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One year to go before Scotland decides its future but what does this mean for Yorkshire?

September 25, 2013

Richard Carter writes

In exactly one year 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.

  1. The UK is dominated by London and the south east, and is the most centralised state in Europe
  2. Government is too remote
  3. Local authorities have had powers increasingly taken away from them
  4. Confusion around roles and responsibilities between local, regional and national government
  5. 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
  6. 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?

If, as the polls currently suggest, Scotland remains in the UK the Scots will be given enhanced powers to give them more control over purely Scottish matters.

For us this gives more ammunition. 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 nations and regions were only narrowly won but since then support has rocketed and opposition to devolved government is 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.

But is a referendum on devolved powers for Yorkshire the right way to conduct a debate? The problem appears to be that a referendum does 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 clearly needs to take place that YDM is trying to encourage. However, where are the forums to discuss this?

There are very few places where a conversation for Yorkshire can naturally take place. Local Government Yorkshire & Humber (LGYH) is however, perhaps a key body that could facilitate this. Although it is essentially an employer’s organisation they are very clear in their objectives: “We will contribute to and influence Government on the future of local government and will develop a vision for local government in Yorkshire and Humber”.

A Conversation for Yorkshire, along the lines of the Scottish Convention that recommended Scottish devolution in the late 80’s, should be called.

Its aim should be 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
  • Carries people and political parties, minimising opposition

Over the next couple of months we will be developing this further and seeking to gather support from a wide range of organisations from local authorities to political parties and, most importantly, the great Yorkshire public. We would love to hear your thoughts on how we can progress this further.

Twitter: richard@yorkshiresense

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