When I researched what events were going on in Yorkshire to celebrate this great day, I was greeted with Awarenessdays.com which said: “Celebrate like one of the locals on August 1st by donning your flat cap, walking the damp countryside with your whippet, eating a Yorkshire Pudding with gravy, then settling down to complain about the rising price of a pint of best bitter, ending the night on a cheerier note by remembering the good old days.”
I laughed. It was obviously written by someone who has never stood on the cliffs at Whitby and looked over the Moors or heard the thunder of hooves at York Races or cheered the riders of the Tour de Yorkshire. Yet, I hold no malice at the attempt of humour. There are no ‘snowflakes’ in Yorkshire, we often laugh at ourselves and are all the better for it. We are more than the biggest county in Britain, we are a kingdom.
It has been a boyhood dream of mine to see Yorkshire as an autonomous region of Britain. Our combined counties are prospering as never before. Our cities are modern, multicultural and enlightened. Our culture is thousands of years old. We are a proud people.
Governments of the past have tried to strip us of our integrity and uniqueness. They carved up our Ridings and created the Lilliputian names of Cleveland and Humberside. However, no politician can change that which is in the blood. It is so good to see the road signs that now declare Redcar and Cleveland on the Yorkshire Coast and Humberside as East Yorkshire.
Yorkshire is one of the strongest brands in Europe. Everything from tea, pudding and gin is named after it. We are a destination of interest for people from around the world.
As a county, we are on the verge of one of the most exciting times for us in decades. As Britain exits from Europe, Yorkshire has the opportunity to have powers devolved from Westminster.
It is only right and proper that a county the size of Yorkshire is taken seriously as an economic powerhouse. We are leaders in industry, leisure and services. We are a large geographical county with the skills and abilities of a nation.
It is therefore important that at such a crucial time Yorkshire stands united. I have been bitterly disappointed to see various cities vying from prominence over each other in the struggle to be identified in the Northern Powerhouse. Now is not the time for infighting, or for some local authorities to hold the rest of the county to ransom. Now is the time for us all to come together under the banner of One Yorkshire.
In this we have the opportunity to change the prosperity of our Yorkshire forever. Under the leadership of an elected mayor, Yorkshire could proudly take its seat at the international trade table. Finally, we would have a dedicated person to be our advocate and figurehead on the national and international stage.
I would hope if this was to happen that we would have a unified police, fire and health authority, saving millions of pounds for the taxpayer. We could rid ourselves of the duplication of chief constables and civil servants.
We would have the opportunity for Yorkshire people to make choices for Yorkshire people. No longer would government appear far off. Devolved power would bring politics back into the hands of local people. Education, health and policing would reflect the unique needs of the county. Transport would be synchronised more efficiently and cheaply.
One Yorkshire would also redress the geographic imbalance of wealth and opportunity. The South-East and Midlands always seem to come first when it comes to government handouts. A united Yorkshire would be a very strong voice on a national level, attracting more investment and financial support for the region.
It will be hard to convince a Parliament made up of London metropolitans that Yorkshire is worthy of running itself. If Scotland and Wales can have devolved powers, then so can we. With nearly 5.5 million people, several major cities, airports and major rail and road links, Yorkshire is a country within a county. It is estimated our economy is worth £110bn a year which is higher than 11 EU countries.
We have a lot to celebrate on Yorkshire Day. Let us hope that by 2020 we can rejoice in the knowledge that we have more autonomy, devolved power and a mayor of Yorkshire.
GP Taylor is a writer and author from North Yorkshire.