Former Ambassador, Human Rights Activist
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 captal 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.