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The Yorkshire Question

August 25, 2014

The Yorkshire Question by George McManus

As the independence debate reaches a crescendo in Scotland, people in Yorkshire are beginning to understand that, whatever the outcome, the result will affect us all.

We may not have a say in the Scottish referendum but the ongoing debate has raised a number of questions in Yorkshire Cities, towns and villages.   None more so than in my favourite Beverley pub, the Dog and Duck.   Somebody recently asked me to explain why voters in Scotland pay neither prescription charges nor tuition fees?     It’s a question I’ve never been asked before and I am convinced has only arisen because of increased awareness as to the devolution settlement in Scotland.

Clearly whether Scotland votes for or against independence there will be political and economic prices to pay.

If Scotland goes it alone then how will the rest of the UK defend itself if all the nuclear submarines are on the Clyde? How will the exchequer deal with a cut of 10% in its national income and the loss of North Sea oil revenues? Where will Hull City find its next generation of players? And if people vote No on 18 September, just what powers will need to be devolved further under the devo-max arrangements?  Will Scottish MPs still be allowed to vote on purely English issues?

Much more importantly, in my mind, is that either way, the devolution genie has been well and truly let out of the bottle and this explains why questions on tuition fees and prescription charges are now being discussed in the Dog and Duck.

Billy Bragg put it well. ‘Most people in England have never thought about devolution. But it’s like the guy who, having never considered building a conservatory, realises his next door neighbour’s got one. He looks over the garden fence and says ‘Yes, I like the look of that.’’

So it is with Scotland and England.   People are looking over the garden fence, asking questions, and when they hear the answers they’re saying ‘I like the look of that’.   Yes there will be questions to ask about how Yorkshire could afford its own assembly and what powers it would have.   People might say that Scotland and the English regions are subsidised by London and the South East and in return we might say that London caused the financial crisis in 2008 so London can pay the debt.   They might say why are we spending ten times as much on transport per head of population in the South East than we do in Yorkshire?.

In the Dog and Duck I was asked how Scotland could afford to re-open old railway lines? We can’t even re-open the direct link between Hull and York, two of Yorkshire’s great cities, how come London is planning to spend £50billion on High Speed 2?

The answer to all these questions is that in Scotland under devolution, policy priorities and therefore spending priorities, are being set by politicians in Scotland. Those policies, represent the priorities of the people in Scotland.   Yorkshire’s policy priorities are determined in London and therefore reflect the priorities of an out of touch establishment which is based in London.

So when the referendum result comes in and the Scottish people vote, as I hope and believe they will to reject the phoney ‘independence’ of the SNP and decide to stay in the United Kingdom, let’s make sure that we keep the debate going and build on the momentum created.   It’s time we had our new conservatory.   It’s time for Yorkshire!

George McManus, lives at 7 Whins Lane, Long Riston, East Yorkshire HU11 5JS and is a member of the Labour Party’s Foreign Policy Commission   Tele: 07720 847810


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