For those who might have missed them, below are links to a few Yorkshire devolution related stories and columns that have appeared in the Yorkshire Post over the past few days
Call for end to North-South divide over arts funding
Labour to bring back ‘Minister for Yorkshire’
And, finally, last but by no means least, the launch of a Yorkshire party by sometime contributor to this blog, Richard Carter:
New party promises to put ‘Yorkshire First’
And an op-ed in which he expands on the idea:
Richard Carter: Is it time for a regional government?
Wales has been promised new powers by the Lib Dem leader & Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.
Youth justice, big energy and policing will be among the newly granted powers to the Cardiff based assembly.
It could be argued that Cymru was originally hesitant of devolved power, with the Yes side only collecting a very narrow victory in the 1997 referendum, it is safe to say now however that the Welsh people have certainly see the benefits of having their own assembly.
Polling last year showed that eight out of ten Welshmen (and women!) thought that the Welsh Assembly acted in the best interests of the Welsh and most importantly a majority of people thought that the Welsh Assembly had given Wales a stronger voice in the UK than they ever had before.
This proves what devolution can do for places like Yorkshire, allowing us to have a true and lasting say on our county’s density. If you’re skeptical of a Yorkshire assembly, use Wales as an example, hesitant and now in love.
Today (April 1st) sees the 40th anniversary of the local government reorganisation in Yorkshire. On April 1st 1974 local government reforms came into place whereby Yorkshire saw the breakup of the thousand year old Ridings, saw traditional Yorkshire communities transferred to Lancashire, Durham and Cumbria and saw the creation of Cleveland and Humberside County Councils.
Nigel Sollitt, the Chairman of the Yorkshire Devolution Movement, has commented:
“Nobody could quite believe the reorganisation which destroyed centuries old traditions in Yorkshire. Every one hoped it was an April Fool’s Day joke, but sadly it was not.
“After much criticism the abominations that were Cleveland and Humberside have since been abolished. What we want is the restoration of the traditional pre-1974 boundaries of Yorkshire and we support all Yorkshire communities under non-Yorkshire local authority to return to Yorkshire administration.”
Yesterday marked the 100 day countdown before Le Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France. The first two stages, of course, will be held in Yorkshire and will provide a fantastic opportunity to showcase Yorkshire to the world. That process has already started, not least through the brilliant short films which have been made to promote Yorkshire and the Tour de France. All are worth a look on the Le Grand Depart website but this has to be a particular favourite. In fact, if ever a ‘party political broadcast’ was to be made on behalf of Yorkshire, then surely much of this would have to be included!
An online poll for the Yorkshire Post showed a decisive margin for those wanting a regional assembly in Yorkshire. The poll, conducted over the weekend, showed at 6pm yesterday a 65% -35% split in favour of a regional assembly for Yorkshire. This really gives the campaign a boost and will see the intensity of YDM’s work increase over the coming weeks.
A short article addressing the issue of Cornish devolution by our secretary, Gareth Shanks.
Guest blogger, George McManus writes:
SCOTLAND’S REFERENDUM – YORKSHIRE’S FUTURE
‘Stay with us Scotland’. The words of David Bowie delivered by his representative on earth Supermodel Kate Moss at the recent music awards had more impact on the Scottish independence debate than the interventions of 1000 politicians. ‘Why’ people have been asking, ‘should an ageing rock and roll star be even interested in the Scottish independence referendum?’ Well having spent the last 40 years trying to understand the subliminal messages of the brilliant Ziggy Stardust album, I wouldn’t dream of trying to second guess the great man. I can only conclude that we should all be interested none more so than the people of Yorkshire.
The same applies when we consider that the Silk Commission has recently reported into additional powers for the Welsh Assembly. There is every likelihood that responsibilities for the criminal justice system in Wales will move from Westminster to Cardiff. And why not? Surely the people of Wales are in a better position to decide on legal priorities, within nationally and internationally agreed parameters, than mandarins in London. People in Wales also want to ensure that more is done to protect Wales against the ravages of the weather and climate change.
Can anyone not have noticed how the whole debate on the winter weather, ignored by Whitehall when 1000 homes on the Humber were damaged by December’s storm surge, shot up the agenda when the playing fields of Eton were flooded? People are asking, ‘Why is it that Cornwall’s railways and its economy, have been severed by some bad weather when London is spending £15bn on a new Crossrail project and is pushing for High Speed 2 to be built from London to Birmingham?
Whether you’re in Wales, Scotland, Cornwall or Yorkshire it’s obvious that our political system is warped. The economy in London and the South East is booming while the rest of the country is in recession. And the situation is getting worse not better. As London’s economy grows, so more resources, human and otherwise are sucked out of the regions. Our system is broken and needs fixing.
But we’ve been here before. John Prescott’s admirable attempts at regional government in England were blocked by a Whitehall machine whose instinct is to centralise. Watered down proposals which would have created toothless talking shops overseen by overpaid politicians, the picture created for the public was of bloated administrators with their snouts in the trough. We must be clear with our vision.
All parties should now be urged to commit to democratically elected regional devolution in their manifestos for the next election.
We must make sure than we don’t make the same mistakes as in the past. History teaches us that people want better politics not more politics. I believe we should have a democratically elected assembly for Yorkshire, not Yorkshire and the Humber but Yorkshire using ancient not contemporary boundaries. Housed in York, it should be funded by block grant from Westminster and be empowered to decide its own policy priorities for economic development, education, health, transport and environment. Representation should be equal to the number of Parliamentary constituencies and based on the principle of 2 representatives for twinned constituencies to be returned on a gender balance basis ensuring minimum 50% representation of women representatives. It should be part of a root and branch re-organisation of local government, reducing the numbers of councillors but vitally giving councillors control over delivery and not just commissioning of services. Only then will we reinvigorate local government.
First step would be to establish a royal commission to look at proposals. Working with the Local Government Boundaries Commission, this should be required to report both regional and local proposals by the end of 2017. Next step would be to put its findings to a referendum of Yorkshire voters in 2019. If they vote for it then it could be up and running with elections to the new assembly to be held in 2020.
It could also be argued that the real dividing line politically in the UK is not the line which forms the Scotland/England border but that which defines the North/South divide. It’s no coincidence that the decision makers in Westminster only waken up to the problems of flooding when the South is affected. It’s time to stop complaining and to demand answers. It’s time for Yorkshire.
George McManus is a member of Beverley & Holderness Labour Party. He writes as a Scottish exile and is a member of Labour’s International Policy Commission. He is also an occasional blogger for YDM.
Stewart Arnold, Blog editor and rugby fan, writes
The decision by Leeds Carnegie rugby union club to rename itself as Yorkshire Carnegie from next season has not been without controversy. Some Leeds supporters are naturally annoyed that the name of their city has been dropped from the club name whilst other Yorkshire teams, such as Rotherham Titans, wonder how Leeds Carnegie can pretend to represent the whole of Yorkshire. Sadly this spat has somewhat hijacked the long held view of many that Yorkshire needs a top rugby union team. That doesn’t just mean a team playing for a season or two in the Aviva Premiership and scrapping to avoid relegation, but one that is consistently in the European competition, currently the Heineken Cup.
The Heineken Cup has emerged as the premier club rugby tournament over the past few years and vies with the 6 Nations Championship for outstanding rugby and has put many clubs on the map, not least the Irish provincial teams of Leinster, Munster and Ulster. These three teams have had a lot of success over the years and have engendered a sense of real pride in those provinces from their local communities. The singing of songs and the waving of flags are just part of a typical home (and indeed away) match experience. We in Yorkshire can only look on in envy as 18,000 will pack into Ravenhill, the recently extended home of Ulster, when they play in the Heineken Cup quarter final shortly. Beyond cricket, we are currently poorly served by teams representing ‘all Yorkshire’.
The glamour of the European-wide Cup is a lure for all Yorkshire teams. There is a lot of the season left before we can call the Championship but clearly Leeds is very well placed for promotion but there are up to four teams in it, including Rotherham. It could be that a team called Yorkshire is in the top division next year. What seems a long way off is that team competing in the European Cup on a consistent basis. Could it be that, in years to come though, despite its controversial birth, Yorkshire Carnegie fulfils the same totemic place in the hearts of the people of ‘God’s own county’ that supporters of Ulster and Leinster have for their provincial rugby teams as they triumph in Europe?
A pretty impressive array of devolved powers are part of the Silk Commission’s recommendations on the Welsh Assembly as reported today by the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-26407940
The Commission recommended that devolved powers should be extended to control over youth justice and policing and large-scale energy projects should also be the responsibility of the Welsh government.
Meanwhile, here in Yorkshire, we can only look on and dream…