LYNN NEARY, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary. As you've probably heard, Scotland is voting this week on whether or not to break away from the United Kingdom. Voting by mail has already started and polling stations opened this Thursday. The race is too close to call, but according to an ICM poll out the last night, the pro-independence campaign is showing a slight lead. Val McDermid is a best-selling Scottish novelist who's voting for an independent Scotland. She says interest in independence has been building over several decades.
VAL MCDERMID: Well, in 1979, we had another referendum, which was about giving the Scottish people more control over their own affairs. And so in Scotland, we had power over education and over our health systems for example. And what's happened, I think, with that is we've had a taste of taking care of our own affairs. And gradually, there's been a head of steam building up thinking we want more control over our destiny. In fact, we want total control over our destiny.
NEARY: And I understand you were kind of wavering, going back and forth. But in the end, you have come out and written about the fact that you are going to vote yes for independence. Why?
MCDERMID: Well, for a long time, I was what we call in Scotland swithering. I couldn't make my mind up between which said I was going to vote for. And part of my problem was that every time I asked a question, I seemed to get completely opposing answers from both sides. Would we still be members of the European Union or not? Would we be able to use the pound or not? All of these things and many other questions got exactly opposite answers from both sides.
So I thought, well, if I can't base a decision on the future, I'll base it on the past. And so I looked at the kind of decisions that have been coming out of the Scottish Parliament since we had some power over our own affairs. And it seemed much more in tune with my own ideas than what comes out of the Western Parliament.
NEARY: What about those unknowns, though - that you've mentioned the European Union. You've mentioned currency. Banks have also said they might move. The oil companies have warned against independence. Aren't you concerned about the consequences?
MCDERMID: Of course I'm concerned about the consequences. But on the other hand, I think you sometimes have to go forward with conviction and belief in the people that you're standing alongside, the capacity to run their own affairs. You know, the banks that have said they're going to move, well, their only talking about moving their head offices. And they're not talking about taking jobs away from Scotland. When the Royal Bank of Scotland spoke of this, they were very clear about that.
The oil revenues, well, that's something, again, you listen to one person, they say one thing. You listen to another person, they say another thing. The problem is I think it's a bit like when you come to the end of a marriage. You reach a point where you want different things, where it's irreconcilable. You know you can't live together anymore. You don't stay together for the sake of the CD collection. You make the decision to part, and then you work out how you separate things afterward.
NEARY: You know, sometimes when countries get into these kinds of political arguments with each other, there can be bitter feelings afterwards. Do you anticipate that?
MCDERMID: I hope that we can be OK with each other whatever happens on the 18 of September. And I think, by and large, this debate has been conducted at a very civil level. And what has excited me I think more than anything about this is the level of engagement here. Over 90 percent of the people who could be eligible to vote have registered. People are talking about a turnout of over 80 percent on the day. It's the subject that everybody is talking about. People are discussing it at the bus stop, in the supermarket cue. Everywhere you go, this is the first thing that people say, did you hear what so and so said last night. Did you hear the debate last night? What do you think about such and such? I have never seen anything like it.
NEARY: Val McDermid's latest novel is the skeleton road. She'll be voting yes in the upcoming Scottish vote for independence. Thanks so much, Val.
MCDERMID: It's been a pleasure, Lynn. Thank you.
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