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Scottish independence: SNP keep McIlvanney in dark

First Minister Alex Salmond and William McIlvanney at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Picture: Jane Barlow

First Minister Alex Salmond and William McIlvanney at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Picture: Jane Barlow

Novelist William McIlvanney has said he is “totally in the dark” about suggestions he could be asked to help write the Scottish Government’s white paper on independence.

The Scots writer said the first he heard about the idea was when it appeared “out of the blue” in the media.

The author behind the Laidlaw trilogy declined to indicate whether he would accept the offer to contribute to the document, if asked to do so.

In July it was suggested some of the country’s greatest literary talents could be asked to help write a foreword to the white paper, due to be published this autumn, with a view to capturing the imagination of people in Scotland ahead of the referendum in September 2014.

SNP figures were reported to have put McIlvanney to the top of their list.

But asked whether he had accepted an invitation to do so, McIlvanney told reporters: “The first I heard about it was when it was written in the newspaper and I haven’t heard anything since. I’m totally in the dark.”

He went on: “I have not been involved in the lead up to this in any way. You know as much about it as I do.”

Questioned on whether he would accept such an invitation, if asked, he said: “I’m not going to answer that. I don’t have anything to say about that. I’d rather leave that.

“I just really don’t know where I am with this. It came out of the blue and there’s been no follow-up from anybody.”

McIlvanney spoke to reporters after appearing in front of an audience at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and subsequently signing books for many members of the audience.

Earlier during the book festival event, Mr McIlvanney signalled his intention to back the pro-independence camp at next year’s referendum, saying he would like Scotland to “have control of its own destiny”.

He issued a warning about the influence of large financial interests on countries, but said he would rather a small country was able to deal with the issue directly.

He told the audience: “I can understand people’s hesitation or wishing to vote the other way but having thought it through as well as I can, I would rather take the chance of being a small country dealing directly with that kind of monstrous juggernaut of finance, rather than doing it indirectly through a government which I think will surrender and kowtow to them any time.”

During the talk, he also hit out at Labour, describing the party as “dead in the water”.

He said: “I really believed when we got the Parliament that a lot of socialist principles would surface in Scotland.

“But the truth is the Labour Party’s now dead in the water. We voted Labour for generations. Now we’ve got the Parliament, there is no Labour Party.”

Expressing dismay at British politics in general, he added: “Nobody, it seems to me, is still haunted by some kind of social idealism, which I think politics should really be about, whereby you don’t just run the country, you try to make it fairer, you try to make it more just.

“That’s where my present dismay in politics resides. It’s essentially a dismay with British politics.”

The author was joined at the event by First Minister Alex Salmond, who read excerpts of McIlvanney’s writing.

Mr Salmond was also asked questions, but one audience member drew applause when she said she had “paid money to hear William McIlvanney, not Alex Salmond”.

Scottish Labour’s Drew Smith, the party’s spokesman on the constitution, said: “The SNP are keeping the rest of the country in the dark on their plans for independence, so it comes as no surprise that they have kept Mr McIlvanney there as well.”

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