Last week I wrote an article in which I suggested Glasgow now has more claim to be Scotland’s capital than Edinburgh.
Oh what a hullabaloo I’ve caused. Within hours my social media accounts were white hot with furious and often violent indignation. How dare I cast such outrageous aspersions on the city in which I live and work? I was a traitor, I’m ashamed to share a surname with you said one. I should denounce my citizenship said another.
I’m sure no-one will be surprised to learn that the article wasn’t intended as a crie de guerre to Atlas and Encyclopaedia compilers to rush out revised volumes. Not even someone as irredeemably optimistic as I imagined that the Powers that Be would promptly pack Edinburgh’s civic and legislative baubles into the back of a Ford Transit and drive them across the M8.
Rather it was intended as a comment on what I see as the changing political, social and cultural mood in Scotland. A country that, in the referendum campaign, demonstrated the enormous power and energy that can be channelled into the political process by ordinary people is best exemplified by the citizens of Glasgow.
Three things struck me most about the often hysterical reaction to my article. The first was that the vast majority of comment was from people living in Edinburgh.
The second was that the most visceral comments were from those who took a political message from my piece. Not that there was one – if the trolls had read the article properly and in its entirety.
The third was the way in which people personalised my comments about Edinburgh, interpreting them as being directed specifically at them. And that, paradoxically, is what I have found most heartening about this “debate” – that while some of the comments posted on my Facebook page and Twitter accounts have been hateful and visceral, others have been robust and passionate. People are proud of their city and that is to be respected and admired.
I want each and every resident, young and older, indigenous and new, to feel a sense of ownership in their city. My work exposes me to the wealthiest and poorest citizens and I’ve seen that civic pride is not the sole preserve of the advantaged – it applies equally to the most marginalised communities.
Inequality threatens the social cohesion of any city, not just Edinburgh. Glasgow, I believe, is further ahead in recognising that a city is made, not by its wealth or its institutions but by its people. I want Edinburgh to be shaped by all of its citizens and I make no apology for that.
• Mike Stevenson is head of Thinktastic, a public policy consultancy that advises businesses and organisations on happiness and wellbeing