Call for Yorkshire to see Scottish-style devolution

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon
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YORKSHIRE has taken centre stage in the devolution battlefield with party leaders fighting to set out how the voice of the region will be heard.

Increased devolution is a key feature of the Yorkshire manifesto, in which this newspaper sets out how the region can be helped to play a bigger economic and cultural role in the UK.

As more powers are proposed for Scotland to counter the growing influence of Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP, the case for English local influence has grown further in recent weeks.

The manifesto calls for the next Government to set out a strategy for northern devolution, alongside plans for greater financial devolution.

Already Labour has launched in Leeds is local government commitments, with shadow chancellor Ed Balls saying he will allow city leaders to keep a greater share of increased business rates.

The Yorkshire Manifesto also called for a return of a Yorkshire Minister, a post held by Rosie Winterton before being scrapped in 2010.

Ed Miliband promised to bring back the post when asked on a visit to Huddersfield, but Prime Minister David Cameron used an appearance in West Yorkshire to dismiss the call, saying instead that he wants all his ministers to be acting for Yorkshire.

The Conservative’s insist their devolution commitment is clear from their record in office. Leeds and Sheffield have both seen their own city deals increased with extra say over Government skills spending and transport decisions.

And the Liberal Democrats have vowed to increase Yorkshire devolution as part of the Northern Futures project, in which party leader Nick Clegg has sought to advance the cause of the three Northern regions.

Much of the hand over of power Yorkshire is seeking is based on a key manifesto principle; the political parties must make English devolution as important as Scottish devolution.

The need for that commitment is seen in the continuing rise in SNP influence north of the border.

With polls indicating Labour will lose its majority in Scotland, the potential for the SNP to coalition deal breakers has increased.

William Hague has said the Conservative Party is determined to reduce the devolution imbalance with a policy of English votes for English laws.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Mr Hague said: “We tried but could not pass these changes in the last parliament, but it is something a Conservative government will do with a Conservative majority. We will say that decisions which only effect England have to have the agreement of English MPs other wise they cannot be passed.

“That is not excluding the Scots from anything. If we did that it would mean that in future elections we would not have the threat of the SNP saying it is going to dictate what happens in England to a Labour Government.”

On several occasions Mrs Sturgeon has used speeches and public appearances to reach out to English voters, saying she backs increased devolution to English regions and suggesting a stronger SNP would help local authorities achieve this.

In a recent speech she promised to be an ally to those seeking to shake up and reform the “outdated” Westminster system of financial and political control “once and for all”.