The only time I ever met Sir Malcolm was in the Edinburgh branch of Borders where I suggested to the former Foreign Secretary that he buy a copy of Reason magazine. During our brief conversation the temporarily resting politician congratulated me on moving from the Great Wen to Edinburgh and assured me that the quality of life was far preferable here to that possible down south. I have to say that Sir Malcolm is correct and my visits to the Royal Borough would be occasional. After all, when a man is tired of Edinburgh, he is tired of life.
How then is one to explain this snippet from the Sunday Times?
Incidentally, it’s a brave company that announces its new worldwide headquarters are to be in Aberdeen. Before I am berated for central belt parochialism, let me point out that I am only reflecting the views of professional headhunters — if RBS Group has difficulty in attracting the right people to Scotland, how much harder is First going to have to work to bring them to Aberdeen?Why would the Royal Bank have difficulty in persuading the "right people" to come to work at its Edinburgh headquarters? It's now the world's fifth largest bank and there must be a wealth of career opportunities in such an organisation. I suspect that it's because ambitious executives worry about moving themselves and their families to Scotland in case the job doesn't work out. There are indeed several other large financial institutions here, but nothing like as many as in London. Having alternative career options is important. Imagine how much more of a problem this is in less successful "provincial" cities than Edinburgh.
Some time ago I wrote about the unnatural dominance of London over the rest of Britain:
I remain convinced that British national life (think of our transport "system") is distorted by the dominance of the southeast. This in turn is largely the result of more than 40% of the economy being under state control and being almost entirely run from one end of a long and narrow country. My own preference is for that 40% to be reduced to more like 4%. Then it wouldn't matter too much where the capital was located - just like Switzerland in its good old days. If we don't want to fire all of those public servants we should move the capital to the other end of the country. Sir Humphrey will enjoy living in Easterhouse.Far more than our transport system suffers from the London distortion: it also sucks the life out of the country's other cities. Incidentally, would an American ever describe Chicago as being in "the provinces"? Does Munich look up to Berlin?
I recognise that Malcolm Rifkind's post-election loyalties should be to his London constituency. Hopefully though he won't forget the city that gave him his start in politics and Parliament. We need politicians who will begin the necessary decentralisation of the UK. Sir Malcolm and his party should work towards a situation in which careers can be successfully pursued in all parts of the country. And yes, that includes Aberdeen.