'˜A nation within a nation': An open letter to Theresa May from the chairman of the Yorkshire Devolution Movement

.A view across to Arthington Viaduct, built in 1846, carries the Harrogate-Leeds railway line from North Yorkshire across the River Wharfe into West Yorkshire..A view across to Arthington Viaduct, built in 1846, carries the Harrogate-Leeds railway line from North Yorkshire across the River Wharfe into West Yorkshire.
.A view across to Arthington Viaduct, built in 1846, carries the Harrogate-Leeds railway line from North Yorkshire across the River Wharfe into West Yorkshire.
This is an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May from Nigel Sollitt, chairman of the Yorkshire Devolution Movement.

THE first day of this month was Yorkshire Day; a day when people from all over the traditional county celebrated the gloriousness and glory of Yorkshire, her unique heritage and their identity, loyalty and pride as Yorkshirefolk.

There can be no doubting that Yorkshire’s coast, wolds, moors, dales and peaks, including two whole national parks and part of a third, make for the most glorious of counties.

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The history and heritage of Yorkshire is rich and unique, particularly due to her strong links with the Danes, relating back to her days as the Kingdom of Jórvík in the ninth and 10th centuries. Many surnames, placenames and dialectal words found in Yorkshire today are testament to that. Even the three ‘Ridings’ of Yorkshire were created by the Danes as administrative thirds (thridjungr) of Yorkshire (Jórvíkskyr) and continued as such for well over a thousand years to 1974.

Despite all Whitehall’s meddling, especially the changes imposed via the Local Government Act 1972 and the division of England into false regions such as the abomination, ‘Yorkshire and the Humber’, the boundaries enveloping her three Ridings, are still widely recognised as the true boundaries of Yorkshire and people living within them will still define their identity simply as, ‘Yorkshire’.

Cornwall is, perhaps, the only other county to have such strength of identity. On the basis that a ‘nation’ is defined as ‘a significant group of people sharing a strong identity directly relating to a recognised territory’, Yorkshire, like Cornwall, is a nation within a nation and, like Cornwall, is also deserving of National Minority Status.

Looking at the UK and identifying the nations within it will show that the Scots people are devolved as Scotland, the Welsh people as Wales, the Northern Irish people as Northern Ireland and even the Cornish people have devolution, albeit in a lesser form, as Cornwall. There is therefore no valid reason to prevent the Yorkshire people being devolved as Yorkshire. Not only is there no valid reason to prevent it, there are many valid reasons to grant it:

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Granting devolution to an integral Yorkshire will respect the heritage of Yorkshire, recognise the identity of the Yorkshire people and thereby create a motivational environment. Devolving to false regions and fragmenting Yorkshire will fail to achieve this.

Yorkshire has a larger population than Scotland, a larger economy than Wales and a larger land area than London. Devolution has been successful in each of these places for almost two decades so there is no reason on any of these bases for devolution to Yorkshire to be anything other than successful.

As things stand, there is much costly duplication where the several parts of Yorkshire are each paying for the same management structures, functions, services and assets whereas an All-Yorkshire administration could provide the same cover with much less outlay. City-regions could never achieve this level of synergy.

There would be no need to rely on collaboration agreements with other authorities to deliver pan-Yorkshire transport and infrastructure projects.

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A united Yorkshire would provide ready-made cohesion and therefore be better placed to make Yorkshire and the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ successful. The diverse economy of a united Yorkshire would offer greater protection against adverse market forces than would the economies of individual parts of a fragmented Yorkshire.

The ‘Yorkshire’ brand is world renowned and no government body could be better placed to support, nurture and maximize the potential of that asset than one which represents All-Yorkshire. This would include support in securing the best procurement and export deals, increasing productivity and thereby reducing unemployment throughout the county.

Yorkshire Day also brought us the welcome news that at a meeting in Yorkshire’s capital city on July 28 this year, 17 of Yorkshire’s local authorities formed a cross-party coalition to secure a single devolution deal. Even more recently, it was equally pleasing to read in The Yorkshire Post that a One Yorkshire deal had been enthusiastically backed not only by business leaders across Yorkshire, but also by the Confederation of British Industry and the Federation of Small Businesses.

This is a great opportunity to not only break the devolution deadlock, but as Yorkshire represents roughly one third of ‘the North’, a great step in finally getting the Northern Powerhouse off the ground and on its way to delivering success to the UK economy.

Nigel Sollitt is chairman of the Yorkshire Devolution Movement.