On Wednesday, J.K. Rowling posted a statement on her website supporting the Better Together Campaign for anti-Scottish independence and explained her £1 million (US $1.8 million) donation to the campaign.
In case you did not know, on September 18 there will be a referendum on whether or not Scotland should separate from the United Kingdom. Rowling, who lives in Edinburgh, reasoned in the statement that Scotland is more sustainable as part of the UK than it is alone, as Scotland lacks the necessary resources (whether it be natural, economic, or medical) that are needed for a country to survive in today’s world. Rowling weighed both the consequences of separation and staying together, and expressed her uncertainty of a separate nation. Ultimately, she supports continued unionization, but added, “If the majority of people in Scotland want independence I truly hope that it is a resounding success.”
The more I have read from a variety of independent and unbiased sources, the more I have come to the conclusion that while independence might give us opportunities – any change brings opportunities – it also carries serious risks. The Institute for Fiscal Studies concludes that Alex Salmond has underestimated the long-term impact of our ageing population and the fact that oil and gas reserves are being depleted. This view is also taken by the independent study ‘Scotland’s Choices: The Referendum and What Happens Afterwards’ by Iain McLean, Jim Gallagher and Guy Lodge, which says that ‘it would be a foolish Scottish government that planned future public expenditure on the basis of current tax receipts from North Sea oil and gas’.
My fears about the economy extend into an area in which I have a very personal interest: Scottish medical research. Having put a large amount of money into Multiple Sclerosis research here, I was worried to see an open letter from all five of Scotland’s medical schools expressing ‘grave concerns’ that independence could jeopardise what is currently Scotland’s world-class performance in this area. Fourteen professors put their names to this letter, which says that Alex Salmond’s plans for a common research funding area are ‘fraught with difficulty’ and ‘unlikely to come to fruition’. According to the professors who signed the letter, ‘it is highly unlikely that the remaining UK would tolerate a situation in which an independent “competitor” country won more money than it contributed.’ In this area, as in many others, I worry that Alex Salmond’s ambition is outstripping his reach.
Rowling, in addition to this, made a £1 million donation to the Better Together campaign, the most substantial donation to the campaign yet. Still, according to the campaign, it is far from what the opponent campaign, Yes Scotland, is raising. Whether Rowling’s efforts were worth it will be put to test on September 18.