Nowt taken out: The Northern Powerhouse is inspiring a Greater Yorkshire


Click to follow
The Independent Online

As reunifications go, it’s not exactly on the scale of the Germanys. Then again, if stereotypes are to be believed, a campaign to reunite Yorkshire’s various sub-divisions under a single devolved authority may be even more important than the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

The history of local government in Britain is complex; Yorkshire, by its size alone, has been a notably complicated example. Historically divided into its famous Ridings – each sub-divided into Wapentakes – Yorkshire fell victim to the Local Government Act of 1972, being divided again between a number of metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties. North, South and West Yorkshire were at least recognisable in name. Humberside had less of a romantic ring to it – and didn’t last long – while, most shockingly, parts of the old county were lost to Lancashire.

Of course, Yorkshire as a single entity has never completely ceased to exist. County cricket has provided a suitable home for its sporting ambitions and the current side are dominating the Championship for the second season running. And it is rare for proud Yorkshire folk to proclaim themselves specifically as South Yorkshiremen, or West Yorkshirelasses. Yorkshire is as Yorkshire does.

Romantic notions of reunification – even, whisper it, independence – have regularly been aired but the latest calls have been given impetus by the Government’s Northern Powerhouse agenda, which could offer devolved powers to major cities such as Leeds and Sheffield. Those who point to the unique nature of the Yorkie identity, especially those who found themselves turned into residents of Greater Manchester or Cumbria by the reforms of the 1970s, see a chance to undo an injustice and recreate a Greater Yorkshire with real clout.

Idealism is rarely enough to win the day and there are plenty of reasons why a city like Leeds might prefer to go it alone. Then again, if any county can rise again, surely it is God’s own.