ALF Young (Perspective, 21 December) asks “has London’s emergence as one of the world’s great hub cities been bought cuckoo-like, by pushing the aspirations of the other nations and regions that make up the UK out of our shared economic nest, sending them crashing to the forest floor below?”
Surely this and other comments of that ilk that seem to imagine the economy of UK plc as having fixed confines or that the rapid growth of one part must be at the expense of another is to misunderstand the nature of London’s growth and its impact on the rest of the country. London is indeed “one of the world’s great hub cities”, it is indeed “the only truly global city on these islands”, and it is because it is a “world” city that London is competing with and drawing its growth from other “world” cities such as New York, Frankfurt or Hong Kong, not from the other nations and regions that make up the UK.
It is not drawing its growth from Oban; it is not sending Chipping Sodbury crashing to the forest floor. The kinds of lawyers based in the City are not vying with the average high street solicitor for the chance to write your will. They wouldn’t give you or me the time of day – or if they did, they would charge an arm and a leg for it. The kind of business they do and the clients they work for come to them precisely because London is a “world” city.
And, of course, this is true not just for lawyers. It is also true for bankers, insurers, advertising agencies … but probably not for butchers, bakers and candlestick makers – Chipping Sodbury and Oban can keep them.
It is perfectly true that many of those who work in the professions for which London is a pre-eminent centre were not born in the city (I was one such), but moved there from elsewhere, including Scotland.
In attracting them, London has secured the fruits of their labour for itself; but it has not done so at the expense of the places those who move to it came from. The kind of work they do in London is, by and large, not the kind of work that would ever come the way of Oban or Chipping Sodbury.
It is the kind of work that gravitates towards a global city and in gravitating to it makes that city a global one in a virtuous or vicious (depending upon your viewpoint) spiral.
In so far as London is competing successfully with its rival “world’ cities, – as its growth rate would seem to suggest – then the rest of the UK should welcome this.
Rather than erecting barriers to the ease with which this prosperity might be shared – whether you class them as independence lite or devo-max – the rest of the UK should be working to dismantle them.