Dear J K Rowling
First let me say that I am glad that you didn’t choose to publish your recent pro Union statement under your pseudonym Robert Galbraith. It is good to have a Labour stalwart supporting the Better Together Campaign who actually is who they claim to be. Also, and I only raise this point as you brought it up yourself with your Death Eater reference, I would like to say that your opinion should be taken just as seriously, but no more seriously, than any other person who happens to live in Scotland and is therefore entitled to vote. Sadly, among many adults I know your opinion is taken more seriously on account of your success at writing books for children, which is a sad reflection on our obsession with celebrity and our over reliance on institutions to do our thinking for us.
You seem to have opted for the institution crutch yourself as many of your assertions seem to come directly from the Project Fear Book Of Spin. However, as you have mentioned the Death Eaters, let me point out that these characters are not represented in this debate by fringe ethnic nationalists, as their views are irrelevant, seldom heard and have no sway within the Independence Movement. The true Death Eaters are those presiding over the dying embers of the British Empire and squeezing, for their own personal gain, the last iota of life from what was once a flourishing and prosperous country. People propped up both by your financial assistance and now your highly publicised, but poorly reasoned, foray into the independence debate.
In terms of your argument, the bulk of your statement can be summarised by the sentence:
Independence is too much of a risk due to the uncertainties, so I am therefore voting no.
This view manages to mirror the key Better Together strategy of highlighting the uncertainties of Scottish Independence, portraying people who support it as deluded, while at the same time completely ignoring that the our country is currently failing us and that the same uncertainties you fear can be applied to any country in the world, including the current United Kingdom. In a previous blog I highlighted that uncertainty is the most important factor in the fate of any country, that a No vote is also a vote for uncertainty and that there is good evidence to believe that smaller countries are better at dealing with unpredictable events. So I will not go there again.
I am surprised however, that in your statement, after highlighting the difficulty of assessing the conflicting information that is presented to you from both sides of the debate, you seem to have no problem highlighting some emotive and highly contestable facts to bolster the Union case. For instance, you mention that you worry about medical research suffering in an Independent Scotland and you quote an open letter from the five Scottish Medical schools to support your case. However, you completely fail to mention this subsequent letter signed by 104 academics contesting this claim, a letter also highlighting the current decline in support for science in the UK.
You mention that the bailout of RBS was only possible under the union and that this saved us from financial catastrophe. If we forget that the argument is absurd, as it presumes that the banks would have been just as badly regulated in an independent Scotland, your position is firmly debunked here and can be countered by this one fact. The USA bailed out British banks to the tune of £640 billion compared to £124 billion put in by the UK.
You also mention Scotland’s over reliance on oil, despite the fact that even by the governments own figures, Scotland’s GDP per head is at UK average levels even when oil is removed from the equation.
You don’t use any facts to back your argument in favour of the status quo.
My journey towards Yes is based on the following information.
1) The UK is indebted to the point where it is in serious jeopardy.
2) The UK has extreme inequality despite generating a lot of wealth.
3) 20% of the UK population live below the poverty line.
4) UK pensions are one of the worst in the developed world.
5) The UK is one of the least socially mobile countries in the Developed world.
6) For thirty years, the UK governments in power has been engaged in cutting taxes for the rich, privatising state assets, deregulating labour and reducing social security, all leading to the above statistics.
7) There is no serious movement in UK politics seeking to reverse the above situation. If there was, we would not be talking about a Scottish Referendum right now. We have a choice of Neo-Liberal Red Blue or Yellow. In fact, with the rise of UKIP, UK politics is moving further to the right.
8) The Tory’s have been dead in Scotland since 1997. Labour are in decline in Scotland. The people of Scotland have moved towards the SNP, a party who are committed to land reform, public ownership and protecting free healthcare and education.
9) The SNP will only be able to keep these things free at the point of use for so long.
10) In only 2 out of the last 67 years have Scottish Votes had any bearing on the UK party in Power.
11) Most people living in Scotland predominantly feel Scottish.
12) Devo max is not an option. If it was then I would probably vote for it
13) Small countries tend to do better both on GDP per capita and on Global Indices of Economic and Social Welfare.
14) There is a drive in the Yes Campaign for Scotland to be like these countries.
15) These countries do exist, they do thrive and there is no good reason we can’t be like them.
16) Our parliament is more representative due to the voting system, as explained by your friend Ed. The UK rejected this, but it works well in Scotland.
17) Post independence, we will have a parliament close to the majority of the people who voted for it, so we can hold the politicians to account. The people of Scotland have become energised by this debate and there is a great will to make independence work from the grassroots up.
To summarise the above, the UK is broken and voting yes is the only plausible route I can see to start reversing the trend towards financial collapse, inequality and unrest. It is the only option on the table for a more representative democratic system of government. If you believe in the talent and values of the people of Scotland, a more democratic and representative system will best serve our needs. I accept that my views may turn out to be wrong but at least, unlike you, I have constructed some sort of argument based on some evidence.
When you donated one million pounds to Labour in 2008 you said the following.
Gordon Brown has consistently prioritised and introduced measures that will save as many children as possible from a life lacking in opportunity or choice. The Labour government has reversed the long-term trend in child poverty, and is one of the leading EU countries in combating child poverty.
This broadly speaking is true. The labour party gave a lot of money, in the form of tax credits, in order to keep children just on the right side of the poverty line. However, as pointed out here, they did nothing to tackle the causes of poverty so that in the long term your money has not helped people in this situation. In fact, the article shows how under New Labour children of adults who did not work at all were less likely to be in poverty than children of working low income parents. Social mobility under the party you funded actually reversed. So you have spent a lot of your money subsidising a party who incentivised unemployment while doing nothing to give people a route out of poverty; a political party that recently voted to support the Tory Welfare Cap. Not to mention a party that lied to the nation to take us to an illegal and costly war that resulted in the death, orphaning and destitution of countless children; albeit foreign ones.
To quote the Open Democracy article above:
countries with high rates of maternal employment, underpinned by high-quality, affordable childcare, have lower levels of child poverty.
The much sneered at proposal in the Scotland’s Future document of having universal free childcare is one suggestion that will actually help children escape from poverty. So if you are serious about helping children in poverty, you should stop funding parties that murder so many of them abroad while holding back so many of them here and start to embrace radical policies that may actually make a long term difference.
I have no doubt that your support for the Labour party and the Union come from your own personal values and your sincere motivation to live in the best Scotland you can envisage. However, your argument that it is too risky and that we should, therefore, make do with the system we have is just not good enough. Your lack of ambition, bravery and imagination is quite shocking for one of the best known fantasy writers in history. This smacks of the infantilisation of society, a phenomenon that you are no doubt aware of given that your children’s fiction is widely read by and deliberately marketed to adults. It’s a bit of escapism after a hard day at work. If a great successful author doesn’t have the time, wherewithal or inclination to look beyond the mainstream state spun media version of events and think for solutions bigger than those contained in the bland, moribund, failing policies of our political classes, what hope have ordinary working people?
My No supporting colleagues were more energised this week than at any other time since the debate began at the news you came out in support of the Union. They are people who work hard for less than the average wage, who are constantly measured on a variety of pointless metrics, who have little or no autonomy in the workforce, who almost universally don’t enjoy their jobs but are trapped in order to pay the bills, who are physically and mentally drained at the end of a 10 hour shift, who then have families to look after, who have no time to research beyond radio news bulletins, BBC breakfast and the 6 o’clock news. If the high profile children’s author, one who has managed to escape the harsh reality of every-day life on the breadline, is willing to support the establishment view with little critical thought, then a No vote to them must seem like the correct choice. It’s easier that way, than to actually wake up, take control and think about the consequences of your decisions. That said, my colleagues don’t seem to be worried. Maybe it’s because if we do vote No in September, we can always escape from the horrors inflicted on us by the future Tory/Ukip coalition government by reading about the adventures of a boy wizard and his battle with the forces of evil.
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