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Devolution or Independence: We must not neglect the North East

1349835587_8369111e95_oIn the early hours of Friday morning we will learn whether Scotland has voted in favour of Independence.

The arguments have been well rehearsed from the uncertainty of Independence, and the stability offered by the Union, to the economic and democratic freedom offered by Independence. As a supporter of the Union, and the Better Together Campaign I hope Scotland will vote to retain the United Kingdom. However, I have no doubt that an Independent Scotland would be a successful and prosperous nation.

The referendum will have a profound impact on the UK, no matter what the result, we know more powers will be transferred from Westminster to Holyrood.

This will leave the North East in a precarious position wedged between a Scotland with the economic and tax freedom to gain a competitive advantage to attract investment and drive growth, and a Conservative Government in Westminster that fails to look beyond their heartlands in the South.

We must make the case now that the North East must also feature in any negotiations that will take place over the coming months, whether over devolution or independence, otherwise there is a risk that our economy could be undermined.

I have followed the arguments closely throughout the campaign and time and time again the Better Together campaign have said that devolution is the best of both worlds, with the power and autonomy to make decisions in the best interest of the Scottish people, with the safety and stability of being part of a wider union. I agree, and if this is the best of both worlds why can’t these same benefits be extended to our region, so that we are on an equal footing to co-operate and compete with the Government north of the border.

At this time, the North East needs greater representation in Government and for jobs and prosperity, however in the last four years we have seen our representation weakened with the loss of our Regional Development Agency – One North East, as well as our voice in cabinet as the Prime Minister abolished the Minister for the North East.

In contrast, Scotland has its own Government Department and Minister in Westminster, in addition to their devolved Parliament in Edinburgh, and development bodies all of which are seeking to drive forward economic growth.

The referendum should be an opportunity for all of us to reflect how we are governed, and in the aftermath of Thursday’s vote as more powers and autonomy are transferred to the devolved administration we cannot neglect the English Regions, particularly, the North East, who as Scotland’s nearest neighbour will be directly impacted by devolution or an Independent Scotland.

CC BY Image credit: Angel of the North by Craig Booth at Flikr

5 Comments

  1. Paddy Oneill says:

    Interesting what will equal the north teesside tyneside Yorkshire Northumberland etc

  2. swatantra says:

    We gave them a chance For Regional Assemblies 10 years ago and they foolishly turned it down. Should they be given a2nd chance? Perhaps, but they’ll have to pay for it.

  3. David Ellis says:

    Westminster would love to see England broken up into regions with assemblies enacting their austerity programme for them. England needs a parliament of its own if it is to fight the Westeminster. It should be located in the Midlands. Parliament should be turned into a museum and a slimmed down federal authority located in its environs.

  4. James Martin says:

    Yet more regional assembly nonsense. People can just about understand Scotland and Wales having control over their own health service and education. But seriously, do we want a completely separate NE or NW NHS?

    No, what really pisses people off south of the Scottish boarder is not so much their devolved powers, but the fact that Scottish MPs then get to vote on English NHS funding when English MPs don’t have a say in theirs – it was a raging bone of animosity in my local barbers of all places this morning, and you can see how the rise of Scottish nationalism is starting to find its echo in the south. In fact my barbers brother who has lived in Glasgow for 6 years without incident for the first time last night was aggressively called an ‘English bastard’ by a group of nationalist bigots. So please, let’s stop all this nonsense of dividing and sub-dividing the working class – we need political power false stop, and no amount of talk of devolved powers, regional assemblies and localism will hide the fact that unless we move away from all of that constitutional diversion, we will still be as far away as ever from getting it.

  5. Shirley Knott says:

    “We gave them”
    Wow – such high-handed generosity from “you”, presumably dahn sarf! Said offer was totally worthless.

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