JK ROWLING’S story is an inspiration for future of our brave new land writes Andrew Wilson
THE story of Joanne Rowling’s life is almost as big a wonder as the tales she has created. As a single parent, in difficult circumstances, she has wrestled with the privation of means and love that too many of our number contend with.
But through it all she brought immense joy to so many lives. We are lucky she is in our world and even luckier that she is in our own small country. We should celebrate her.
There is depth in there as well. Some of the entreaties of Dumbledore I use in speeches and presentations. My favourite is that: “It is our choices, Harry, that determine what we truly are, far more than our abilities”. Amen to that. So when she argued the case behind her choice in the referendum it was always going to be worthy of reflection. I disagree with much but not all. Some of what she wrote were really curiously partisan campaign lines rehearsed in her own words. She even called a senior Better Together campaigning academic “independent”. She raised ethnic nationalism which plays no part – at all – in the proper referendum discourse which was a shame. Her analogy of a spouse giving the marriage one last go was, well, a bit odd. But she writes angelically and her right to say what she wants should be unimpeachable.
But it was her conclusion that interested me most. Not for her the rich person’s indulgence of saying she would leave when we vote Yes: “I’d prefer to stay and contribute to a country that has given me more than I can easily express”.
This is the unifying point that all should sign up to now, whatever the outcome. Because we stand on the verge of a new era. We have a chance to truly remake the country in new and better ways.
Of course we have some of the power to do that now and maybe even a little more in time within the UK. But the power for true transformation is greatest with Yes.
One of the most frustrating realities of policy and politics is the power of inertia and the ability of the vested interest of “how things are now” to stand in the way of progress. Even when the evidence of underperformance is crystal clear, the voice of those who oppose reform for the wrong reasons is often louder than the current and future generations who will share in the benefits of betterment.
This inertia is aided and abetted by the partisanship of parties who oppose to suit the electoral cycle often at the expense of the longer-term gain of all. This has to change.
Because one of the many huge benefits of the great debate that is running is that more people are engaged in thinking about how we rule ourselves than before. And the clear consensus of all is that “things as they are now” is simply unsustainable.
The opportunity is clear across the board. We mustn’t remake Whitehall in Scotland. We mustn’t replace centralised power from London with a miniature version from Edinburgh. But we should also recognise the efficiencies we can harness doing business in a country of a very unifiable and manageable size.
Ponder the benefits of not paying billions as we do now to have our government administered from office space in London that is ten times as expensive as it would be here. And that is before we consider the knock-on benefits to our economy from the civil servants we pay from spending their own incomes here as well.
The relentless grip of the centralising core of British government is loosening and we must prize its fingers apart whatever happens next.
While it is easy for some to highlight division as we conclude on a binary choice we must look through to the opportunity ahead.
Possibly the one thing that all can agree on now is that there is a lot to be put right in the economy, in society and in the way we fund and run government. This is true of almost all countries but especially true in Britain. We can’t do it alone and must co-operate with others not retreat behind fortresses of fear.
But the core choice we must make is do we embrace the value of fixing things ourselves or have it done to us by governments we elect less than half the time? The logic of Home Rule was to ensure “Scottish solutions for Scottish problems”. And its logical conclusion is why I reach a different conclusion from one of our greatest writers.
I deprecate much of what Joanne Rowling said and how she said it. But I celebrate her freedom to do so and that she cares enough to contribute. She will be one of many talents we need to put their shoulders to our collective wheel as we face the future.
If there is one thing I could fix as we enter the final stages of the campaign it would be a greater sense of ambition and expectation from all of us.
We should be demanding the absolute best for ourselves and our country and never accept less. Because the higher the expectation the higher the performance, always.
Time to break with the Scottish mould and get above ourselves. Joanne Rowling did, and she never looked back.«