HAMBURG was the picturesque venue for the draw for next summer’s footballing extravaganza in Germany. Scotland learned their fate last weekend, along with other nations competing in Euro 2024, in the grand setting of the Elbphilharmonie concert hall on the banks of the River Elbe.

It was a scenic backdrop for the occasion – and Hamburg puts on a good show. It’s a city I know well and, like so many of its counterparts across the country, has rebuilt itself almost completely since the Second World War. The centre-stage role of Germany’s northern metropolis in fronting the country’s build-up to next year’s tournament is worth mentioning because it is almost impossible to imagine such a showpiece event in the UK being hosted anywhere outside London.

Other countries have no problem sharing these things around their cities, reflecting their diversity, and means that, in many cases, they have a multitude of cities which compare – in population and in economic clout – to their capital.

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Take Germany itself. Frankfurt is its financial hub and home to the European Central Bank (below). Munich is an iconic city which is the base of many of the country’s leading companies and brands. Hamburg retains its role as a media centre to rival that of Berlin, the federal capital. The same is true for many other countries across Europe and beyond. But in the UK, the hugely disproportionate and distorting impact of London is impossible to escape and continues to grow further, year after year.

The National: The European Central Bank, based in Frankfurt, Germany, has increased interest rates (Michael Probst/AP)

It is a phenomenon almost unknown anywhere else in the world, certainly in countries of comparable population and size. In most nations, it is considered normal to have a spread of A-list institutions, company headquarters and governmental functions scattered between their most prominent cities.

For a range of historical, cultural and political reasons, the UK has become the glaring exception to that, with correspondingly negative consequences for just about everywhere outside the M25. London’s outsize place in the UK and in England especially is not exactly new. What is relatively new, however, is the utter domination it now exerts which, a decade ago now, saw a leading economist describe the city as the “dark star” of the UK economy, “inexorably sucking in people, resources and energy. Nobody quite knows how to control it”.

It’s possible to chart a line tracing London’s ascent to almost total domination of the UK political, corporate and financial ecosystem, with the corresponding rise in inequality which has seen the UK slip further and further behind many of its competing nations in that league table. As the wealth disparity has grown within the UK, the economic pre-eminence of its capital city has swelled.

Those corresponding trends have been accelerating over the last generation or so, ever since a new economic orthodoxy declared that the UK’s national prosperity could be created, directed and managed within the single square mile of the City of London.

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Blaming Margaret Thatcher alone for the ridiculously disproportionate influence London now exerts might not be entirely fair, but it’s also true that the roots of the city’s modern dominance can be traced to roughly the point when Keir Starmer’s professed pin-up girl took up residence in Downing Street. It is that overweening size, power and influence that London exerts which has seen it, over recent decades, suck in vast quantities of wealth, talent and resources.

London might still be a great place to visit and spend time. How could it be otherwise when you have such a critical mass of economic, political, corporate – not to mention cultural – power and attractions? Samuel Johnson’s famed observation that when you are tired of London you are tired of life may have been uttered in the 18th century, but it could have been written for the early 21st century. Visiting is one thing, living there is surely quite another. Quite how those on average or even modestly above average salaries – including the countless numbers who make up the core of delivering public services in health, education and other sectors – manage to get by in the London ecosystem’s brutal housing sector is a minor miracle.

The National: Scottish independence supporters march through Edinburgh Image: Colin Mearns

The “dark star” description of London was referred to by Yes campaigners in 2014 and mistakenly assumed by some to have been the invention of pro-independence voices. In fact, it was coined by Professor Tony Travers of the London School of Economics, and it’s worth reflecting, if his observation was true then, how much more apt is it now almost 10 years on, a decade which has only seen the city’s dominance swell further.

A more recent description of London’s dominance and the warping effect it has had, from the pages of the Financial Times no less, described the post-Brexit UK as having become a “poor rich nation, with an Alpha city attached”. That just about sums it up.

So glaring has London’s dominance become that it has reached a point where it is impossible to ignore and so there have been some attempts in recent years to counterbalance it. Most notably, the BBC has sought to spread its footprint beyond London, with the relocation of some big-ticket presenting and production to “the North”, in Salford – something which is commendable but still feels somehow tokenistic. For Scotland, having even a limited measure of autonomy has been beneficial in insulating the country, at least slightly, from the London effect – a glance at many of the comparative economic statistics for most of the UK nations and regions outside the south-east would support that point.

Perhaps the “problem” of London – and its utter dominance to the detriment of the rest of the UK is now undeniably a real problem – may only be properly addressed when Scotland achieves independence. Scotland needs to be independent for its own sake and to make the most of its own potential. But in doing so, it might well also provide a favour for the rest of the UK by making the long overdue rebalancing away from London unavoidable.