Independent Scotland Will Need a New Capital 209


This is going to annoy a good many traditionalists, but here goes…

Edinburgh is already the wealthiest and economically most successful city in Scotland. For the first time in 200 years it has overtaken Glasgow in population. Its housing is becoming prohibitively expensive for ordinary citizens. A two bedroom flat carved out of a converted house goes for £250,000 in a “normal” area. Three bed family homes are well over £350,000 in much of the city.

In any state, the capital sucks in economic resources from the rest of the country, because that is where the centre of government services lies. London currently absorbs an awful lot of Scottish taxpayers’ money, and the Treasury counts projects such as crossrail as a UK, not just English, benefit – a fact worth remembering when you look at GERS figures.

An independent Scotland will need new ministries of foreign affairs, defence, and immigration/security, and a much bigger ministry of finance. It will need a central bank. On top of which it will receive at least 60 foreign embassies and also, and often forgotten, about the same again in national offices of international institutions like the EU, World Bank, IMF, EBRD, etc. That also comes with an economic boom to supply all the needed accommodation and infrastructure.

But that is by no means all. Edinburgh is already a huge international finance sector. Insurance companies, fund managers and banks based in Edinburgh manage more assets than are held in the Paris, behind only London and Frankfurt in the EU. If the rest of the UK plunges out of the EU while Scotland stays in, where will be the obvious bolthole for financial institutions wishing to headquarter in a location which gives continued free access to EU markets, while minimising dislocation effects and need for new languages? Edinburgh.

That is not the only benefit which a Scotland still in the EU will gain from the new situation. The astonishing xenophobia south of the border is dictating a severe reduction in numbers of overseas students. If Scotland is independent and still in the EU, which English speaking destination with superb universities will those students go to instead? The continued expansion of the University and of student accommodation is already out of hand in Edinburgh city centre – this will get worse.

The truth is, post independence the economic boom which will hit Edinburgh will be more than the city can physically handle. It will be much more sensible to remove the public sector element – the functions and accretions of a capital city – to another destination.

This will shock traditionalists, but Edinburgh will always have its history and the tourists that come with it. There are older capitals available. Dunkeld of the Picts probably does not have enough available land. But Perth does, close to the ancient installation site of the rulers at Scone. Scone Palace would be a magnificent residence for Scotland’s President after Lizzie is given her marching orders.

Many countries have moved to brand new capitals. My own choice of capital would be Dundee. The railway, road and airport connections already exist and the Caird Hall could be converted to a magnificent parliament. The seat of Scottish government is currently Ruth Davidson’s constituency – surely it would be much better to move it to Yes City.

New Book Out: Sikunder Burnes: Master of the Great Game – Craig Murray


209 thoughts on “Independent Scotland Will Need a New Capital

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  • Roddy Lonie

    ‘London currently absorbs an awful lot of Scottish taxpayers’ money, and the Treasury counts projects such as crossrail ‘

    Nationalist myth no.6789.

    There is nothing in GERS to back this up.

    Must do better Craig!

  • Alan

    What was the author of the article smokIng? The Parliament building cost millions and he suggests we move the parliament to a new capital.

  • michael norton

    The United Kingdom economy grew faster than expected in the three months after the BREXIT vote, official figures have indicated.

    Our economy expanded by 0.5% in the July-to-September period, according to the Office for National Statistics.

    The Economic case for an Independent Scotland is not self evident.

    • Alasdair Macdonald

      This jumping selectively on a single statistic, be it unemployment, wages, growth, inflation, etc out of context is one of the things which trivialises so much political debate and brings it down to a game of ping-pong (No offence intended to table tennis players – there’s is a real sport!).

      Such statistics have a margin of error, and are regularly refined as more information becomes available. We have to look at trends and a raft of statistics dealing with similar areas to form a better view.

      • michael norton

        Completely agree Alasdair, it is only a few months since the momentous decision of the people to cast off from the hated
        European Union. At best is shows that the United Kingdom economy has not tanked as that George Osborne said it would do.
        The sky has not fallen in.

          • Martinned

            Yes, that’s the great thing about Brexit: That makes it easier to give taxpayers’ money to businesses.

            (Not a complete free for all, the WTO and the EFTA have rules about state aid too, but they’re not as stringent.)

      • Martinned

        Indeed. I’m told the average adjustment of the preliminary GDP growth figure is 0.34%. So it could be anywhere from 0.1% to 0.8% growth.

  • Sharp Ears

    Is marmalade still made in Dundee?

    Dundee Marmalade
    The Scottish city of Dundee has a long association with marmalade. James Keiller and his wife Janet ran a small sweet and preserves shop in the Seagate section of Dundee. In 1797, they opened a factory to produce “Dundee Marmalade”, a preserve distinguished by thick chunks of bitter Seville orange rind.
    Scots legend
    According to a Scottish legend, the creation of orange marmalade in Britain occurred by accident. The legend tells of a ship carrying a cargo of oranges that broke down in the port of Dundee, resulting in some ingenious locals making marmalade out of the cargo.’

    Keiller do not appear to exist now. They were acquired by Robertsons who were in turn acquired by an American conglomerate called Hain. There is no mention of preserves in their product list.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hain_Celestial_Group

    • Paddington Bear

      Hello Sharp Ears:

      ‘Marmalado’ is presumably the original source of the word marmalade. It is Portuguese for essentially-fruit jam/preserve. I dare say there is a similar Spanish word.

      I am not sure why the word was adopted in this country to mean, in particular, a preserve of oranges, but it seems likely or plausible that it is borrowed from the Spanish or Portuguese.
      IOW , somehow a preserve of bitter oranges was originally made in Iberia, and called (generically) Marmalado -and being discovered by some Scottish traveller, the term was ‘anglified’ or perhaps Scottified to particularise the seville orange variety of preserve. i.e. a category error.

      Seville oranges are themselves not very edible,and seem to resemble ‘wild oranges’. They are very similar to oranges that grow on purely ornamental garden varieties of orange tree-seen often in Florida-which of course, was originally a Spanish colony. I was in Florida a few years ago and noticed the ornamental tree in the garden of the people i was staying with had fruits which seemed suitable for marmalade.

      Marmalade is actually quite a laborious form of preserve to make properly, although it can be made by various simpler, inferior methods which do not quite capture the flavour in the same way.

      I suspect the Keiller story is somewhat apocryphal- in the sense that the idea of orange marmalade was imported into an area already familiar with preserving soft fruit -coinciding with the slave/sugar era. The preservation of fruit in a strong sugar syrup can only have been possible once the price of sugar had reached some level that made it viable to make marmalade, to market to a population able to afford such luxuries.
      One also suspects that the ‘seville’ oranges were extremely cheap-as I said they seems to grow profusely and have rather limited other culinary use, so I can imagine that ship loads of the fruit might be imported quite cheaply.

      Curiously, around 1982 or ’83, someone i knew bought a rather large and distinguished house, just off the Ballater ‘bypass’ in the Cairngorms area, from the last (or near last) remnant of the Keiler family, an elderly woman, who i seem to remember, was a spinster living in somewhat faded glory.
      There was something a little bit odoriferous’ about the deal. It had a hint of exploitativeness- a sharp operator who persuaded the elderly woman to part with the house at a very advantageous price on some condition, that was ignored within a very short period of time after the transaction was completed.
      The buyer went on to become a councillor for Aberdeenshire.
      Best
      Paddington Bear

      • Old Mark

        Paddington Bear

        The English word marmalade is derived from the Portuguese word for quince- and as any budding fruit and veg/allotment lover in southern England knows (come in J Corbyn)- where quince bushes thrive near their northern climatic limit- there are notably hard work at being turned into something palatable.The fruits are smaller than apples but with a similar sized core so there is a lot of wastage, and they have a rather blandly bitter taste on their own- the original preserve from which the word derives was sweetened with honey.

        I get a decent crop from the garden most years, and after trial and error turn have learned to turn them into a palatable preserve with plenty of caster sugar, and, the important added ingredient, ginger. Should get into double figures in terms of jars again this year which, as the ghastly supermarket ad goes, means ‘every little helps’ with both the food bill, and the elimination of air miles from commercially manufactured marmalades, which still rely to large extent on Seville oranges and lemons.

  • Sharp Ears

    The Scottish Health Minister, Shona Robison, is unhappy about the way in which the NHS is being run.

    Wish we had her instead of Hunt and May.

    Health minister Shona Robison wants way NHS is run to change
    1 hour ago

    Video
    She was speaking to the BBC following the publication of an Audit Scotland report which said that the health service needed to make unprecedented savings in 2016/17.

    Ms Robison said: “We have already committed the lion’s share of government money to health – that will increase again by £2bn over the course of this parliament.

    “But just putting more and more money into the health service isn’t enough.

    “We have to reform the way we run our services, we have to change the way we run our services, that is why we have to integrate health and social care.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-37787036

    Shona Robison, MSP Dundee City East. Sadly she and her husband Stewart Hosie have separated.
    http://www.parliament.scot/msps/currentmsps/shona-robison-msp.aspx

    • Republicofscotland

      Sharp Ears.

      Audit Scotland’s said that NHS Scotland is struggling, due to a aging population, even though it has employed more staff than ever, and, spending on it has risen 2.7% to, £12.2 billion.

      People over the age of 75, in Scotland, has risen, by over 11.8%, in the last 7 years, and the cost of drugs to treat conditions, has also risen by 10%.

      However, I’m not particularly worried at the present, Audit Scotland, also claimed that compared to NHS services, in the rest of the UK, and in other countries, who also provide universal care, Scotland’s NHS service, is in reasonably good shape.

  • Gavin Alexander

    I always thought Stirling would have been the best place for our new parliament/government. There is tons of space, it’s central and accessible to the whole country, has two airports within reach, railways, good bit of history thrown in and it certainly looks the part.

  • carol hutton

    I don’t believe it should be moved. Just because other countries have done it is no reason for Scotland to do so for a variety of reasons. Edinburgh is expensive, yes – but not because it is a capital but because so much else is centred around it.

    While industry, finance, trade, shipping etc may have initially developed Edinburgh-centric because it was the capital, that trend started 500 years ago and continued until relatively recently because of the need to physically travel for communication and to conduct business. Over the past half-millenium we have undergone a unity/political revolution, an industrial revolution, transport & educational revolutions and now the ‘communications revolution’, all of which have culminated in making business and education far less dependent on one’s physical proximity to another.
    Finance & other light industry can flourish almost anywhere now, thanks to the internet. There is no reason why many businesses moving north cannot relocate to Aberdeen, Wick, Thurso or even Lerwick providing HS BB & effective transport links can be guaranteed. We don’t even need to travel or meet in person now – we email, FB or video conference. In hundred years we may be able to ‘beam’ goods/people from place to place – goodbye trains, trucks, cars, planes as necessities for trade & travel.

    In Edinburgh we have an almost-new parliament building which cost MANY MILLIONS to build. Why would we NOT use it for at least 100 years, if not 200 years? We also have excellent universities in Dundee, the H&I which does all sorts of outreach learning, Aberdeen, Glasgow and colleges in Thurso and other smaller centres, etc. Why not concentrate efforts on making them as highly regarded as Edinburgh so they will attract students to them on their own merits? In Canada some smaller regional colleges offer Uni courses with full credit to the ‘parent’ facility, ie UVic & Camosun College. No reason we cannot do that here in places like Thurso, etc.
    We could build a new Uni in an area with very little else in it now. Entire new towns have been built around industry/service industry, ie Milton Keynes, where little else has previously existed – why not instead build a brand new university town from scratch in (for instance) Lairg, specialising in wilderness ecosystems, forest sciences, fresh water sciences, etc? Lairg has direct rail & road links, Inverness airport is an easy commute, it is in a stunning location with hundreds of acres of low arable productivity land and the roads network up there needs a HUGE upgrade anyway. “If you build it, they will come!”

    However, the best reason I can think of NOT to change our capital is simply because Edinburgh IS Edinburgh. It has its’ faults & foibles but these should be celebrated for they are what make Edinburgh a truly great City.

    • Deep green puddock

      Lairg? Do you think people would flock to the midgies. There are 62 species of chironomids, two of which are biting species. Both of these species are found in Scotland. However I agree that Lairg is lovely at times.
      Thurso? Already well educated and full of highly qualified scientists and technical people due to the nuclear facility at Douneray, and its monitoring and decommissioning.
      I once stopped there (actually quite a few times-it is a strangely grey but likeable place. I spoke to a street cleaner who was extremely knowledgeable and informed on many matters political and historical.We hadf a very lively conversation. I suspect he already had a degree, and possibly a drinking habit.

  • Gordon Benton

    In a ‘Scotland 2040’ plan I prepared for my MP nearly 2 years ago, it advocated longer term planning to show the Scottish electorate where the Country was going. Presently we have 5 year (term of government) planning which doesn’t meet the realities of where we want our country to go. In this plan, Perth (in the geographic (more or less) centre of Scotland would be the Capital. The Central Belt would end up as one city; Aberdeen/ Dundee and Inverness would have different Hub-City identities serving the North-East And North-West of the country respectively; and perhaps we would incorporate a couple of North English cities to be Hubs for the economic development to the South. Btw such as tunnels to Ireland and the Orkneys, transportation, energy and sustainable environment plans would be important infrastructure projects in this plan leading to a formulation of a ‘Dream’ which would lead a large majority of Scottish voters to believe in our Independence.

    • michael norton

      Mr. Benton
      can you let us know where you will get the money from?

      ROYAL BANK of SCOTLAND sees more losses in third quarter
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-37796446
      Royal Bank of Scotland has reported a £469m loss for the July-to-September period as “legacy issues” continue to overshadow its performance.

      The bank received a £45.5bn bailout during the financial crisis and has been tackling a range of problems.

      • michael norton

        Why not be independent from the rest of the United kingdom and take a leading role in the European Union,
        good question.

        Why leave? Tax crazy France and meddling Germany BURIED by Britain in top business survey
        FRANCE and Germany’s hopes of luring companies away from the UK after BREXIT were dealt a hammer blow today after the two countries were blown out of the water by pro-business Britain. The UK is rated as far more open to entrepreneurs and less riven with needless red tape and bureaucracy than its two economic rivals in a landmark survey by the World Bank.

        Its results will allay fears that companies are looking to flee these shores post-Brexit, showing that the grass is far from greener on the other side of the Channel. Companies looking to relocate to France would face huge levels of stifling bureaucracy and sky-high taxes eating into their profits, not to mention a socialist, anti-business establishment.

        And Germany is not much better, with Frau Angela Merkel’s country ranked as one of the worst places in the world to start a new business. The results of the highly respected survey will prove a huge embarrassment to Paris and Frankfurt, which have been openly courting British businesses in light of the vote to leave the EU.

        Experts have warned that companies will not want to relocate to the French capital because of stifling regulations, whilst the German industrial city is not an appealing place to live and work for employees.

        The World Bank ranks Britain the seventh best place in the world to do business – the highest of any G7 nation and much higher than any eurozone nation.

        In contrast, Germany is rated 17th – just behind Georgia – whilst France comes in at a dismal 29th, which is lower than Macedonia and Latvia.
        http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/726000/Brexit-Britain-France-Germany-business-World-Bank
        You know it makes sense.

  • Rob

    I was wondering who was going to get an early win from independence, thanks Craig for advising that the rentier and landlord class will be well up the pecking order.
    You mention foreign embassies opening in Edinburgh. Last time around, the SNP proposed 70 or so Scottish embassies and legations overseas, so it is easy to see how, apart from the new ministries etc, the political and elite administrative classes will also benefit. Paying for this will of course remain the privilege of “ordinary” working people.

    • michael norton

      Very good point RoS
      who will be footing the bill for your fantasy world?

      ROYAL BANK of SCOTLAND sees more losses in third quarter
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-37796446
      Royal Bank of Scotland has reported a £469m loss for the July-to-September period as “legacy issues” continue to overshadow its performance.

      The bank received a £45.5bn bailout during the financial crisis and has been tackling a range of problems.

  • Richard Tye

    Professor Richard Murphy of tax research.org.uk gave a talk today in Edinburgh on Creating a Just Scotland as part of the Radical Book Festival. Prof. Murphy is the author of ‘The Joy of Tax’. Unfortunately, I did not attend, but these are his speaking notes copied from his blog:

    “Scotland needs its own economy

    It can’t have that unless it has its own tax system

    And it can’t have an effective tax system unless it has control of its own currency

    Which it can only have if its independent and not in the EU

    That’s something of a conundrum but a state on the periphery of the European economy can’t reflect its own values, strengths and weaknesses, as well as its social priorities in its economy unless it is willing to state that its own identity matters

    And for tax this matters

    Because for centuries we’ve thought that governments tax and spend

    But that’s not true: we spend and tax

    You can’t pay tax in a currency until someone has created it

    A government with its own currency creates that money: it decides how much it spends into the economy and how much it wants to claim back by way of tax

    What that means is that a government with its own currency can run a fiscal policy
    And by definition it has a central bank and so must have a monetary policy

    Which means it is in control of its economic decision making

    But if it does not have its own currency it simply has to balance its books – because it will always be in debt to someone else in that case, which is not true if it has its own money

    We know that because QE has now proved a government with its own currency can cancel its own debt

    And even pay for public services without tax

    And in that case tax becomes something really important. Although it has a key role to play in preventing inflation resulting from money creation the way it is used to do

    that makes tax a key element in the delivery of social policy

    So redistribution is key

    And repricing to compensate for market failure is key

    As is the way tax subsidies are given vital to make sure social justice is delivered

    But that also means unpaid tax is not then just an issue of the books not balancing – it’s also a failure to deliver social policy

    So tax avoidance increases inequality – because avoidance is something only the better off can afford to do

    And evasion matters because it usually means a cheating business gets an unfair competitive advantage over an honest one

    And subsidising the savings of the wealthy, the rental activities of the best off, the investment activity of big business and not small, and so much more, are all ways to ensure that social and economic inequality increase

    My message then is a simple one: those who want a socially just Scotland have to understand the essential linked elements of money, economic policy and tax and how tax has n essential role in delivering social policy in that environment, and not paying for services. Only then can Scotland understand what it would mean to be a truly independent and socially just society

    And if you do that, would you send me an invitation? End”

    Understanding the financial operations of a monetarily sovereign government is the key to holding our elected representatives to account. This is particularly important during a time of imposed austerity, which is doing great damage to our economy further impoverishing the weakest members of society.

  • Jamie Tintin

    Dundee the capital? You’re seriously joking Craig. I lived there for six years and it was the most insular city I’ve had the misfortune to stay in. As people said to me, “Dundonians don’t have a chip on their shoulder, it’s a fish supper.” Locals used to go to the Perth Road to find students to beat up. Wonder what they’d do to the diplomatic community!

    • michael norton

      is it true there is a pub in Dundee called The Hag?
      They have an efergy of Frau Nicola swinging off the gables

  • Brian Fleming

    Sitrling, Perth or Inverness should be the main candidates: Stirling for its historical role, Perth for its central location, and Inverness for its current dynamism and to shift the balance of power radically to the north.

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