Where now for ‘The North’?
As a Scotsman, it’s been unquestionably the most exciting political debate of my life as we’ve gone through the recent Referendum for Independence. I’ll leave my political views to one side in this particular post but one thing I noticed as we got closer and closer to Referendum Day was the strength of interest from my friends here in the North.
One aspect off their interest was a kind of fear that they’d lose the emotional connection (two way I have to say) with us Scots, but also what impact Scotland’s secession would have on regional power in England. (For better or for worse.)
We all know that the North East has hardly been lavished with regional aid and does not benefit in the same way that Scotland does from the Barnett formula. (Although that was calculated for a reason that holds true to this day.)
It’s an interesting time for the Northern English regions of the UK as they see more and more devolved power pass to the Welsh, The Northern Irish and, increasingly, to the Scots as the promised Smith Commission kicks into gear.
It’s time the North sought greater levels of regional decision making, in my opinion, so that it too can influence the economic development of a proud and capable region. But what’s the forum for that?
It seems that Mr Cameron may be listening and paying at least lip service to a report from the City Growth Commission that is recommending devolution from Westminster to 15 regional cities that will improve GDP in these areas by nearly £80bn or 5% of GDP.
And he further stated at PM Questions that this represented a “real opportunity” to rebalance the economy using high-speed rail and other infrastructure to “link up our great northern cities” and create a “northern powerhouse”. He also supports a vastly improved Trans-Pennine railway.
“The prime minister has welcomed an ambitious proposal to devolve power to UK city regions along the same brisk timetable as the Scottish devolution process, suggesting Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire could gain more autonomy in 2015.”
Scotland has been galvanised politically and socially, some would go as far as to say culturally, by the Independence Referendum. I say to the Great Northern Powerhouse: grasp the nettle while the issue is still burning hot and go for it.