Edinburgh 2013: Apart from a Finn and a Welshman – festival says No to Scots independence

Works about Scottish self-determination are conspicuously absent at the Edinburgh Fringe
  • @MrNickClark

It’s the talk of Scotland – but not of the Edinburgh Festival.

With the independence debate dominating the Scottish political and media scene this year, one might have expected the contentious issue to course through the veins of the Fringe.

But to the surprise of many, talk of Scotland’s future is largely absent, raising uncomfortable questions of why the Scots appear so creatively disengaged from the debate.

Of the few pieces which do address the issue in some form, one was written by a Welshman while the other – Preen Back Yer Lugs! – is an adaptation of a Finnish play.

Paul Matthews, the Scot who has adapted the Finnish work of Svensk Resning, said: “I assumed we’d be up to our ears in Scottish independence this year but strangely we aren’t. People may be keeping their powder dry. We’ll probably see a plethora of work in 2014.”

Award-winning actor Billy Mack stars in the play. “People are not talking about this subject enough,” he said. “But plays like this will start debates going; it’s great we’re getting the ball rolling.”

Preen Back Yer Lugs! explores Scottish independence in a comedy set in a post-apocalyptic world where a small group of English survivors are left as a minority in Scotland, having fled the impoverished dust bowl of London.

Mr Matthews said: “It is not going pro- or anti-Scottish independence. I studiously avoided that because if you’re going to come down on either side you’re writing propaganda.”

The original work follows the tale of a minority of Swedes in Finland. The play’s director Aleksis Meaney, who is half-Scottish, half-Finnish, said the Finns are following the Scottish independence debate closely: “There is a historical similarity and both are northern European countries with similar populations, and 100 years ago Finland was in a similar position with Russia.”

Of the few other offerings on the Fringe covering independence, alongside Robert Burns Votes for Scotland, is I’m With the Band, written by Welshman Tim Price. It is about the break-up of a fictional rock band, but the author called it a metaphor for the break-up of the UK.

Stand-up comedian Keir McAllister lamented the lack of debate: “This is the most important constitutional moment this country has faced and we’re not even talking about it.”