Who is speaking up for the white rose county?
The reasons for the Brexit vote are still being analysed but a comment I heard more than once across our region was along the lines of "well, that’s Brussels sorted, now forLondon". The implication is that people have as much distrust of elites dictating how we live our lives in Yorkshire, whether those elites be in Belgium or in the south of England.
It was also telling that Scotland, with its own parliament and government, was quick off the mark as Nicola Sturgeon sought the best deal for the Scottish people. Where was the equivalent for Yorkshire? To me, it is equally significant thatover a month on from the referendum vote no senior Government Ministerhas even been to Yorkshire to explain how Brexit will affect our region nor listen to business and other voices in the process. Yorkshire needs a voice.
The Northern Powerhouse is fragile and we can only hope that the new Minister responsible – Brigg and Goole’s Andrew Percy – can reinforce it. But he has to realise, to be successful, it has to be more than a system of local economic management. Sheffield (and possibly other parts of Yorkshire) will see mayoral elections next spring which, albeit modestly, will contribute to a shift in the political centre of gravity away from Westminster and Whitehall. However, the level of engagement with local people, who mostly feel isolated by the whole process, needs to be intensified.
This is an opportunity now for a broader democratic discussion shaped by local people who need to feel more connected to what will be happening next May. The European Union referendum result also showed, amongst many things, that people in the North were tired of being neglected. It is also not just about neglect as it an odd paradox that London istelling us what we do and do not want (HS2, fracking and so on) and then ignores our requests for the things that would make a difference to our lives such as real educational investment, improving our transport infrastructure and greater decision making here in Yorkshire.
After all, school funding per pupil in London is more than double that of those in Yorkshire. Meanwhile, Scotland has seen the reopening of railways lines closed for over 50 years and has a moratorium on the granting of fracking licences. The common denominator is that in both London and Scotland decisions can be made locally which have a real and positive impact on people’s lives, the economy and the environment.
Yorkshire, with its five millionpeople, has none of this. It needs a voice. There is a growing momentum for that voice to be heard. There is the cross-party campaigning group, the Yorkshire Devolution Movement, many local political leaders and commentators of note such as GP Taylor, who wrote in this paper notso long ago: “Yorkshire is a distinctregion with its own culture and customs. It should therefore be granted its own assembly and be self determining in matters of finance, education, police and welfare.”
To this should be added the Yorkshire Party. Since the party was set up 2014 (as Yorkshire First) we have never been in better shape. Membership is growing, each year election results have shown real improvement and our call for a Yorkshire parliament is gaining support across the Ridings and across the political spectrum. Yorkshire needs a voice and the Yorkshire Party will continue to campaign to give Yorkshire that distinctive voice.
Notes: This article was first published in the Yorkshire Post - 'Yorkshire's distinctive voice must be heard' on Tuesday 2nd August 2016.