The North East’s MPs and business leaders have joined calls for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom, with just seven months to go before the independence referendum.
They were speaking as the Prime Minister delivered a major speech on Scottish independence urging English people to phone, email and write letters to Scottish friends and relatives to get them to vote against the plans.
Mr Cameron pointed out that while only Scotland’s four million residents would have the chance to vote, “all 63 million of us are profoundly affected.”
Many MPs also warned that the prospect of Scottish independence, or greater devolution North of the border, highlighted the urgent need to devolve more power to the North East.
Speaking to the Journal, Guy Opperman, Conservative MP for Hexham, said: “Scottish independent is not what I want. I am a passionate supporter of the Union, as are the vast majority of our constituents.
“The impact of Scottish independence would be a significant effect on cross-border trade, and there are real concerns amongst my businesses that independence will affect the financial state of the North East.”
Adopting the slogan used by campaigners to save the Union, Chi Onwurah, Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central, said: “We are ‘Better Together’, as the campaign says.
“For the North East, we already see that because Scotland has more devolved power than the North East, we lose out in terms of promotion of tourism and inward investment.
“What we need, and what I am fighting for, is to have greater regional devolution. I know that’s something the Labour Party is looking at as part of its policies for the next Government.”
The break-up of the United Kingdom would disrupt business - but could provide fresh opportunities for North East employers in the long run, North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) said.
Jonathan Walker, NECC’s head of member relations, said: “It is impossible to predict the full impact of Scottish independence on the North East, but one thing is certain, the process of breaking-up the historic union between England and Scotland would be, initially at least, disruptive for business.”
He added: “An independent Scotland could increase incentives for inward investors, with the country already enjoying a competitive advantage over the North East in that regard offering large grants to help companies relocate north of the border.
“In the event of a ‘yes’ vote, the Government must be willing to create similar investment incentives for to enable English regions to remain competitive.”
And Sir Alan Beith, Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, said: “I will be helping the Better Together campaign to keep Scotland as part of the UK and I will be taking part in meetings in the Borders.
“Not only is it better for both England and Scotland to stay together, there will be serious problems for Berwick and Northumberland if we have an international border cutting across the lines of communication which have been open since the Union was created.”
Catherine McKinnell, Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne North, warned: “I know that the links between Scotland and the North East are very deep, and I strongly believe separation would be a very negative step not just for Scotland but for our region too.”