in Edinburgh that I need to bring a jacket?
[Fair enough and, by the way, the answer is yes.]
2. I texted you this, yet I want to reiterate it: can we play lots of chess in Edinburgh? [Chess set duly provided.]
3. Is it going to cost me mad money to use my English phone or does Scotland count in our phone plans? [Interesting. Will everyone need new phone contracts if Scotland votes for independence?]
4. What kind of plug is there in Scotland? English or European? [Hmm … will Scotland be part of Europe if it votes yes? Electric plugs could be an issue!]
5. Do they sell Creme Eggs in Scotland? Yes, I do need to know if they sell Creme Eggs in Scotland – it is a serious question that demands a serious answer. [CC#2 has reassured her that since Scotland’s supply of Creme Eggs is controlled by a US company based in Northfield, Illinois, even if Scotland were already independent this critical issue should be unaffected.]
I am not sure I will raise these hitherto unconsidered ramifications of possible independence, although perhaps I should have invited a Kraft/Cadbury representative to clarify the Creme Egg question. I suspect no one really knows what is going to happen but that won’t stop people engaging in the debate. At least, I hope not.
Mrs Moneypenny will be at the Assembly Rooms in George Street. ‘Mrs Moneypenny’s Money Clinic Live’, 12.30pm, August 10, 17 and 24
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