Region’s stake in Scottish vote

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DAVID Cameron portrayed himself as “a patriot for the whole United Kingdom” when he visited Scotland for talks on independence with Holyrood leader Alex Salmond.

The Prime Minister’s argument is a strong one – though devolution has seen the United Kingdom evolve in the past 15 years and become more fragmented.

Full independence, however, is a totally different proposition. It would mean the break-up of the UK and have huge ramifications, for example, for the economy as well as defence and foreign affairs.

Yet Mr Cameron does not begin this debate – one that is not likely to conclude until a referendum towards the end of 2014 – from a position of strength. The Tories remain deeply unpopular in Scotland, and they may not take kindly to a Westminster-based leader holding out the prospect of further devolved powers in return for them voting to protect the status quo.

However, given that the Prime Minister understandably does not want to go down in history as the leader who presides over the break-up of this great nation, the issue of Scottish independence is likely to be a time-consuming one.

That said, it is important that the tug-of-war now underway between Westminster and Holyrood does not distract political attention away from the need to revitalise the English regions, and address some of the issues that were deliberated between Yorkshire business leaders and MPs yesterday.

For, while Scotland already has clearly-defined economic powers and could, under the PM’s blueprint, have an even greater say on its future destiny within the UK, the jury is still out on the Coalition’s policy towards the English regions.

It remains to be seen here whether this region’s fledgling local enterprise partnerships can fill the void created by Yorkshire Forward’s demise as the Government looks for more decisions to be taken on a city-region basis. They will also have to work with directly-elected mayors if voters back this concept in Leeds, Sheffield, Wakefield and Bradford.

Given that Yorkshire is very much comparable to Scotland, both in size and economic importance, Mr Cameron would be advised not to neglect his English base as he tries to win over the Scots.