Scotland is teetering on the verge of independence and as the polls close later this evening, those in Westminster will be sweating on the results which could start the ball rolling for more devolu
Scotland is teetering on the verge of independence and as the polls close later this evening, those in Westminster will be sweating on the results which could start the ball rolling for more devolution throughout the United Kingdom.
Regardless of which campaign is celebrating on the steps of Holyrood tomorrow morning, the independence referendum has been the most significant political debate most of us will ever see. The debate has awoken Westminster up to the fact that the United Kingdom is beginning to clamber towards more power for their regions over the centralised orders from Whitehall.
Should the Better Together campaign lose; the three main political parties will have no one to blame but themselves. It will leave them hurt and embarrassed and may even force Prime Minster David Cameron to resign but just as a NO vote victory will – it will force the question of regional autonomy throughout the UK into the public eye.
But what does it mean for the North East? Regardless if Scotland achieves independence or not, questions will be asked whether more power should be filtered down to the North East. A Yes victory will undoubtedly provoke this debate.
Scotland is going to gain new powers whether through an independent parliament or through more devolved powers as Westminster is forced to match the promises desperately given to the Scottish people in the last few weeks.
The North East – Is it neglected?
And any new powers are going to affect the North East and possibly not for the better. Newcastle by train is only an hour and half from Edinburgh and the North East region, like many in Scotland feel those in power neglect the issues and problems so rife in the region.
Indeed the North East unemployment rates are the highest in the country and while the government celebrated the news this week of a national decline in unemployment – it actually rose in the North East. This unemployment rate – currently standing at 9.9% – means that government initiatives like the bedroom tax hits hard.
Other factors like the High Speed Rail Link which won’t reach the North East or the Government’s National Infrastructure Plan which is reported to spend £2,731 per head in London and the South East compared to just £5 per head in the North East – leaves many in the region feeling aggrieved.
And many are seeing the Yes campaign as inspiration to fight for more powers which allow money to be spent by those apparently more able to.
But would devolved powers to the North East change anything? After all the region rejected the chance of a Regional Assembly in 2004 by an overwhelming majority of 78%.
Should Scotland achieve independence there is a worry how the policies that the Scottish National Party have offered will affect those just over the border. The 50% cut in Air Passenger Duty and a cut in corporation taxes would, in the opinion of some, have devastating consequences for trade and tourism in the North East.
Devolution doesn’t necessarily mean change
But devolving powers to the North East -in my opinion – will not bring the change so many hope for. Those in charge will continue to be led by party policy thought up in Westminster and just as a Yes vote for Scotland will damage the North East so would the delivery of devolved powers to the region.
It’s great that the North East is quietly joining the debate about regional autonomy but as the region has already shown back in 2004 – confidence in the ability to govern locally on a national budget may not be there for the majority.
But before the North East can think of breaking way, the focus is on Scotland and it’s brilliant that the country have engaged in politics but I for one hope that the Better Together pulls through – not just for the sake of the North East of England but also for the younger generations of Scotland who will pace the price of independence.
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