Devolution for the North-east? The possibility that Scotland will govern itself has re-invigorated those in the north of England who want more local powers

Campaigners are trying to breathe new life into the regional devolution movement

Scotland has a parliament and soon, possibly, independence; Wales has an assembly, and last week the Cornish were recognised as a national minority. Now, with their eyes firmly on events in Edinburgh, campaigners in the northernmost counties of England are looking towards devolution.

Regional assembles were to be the final piece in the last government's devolution jigsaw, but were scrapped after voter indifference and referendum No votes in 2004. But, with Scottish independence on the horizon and a general election a year away, small but vocal groups from Cumbria to Northumberland and Yorkshire are trying to breathe new life into the regional devolution movement.

Leading the charge in Northumberland is the former Labour MP Hilton Dawson, who is to form a new party for the North-east next month. "The region needs its own party to provide a strong voice to speak exclusively for it," said the former Westminster insider, who stepped down from parliament just before his Lancaster seat went blue in 2005.

He added: "We have some of the most disadvantaged areas in the country here, but the Westminster system is failing us entirely. We want some of what the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru have got. If they can have devolved success, why can't we?"

Members of the Sealed Knot Members of the Sealed Knot Mr Hilton and his admittedly small band of followers insist the new North-east party isn't calling for independence and doesn't want a "currency or military or anything like that". Rather its voice, along with others across the North, will call for control over public services and devolved democracy.

In Northumberland, said Mr Hilton, the need for devolution should be obvious for all to see: "Sadly the caricature is true; the vast majority of the bright and talented officials, mandarins and representatives based in London have no idea what the rest of the country is like beyond Watford."

He added: "You just have to drive down the A1 from Scotland to Northumberland to see how badly off we are. In Scotland they have decent quality roads, quality services and are at ease with themselves, moving together, while in Northumberland we have the most dangerous cart-track in Europe. That road is a metaphor for neglect by the main Westminster parties."

Just off the A1, so central to life in the North-east, is Morpeth, where this weekend thousands of Northumbrians are celebrating their culture and history as part of the yearly Northumbrian Gathering. The pageant's organiser, Northumbrian folk musician Kim Bibby- Johnson, is not surprised at this type of revival taking place in the North-east: the area has a "strong cultural heritage" and "historical" links to life north of the "modern border".

The parade featured pipe bands sporting regional crests The parade featured pipe bands sporting regional crests She said: "We don't have the same marketing divisions that Scotland has for the 'tartan culture', but we have our own distinct local way of life and culture …. We were part of an independent kingdom in the Anglo-Saxon period, long before the idea of the separate countries of England and Scotland."

Paul Salveson, chair of the Hannah Mitchell Foundation, which campaigns for regional devolution for the north, said the Scottish Independence vote had given the movement renewed impetus. "The North-east has been scarred by the negative result of the 2004 devolution referendum, but that was limited devolution and 10 years is a long time," he said. "The moves to Scottish independence highlights the marginalising of the north of England. It's something that's tangible to people of all political parties in the North."

Support also comes from unlikely quarters, including Conservative Borders MP Rory Stewart. He is "deeply sympathetic" to regional devolution and would be "tempted to stand for something that didn't involve going Westminster" if devolution came to the North-west. "We've inherited a medieval system of government, which is really struggling to work in a modern democracy. What's happening north of the border in Scotland is advertisement not for independence but for the benefits of autonomy."

It is a message that echoes in Yorkshire where this month businessman Richard Carter formed the Yorkshire First party to contest European elections and call for devolution, even though Mr Carter himself lives in Oslo and apparently has no plans to return home.

A poll for the pro-devolution campaign group Devolve Deliver last week showed 65 per cent of voters think "too much of England is run from London". The findings come as the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, promised to put "city-region" government at the heart of his party's attempt to rebalance growth in the UK. According to Labour the plan represents "the biggest economic devolution of power to England's great towns and cities in a hundred years".

However Jonathan Blackie, a lecturer at Northumbria University and the former regional director for the Government Office North East, warned: "I wouldn't say the talk in the bars and buses of Newcastle was about devolution quite yet. There is a sense of distance from London but the North-east possesses a dynamism it didn't 20 years ago."

Mr Stewart said that while "people feel that the British political system is broken and that Westminster dominates … they aren't ready to go all-out and vote for radical constitutional change just yet".

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Full Stack Developer (.NET 4.0, ASP.NET, MVC, Ajax, WCF,SQL)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pillar 1, 2 & 3) Insurance

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve