Mark Casci: It’s time to end the petty squabbling and come together as one Yorkshire

The Coldstones Cut designed by Andrew Sabin, Coldstone Quarry, Nidderdale, North Yorkshire
The Coldstones Cut designed by Andrew Sabin, Coldstone Quarry, Nidderdale, North Yorkshire
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In the grand scheme of things, David Cameron being caught on microphone saying that “he knew people from Yorkshire hated everyone else, I just didn’t know they hated each other” is unlikely to enter a list of political blunders when historians look back on this six years in Downing Street.

While the former Prime Minister and recently departed MP for Witney was being crass and facetious in these unguarded moments he did touch on a problem the region continues to face when it comes to landing greater autonomy over its future.

David Cameron during a visit to Kings Science Academy in 2012.

David Cameron during a visit to Kings Science Academy in 2012.

Yorkshire’s identity as a region is among the strongest there is worldwide.

Brands like Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Yorkshire Tea and dare I say it even The Yorkshire Post stand for a passion and pride generated by thousands of years of glorious history and heritage.

However it is undeniable that amongst all of this there has always been a powerful sense of inter-regional rivalry in Yorkshire.

Unlike Manchester in the North West and Newcastle in the North East, no one area of Yorkshire has ever held historical primacy over the others.

Famborough Head

Famborough Head

Throughout the centuries Bradford, Leeds, York and Sheffield have all been powerhouses in their own rights.

What led Cameron to make his remarks in September last year was the ongoing wrangling over devolution settlements for the region.

At that point a total of six different devolution plans were presented to the Government as local authorities in the region failed to reach a comprehensive agreement.

Rather than coming together as a collective like Manchester and the Midlands had done for their chance at being handed greater fiscal and political control, Yorkshire represented what looked like to outsiders as a conglomeration of warring tribes, each hellbent on ensuring they got the best deal for their own part of the Broad Acres.

Sheffield railway station.

Sheffield railway station.

Since then South Yorkshire has seen Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley throw their lot in with the communities of north Derbyshire while a deal for the rest of the region has yet to make it out of committee.

However, fast forward to today and it seems the tides may be shifting in favour of a pan-Yorkshire deal again.

As reported in The Yorkshire Post on Monday uncertainty about the deal for South Yorkshire is growing. I have been told privately by several leading figures that the mood for coming together as a Yorkshire collective entity is beginning to look more and more like the best option.

In my view they are correct.

We cannot allow Manchester to steal a march on us. A West Yorkshire deal with bits of North Yorkshire thrown in is not going to be able to compete anymore than the mooted South Yorkshire deal.

However as a Yorkshire region we will be a truly formidable force. Imagine the cutting edge manufacturing prowess of South Yorkshire married with the first class professional services sector of Leeds.

Take the green energy revolution along the Humber and put that together with the peerless food and drink offerings of our countryside. Imagine the drawing power of the Yorkshire Dales, the coast and the history of York all thrown into the mix. And our world-class universities could work in concert with businesses to ensure their workforces are full of the best and bright minds in the country, keeping talent here in the region.

As CBI president Paul Drechsler said at the body’s Yorkshire dinner this month “a northern powerhouse without Yorkshire is a contradiction in term”.

We can only achieve our potential together. We must not let petty political squabbling squander this once in a lifetime opportunity. We can be right at the forefront of whatever the Northern Powerhouse morphs into under the new Government.

It is what our business community and region needs. It is time for the tribes to unite and seize this opportunity.