Petition to redraw Scottish borders aims to 'prompt devolution debate'

Andrew Gray, who lodged a petition for the North East to leave England, said it is designed to spark debate over devolved power for the region

Danny Lawson/PA Wire Campaign material ahead of the Scottish independence referendum
Campaign material ahead of the Scottish independence referendum

A campaigner who called for the North East to be allowed to join Scotland said he was aiming to prompt discussions on the future of power in the North.

Andrew Gray, a Green Party campaigner, lodged the petition online, as reported in the Journal yesterday.

But despite suggesting the Scottish border could be extended to the south bank of the Tyne, he argues he is no Scottish Nationalist.

Instead, he said he wants to stimulate debate over devolution for northern England along similar lines to the Welsh Assembly or Northern Ireland.

Mr Gray said: “We’re not playing on history too much. The petition is about raising the debate on how we could govern ourselves in the North East.

“I am not a Scottish independence fan, I’d much rather see devolved governance. I want a debate about how we can govern ourselves.”

Mr Gray said that the region’s distance from London, tuition fees, the rising cost of social care are all reasons we need the debate.

The petition has received fewer than 100 signatures to date and closes on March 30 next year but Mr Gray said that, if it helps raise the profile of devolution, then it has been a success.

Coun Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, dismissed the idea of Newcastle joining Scotland.

But calls have been made for increased powers for northern cities over the past year and Coun Forbes has been involved in discussions with other northern cities, including Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds, which could pave the way to move some decision-making from Westminster into northern England.

He added: “Devolved power is something I support. I’ve been working very closely with the other key cities in getting devolved power from central government.”

The referendum on Scottish independence is due to take place on September 18.

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