North East business leaders stress No vote must not be at region's expense

They said regional businesses must be prepared and equipped to deal with a powerful Scottish economy

Businessman Jeremy Middleton
Businessman Jeremy Middleton

Concessions to Scotland following the country’s No vote should not be at the North East’s expense, regional business leaders have reiterated in the wake of the Scottish Referendum result.

Among those calling for government to turn its attention to economic growth in the region was chairman at the North East Institute of Directors, Graham Robb who said: “Businesses will breathe a sigh of relief at this result. Now we know the union is strong. There is a part two to this process of course, and the economic strength of the country must now be our focus.

“The politicians need to concentrate on maximising and making best use of existing structures, not creating expensive new ones. We must not split up England as a solution. Instead we need better allocation of resources through current structures.”

North East Chamber of Commerce director of Policy, Ross Smith, said it would be hard to begrudge a Scotland with more devolved powers taking measures such as cutting air passenger duty or slashing income tax.

Ross Smith
Ross Smith
 

He added: “But it would be bizarre for Westminster politicians to allow that to happen when it would be bad for not just the North East but the UK as a whole.

“To make the whole cake bigger, rather than just giving Scotland some extra cherries, all parts of the country must be enabled to grow to their potential.”

Mr Smith’s sentiments were echoed by Dianne Sharp, CBI regional director for the North East, who said: “The priority for the business community is to make sure that any emerging proposals on further devolution strengthen the environment which allows business to grow and create jobs both here in North East and across the rest of the UK.”

Prominent North East investor and NELEP Board member Jeremy Middleton said: “Here in the North East, existing organisations, such as the Local Enterprise Partnerships, need to get together to make the case for changes which will rebalance the economy to the North of the country.

“We need to be calling for such things as lower air passenger duty for all regional airports, an HS3 system, which starts in Edinburgh and comes down the East Coast and improved road links with Scotland. We should work with Scotland to put together mutually beneficial plans for such infrastructure improvements, and then take them to the UK Government.”

Alastair Wilson, partner at Tait Walker, said the North East would remain the economy most affected by the differences in economic and fiscal policies between England and Scotland. He called on people who speak for the North East to articulate the need for regional business to be able to compete effectively with a powerful Scottish economy on the doorstep.

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