(c) Huffington Post
I like J.K. Rowling, I quite like the Harry Potter books and although I support independence for Scotland I respect her decision, which was plastered all over the British media yesterday, to donate a million pounds of her money to Better Together, the organisation campaigning for a ‘No’ vote in the referendum on Scottish independence being held this September.
Indeed, the only thing that surprises me is that she hadn’t donated to Better Together earlier. In 2008, she donated another million to the Labour Party, run at the time by her friend and then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown, for the reason that she believed Brown had “prioritised and introduced measures that will save as many children as possible from a life lacking in opportunity or choice.” This didn’t save her from the sneers of the British press – most of which is right-wing, doesn’t like the Labour Party and at the time was dedicated to deriding, ridiculing and tormenting the hapless Brown. HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF DOWNING STREET was a typical newspaper headline back then.
(c) The Courier
The press will, I’m sure, be kinder about her donation to Better Together, which is helmed by Brown’s old chancellor Alastair Darling. (Brown has emerged from the woodwork recently to make some anti-independence noises too, although he has avoided getting closely involved in Better Together, no doubt because of the enmity that exists now between him and Darling. Actually, Brown seems capable of having a feud with his own shadow these days.) If there’s one thing it detests more than the Labour Party, it’s all those nationalists, greens, socialists, rogue Scottish Labour / Liberal Democrat / Conservative Party members and politically-unaffiliated people who favour Scottish independence. Or to give them their collective British-media name, ‘Alex Salmond’.
As I say, I’m happy for Rowling to do whatever she likes with her money, but I’d have expected her – considering the media misrepresentation she’s suffered in the past – to choose her words a little more carefully when she announced her donation. The English-born but resident-in-Scotland Rowling wrote of “a fringe of nationalists who like to demonise anyone who is not blindly and unquestionably pro-independence and I suspect, notwithstanding the fact that I’ve lived in Scotland for twenty-one years and plan to remain here for the rest of my life, that they might judge me ‘insufficiently’ Scottish to have a valid view… However, when people try to make this debate about the purity of your lineage, things start getting a little Death Eaterish for my taste.”
She’s saying, then, that after making this donation she expects to get abuse from certain pro-independence Scots who don’t think the referendum is any of her business.* That’s because she isn’t Scottish — she’s English. Such people put her in mind of the evil cult of wizards in her Harry Potter novels, led by Lord Voldemort, who promote the purity of the wizard race and despise other breeds like humans (‘muggles’) and half-human / half-wizard people (‘mudbloods’).
Now there are undoubtedly a few racist halfwits in Scotland who want independence because of antipathy towards the English – offensive loudmouths who believe that everything that happened in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart is historical truth. That said, during my time in Scotland I’ve also met a few offensive, loud-mouthed, English-hating, Braveheart-loving halfwits who supported the Labour or Conservative Parties and this September will be voting ‘No’, just as J.K. Rowling will. But I’d argue that most Scottish-independence supporters back the cause because, simply, they want to see Scotland run by the people who live there and not have unrepresentative Conservative and Nu-Labour governments foisted upon them from Westminster. This is a sentiment that has nothing to do with ‘lineage’ or ethnicity or whether you’re Scottish or English. (There are some 400,000 English people living in Scotland, including Rowling, and they will have the right to vote in September’s referendum – quite properly.)
In fact, during the recent European Elections, while both the Conservative and Labour Parties were warbling about cutting immigration in the hope of extracting some votes from Nigel Farage’s fruitcake United Kingdom Independence Party, the main pro-independence parties in Scotland, the Scottish National Party and the Green Party, were the ones that were unashamedly pro-immigration. Conversely, those creepy organisations in the UK and Scotland that are heavily into such things as lineage, indigenousness and ethnic and religious purity – UKIP, the British National Party, the Scottish Defence League and the Scottish Orange Order – all support a ‘No’ vote.
J.K. Rowling said it was a ‘fringe’ of pro-independence supporters who reminded her of Death Eaters, but, given the past rough rides she’s had from the press, she must have suspected that the newspapers were going to have a field day distorting what she said, in order to discredit the Yes campaign. Indeed, yesterday’s headline on the main web-page of The Independent was J.K. ROWLING CALLS SCOTTISH NATIONALISTS ‘DEATH EATERS’. Expect to see a slew of newspaper cartoons over the next few days depicting Alex Salmond minus a nose, clad in a black robe and hanging out with a giant white snake à la Lord Voldemort, and the message being driven home that anyone who favours an independent Scotland is a racial-purity fanatic who probably dabbles in the black arts. It must be true, because J.K. says so.
Actually, I wonder if the author feels comfortable that she’s now aligned herself with the Daily Mail, the Scottish edition of which has been one of the most vitriolic voices against the independence movement. After all, in September 2013, the Mail published a story where it said Rowling had accused people of ‘stigmatising’ and ‘taunting’ her at a Scottish church where, as a single mother, she’d done a few hours’ filing and typing work each week. No, Rowling pointed out, she hadn’t said this – she’d written in an article that one woman visiting the church one day had referred to her as ‘the unmarried mother’. The Mail subsequently apologised to her and paid damages.
Rowling’s dislike of the Daily Mail generally inspired her to make Vernon Dursley, who in the Harry Potter books was the hero’s disagreeable uncle, a Mail reader. As the journalist Catherine Lockerbie noted, “Harry’s Uncle Vernon is a grotesque philistine of violent tendencies and remarkably little brain. It is not difficult to guess which newspaper Rowling gives him to read.”
Another newspaper noted for its anti-Scottish-independence line is the Daily Telegraph. Indeed, its Scotland correspondent Alan Cochrane is so furiously against the idea that at times in his articles he does a convincing impersonation of a man who’s had his brain surgically swapped with the spleen of a rabid dog. Already the Telegraph has given prominence to the fact that news of Rowling’s donation has prompted some rude things to be said about her on social media. The Telegraph’s indignation at this is particularly rich, considering that in 2012 the newspaper, and its readers, didn’t react kindly to the publication of J.K. Rowling’s ‘adult’ novel A Casual Vacancy, which was full of class, political and social themes and dared to sound – whisper it – left-wing. As I wrote a few months afterwards:
“One nasty little Telegraph article, in a bitchy-schoolgirl sort of way, was this one written by Jenny Hyul a couple of months ago to coincide with the release of A Casual Vacancy, the first adult novel by J.K. Rowling, Scotland’s most famous English inhabitant. It makes various snide comments about Rowling’s middle-class background and wonders why Rowling should have the temerity to attempt to write a novel of gritty social realism… In the thread at the bottom of the article, of course, Hjul hands over to the inevitable Telegraph trolls, who pour scorn on Rowling for her writing (‘rubbish’), her politics (‘a Marxist’) and her looks (‘Bleurgh’). Yes, there may be a few anti-English bampots roaming loose in Scotland, but if Ms Rowling has to tolerate dickheads like those in the Telegraph-reading English Home Counties, I can see why the poor woman feels safer north of the border.”
Still, I’m glad that J.K. Rowling has stated her determination to stay in Scotland whatever the result of the referendum. For the record, I very much doubt that Scotland will win independence this year – the pro-Union political, media and business establishments have spread enough misinformation and negativity to ensure the result goes their way – although I do think it will happen in one or two generations’ time. Hopefully, the creator of Harry Potter will still be around to see that. And maybe one day an independent Scotland will appoint Ms Rowling as its National Book Czar, tasked with encouraging Scottish children to do more reading. Cue a photo op on the steps of Bute House with her and the world’s most venerable national leader, President Irvine Welsh.
(c) Little, Brown
* And indeed, she has received some abuse, including a vicious tweet that seems, bizarrely, to have emanated from a charity organisation in Edinburgh. Such abuse is abhorrent. For the sake of balance I should mention that the lottery winners Colin and Chris Weir, who donated a lot of money to the Yes campaign, have also received abuse online, which is abhorrent too.