The Journal Opinion: Devolution can't just give Scotland a permanent head start

The Journal opinion column for Friday, November 28, in which we call for the main parties to get their act together on devolution plans

An Emirates plane at Newcastle Airport
An Emirates plane at Newcastle Airport

The Smith Report into devolution of powers to Holyrood does the right thing by the Scots.

In the run-up to September’s referendum, Scotland was promised by the three main parties that a No vote would herald extra powers.

Afterwards, there seemed to be some backsliding on that. But that has come to an end with this report, which has the potential to fulfil September’s pledge to Scotland.

Only now is it truly sinking in that this affects every corner of the United Kingdom. Including our corner, the one closest to Scotland.

And are the three main parties ready for this? Absolutely not.

The effects of Scottish devolution on the North East and the rest of England have not been properly considered. How could they be, when the party leaders’ hasty promises were made just a few weeks ago?

It is possible that the SNP’s enthusiasm for higher taxes could in the long term drive wealthy companies and individuals our way.

That is impossible to know at this early stage. What we do know is that the move to devolve Air Passenger Duty could have a very serious effect on Newcastle Airport, which is a key employer in our region.

The response yesterday by the Scottish Secretary to North East MPs’ legitimate worries was inadequate. Labour offered no answers either. Yet Scotland’s reward for voting No cannot be a permanent head start over the rest of the UK.

The main parties must recognise that the dam has burst. In the time between now and the general election they must publish plans for English devolution. Not gimmicks. Not a constitutional convention. Proper plans that we can vote on.

We are at the dawn of a new era in British government. We can’t be left in the dark.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer