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The Tour de France in Yorkshire in 2014 will show the world what we can do here – devolution would unleash the even greater potential.

January 12, 2014

2013 saw a step change in the campaign to bring devolution to Yorkshire. The formation of the Yorkshire Devolution Movement brought the debate about into the public domain for the first time in over ten years.

As the year unfolded the news came that Yorkshire (and not the UK) had won the right to host the opening stages of the Tour  de France in July 2014 and added recognition of Yorkshire as a tourist destination when it was garlanded as one of the premier tourist destinations in the world. Both accolades show the fantastic potential the county has and, where it has the powers to do things for itself, how much is possible, not just in a domestic sense, but also on a global stage.

Against this we had the familiar depressing story of Yorkshire missing out on money and influence. There are too many instances to mention (all have been covered by this blog over the past year) but is perhaps highlighted by the story in yesterday’s Yorkshire Post which reported that, in order to redress the imbalance of transport infrastructure spending, councils in West Yorkshire asked to be able to raise a modest levy to fund local transport projects. Several months on they are still waiting for the Government to agree to this and for a commitment to contribute a portion of the money. It almost goes without saying, in contrast, London’s Crosstalk project will cost billions of pounds of public money.

Of course, some say we can look forward to HS2 rail project finally announced and cleared by Parliament in 2013. If ever there was a top down project looking for justification this is it. It is absurd to think that if people in Leeds had been asked how best to spend several billions of pounds on transport infrastructure, their first answer would be ‘the possibility to get to London 20 minutes quicker’.

For these reasons minds should be focused on devolution to Yorkshire but, of course, 2014 will see the Scots vote in their independence referendum. It is clear that whatever the result some urgent thought needs to be given to what happens in England. Instead we have silence. There are moves to properly fund the undemocratic and unaccountable LEPS  by Government. Others want to see local authorities have powers, others think the solution is for some sort of devolution for the north, others that an English parliament will be the answer. YDM is quite unequivocal however. As the constitution says, our objective is ‘securing a directly elected regional assembly for Yorkshire’.

2014 will see YDM increase the pressure for a some sort of discussion and debate about the future of Yorkshire; essentially what is the best way to deliver economic, social and environmental progress? The Scottish referendum should focus minds but to make sure this happens YDM will be calling for a ‘Yorkshire Conversation’ (in essence a constitutional convention) which will bring together people from all backgrounds from right across Yorkshire to have that debate and discussion. In addition, there is growing pressure from many to use the elections to the European Parliament in May this year as an opportunity to put the case for Yorkshire devolution. Those elections, uniquely, are fought on a region wide basis and would represent a chance to test the waters amongst a Yorkshire ‘demos’. And it is true a ‘Yorkshire party’ could spark some real interest and fun in what are otherwise notoriously dull elections.

Whatever happens in May, hopefully, 2014 will see a move away from the dead hand of Westminster and Whitehall and a real chance for Yorkshire to unleash the undoubted potential we have here.

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