Is it time to talk about English independence?

Scotland has decided. Scotland will remain part of the UK - with around 55 per cent of eligible voters rejecting Alex Salmond’s call for independence.

By Andy Done-Johnson
Friday, 19th September 2014, 4:49 pm

Westminster and the Better Together lobby are today (Friday 19th September) simultaneously licking their wounds and patting themselves on the back for saving an alliance which dates back to the Act of Union of 1707.

Or earlier, with the term Great Britain - referring to the union of England, Scotland and Wales - dating back to the ascension of James VI of Scotland to the English throne in 1603.

Following a last-minute surge in support for the Yes campaign, Westminster was forced to promise more autonomy for Scottish politics, despite the ‘clear result’ that Prime Minister David Cameron spoke about this morning.

But another movement has been growing in recent weeks - a call for more autonomy, for more devolution.

And that call has not come from the Scots, but from us English, here, south of the border.

Some would like to see a separate English Parliament, offering the same sense of devolution that Scotland and Wales now enjoy.

While others would go further, with calls for a return to the once-mooted regional assemblies structure, or a separate political body for the north of England, to better represent its own unique character and more left-wing leaning politics.

We in the north of England also do not feel common ground with this public school, Oxbridge-educated political elite, some would argue.

For Mansfield MP Sir Alan Meale, the answer lies firmly in devolution - but he would like to see more effective regional government, with separate assemblies to represent the East Midlands and the other seven English regions.

These regional bodies should take direct responsibility for essential services - where politicians can respond more appropriately to an areas unique character and needs.

Sir Alan also told Chad that a regional framework would lead to more money coming in, allowing Government cash to drive forward the local economy, and reinvigorate struggling local industry.

Mark Spencer MP.

“In terms of economic development, the East Midlands should be getting between £350-£380 million from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when in reality we are getting about four million,” he said.

“If you think about the impact that sort of money would have on local business and infrastructure, there’s no end to what could be achieved in terms of economic regeneration and development.

“For me it’s not about a separate English Parliament - it’s about giving power to the regions, so they have more autonomy from Westminster.”

But Sir Alan also thinks that the structure of English politics needs streamlining further down the line, with possible amalgamations of district and county authorities, or Nottinghamshire cut into two independent councils for the north and south of the county.

And if David Cameron is to be believed then change is afoot - with his ‘devolution revolution’ pledge not just aimed at courting the Scottish No Vote, but also as a pacifier for those who would like to see more English autonomy.

Ashfield MP Gloria De Piero also thinks that the answer lies in devolving more power to the regions.

She said: “I wanted to see the Scottish people stay with us because I truly believe that we are better together. I’m proud that they’ve made this historic decision to stay and we are all stronger as a result.

“If there’s one thing this referendum has shown, it’s that there’s a real desire to change the way we do politics, change how the country is run and who it is run for, and bring power closer to ordinary working people.

“The big challenge ahead is to make sure we meet the political, constitutional and economic change that people right across Scotland, England, Wales and every part of the UK want to see.

“The Labour Party will set out proposals in the coming days but we need bigger change than the Prime Minister talked about. A cabinet committee is not the answer and engaging every nation and region will take time.

“Labour has already promised to devolve £30bn of spending to English regions if we win the election next year to boost economic growth outside of London.

“This would give places like the Nottinghamshire and Ashfield far more control over money for big projects currently run by mandarins sat in Whitehall and greater control over how money raised locally is spent in our area. It would tackle the massive regional imbalances head on.”

From across the political divide, Sherwood’s Conservative MP Mark Spencer also acknowledged the need for change.

He said: I think it’s clear that the Scottish people have spoken, they have said that they want to remain a part of the United Kingdom.

“However, during the election process it also became clear they want more powers to be devolved to Scotland and they want more control over certain aspects of government. I think we do now need to open up discussions with all the countries of our union regarding the powers of devolved Parliaments, at the same time we must provide provision for English MPs to have the power to decide on matters that affect England only.

“I would also like to see reform to Local Government structures and more power passed to parish and town councils. The people of England want this and it seems to me that this would create fairness and equality among our family of nations.

“I feel immensely proud to be British and belong to the greatest union in the world. However, I think we do need to consider how we can better govern our islands, and believe we are intrinsically a stronger and more prosperous nation when we stick together.”

And Bassetlaw MP John Mann is also calling for more devolution - with decisions about local services taken away from the hands of the Westminster village.”

He said: “I’m delighted that the people of Scotland have decided not to leave the rest of the UK, but there are now issues that must be resolved.

“This comes down to the ‘West Dorset’ questions. The plans announced by the Prime Minister today will give future control of the NHS in Bassetlaw to MPs from West Dorset and the rest of Southern England.

“Instead I will call for proper devolution of powers to the regions as we must have control over our local services. I will fight against any proposals that don’t do this.

“Proper devolution should also mean the creation of an English Parliament to replace the outdated House of Lords.”

PICTURED: A dejected Scottish voter wanders through the streets of Edinburgh and (from top) Sir Alan Meale, Gloria De Piero, Mark Spencer and John Mann.