Finland

The following article was written by Philip Hardstone, Secretary of the Campaign for a Yorkshire Parliament.

Finland is a prosperous, peaceful, democratic, country with similar population size as Yorkshire.

It does not have a lot going for it in terms of resources. There are a lot of trees so timber, pulp and paper have always been a big part of Finland’s economy. Much of the country is beyond the Arctic Circle so it is not an easy place to grow food. So, Finland has invested heavily in its one considerable resource, that of education. Global tables of educational attainment place Finland either number one or number two and have done so consistently over the past decades.

When I look at Finland and I look at Yorkshire I cannot help but wonder if there isn’t actually something that we are missing here.

By bringing powers from Westminster and Whitehall to Yorkshire we could set our own priorities and spend our own money. It’s an idea that has strong traction now with cross-party support pushing for a One Yorkshire devolution deal. Yet the Government Minister responsible for devolution to Yorkshire, the Northern Powerhouse Minister, is not interested in what is being proposed. In fact, he is so disinterested that rather than help us unleash the potential we have in Yorkshire he is spending his time touting for a new HMS Britannia as a way of ‘uniting the country’.

This disinterest is symptomatic of the zombie Government we have at the moment. But then Westminster and Whitehall have never cared about Yorkshire and the ongoing saga of even very limited devolution to God’s own county being achieved is an indication that in the scheme of things Yorkshire does not feature highly.

Yorkshire is an identifiable community with broadly definable borders going back hundreds of years. It has incredible diversity in terms of people, landscape, history and culture. Its people are seen as trustworthy, honest and blunt speaking. Yorkshire has twelve universities, a broad manufacturing base, a thriving services sector, tourism, farming, fishing, dales, moors, wolds, minsters (including one of the great cathedrals of Europe), cities, market towns, villages, ports, beaches, cliffs, and rivers.

It has been the home of some of the greatest writers in the English language. Its inventions have made an impact across the world. It was the original base of some of the greatest companies in Britain. It has a huge sporting heritage (for example, finishing 12th in the 2012 Olympics medal count). It has a flag, an emblem and a civic day. It has an economy larger than many European countries. In short, Yorkshire is a country in miniature.

However, despite that diversity, industriousness and sense of community, Yorkshire (along with the Humber), across most indices performs badly against the national average. Whether it is the unemployment rate, productivity, house prices, levels of poor health, Yorkshire performs very badly. Yorkshire has the second lowest rate of construction in the UK and the region is tenth out of twelve regions for attracting inward investment from larger private sector companies. Frankly, both economic and social progress in Yorkshire over the past couple of generations has been pitiful as the region continues to be in the bottom two or three of all English regions against most measures.

Something needs to change and change fast.

Westminster is a dead duck. We can no longer look to them for leadership. We should be taking the initiative here and not relying on some trifles (or more likely polished turds) from London.

Let’s carve our own destiny.

If it’s good enough for Finland, then it’s time for Yorkshire to take its place on a world stage too.

One thought on “Finland

  1. I am not so sure we should be comparing Yorkshire with a sovereign state, but it is interesting to note that Yorkshire’s economy is around 60% the size of that of Finland. Looking at other comparable Western European states, Yorkshire’s economy is around 50% the size of those of Denmark and the Irish Republic, the first UK region to achieve devolution.

    Our GDP per capita lags behind all three of the above mentioned countries and is on a par with countries such as Slovenia and the Czech Republic, but ahead of the likes of Greece and Poland.

    This does not necessarily mean that a Yorkshire Parliament could boost the economy by around 100% but the reasons for such disparities require considered investigation. These issues also tend to dispel the myths of UK economic success and illustrate that the benefits of any UK economic successes have not been evenly spread throughout the country. Yorkshire has largely missed out and it is clear that the county has been badly served by the UK government.

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