From: George McManus, Member of Labour Party’s Foreign Policy Commission, Whins Lane, Long Riston, East Yorkshire.
AS the independence debate reaches its climax in Scotland, people in Yorkshire are beginning to understand that the result will affect us all (The Yorkshire Post, August 6).
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.
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 per cent 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 September 18, 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?
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. 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, yet London is planning to spend £50bn on HS2.
The answer is that spending priorities are being set by politicians in Scotland under devolution.