DevoMax may be more disruptive to English regions than Independence…

Great piece by Mark Hennessy who digs into a part of England where they probably have a more nuanced understanding of the Scots instinct for greater autonomy than any other.

…the northeast of England worries about the powers that the Scots already have, let alone the possibility that they might get powers over corporation tax rates.

Last September, it emerged that online retailer Amazon chose Edinburgh rather than Newcastle for a new operation after Scottish Enterprise offered training grants the northeast could not match.

And then there’s this wee gem:

“There is already evidence that a devolved Scotland is stealing a march on the northeast economically,” Newcastle University’s Prof John Tomaney told the Newcastle Journal.

For Newcastle’s Chamber of Commerce, more devolved powers for Scotland poses an even bigger headache for its region than does the possibility that Scots would vote for independence.

Scottish independence, says the chamber’s James Ramsbotham, would leave Edinburgh with a host of new headaches, requiring it “to take a balanced approach”.

However, more devolution would offer Edinburgh fewer difficulties “but allow them to compete with us more intensively”, he said earlier this month. [Emphasis added]

It’s an issue that Salmond himself is in no doubt of. Hennessy quotes him from a recent speech at the LSE:

“We have no wish to enter a ‘race to the bottom’ with anyone. However, metropolises like London, or large countries, can exert a centrifugal force which draws power towards them. Small countries, and regional economies, need a fiscal edge to encourage decision-making centres to settle.

“Those headquarters and decision-making centres in turn create prosperity,” he went on, adding that the Scottish government has done the figures on the impact of a 3 per cent corporation tax cut – which would still leave it far higher than the Republic’s. Such a move would support 27,000 jobs, he argues.

Hennessy concludes:

Either way, the constitutional shape of the United Kingdom is set to change irrevocably – even if the saltire remains part of the union flag.

Quite so.

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  • ayeYerMa

    The only solution is a fully federal UK, not with an English parliament, but with federal English regions. This way we not only get a balanced and stable federal structure, but also regions like the north-east get their fair say and are not sidelined by London nor Edinburgh.

    This was rejected by voters in the NE when Labour’s devolution plans were proposed a decade ago, but we may now be seeing that the same English regions finally acknowledging that this is the best option.

  • Barry the Blender

    The problem with English ‘regions’ is the lack of identity. If England were to subdivide into devolved bits and pieces I think that the best way would be using ancient kingdom names. I once saw this posted by Pete Whitehead on Ukpollingreport and always rather liked the idea:

    Northumbria: Northumberland; Tyne & Wear; Durham; Hartlepool; Stockton
    capital Newcastle or Durham
    Yorkshire: Middlesbrough; Redcar; N Yorkshire; East Yorkshire; Hill; W Yorkshire; S Yorkshire
    capital Leeds or York
    Lancastria: Cumbria; Lancashire; Gtr Manchester; Merseyside; Cheshire (same as current NW)
    capital Manchester or Lancaster
    West Mercia: Shrpshire; Herefordshire; Worcestershire; Warwickshire; West Midlands; Staffordshire (same as current West Midlands)
    capital Birmingham or Tamworth
    East Mercia: Derbyshire; Nottinghamshire; Leicestershire; Rutland; Lincolnshire (including N & NE Lincs); Northamptonshire; Peterborough
    capital Nottingham or Lincoln
    Essex-East Anglia: Huntingdonshire; Cambridgeshire; Norfolk; Suffolk; Essex
    capital Cambridge
    Thames-Chiltern: Hertfordshire; Bedfordshire; Buckinghamshire; Berkshire; Oxfordshire
    capital Oxford
    Sussex-Kent: Surrey; Kent; East Sussex; West Sussex
    capital Brighton
    Lower Wessex: Hamsphire; Isle of Wight; Dorset
    capital Southampton or Winchester
    Upper Wessex: Wiltshire; Gloucestershire; Bristol; Somerset
    capital Bristol
    Devon & Cornwall: Devon; Cornwall
    capital Plymouth

  • Angus McLellan

    People in England seem uninterested in having arbitrary regions imposed on them. But since English local government units are relatively large, and could easily be made larger, there’s no reason – other than Westminster’s obsessive centralisation of power – why substantial tax-raising powers couldn’t be devolved to them. If only there were a political party that supported “localism” or something like that …

  • aYM,

    That would be the most logical solution. But there is as yet no appetite for it in England. Do we hold off implementation of federalism until the English can be brought round? Or do we implement federalism now and leave open the option of subdividing England later?

    Labour’s devolution plans do not compare, as real power was not being devolved – in fact, powers were being taken away from local councils. The proposed NE assembly was thus more akin to that of London than it was to Scotland or Wales. If English regions were offered real power to match that of Scotland and Wales, would they reconsider? There’s only one way to find out.

    I like Barry’s suggested regional boundaries – they make more sense than the current statistical regions, particularly in the south east. But ideally it should be the English who make the decision, and preferably by local authorities agreeing amongst themselves, not by imposition from above.

  • Alanbrooke

    I know it’s off topic , but it was sad to see Frank Carson go. He was a “cracker” in his day and portrayed a better image of Belfast people than any of its politicians.

  • Drumlins Rock

    UK population is around 60mil

    5 mil Scotland
    3 mil Wales
    2 mil N Ireland

    50 mil England

    13 mil of which are G London Met Area
    4 mil for Birmingham Met Area
    3 mil for Manchester Met Area
    2.5 mil for Leeds-Bradford
    2.5 mil for Merseyside

    and split the rest into Wessex, Anglia, Mercia & Northumbria.

  • DR,

    Those are metropolitan area figures. Any devolution would likely be based on county boundaries, which do not correspond. The current regions are:

    London 7.5M
    SE 8M
    E 5.5M
    SW 5M
    WM 5.5M
    EM 4.5M
    YH 5M
    NW 7M
    NE 2.5M

    Barry’s suggestion above would chop up the E, SE and SW (around 19M collectively) into six parts:

    Essex/EA 4M
    TC 4M
    SK 4.5M
    LW 2.5M
    UW 3M
    DC 1.5M

    Devon and Cornwall would be even smaller than NI. An argument could be made for this due to their remoteness. The main change I would make would be to treat LW and UW as a unit of 5.5M, making it an average-sized region rather than two small ones.

  • CW

    Apologies for being off topic, but can we have a blog on the late great Frank Carson, one of the North’s/the Province’s/Ulster’s/NI’s/Occupied 6 counties’ (delete as appropriate) greatest comedians?

    Another great name in Irish entertainment circles has gone to the great stage in the sky in recent times following the passing away of David Kelly a few weeks ago – best known as the cowboy builder in Fawlty Towers and the nude motorcyclist in Waking Ned.

    It was the way they told them…

  • Barry the Blender

    I must protest at the use of the term “Barry’s suggestion above”. I openly stated that I’ve plagarised them from another commented on another forum.

    Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that many are quite similar to current “regions” in the North and the Midlands. I suppose the old fashioned, more romantic do add credibility that terms like “West Midlands” just cannot.

    If you’re interested in following the same discussion on another website it’s on UKpollingreport’s “BERWICKSHIRE ROXBURGH AND SELKIRK” page.

  • Ayerma. The federal system seems only to be used in republics, unless I’m mistaken it doesn’t appear to be compatible with monarchies. Not sure why.

  • Barry,

    Yes, you quoted it but you also stated your approval of it. 😉


    You’ve obviously never heard of Canada or Australia then.

  • Greenflag

    The problem for England and indeed the UK and historically Ireland also has been the ‘dominance ‘ of London and the south east since the 11th century and indeed since Roman times . Compared to other major european countries the UK is heavily centralised despite recent efforts at devolution . Germany has multiple power centres Berlin -Munich-Frankfurt-the Ruhr-Hamburg etc .

    Dublin went into steep economic decline when it’s patriot parliament was bribed off to Westminster following the Act of Union . Edinburgh fared better as Scotland or the Clyde Valley at least had the industrial revolution and the ‘enlightenment ‘ to spur development . Wales was just too close to London to have any chance of maintaining any kind of political independence much less economic .

    I don’t know if ‘regionalisation ‘ can work in England given the huge dependence in the regions on the tax revenues generated in the South East ?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Got interupted earlier so didn’t get a chance to explain my version of the regions, they were of course rather crude but thats only fair as its up to each region to sort these things out themselves.

    Firstly London has a degree of devoloution, less than that of Wales but still significant, so if it is removed from the equation you have roughly 40 million English people left. For the idea to work the regions need sit as equals at the table with the “nations” and london, geography and historical identity play against that. therefore they should be larger regions with between 5 and 10 million residents, at least Birmingham and Manchester/Liverpool should form Metropolitian Regions, and at most 5 or 6 other Regions with similar powers to that which Wales has at present.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Here is an excellent map of the current County and District/borough divisions.

  • Maybe they are the exceptions that prove the rule, But I was thinking of the UK arrangement in which devolution is a recent set up. Australia and Canada are too large to be managed any other way than federal, regardless of whether they’re Monarchies or republics.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Mara, you could always try the Federal Constitutional Monarchy of Malasyia, or how about Spain, controversial but high degrees of devoloution, even the Kingdom of the Netherlands is far from centralised, to get even more complicated the UAE is a Federation of Monarchies.

  • john

    Dont want to have a go as usually we have a number of great articles to debate on but in the last few days Frank Carson has died, Ian Paisley who has been very ill (no mention) is now slowly recovering, IFA,GAA and Ulster rugby have all made announcements about their stadia progress, Bushmills is to get a 100 million pound golf resort and instead we have yet another article on the Scottish referendum (at least 20) which is over 2 years away!!

  • CW

    Hear hear John! Now that Frank Carson has exited the stage for the final time he deserves an article on this blog!

    Apparently the family issued a statment sayinfg somehting to the effect of:
    “It’ll be quiet in the house now that Frank’s gone. But God help the ones up there!”

    Classic Frank joke:
    Grumpy Woman to butcher: Is that a sheep’s head in your window?
    Butcher: No, it’s a mirror, Mrs.

  • DougtheDug

    The problem with the idea of English regions is that no-one in England wants them. There are no English regional parties campaigning for a Mercian parliament and there are no Constitutional Conventions campaigning to make Yorkshire a devolved part of the UK.

    English regions won’t be made in to federal parts of the UK because nobody in England can see the point, it will add another layer of government they don’t want and it will cause a lot of upheaval and cost a lot of money for something that won’t win votes for the party that does it.

    The idea that an equivalence can be made between Scotland and various English regions in the UK is simply wrong. Scotland is one of the two original signatories to the Treaty of Union 1707 and is equal in status to England.

    What is driving Scottish devolution and the call for an independence referendum is not a strong desire for a regional identity but is instead a drive for a national identity. Something that does not have any equivalence in the English regions.

  • Greenflag

    @ CW ,
    Thanks for that classic . I too am surprised that nobody has posted a thread for Frank -perhaps it’s early days and they’re waiting till the obsequies are over out of respect .

    Meanwhile to honour Frank i offer these two gems which run along the same lines as the classic above .

    No 1 :
    Dublin woman to butcher :

    “Can I have a sheeps head please?’

    Butcher : “Certainly Mam ‘ will there be anything else ‘?

    Dublin woman :

    ‘ Could ye cut it as close to the arse as possible please”

    No 2:

    Location -Moore St – Fish table bedecked with fresh prawns . Posh lady from Clontarf/Ballsbridge rummaging her hands through the prawns to find the best ones .

    Ballsbridge woman while still rummaging through the prawns :

    How much are these very small prawns Mrs

    Rosie : “Ten shillings a pound to you Madam ”

    Ballsbridge lady still rummaging through the prawns :

    ‘Oh that’s very expensive for this time of year isn’t it ‘?

    Rosie now somewhat irrated at the posh lady fingering her prawns :

    ‘Listen here madam -dems prawns not pricks -feelin dem won’t make dem any bigger ‘

    RIP Frank Carson


  • Alanbrooke


    yes two and half years of Scotland to go, so here’s something to pass the time.

    What’s the difference between Frank Carson and the M1? You can turn off the M1.

    More on this link.

  • Wyrdtimes

    Once again the ‘regions’ being rubber stamped as legitimate with out a question being asked.

    Remind me – when was it the English voted in favour of England being broken into regions?

    The ‘regions’ are undemocratic and as such illegitimate. If the UK goes down the lines of the first commenters suggestion without consultation and the option to vote for an English parliament as alternative then the English are within their rights to do whatever is necessary to remove themselves from the UK.

    England one nation.

  • Wyrdtimes,

    I’m amused by the thought that Sluggerites are capable of rubber-stamping anything. Last I looked, internet discussion forums were not an arm of government.

  • ayeYerMa

    Wyrdtimes, if you do not support stability of the UK then fine, get out; end it; rrop the UN Security Council Veto. If the Westminster Government decides that this is the best approach for the ultimate in stability then there is nothing “undemocratic” about it.

    Andrew Gallagher, indeed, it is not in British style to plan such things so intricately, rather to let things happen as they happen and ad-lib. I could see it being more in character that an English Parliament would evolve, but the lob-sided nature of the Union would not have been addressed. Perhaps after the English Parliament existed, the more natural regional powers would then develop. I just think though that the UK would be better to think things through for a change.

  • Drumlins Rock

    I hope someone does a Frank Carson thread, totally cringe worthy Belfast, but you had to smile no matter how bad the jokes. Also as a Belfast Italian Irish Devout Catholic Ex Para UKIP supporting two time Mayor of Balbriggin I think he was determined to break the mould!

    As for Paisley, its still top secret but i’m glad this site did not decend into the disgusting gloating I saw elsewhere.

    Nevin can the golf coast thread!

    Back to England, there is a party campaigning for a Wessex Assembly, dont know about elsewhere, as for “no-one” want regions, London voted yes, and the NE still had 22% voting yes, not much less than the support for an ind Scotland a few yrs ago.

    The problem with an English Parliment is it is over 80% of the UK Parliment, and can you have a parliment without an executive? It wont work.

  • DR,

    An English Parliament would have to have an English executive. This already exists, it is just interspersed among the national executive. William Hague is the UK Foreign Secretary, but Michael Gove is (effectively) the English Education Secretary. A federal UK would by definition require that all powers devolved to Scotland would also be devolved to England, so those national ministries which only handle English affairs would be transferred to English control, leaving the centre with the treasury, foreign affairs etc.

  • DougtheDug

    Drumlins Rock:

    The Wessex Regionalist Party put up one candidate and got a total of 62 votes in the last General Election.

    A 78% vote against in a Labour voting NE region when a NE region is suggested by a Labour government does not make a regionalist movement in the NE.

    London’s Greater London Authority was simply a replacement for the Greater London Council which had been abolished in 1986 and outside London my point still stands. There are no pressure groups or parties beyond fringe groups like the Wessex Regionalist Party who want devolved English regions.

    The grand idea of a “Federal UK” with English regions of a similar population size and powers to Scotland’s devolved parliament will not happen because there are no grass roots organisations calling for it and because central Government doesn’t want it.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Doug, 62 and 22% still isn’t quite “no-one”, always qualify statements like that with an “almost” or “virtually”. But I conceed there is a very limited demand for regionalism atm. which is odd when you consider how much worse they are off compared to the SE, it seems the direcly elected Mayors is the only reforms going on atm. they have potential to evolved into proper power bases, but have risks too.

  • I think you also have to take into account the current nature of the debate. Devolution to the Celtic fringe is being discussed as a solution to their specific needs, which are much about the heart as the head. Scottish devolution has always been sold in large part on self-respect and national identity, which don’t translate to English regions, thus comments such as “England one nation” above, which confuse devolution with nationalism.

    What federalists need to start talking about is the practical benefits of devolution, such as the rebalancing of economic power away from the south-east. One advantage of federalism is that it can be sold differently to different people. A federal Germany (or Canada) can be regarded as a purely administrative mechanism by some, and by others (Bavarians, Québécois) as a recognition of regional or even national identity. This flexibility is what makes it such a powerful tool.

    Constructive ambiguity, if you like.

  • I’m Cornish, I have no real sense of attachment to the English nation and another centralised parliament far away in London would do zero for Cornwall’s culture, identity or economy. Equally thanks for proposing a Devonwall region but please take the idea and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine!

    The only region for Cornwall is Cornwall! There are plenty of independent, autonomous or self-governing territories with either a territory or population (or both) smaller than the Duchy.

    In 2002 the Cornish autonomist movement gathered a petition of 50,000 signatures (10% of our population) calling for a Cornish Assembly. This was supported by opinions polls at around 55% in favour.

    The Cornish Constitutional Convention:

  • wrangled

    It never ceases to amaze, does it?

    The number of people not only here on this forum, but across the whole of England itself who jump to the strange conclusion that England and the people of England would want anything less than what has been granted to Scotland and to a certain extent, Wales.

    There are those who try to surppress the logical idea of a Parliament ror England and try to toss it into political jargon as if it is a non topic and not even worth discussing.

    The fact of the matter is England is as much a historic nation as Scotland is and to deny or ignore completely what the English people would want for their country is nothing but insult and it is anti democratic.

    I am sure we here in England wouldn’t suspect for one second that the people of Scotland would want their country divided into EU “regions” instead of a Parliament.

    I am personally sick to death of hearing about regions. Regions this regions that…. We don’t want regions!! Regions died when they were rejected in 2004. Get over it.

    England deserves nothing less than a Parliament of it’s own. To take care of and manage English affairs for the people of England.

    It is also important to note that these “regions” were decided by Brussels as a political agenda back in the 1970s. They are in short nothing but EU quangos, designed to bypass Westminster and rule our country in segments.

    Divide & conquer is the motto.