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Of course Hermione Granger is black – she always has been

Growing up, I never thought that Hermione could be any colour other than black.

Of course Hermione Granger’s black.

Forget being surprised that Noma Dumezweni, who will play Granger in the forthcoming play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, is black – I still haven’t got over the fact that Emma Watson, who played Granger in the films, is white.

Granger – unlike Harry Potter himself, or Ron Weasley, his best friend and Granger’s love interest  - is never given a skin colour in the books: she has brown eyes, frizzy hair and I, at least, always imagined her as black, partly because, when she wows her fellow pupils at the Yule Ball in Goblet of Fire, she straightens her hair, which was, almost without exception, how in my part of East London, everyone’s older sister prepared for a night out.

So I was horrified a year later when Watson – exceptionally white, no frizzy hair, and without Granger’s prominent teeth – was cast in the role. How could Hermione be white?

But I think my horror wasn’t because I’d paid closer attention to what the characters looked like than the casting director of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, although I undoubtedly had, or because I felt a black female character had been erased from the story.

I think it was far more egotistical than that. As a child, I had brown eyes, frizzy hair, an overbite large enough for smaller children to shelter under during periods of heavy rain, was brighter than most of my classmates and was often obnoxious with it. I thought Hermione was black because she was the character I most closely identified with – I didn’t identify with her because I thought she was black.

My suspicion is that while among most Harry Potter readers there are plenty of people who identify with Harry, some with Ron, others with Fred and/or George, most of the diehard fans see themselves as a Hermione-type (this is why, although Harry Potter fans might worry about the longterm stability of the Harry/Ginny marriage, it doesn’t arouse strong feelings in the manner that the question of whether Hermionie should settle down with Harry, Ron, Draco, Snape, or if she should just go it alone and become Minister for Magic, already).

So my instinct is that – while some of the caterwauling about political correctness gone mad, and tokenism is undoubtedly racist – some of the surprise is that same sense of an unexpected difference between the series’ fans, and the character they see as closest to them.   

Now listen to the NS team discuss the Harry Potter series in our Harry Potter special.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.