J K Rowling has come out against Scottish independence. Photo: Getty
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J K Rowling donates £1m to anti Scottish independence camp

Harry Potter author helps plug campaign funding gap.

J K Rowling, the best-selling author and Edinburgh resident, has donated £1m to the anti Scottish independence Better Together campaign.

In a statement issued on her website, the Harry Potter creator expressed concern that an independent Scotland would not withstand the pressures of a globalised world.

Pointing out that she came to the independence debate with "an open mind", she said: "The simple truth is that Scotland is subject to the same 21st-century pressures as the rest of the world."

She added: "The more I listen to the yes campaign, the more I worry about its minimisation and even denial of risks.

The Harry Potter author, worth an estimated net fortune of around £1bn, came out in favour of the union earlier this year when she attended the No campaign's first fundraising concert, starring comedian and Labour activist Eddie Izzard.  

Rowling is a long-standing Labour supporter and donor herself, and a friend of Alistair Darling, the former Labour chancellor, who is running the No campaign. Speculation had surrounded a possible donation by the author, which New Statesman editor Jason Cowley last week predicted would come shortly.

Her donation to the unionist cause will be a great boost to the campaign, which has lagged behind the Scottish nationalists in funding. 
The pro-independence campaign, led by First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond, has been financially supported chiefly by Colin and Chris Weir, a couple who won £161m in the EuroMillions lottery in 2011.  The Weirs have donated £5.5m to the "Yes" campaign so far.

Margaret Curran, Labour's shadow Scottish secretary, warned that while Rowling's donation was a "significant and welcome" act, that the No campaign is still being outspent by the pro-independence camp.

She said: "J K Rowling's donation to the Better Together campaign will be put to good use in taking the fight to the nationalists. People cannot be complacent, though. We are up against a campaign supported by big Lottery winners. We still need more donations and more support to make sure that people in Scotland say No Thanks to separation once and for all."

Here is the full text of Rowling's anti Scottish independence statement:


I came to the question of independence with an open mind and an awareness of the seriousness of what we are being asked to decide. This is not a general election, after which we can curse the result, bide our time and hope to get a better result in four years. Whatever Scotland decides, we will probably find ourselves justifying our choice to our grandchildren. I wanted to write this because I always prefer to explain in my own words why I am supporting a cause and it will be made public shortly that I’ve made a substantial donation to the Better Together Campaign, which advocates keeping Scotland part of the United Kingdom.

As everyone living in Scotland will know, we are currently being bombarded with contradictory figures and forecasts/warnings of catastrophe/promises of Utopia as the referendum approaches and I expect we will shortly be enjoying (for want of a better word) wall-to-wall coverage.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I am friendly with individuals involved with both the Better Together Campaign and the Yes Campaign, so I know that there are intelligent, thoughtful people on both sides of this question. Indeed, I believe that intelligent, thoughtful people predominate.
However, I also know that there is 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. It is true that I was born in the West Country and grew up on the Welsh border and while I have Scottish blood on my mother’s side, I also have English, French and Flemish ancestry. However, when people try to make this debate about the purity of your lineage, things start getting a little Death Eaterish for my taste. By residence, marriage, and out of gratitude for what this country has given me, my allegiance is wholly to Scotland and it is in that spirit that I have been listening to the months of arguments and counter-arguments.

On the one hand, the Yes campaign promises a fairer, greener, richer and more equal society if Scotland leaves the UK, and that sounds highly appealing. I’m no fan of the current Westminster government and I couldn’t be happier that devolution has protected us from what is being done to health and education south of the border. I’m also frequently irritated by a London-centric media that can be careless and dismissive in its treatment of Scotland. On the other hand, I’m mindful of the fact that when RBS needed to be bailed out, membership of the union saved us from economic catastrophe and I worry about whether North Sea oil can, as we are told by the ‘Yes’ campaign, sustain and even improve Scotland’s standard of living.

Lucy Fisher writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2013. She tweets @LOS_Fisher.

 

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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