English regions should benefit from Scotland’s campaign
Okay Scotland, you’ve had your say. Now let the English regions have theirs.
In Wednesday’s blog I said that Scotland’s demands would be replicated in other parts of the UK…
“….The Great North and its development of the railways, a reborn Birmingham which produced great engineers, a resurgent Manchester and Liverpool now basking in modern industries…these regions will not sit back and let their former UK partner and ally run off with the family silver and claim it has a unique place in the world. They will demand greater powers of their own…”
Today (19th Sept) a campaign has been launched by a group of regional newspapers in the north of England echoing this message. They are calling for a vow to the north from the party leaders similar to that issued to the Scots this week in the Daily Record.
Among the titles coming together to campaign for the north of England are The Yorkshire Post, Manchester Evening News, The Journal (Newcastle) and The Northern Echo where I worked in the late eighties and early nineties. Even in those pre-devolution days the economic agencies in the northeast of England looked enviously at the budgets controlled by Scottish public sector bodies such as the Scottish Development Agency (reborn in 1992 as Scottish Enterprise).
There was a feeling that Scotland enjoyed an unfair advantage by virtue of having a number of offices of state and from the receipt of generous financial handouts. Some of this was based more on rumour and conjecture rather than hard facts, but nonetheless it had the effect of making the north of England, and to a lesser extent other regions, feel Scotland was being treated as a special case.
This is somewhat ironic in view of Scotland’s own perception that it is denied proper representation in the United Kingdom. But what is becoming undeniable and irresistible is that the dominance of London and the south east is being challenged like never before. Its growth contributes to the wealth of the whole country, but not evenly. It is evident from the booming house prices and City bonuses that it exists in an economy of its own. London is a city state rather like New York and Hong Kong with little or no interest in the rest of the country. This is not a criticism of London’s growth, only a realisation by the rest of Britain that this divide is becoming untenable. It is the real divide – London and the south east against the rest.
Scotland has reawakened the great cities of Britain and while they have rejected local parliaments in the past, the mood is changing. Scotland, inadvertently, may just have fired the starting gun on a campaign that will hand more power to England’s regions.