Commissioner – The North needs devolution too

Tony Lloyd

This opinion piece by Tony Lloyd appeared in the Manchester Evening News on Tuesday 16 September 2014.

“The people of Scotland face a choice this week between breaking away from the United Kingdom or staying within the union, but being given greatly enhanced devolved powers. 

“I spent yesterday in Scotland campaigning for the Better Together campaign as I hope Scotland chooses to maintain the union. The peoples of this island are bound by cultural, social, familial economic and political ties and I believe we stand stronger together as a united nation. 

“Whatever the result, what follows will have profound implications for Greater Manchester.  

“Scots have been promised significantly greater devolved powers if they say no this week. 

“This is good for Scotland. Not only is it democratically right, but by being freed from the centralised, London-focussed grip of Westminster, Scotland will be able to build its own economic powerbase. 

“But it isn’t just Scotland that needs more power – we do too. 

“The argument that the rest of the country suffers at the hands of the capital is indisputable. 

“Infrastructure is poor outside the capital, but one of the major projects to redress the balance – HS2 – has been mired in controversy. Meanwhile, Crossrail, which connects one side of London to the other and is – per mile – twice the cost of HS2, will be completed within a few years. 

“Spending on the arts also illustrates how the rest of the nation loses out to London. Public spending on the arts in London is 15 times greater than outside the capital. Londoners benefit from £69 spending per head on the arts. For the rest of the country it’s £4.58. 

“You could fill this newspaper with examples of how we lose out to London, but the argument to rebalance power in the UK is a positive one, not one that relies on bemoaning how London benefits at our expense. 

“Earlier this month, the RSA published its Connected Cities report, which argues for fairer and more flexible funding for our cites, freeing them from the shackles of centralised decision-making. It makes a strong, convincing and positive case for stronger city regions. 

“I believe we can and must go further and have genuine devolved powers for the English regions. 

“Successive governments have failed the North of England for too long. Labour has often taken the North for granted and the Tories simply do not understand or care about the North. 

“Without greater devolved powers we risk being strangled by a confident and powerful Scotland, and a London that drains the rest of the country in pursuit of its own success. 

“Scotland makes a once-in-a-generation choice this week. We must seize this opportunity and make our case for the North to have a greater democratic voice as that is the key to our success for the future.

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