In September the people of Scotland will decide whether to remain in the UK or go its own way as an independent country. It will be a momentous decision potentially tearing up the Union, and will have repercussions either way.
So, how will this affect Yorkshire and our future?
Whether the Scots vote to stay or not, the problems with the UK remain the same.
- The UK is dominated by London and the south east, and is the most centralised state in Europe
- Government is too remote
- Local authorities have had powers increasingly taken away from them
- Confusion around roles and responsibilities between local, regional and national government
- England is not one homogenous country, and has different needs and requirements in different regions – what might be appropriate in the West Country may be plain wrong in Yorkshire
We are already in competition – not just with the Scots but other parts of England, and indeed Europe. Not surprisingly, those regions within Europe that have greater powers perform better, environmentally, socially and economically.
So what can we learn from the debates so far?
It seems clear that the impact on the UK will be massive either way – whatever Scotland decides.
Yorkshire has a similar size population, is as diverse as Scotland and Wales, and has a distinct sense of identity. If it is logical for Scotland to have more powers why not the regions in England that desires it?
In addition the UK now has a track record of devolution – even London has it! The referendums that introduced the four devolved regions were only narrowly won but since then support has rocketed and opposition to regional government down to below 10%. This is a great story to tell and reflects that government, closer to the people works and helps to reconnect people with government.
It will perhaps strengthen calls for more change – and not just from Yorkshire. Without the counterbalance of Scotland, the UK will be even more lop-sided and dominated by London. The UK government will be essentially 51 million in England, plus 4.5 million in Northern Ireland and Wales combined. In short an English parliament in all but name.
The question then becomes do we wait for it to happen to us? Or try to influence this?
Referendums do not encourage unity or consensus. It reduces the debate to a Yes/No decision, and appears to be characterised by both sides playing on fear of the unknown.
For us in Yorkshire, a referendum should be the last step. It should be conducted when a broad agreement on what the future could look like has been achieved.
A Conversation for Yorkshire should aim to get political and community commitment to finding a governing solution that works for the people of Yorkshire at both Regional & Local level.
- It does not ask people or organisations, to commit to the future shape of the ‘solution’, but rather gets them to commit to exploring it
- Gets input and commitment from a wide range of organisations
- Builds a head of steam
- Creates unity behind an agreed scheme
Yorkshire over the last forty years has undergone many local authority changes and we now have a range of different types of authorities, with different roles & responsibilities, different voting systems and electoral cycles. It is marked by complexity and confusion. On top of this many of the Yorkshire wide ‘strategic’ bodies have disappeared, with new bodies taking some of their responsibilities whilst other decision making is in Whitehall.
There are 22 councils plus one county council covering just part of the region. There is no unified voice for the region.
We have LEPs, City Regions, and a variety of other regional bodies – all operating without the direct input of the public. Business Yes, public No.
We think the time for Yorkshire is now. We are proud of our past and our great region. With the right tools and powers to act we can secure a brighter future built by the people of Yorkshire addressing our priorities within England and the UK.
We would love to hear your thoughts.
This is a guest post by:
Richard Carter, Leader Yorkshire First & candidate 2 in the EU elections