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Tom Peterkin: JK Rowling to be applauded

Having a public opinion on Scotlands constitutional future is something that is not without risk. Picture: Getty

Having a public opinion on Scotlands constitutional future is something that is not without risk. Picture: Getty

Given the entirely predictable but still shockingly foul-mouthed, unpleasant and pathetic cyberstorm unleashed towards JK Rowling yesterday, it was brave of her to raise her head above the political parapet.

Authors, one supposes, have to develop a thick skin to deal with their waspish critics, but the Anglo-Saxon epithets directed at Rowling yesterday on social media were something else.

Good for her for expressing an opinion. Despite the febrile atmosphere currently infusing Scottish politics, having a point of view is still allowed (and indeed ought to be encouraged). Sadly, there are many who would not be so bold and for entirely understandable reasons. Having a public opinion on Scotland’s constitutional future is something that is not without risk. For businesses there is the risk that coming down on one side of the argument will irritate around a half of your customer base in this most divisive of political battlegrounds.

If past form on social media is anything to go by, one can only presume that Rowling was prepared to risk Yes campaigners calling for a boycott of Harry Potter in order to declare her support for a No vote.

Even in a world where celebrity endorsements mean more than they ought to, Rowling’s intervention is a significant one.

She is, after all, a publishing phenomenon who has written her way out of poverty, actually lives in Scotland and has become a committed philanthropist to boot.

She has also put her money where her mouth is as far as politics is concerned. Her well-argued expression of how she intends to vote, published on her website yesterday, was accompanied by a cool £1 million donation to Better Together.

That is a massive boost for a campaign that has long felt that it is being outspent by its Yes rivals, which has benefited from the largesse of the lottery winning Weirs from Ayrshire.

In cultural terms, Rowling’s intervention is also significant. So far there has been a feeling that the vast majority of Scotland’s artists and “creatives” (whatever they are) are firmly behind the Yes movement. James Kelman, Alasdair Gray and James Robertson are just three names from the literary world who have been strong advocates for Yes while the actors Brian Cox, Alan Cumming and Sir Sean Connery have also been prominent figures on the Yes platform.

Rowling’s erudite contribution to the debate makes an effective counter-balance to this.

The No campaign will be grateful for the cash and will, no doubt, advise Rowling to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the inevitable abuse.

 

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