Support for more power in the north

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More regional power for the north of England is needed to counter the potential impact of the Scottish independence referendum.

That was the view shared by two opposing sides during a BBC Look North debate held in Berwick and broadcast across the region last night.

BBC Look North’s ‘Scotland and Us’ aimed to explore how the referendum on September 18 will affect Berwick and the north of England.

John Stevenson, Conservative MP for Carlisle, and Craig Johnston of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union, both backed calls for devolution of powers to the region from Westminster.

The north east rejected a regional assembly with an overwhelming “no” vote in a referendum in 2004.

But Mr Stevenson said: “We do want to see further devolution for the region, but we’re not calling for independence because the economy is not English and it is not Scottish. We need to trade as a United Kingdom in the global economy. We need to face that together.”

He added: “There’s a real danger that if Scotland gets independence we will end up with businesses not investing on either side of the border.”

The RMT’s Craig Johnston, a former Mayor of Carlisle, has been campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote in Scotland. He also called for devolved government for the north, saying that the region needed to “come together” and argue for proper devolved powers.

“When we talk about a United Kingdom we need strategic investment and planning, and we don’t get it here,” Mr Johnston said.

Berwickers said that many people felt disenfranchised at a local level, with Northumberland County Council based 50 miles away in Morpeth.

Christine Grahame, SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, said Scottish independence would stimulate the north of England and act as “a wake up call” for it to take on London. “There is nothing stopping the rest of the country from doing the same thing,” she said.

The Look North special, hosted by presenter Carol Malia and political editor Richard Moss, took place on Monday evening at The Matltings Theatre in Berwick in front of a panel and live audience.

The debate highlights how the conversation about Scottish Independence in the North East and Cumbria is focussing upon the differences that already exist between England and Scotland – like prescription charges and university fees – and whether the North needs regional government to compete more effectively with Scotland.

The BBC also spoke to Duke of Northumberland and the Tyneside poet Peter Mortimer about their opinions on an independent Scotland.

‘Scotland And Us’ will be shown at 22:35 BST on BBC One in the North East and Cumbria on Wednesday, September 3.

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