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JK Rowling and the campaign for the union

JK Rowling and the campaign for the union

Better Together have been hinting that JK Rowling would come out in their support for some time. Her comments on independence, presented in a statement on her blog today, confirmed that.

She writes: “The more I listen to the Yes campaign, the more I worry about its minimisation and even denial of risks. Whenever the big issues are raised – our heavy reliance on oil revenue if we become independent, what currency we’ll use, whether we’ll get back into the EU – reasonable questions are drowned out by accusations of ‘scaremongering.’ Meanwhile, dramatically differing figures and predictions are being slapped in front of us by both campaigns, so that it becomes difficult to know what to believe.

“I doubt I’m alone in trying to find as much impartial and non-partisan information as I can, especially regarding the economy. Of course, some will say that worrying about our economic prospects is poor-spirited, because those people take the view ‘I’ll be skint if I want to and Westminster can’t tell me otherwise’. I’m afraid that’s a form of ‘patriotism’ that I will never understand. It places higher importance on ‘sticking it’ to David Cameron, who will be long gone before the full consequences of independence are felt, than to looking after your own. It prefers the grand ‘up yours’ gesture to considering what you might be doing to the prospects of future generations.”

Better Together desperately needed her help – Rowling may not know as much about politics as Obama does but that is not the point.

David Bowie told Scots to ‘stay with’ the UK, but he is an Englishman living in the US who delivered his appeal through Kate Moss. Rowling is a different proposition.

Yes has been riding a wave of cultural appeal, attracting names from across the worlds of music, art and literature. Better Together meanwhile has long been mocked by supporters for independence for its seeming inability to bring anyone on board who can sell their case in poetic or artistic terms.

But Rowling’s statement is not just important in terms of giving Better Together some much-needed magic.

To win the referendum Yes are keen to attract women – who, apart from making up the majority of the population, have been one of the demographics they have struggled most with.

They launched the ‘Women’s Cabinet’ this week for just that reason – only to be undermined by news reports claiming that Campbell Gunn, special advisor to Alex Salmond, had attempted to smear a health and carer campaigner.

Calling for Gunn’s sacking, Lamont said: “Alex Salmond’s most senior adviser launched the most disgusting personal attack on a mother who cares for her disabled child because he doesn’t like her views on the referendum. This is an abuse of state power against one of Scotland’s most effective campaigners for people who care for children with disabilities.”

Rowling is a popular figure – near universally loved for the effect that her writing has had in encouraging children to read. She is also an on-the-record progressive who has donated millions to biomedical research.

Attacking her would be a tactical mistake.

Kevin Pringle, SNP Strategic Communications Director, seems to have realised this – responding to her statement with a tweet saying: “Respect for JK Rowling & we can all agree [when Rowling said]: If the majority of people in Scotland want indy ‘I truly hope that it is a resounding success.’”

So it is unlikely the statement will be accompanied by any big attack from the SNP. The trouble is that Yes has done a brilliant job of bringing in grassroots support – and that will inevitably include a fair few trolls. Salmond will be hoping that for once they stay quiet.

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