Monday 11 October 2004

North and South

I enjoyed living in London and in the unlikely event of winning the lottery (it helps to buy a ticket) I would consider the purchase of a modest pied-a-terre in Kensington. In due course I would be able to partake of a dram or two with the constituency's next MP.

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.


David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and the Netherlands are already on the European mainland, thickie! 
It is very clear that the English capital is located where it is because it is the nearest suitable spot to crucial markets on the mainland. Symbolically, England turns to face Europe, and turns its back on the celtic countries. 
This was very evident a couple of months ago when some ill-educated Englishman claimed that France was England's nearest neighbour! Nincompoop.

16 October 2004, 13:34:54 GMT+01:00
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Mark Holland
I'm scratching my head as to what the position of a country's capital city within that country has to do with anything. ??? 
Surely a city being on a river or bay had more significance in its growth in importance. Likewise often capitals aren't the most important cities in terms of trading. Antwerp, Milan and Turin, Amsterdam, Hamburg and Frankfurt are far more important in that regard than their respective capitals. 
Besides aren't Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and the Netherlands northern European?

16 October 2004, 11:05:03 GMT+01:00
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Alastair Ross
There are people who have not ignored the employment boom in Fargo - Mexicans. The ND city even got a mean deal from the Coen brothers film, as almost all of the action takes place in Minnesota.

12 October 2004, 16:41:49 GMT+01:00
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Stuart Dickson
-"The UK is astoundingly "bottom right hand side" heavy in comparison to many other countries." 
This is only an observation, but have you noticed that every single capital in northern Europe is in the South/East of their territory? 
London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Dublin, Belfast, Douglas, St Helier, Torshavn, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Mariehamn and Helsinki are all in the South and/or East of their administrative area. Presumably because these are the closest suitable spots to mainland Europe, and thus the customers and suppliers. 
The only exception is Reykjavik which is in South-west Iceland. 
It appears that ALL northern European countries are "bottom right hand side heavy".

12 October 2004, 15:09:29 GMT+01:00
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Actually, no American ever describe Fargo as being in "the provinces" even tho most ignore the employment boom going on there. The term applied to places not urbane enough to be worthwhile, generically named East Armpit or the like, would be "the boonies" or "the sticks".

12 October 2004, 14:02:30 GMT+01:00
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Does Munich look up to Berlin? 
IIRC a third or more of the German population doesn't live within an hour's communte of Berlin. Within 2 hours, the percentage of UK population rises to something close to 50%. The UK is astoundingly "bottom right hand side" heavy in comparison to many other countries.

12 October 2004, 11:23:35 GMT+01:00
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David Farrer said...

dave t
I know! That is why I live in the Royal Burgh of Elgin.........

11 October 2004, 23:36:46 GMT+01:00
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Andrew Ian Dodge
Bet Walmart pays better than RBS. It is amazing where people will choose to live if enough dosh is wagged in their faces.

11 October 2004, 14:39:22 GMT+01:00
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David Farrer
You should know me better than that! The "Royal Borough" is Kensington or, more precisely, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.  
I know that Edinburgh is a Burgh and not a Borough or even a "Boro" (ugh!)

11 October 2004, 10:38:45 GMT+01:00
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Stuart Dickson
Not knowing what the heck you were talking about, I looked up "Great Wen" at 
They have this delicious defintion: 
1. "pathol." 
A sebaceous cyst on the skin, usually of the scalp. 
2. An enormous congested city. 
Idiom: "the great wen" 
Etymology: Anglo-Saxon wenn a swelling or wart. 
London illustrated as a sebaceous cyst, a swelling and a wart on the face of the UK? You said it, not I! 
Which "Royal Borough" are you referring to? I sincerely hope that it is not Edin-burgh, because that is a Royal Burgh and not a Royal Borough. Are you using incorrect English terminology? Naughty boy. 
There is a fine solution to the monstrous subsidised carbuncle that is London: Scottish independence. Let the English taxpayer bear the full weight of that millstone around their necks.

11 October 2004, 10:31:38 GMT+01:00
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Alastair Ross
I suspect that Aberdeen offers a better quality of life than Bentonville, Arkansas, though having its head office in the latter location doesnt seem to have hampered the ability of Wal-Mart to attract top calibre retail management.

11 October 2004, 07:15:28 GMT+01:00