The North East and Scotland’s working class voters would be better represented in a united country, a town hall chief has said.
At a ceremony in South Shields, Labour party and union members assembled with ‘No’ posters to see the Union Flag raised above the town hall ahead of the vote on Scottish independence on Thursday.
Counc Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, said comments made by former Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan over the weekend about the ability of a separate Scotland to do more for the working class was wrong.
He said: “Socialism is about working together and achieving more together. It’s the old trade union maxim ‘united we stand, divided we fall’.
“If we want to advance the cause of the working classes in the country and the North East, which has suffered so much like Scotland from successive Tory Governments, we must ensure the election of a Labour Government in 2015 and reject the nationalist policies of the Scottish Nationalist Party.
“The North East needs Scotland if we are going to deliver the progressive century that I want to see this century become.”
Accompanied by the sounds of Rod Stewart’s song Stay with Me and the hymn Jerusalem, the English, Scottish, Northern Irish, Welsh and Union Jack flags were flown briefly over the town hall on Monday morning.
Joining local Labour party members on the steps was Labour MP for South Shields Emma Lewell-Buck, who has been working with the Let’s Stay Together group alongside TV presenter and historian Dan Snow.
She said a Yes vote for Scottish independence wouldn’t impact on Labour’s ability to win the next election - as proven in the 1997 landslide, and that her main concern was not to damage the ‘emotional affinity’ the North East has with Scotland.
“The North East has more of an emotional affinity with its friends and neighbours in Scotland than in other parts of the UK and I don’t want to see that broken. There’s an attachment by proximity alone,” said Mrs Lewell-Buck.
Coun Malcolm agreed that the link between the North East and Scotland was due to its recent shared history.
He said: “Our shared identity is that we have suffered so much in the 1980s where we saw our coal mines and steel works closed and heavy industry decline. Together we can achieve so much more in terms of bringing industry to the area.
“Whatever the result on Thursday there’s going to be a mature conversation between Westminster, Whitehall and the regions of England. We can’t have a situation where Scotland achieves greater power but we don’t see that in the other regions of the UK.”
He said the region would want more responsibility, but rejected ideas of holding another referendum on a regional assembly.
“A regional minister was a good idea under the previous Government and I support it as a champion for a region’s individualism,” he added.
Retired teacher Mary Woods, 65, from Jarrow, South Tyneside, who came along to support the Let’s Stay Together campaign, said: “I’m from the East End of Glasgow although I’ve lived here for forty years. Having grown up there it’s always been part of the Union and we are stronger economically.
If there is a yes vote I feel that there could be ill feeling towards each other. I also fear nationalism in Scotland and nationalism of any description.”