In her article in the i JK Rowling discusses the issues of independence that have brought her to the decision to support the No campaign. Her article attempts to be thoughtful and balanced and provides an explanation of why, in her opinion, No is the right answer for Scotland.


The problem with her decision is not so much the conclusion she has reached but the evidence that she has based her arguments on. These arguments range from fears about the sustainability of a Scottish economy, lack of consideration by the Yes campaigners on the risks of independence, and a failure by the supporters of independence to fully consider the challenges that face a small nation in a globalised world. These are all valid areas of concern but sadly Rowling deals with all of them superficially and to a certain extent more emotionally than rationally.


Her argument about Scotland’s ability to succeed in a globalised world is of particular importance and an area where we believe she has missed the point completely. Rowling states “the simple truth is that Scotland is subject to the same 21st century pressures as the rest of the world … it must compete in the same global markets, defend itself from the same threats, and navigate what still feels like a fragile economic recovery”. This statement is absolutely correct. These are all challenges that need to be addressed for Scotland to thrive and prosper. The only problem is that being part of the UK Scotland does not have the powers that are necessary to respond to these threats in an effective manner. Worse still, the policies adopted by UK governments have exacerbated these challenges for Scotland and have resulted in more damage being done rather than good. The damage that has been inflicted upon Scotland as a result of UK policies on globalisation has even been acknowledged by the renegade of the No campaign Gordon Brown. As the Guardian recently reported, Brown believes that the No campaign must “become far more sensitive to Scotland's views and its damaging experiences with globalisation”.


So why has globalisation inflicted such devastating damage to Scotland? Quite simply because UK economic policies are primarily focused on the development and prosperity of London and the South East of England. Many people argue that this is an unfair situation, and it is. However it also makes perfect sense! Why would any UK government alter its economic policies to help struggling regions of the country at the expense of the region that is clearly the powerhouse of the UK economy? It will just not happen, it would make no sense, and nothing is going to change. The less well-off regions of the UK, including Scotland, will just have to endure the collateral damage that results from the policies that fuel the UK economic powerhouse.


Not only is there no possibility that this situation will change, the leaders of the UK establishment do not even see the need for change. In their opinion the value that is delivered by London and the South East far outweighs the damage that is done elsewhere. David Cameron believes that London is a “precious asset” that is beneficial to Scotland. He fails to see, or wishes not to see, the damage that “precious” London is inflicting on the rest of the UK and particularly Scotland.


Just as Rowling’s Dementors “drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them” (Rowling, 2004), London drains everything that is of value in its vicinity. Employment, wealth, culture, talent; they all get sucked in and disappear from sight, usually lost forever to the rest of the UK. Tony Travers, a professor at the London School of Economics, was recently quoted in the Financial Times as stating, “London is the dark star of the economy, inexorably sucking in resources, people and energy. Nobody quite knows how to control it”. London and the South East are quite simply draining Scotland’s lifeblood. Along with the Westminster establishment they are Scotland’s Dementors.


The damage that these Dementors have inflicted on Scotland takes many forms. The destruction that the Scottish financial services industry experienced as a result of the banking collapse, and subsequent recession, was cataclysmic. However, rather than focusing on how this vital Scottish industry could be rejuvenated London focused on taking advantage of the situation. We have highlighted the quote from William Rees-Mogg (2012) on a number of occasions in which he boasted, “the City of London has already overtaken Scotland as a force to be reckoned with in the UK … Scotland is on the way down, while London is on the way up”. Rees-Mogg was clearly crowing at the success London was having at Scotland’s expense.


The fact that the UK government allowed, and possibly encouraged, the London financial markets to grown at the expense of this critical Scottish industry is almost criminal. While Scotland is still a member of the UK the UK government is expected to protect Scotland’s interests. In this matter it has clearly failed. At no time since the recession has the UK government attempted to implement policies that ensure that financial services can grow and thrive in Scotland, or any other region of the UK. The success of London has been the one and only objective of UK government.


London also draws in substantially more investment in major infrastructure projects that the rest of the UK. Ben Rogers recently highlighted in an interview with the Financial Times that London “is seen as getting more than its fair share of government money and attention”. This money has been spent on projects such as Crossrail, The Olympic Games, the Thames Tideway Tunnel, and a significant proportion of the HS2 investment. Rogers also observed that “if London’s dominance continues to grow, these suspicions are bound to deepen”. This inequitable investment in infrastructure has a direct impact on Scotland’s ability to develop. The lack of any UK government plan to extend HS2 to Scotland is an obvious example. Not only does this failure to include Scotland in the HS2 plans result in fewer job opportunities in the design, planning and construction industries, it also condemns Scotland to many more years of being disconnected from the high-speed rail network that is developing across all of mainland Europe.


The most substantial damage that has been inflicted on Scotland by its Dementors, however, has been the drain of Scottish talent. It is heart-breaking to see the many bright and intelligent Scots who have been lost to Scotland simply because there are so few opportunities for them to remain in their own country and prosper. This strips Scotland of some of the brightest and best people who could be the Scottish entrepreneurs of tomorrow. As Young (2002) summed up this sorry situation, “any economy that consistently, over time,  leaks people has failed to provide its citizens with either an acceptable level of prosperity or all the economic opportunities and challenges they seek …Scots left their native land in large numbers not out of any sense of adventure or to seek their fortune, not because they found the society they left behind claustrophobically disapproving of their aspirations, but because the Scottish economy had consistently failed to produce enough jobs or pay decent enough wages to keep them all productively employed in the land of their birth”.


Many of these Scots are drawn to London as it is the only place where they believe challenging and rewarding jobs can be found. And who can blame them? London is a vibrant and exciting city. It’s not the fact that London has the allure and is an attraction to the ambitious with its apparently boundless opportunities that is the problem. The problem is that UK government policies have allowed a situation to develop where it is London alone that has this allure and opportunity. Every other city in the UK has been left in London’s shadow, unable to compete. This has a devastating effect on Scotland. In the last few days the Office for National Statistics has revealed that Scotland is the most highly educated country in Europe and among the best-educated in the world. Sadly, rather than being able to remain in Scotland to help develop and inspire their country, very many of these educated people are forced to leave, sucked into London as the only city that is able to provide the opportunities that they seek.


Even within the last twenty-four hours this problem has been highlighted yet again. The London Evening Standard has reported that over the next ten years London is expected to gain an additional 46,000 jobs and investment of about £12 billion from “Digital Firms”. We can only wonder how many of the 46,000 jobs will be filled by Scots who have the ability to do this work but must leave Scotland to find the job opportunities.


Rowling concluded that with independence there would be risk and that for her the risk is too great. She is right, there will be risk. However, in considering the risks she failed to consider one vital factor, the likely outcome for Scotland in the event of a Yes or No vote.


For Scotland to prosper it must break free from its Dementors, London, the South East, and the Westminster establishment. These Dementors, just like Rowling’s, offer Scotland nothing but “decay and despair” and will “drain hope and happiness out of the air” (Rowling, 2004). This is the fate that awaits Scotland if the No campaign is successful. A No vote offers no hope, no chance of rejuvenation. Scotland will not prosper. It will continue on the downward spiral of decline that it has been in for the last fifty years. The biggest risk from a No vote for Scotland is that its decline will continue until it reaches a point where it is no more than a decaying, despairing and despised region of the UK.


There are also risks with a Yes vote; difficult independence negotiations, complicated negotiations to join the EU. Nobody said it would be easy! However, a Yes vote is the only vote that can provide any liklihood of positive change. A Yes vote provides hope. It is the only vote that can provide the possibility of real development and increased prosperity. There are no guarantees, but there are immense possibilities. A Yes vote is the only vote that will enable Scotland to break free from its Dementors.


As most of us will know, the best defence against Dementors is the Patronus Charm. Somehow Scotland will need to conjure a very powerful Patronus Charm to break free from its Dementors. That opportunity will arise on September 18th. Fortunately, there will no need for wands on this occasion; making your mark in the Yes box will suffice. Once the spell has been conjured the magic will begin!

 References: All references can be found in the Bibliography section

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