London tour company offers politics-themed holiday

David Torrance: Tour leader. Picture: Contributed
David Torrance: Tour leader. Picture: Contributed
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WITH a £2,600 budget, you could choose to enjoy a dream trip to Disneyland in Florida this summer, or perhaps book a villa near a sun-drenched Mediterranean beach.

Or you could go to Edinburgh City Council offices and a working men’s club in Glasgow and find out more about whether a sterling zone post-Scottish independence would permit full fiscal autonomy.

In an unexpected tourism boon from the forthcoming independence referendum, a tour company in London is ­offering a seven-day trip north of the Border this summer ­entitled “Scotland: the road to independence”.

For a week in July, “Political Tours” promises a whistle-stop jaunt around Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Aberdeen and St Andrews, taking the pulse of the nation before the big decision in 2014. The trip is one of a series on offer to political hot spots, including North Korea, Libya, Greece and South Africa.

Those who take up the offer face a packed itinerary, which includes meetings with MSPs, an in-depth examination of the problems that have beset Edinburgh’s trams project, and face-to-face discussions with real Scottish people.

Such attractions may not, perhaps, hold that much appeal for Scottish residents booking holidays this July with the expressed purpose of getting away from the referendum melodrama.

However, it appears that, on the international political ­anorak circuit at least, Scotland is the place to be. The company has revealed that it has received bookings for the trip from as far afield as Australia and Hawaii.

Political Tours was set up with the aim of offering holidays with a difference to current affairs’ obsessives, giving them a “first-hand insight into some of the most critical regions in the world”.

Its website declares: “From North Korea, to Libya and Scotland, we’ll happily answer any of your travel questions, wherever you want to go in the world.”

While the company usually takes people to countries recovering from or dealing with major upheaval, it says Scotland is now on its radar.

Director Nicholas Wood said the prospect of the 300-year-old United Kingdom breaking up had seized interest worldwide. He said: “What’s happening in Scotland is quite incredible – it isn’t something you expect in a country like Britain where you usually know what’s going to happen. This is genuinely historic.”

The tour is being led by political journalist David Torrance, a biographer of First Minister Alex Salmond. A brochure for the trip notes: “In just over a year’s time, Scottish voters will decide if they are to remain within the UK or become a separate state. Our tour traces how this turn of events has come about.”

The itinerary begins in Glasgow. “We meet former Labour supporters at a working men’s club and see how the SNP took a foothold as traditional industry declined,” it says.

The following day, visitors take in Ibrox as they learn about the city’s sectarian problems, and Pollokshields, to ­“examine how the SNP has courted ethnic minorities”.

Then it is up to Stirling to see the Bannockburn battle site and on to Aberdeen where visitors will enjoy a relaxing dinner while listening to a speech on “An Independent Scottish economy”. After a visit to an oil firm, the tour then moves on to St Andrews for lunch with a defence analyst and a possible trip to nearby RAF Leuchars.

In the capital, there are “meetings with MSPs” and a visit to the City Chambers. “We review debate and the impact of government since devolution with a leading political analyst,” the brochure adds.

The trip climaxes on the final day as “we look at the controversy over Edinburgh’s tram construction”, after which “Young nationalists talk about new emerging Scots identity”. Little of this is likely to tempt resident Scots away from their Spanish sun-loungers this July, but Wood said he expected to get plenty of custom.

“We’ve got about five people booked in for the Scottish trip already and are hoping to get more. We have a couple of people from Australia and one from Hawaii and the USA,

“We may get some interest from the Caledonian societies. Or you get people who are just interested in current affairs. You don’t get your typical tourist. You get academics, doctors, mostly professional people. It’s people who are inquisitive.”

For those visitors who have not had enough, after a week studying Scottish politics, the tour firm offers the chance to head to Northern Ireland for a quite separate trip.

Twitter: @EddieBarnes23