MP Nick Brown plays down threat from Scottish independence

Former regional minister Nick Brown has played down the threat to the economy from Scotland

Newcastle East Labour MP Nick Brown
Newcastle East Labour MP Nick Brown

Former regional minister Nick Brown has said the Government must level the playing field when it comes to powers given to Scotland.

Labour MP Mr Brown said it was clear that, as the Scottish independence referendum approached, there was an issue regarding the powers Scotland enjoys.

He was speaking amid concern from North East businesses that whatever happens next, Scotland is set to be handed further control over taxation and other incentives aimed at taking work north of the border.

The former chief whip said the North East is in a good position to prosper providing ministers look at three key areas.

Speaking after his appearance on the BBC’s Daily Politics show yesterday, Mr Brown said: “The North East will be able to cope with the outcome of the Scottish referendum, whichever way it goes.

“Three issues that are areas of concern to our region are the present uncertainty as to the future trading environment, our longstanding issues with the present Scottish economic development arrangements and accompanying political lobby for Scotland, both of which are stronger than anything the North East has.

“Finally, there are concerns for the border itself. At the moment the border is completely open and this is to the advantage of both Scotland and the North East of England.”

The MP was forced to play down fears that the North East would lose out when it comes to airport connections.

Newcastle Airport has been concerned that an independent Scotland, or a Scotland which remains in the UK but is handed extra devolution powers, would be able to reduce its air passenger tax for customers flying out of airports such as Edinburgh.

But Mr Brown insisted people were unlikely to pay the extra travel costs to fly from Edinburgh just to save the smaller cut in air passenger duty.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has already insisted he sees only opportunities between the North East of England and an independent Scotland.

Speaking in Cumbria on St George’s Day earlier this year, Mr Salmond said the UK had become “profoundly imbalanced”.

He added: “An independent Scotland will be an economic counterweight to London and the South East – causing a much-needed and fundamental rebalancing of these islands.”

He said: “An independent Scotland will work in collaboration with our friends and colleagues in the north of England to improve economic circumstances and job opportunities for all our citizens.

“In this very spirit I can therefore confirm that following a yes vote in the referendum, the Scottish government will host a series of special forums on economic co-operation with the north of England and will invite representatives from local authorities and business to participate.”

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