Belfast Telegraph

Festival audience welcomes Marr

Andrew Marr has revealed he is still unable to type after suffering a stroke.

The broadcaster, who is due to return to full-time presenting duties this autumn, said his left arm was "still no good" after he was struck down in January.

As a result, he was forced to use a dictation system to write his latest book - an updated version of his 1992 publication The Battle For Scotland.

Marr spoke about the problems he faced as he launched the work at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The sell-out event was the BBC presenter's first public appearance since he suffered his stroke.

Marr, who was warmly received, told the packed audience: "This is the first time I have had a big event like this since the stroke. I have no idea how it is going to go."

The former political editor spent more than two months in hospital after the stroke and has also undergone extensive physiotherapy to help him walk.

He revealed he had to use a dictation system to update his book which explores the issues surrounding Scottish independence.

"I can't type because my left arm is still no good," he said.

"I used to touch-type but I can't any more. I used to think I could only think through my fingers."

During a lively discussion chaired by journalist Gavin Hewitt, Marr commented on the tone of the independence debate so far, praising the "genius" of Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond and warning against using current polls to predict the result of the 2014 referendum.

While polls have shown a majority of Scots want to stay in the UK, Marr said next year's referendum would be "much closer than the polls suggest" and there was still a "lot to play for".

Commenting on the tone of debate, Marr touched on the experience of Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who was hounded by protesters during a visit to Edinburgh earlier this year.

"There is a very strong anti-English feeling (in Scotland), everybody knows it, there always has been," he said.

"If you go back to the origins of the SNP, the origins of home rule, anglophobia was as well-entrenched then as it is now.

"I don't think it is particularly serious most of the time, but it can become serious, it can become toxic."

The Glasgow-born journalist also revealed he would choose a Scottish passport should Scotland vote yes to independence from the UK next year.

"I am a Scot, so it would have to be a Scottish passport and not an English passport," he said.

Marr has previously blamed a combination of overwork and excessive exercise for his stroke.

''I had a major stroke, I'm frankly lucky to be alive. I had been heavily overworking - mostly my own fault - in the year before that,'' he said in April.

He is due to return to full-time presenting this autumn, taking up the helm again on BBC One's Andrew Marr Show from September 1 and is also returning to Radio 4's Start The Week.

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