So now we’ve got the glamour and financial muscle of J K Rowling to reckon with. A million quid. Whew!
I’m told Jaykay writes a bit. She’s intelligent, urbane and – up to a point – well informed. She has carefully set out on her blog her reasons for backing the campaign against Scottish independence. So of course I won’t stoop to abuse. I’ll set out, in a measured way, my reasons for disagreeing with her.
Like hell I will.
J K Rowling’s intervention is a piece of high-class thuggery. I’ll respond the way you do when you can’t pay for class.
She says there is a “fringe of nationalists” who “might judge me ‘insufficiently Scottish’ to have a valid view.”
Not me. I just don’t think she’s smart enough, principled enough or in-touch enough to deserve a million quid’s worth of influence.
I’m not a nationalist, whether fringe, Scottish or Brit. But I think that independence for Scotland is a very good idea.
You want to vote against independence, Jaykay, go right ahead. One vote. Tell your friends how you’re voting if you like. If you write about it you’ll get a lot more attention than the rest of us. That’s not really your fault. It’s just the way the fame game works. But a million quid!
It isn’t precisely philanthropy. Giving money to a cause that the big guys support – Brown, Cameron, Obama, Clinton – can’t ever be exactly that.
J K Rowling is seriously rich. According to the Sunday Times Rich List, she had a wealth of £570 million in April 2014. That puts her comfortably ahead of the Queen (£330 million), but in a league way beneath the Duke of Westminster (£8.5 billion) and the Hinduja brothers (top of the list with a joint wealth of £11.9 billion).
The Harry Potter brand was valued at $15 billion in 2011. Presumably it will continue to generate income for J K Rowling. She is a businesswoman as well as a writer.
She has donated substantially to various charities and she set up the Volant Charitable Trust, which funds research into MS and projects that alleviate social deprivation.
Donating to the Better Together is different. For one thing, it is a cause that Barack Obama would probably like to donate to, if he could. Helping out people like that can’t be bad for business.
For another thing, the Better Together campaign aims at preserving control over Scotland by the ConDem Coalition and/or their informal coalition partner, the Labour Party. All the partners say they are committed to austerity. So they are committed to promoting social deprivation.
J K Rowling says that independence is a risk. Perhaps it is, for multi-millionaires. But for people out of work, or too sick or disabled to work, or on low incomes, a vote against independence is a near-guarantee of destitution.
She quotes from a letter signed by fourteen professors claiming that independence would damage medical research. Pat Kane has explained why he finds their claim implausible. Me, I just wonder whether the profs have any of the same friends as Jaykay.
The Better Together campaign needs money. It probably won’t get much from ordinary people, so it needs multi-millionaires. The problem is that most people don’t like most multi-millionaires. A donation from the Hinduja brothers wouldn’t look good. The handful of people who are rich and well-liked and have a taste for philanthropy had better steer well clear of unionists for the next three months. Those who don’t might find themselves relieved of their money and manoeuvred into writing junk.
On her blog, Jaykay discusses her English-Scottish-French-Flemish lineage a bit, and then says that “people try to make this debate about the purity of your lineage.” That’s a favourite theme of the Better Together campaign. It’s a fairy tale.
My parents are English. I was born, brought up and educated in England and took my first jobs there. I sound English. I don’t know much about my lineage. Sometimes I take the piss out of Scottishness. You want a rant about Greyfriars Bobby or tartan kitsch, just ask. I never use the patriotic claptrap about “Scotland’s remarkable people” and Scotland “punching above its weight” that J K Rowling churns out in her blog post.
At this point I ought to say that I’ve encountered anti-English hatred (Nigel Farage calls it racism) from a few extremists, but of course I know they don’t represent the people of Scotland. You’d believe me, because my story would fit the official narrative. But it would be a lie. I’ve lived here a long time and I haven’t lived an especially sheltered life, but I have never encountered anti-English hatred.
That isn’t because Scots are saintly people who are immune to intolerance. Black and Asian people sometimes suffer violent attacks here. I’ve met some of the victims. More subtle forms of racism are quite common. I’ve seen them acted out in front of my eyes. It just happens that anti-English hatred is such an insignificant phenomenon that you can pass half a lifetime in Scotland without running into it. It’s particularly rare in left-wing activist circles and in the independence campaign. People working together for a progressive goal – in Scotland or anywhere else – don’t easily fall prey to bigoted behaviour.
It’s easy to fly the “anti-English hatred” kite. Jeremy Paxman – the man who says he believed Colin Powell’s lies on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction because he knew Powell to be intelligent – says it exists. Now J K Rowling has reinforced that view. Others who say they’ve noticed the hate will acquire a flattering sheen of perceptiveness. The fact that the hate is invisible shows that these people must have their ears to the ground, just like Paxman and Rowling.
J K Rowling’s urbane article is just a piece of derivative mud-slinging.
Multi-millionaires of our own
Things aren’t all bad. We’ve got multi-millionaires of our own. Colin and Chris Weir, who won £161m on the EuroMillions lottery in 2011, have donated £3.5 million to the Yes campaign as well as donating to the SNP. Everyone needs a little luck, the Weirs and the Yes campaign included. It’s just a pity that Lady Luck wears the baroque clothes of vast lottery schemes and spews out such absurd quantities of money. I don’t know much about the Weirs and I can’t guess what they will become. They say they have been life-long supporters of independence. At least for the moment, they don’t seem to be embedded in a network of power and influence in the way that J K Rowling is.
Alex Salmond says that “J K Rowling’s entitled to give money to whatever she pleases”. I prefer J K Rowling’s former view. She once said: “I think you have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently.”
If you are reading this and you have far more money than you need, or even a little more, please spare a thought for the less well-heeled parts of the independence movement, like the Radical Independence Campaign and the National Collective.
The independence battle is getting a bit rough.
A tweet apparently made by Dignity Project, a small Edinburgh-based charity, commented on Rowling’s decision with the hashtag “bitch”. The Dignity Project website says that its Facebook account, which links to its Twitter account, was hacked. The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator is investigating.
“Bitch” is a misogynistic term. Using it promotes misogyny. Don’t do it. But I don’t see any harm in using robust, non-misogynistic language about J K Rowling’s wee contribution to public life in Scotland. That certainly wouldn’t be bullying, cyber or otherwise. Just about the only people in Britain who might be able to bully J K Rowling are the hundred or so who rank above her in the Rich List. And maybe the various arms of the state.
Nobody’s interested in your lineage, Jaykay. Fucking smug, self-obsessed, opportunistic baw-bag.
This page has not been hacked.
Also see: Rude Words and saint Rowling – a note about this article