April 20: Yorkshire should not take lectures from SNP politicians

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From Timothy Kirkhope, Conservative MEP for Yorkshire.

I COULD not allow the recent op-ed by Alyn Smith MEP of Scottish National Party to go without any challenge, albeit belated. He claims to be friend of Yorkshire as he as he seeks to appoint himself chief policy strategist to the Broad Acres. With friends like that, who needs enemies?

It seems the Scottish National party’s advice, sent lovingly from north of the border, is simple – be more like us and live a better life. He has taken The Yorkshire Post’s powerful but measured Manifesto for Yorkshire and made a quantum leap to a fantasy world of home rule and a Yorkshire Assembly.

Former Lib Dem MEP Diana Wallis has made the exact same mistake with her misguided Yorkshire First group and its fetish for a regional parliament. Such a body would doubtless become a nice little earner for self-important local worthies and who knows who else... former MEPs, perhaps?

There is a place for greater powers and greater spending flexibility flowing back to Yorkshire. Of course it is important key decisions on things like transport and planning should be closer to the people of Yorkshire. But that does not need a parliament, which would be little more than a superannuated talking shop and retirement home for party bigwigs.

The people of the North East made their distaste clear under Tony Blair when they refused in a referendum to have such an arrangement foisted on them, and the people of Yorkshire would have voted just the same way. Whoever reckoned Yorkshire men and women might vote to fork out for another layer of bureaucracy and another tier of politicians sorely misjudged the people of this county.

Far better to create a network of directly-elected mayors who can then come together in strategic groupings to take key decisions for the region.

That would be effective, efficient, democratic and cheap. It would speed up decision-making and co-ordinate it at the same time, to deliver the best decisions for Yorkshire. That is the way to build on the recovery which Yorkshire is beginning to enjoy under a Conservative-led Government. Not by following the SNP down its blind alley of self-aggrandisement, regionalised statism and obsession with process.

I believe it was PG Wodehouse who wrote: “It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.” Perhaps Mr Smith would be good enough to stop casting the gloom of his unwise and unwanted counsel over the county we love.