John Cridland’s analysis of the steps towards devolution in the North East is well worth studying.
The UK needs certain things to glue us together, he says.
“You need a single set of rules about banking, energy and labour markets. You need a single set of business taxation and you need excellent road, rail, air and digital infrastructure.”
The single set of rules about banking, energy and labour markets are there. The excellent infrastructure is, let us say, still a work in progress as far as the North East is concerned.
The single set of business taxation is something that we can no longer take for granted. Scotland has already won the right to vary Air Passenger Duty, for example, and some other taxes may be varied across regions. The big levers, however, will remain in the hands of the Treasury.
What Mr Cridland has done is to distill, as he sees it, how the North East can build on these solid foundations. The answer is education, education, education.
The great issue in the North East is that we are not turning out a young workforce with the skills and knowhow to fill the jobs our businesses are creating.
Mr Cridland say that to tackle this we need to build links between business, local authorities, universities and schools.
How we do this is yet to be decided – but this is indisputably the problem we must zero in on as we consider devolution.
There are other priorities, of course – but they have to be secondary to this one. We just have to get it right.