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Hayman: I am the Nationalist actor attacked as 'the enemy' by the blogger next door

IT was the blog that had the luvvies of the Edinburgh Festival gossiping all week.

David Hayman is an avowed Yes voter but says his encounters with No voters have been joyousPhotograph: Mark Mainz
David Hayman is an avowed Yes voter but says his encounters with No voters have been joyousPhotograph: Mark Mainz

Who was the unnamed Scottish star castigated for being the "nationalist next door" in an article on the Daily Telegraph's website?

The answer, we've learned, is David Hayman - famous for roles on stage and screen, and an avowed Yes voter - and he is far from happy at being the target of an attack he feels was full of "anger", "bile" and "hate".

The piece certainly raised eyebrows, for this is usually the time of year when actors, playwrights and TV producers descend upon Edinburgh to rub shoulders with bankers, arty types and the estimably better-off, when the capital's elegant Georgian streets are traditionally packed with swish cocktail parties and artistic salons as the city's soirees brim with theatre types.

Yet even as the Fringe prepares to kick into high gear, the simmering tension around the referendum debate seem to be threatening to ignite a bitter civil war on the refined streets of the capital's New Town -the unofficial summer headquarters of everybody who's anybody as writers and actors rent out town houses let by the capital's monied classes.

Signalling the opening salvoes of a barrage that could turn the festival city's normally refined atmosphere nasty, journalist Jenny Hjul expressed outrage in a Daily Telegraph blog titled "What to do when Scottish Nationalists move in next door" at her discovery that an unnamed actor who had rented temporary accommodation in her street was an active Yes campaigner.

She wrote that learning who her neighbour was came as a "bombshell", adding: "Oh no, not that, my husband and I said in horrible unison, anything but that. But the deal is done and there is no escape. For the next month we will be living next door to a Scottish Nationalist. It gets worse.

"His show is about Scottish independence; he is on a mission to convert the masses. He is a vocal supporter of the other side; he is the enemy."

Hjul went on: "In Scotland, with just seven weeks until the referendum, politics has become deeply personal. We might have friends who are nationalists but they aren't speaking to us at the moment.

"The two camps have dug in for the final countdown and what has long been a bitter campaign has entered its last, nasty phase. Civility is reserved for the 'don't knows'. We don't belong to that group, and nor do the new folk over the fence."

Hjul is married to Alan Cochrane, the Telegraph's Scottish Editor and a vocal opponent of independence. Both the regular Courier columnist and her husband have gone on record to accuse online campaigners from the Yes side of crossing the line between debate and vitriolic abuse.

Eschewing his anonymity, Hayman - best known for the TV drama Trial and Retribution - said he was shocked at the "bewildering" attack. The actor, who is in Edinburgh appearing in The Pitiless Storm at the Assembly Rooms, said: "It's all been rather startling.

"I've said hello to what seemed to be the perfectly charming couple next door and their daughters have been absolutely lovely, but then all of a sudden this worryingly angry attack appeared online.

"I'm astounded by the anger and bile. It is hard to imagine where the hate has come from, but I feel very sorry for my new neighbours. It's deeply saddening that their experience of such a momentous year has been so negative."

Hayman added: "Wherever I've been, the referendum debate has been overwhelmingly civilised. This division and hatred is not something I've encountered at all.

"I have met people who are Yes supporters and people that intend to vote No, but all of them have recognised that they share a common interest in Scotland's future, and as a result the entire experience has been a joyous one."

Hjul declined to comment further on the grounds that as a working journalist, she doesn't wish to become the subject of her own story

She added: "That blog was meant as a light-hearted piece, but I suppose nothing is taken lightly at the moment."

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