Yorkshire Independence

Clifford’s Tower, York

With the Scottish National Party once again pursuing the right to hold a referendum on Scottish Independence, we look at the concept and implications of “Yorkshire Independence” and we begin to wonder whether the SNP has thought through all the ramifications of independence. Transforming Yorkshire does not support Yorkshire independence.

The idea of Yorkshire independence has been around for years. It is not clear how it originated. It may have come about because Yorkshire people are considered “independently” minded or it may have been because the UK was going through one of its periodic financial crises and some Yorkshire people thought that we could certainly do better than those in Westminster if we were independent. The whole idea though has always been a bit of a joke, some humour to lighten the day. The concept of an independent Yorkshire, however, is not as daft as it sounds. There are many small countries with similar sized populations and economies to Yorkshire that exist quite happily as independent states, some thrive. In Europe we have countries such as Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland that all exist as independent states and there are many other examples.

So, could Yorkshire exist as an independent state and should it? Why go for devolution when you can have the full monty? The answer is probably that Yorkshire could exist as an independent state but it is not clear that we would be any better off. Yorkshire currently does not really pay its way in the world, but then again, neither does the UK as a whole. Yorkshire does not currently have many of the institutions that it would need to exist as a separate sovereign state. In an emergency situation, many of these could be put in place quickly but some would be difficult to create from scratch at short notice. For example, Yorkshire currently has no central administration and there is no central leadership of any real substance. So, if Yorkshire became independent at short notice the upheaval would be tremendous. Had the Scottish referendum gone the other way, Scotland would have been in a similar position. There is no way that independence could have been achieved according to the SNP’s desired timetable as no advance preparation had been done at all, but at least Scotland would have had many national institutions in place. Yorkshire would have to create these from scratch.

Independence is very different from devolution. We would not be able to hang on to the UK’s coattails. We would have to do everything for ourselves. We would have to find all the money to pay for our public services. We would have to have our own currency. We would have to have our own system of government. We would have to be capable of defending our own borders, providing all our own security and we would have to carry out our own negotiations on international affairs. We would have to manage our own economy and enter into our own trade deals. Whilst this might sound attractive to some, the implications would be significant and could we achieve independence without acrimony both within the country (county) and with our neighbours?

An independent Yorkshire would require inspired leadership to establish the state and transform the economy. An independent Yorkshire could only exist with the full support of the Yorkshire people. For these two reasons, I doubt that the British establishment need concern itself with Yorkshire independence anytime soon. On the other hand, if Scotland leaves the UK, will that pave the way for the UK to become a much looser federation? Might this state be made up of the regions of England, plus Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland or would Scotland choose to go it alone?

The SNP’s push for another independence referendum could open up all sorts of possibilities. From a national perspective, though, the break-up of the UK would be a disaster. In considering how we have arrived at where we are today, most of the responsibility can be placed with the remote, over centralising oligarchy that Westminster has become. Westminster should embrace devolution and use the concept of subsidiarity to determine what tiers of government are necessary and where responsibilities and accountabilities should be. We need to move away from the over centralised “big state” model that we currently have if communities are to thrive and feel valued. The downside in this for local authorities is that they must accept responsibility for their actions and not rely on government bailouts. This also assumes a fair and adequate funding settlement for each tier of government.

It is interesting to note that an independent Yorkshire would need a constitution; an executive or some sort of central administration; a legislature; a judiciary; a civil service; a national health administration; an education service; a welfare administration; a tax system and associated administration; and the list goes on. It is also interesting to note that many of these functions would be required by a devolved administration. A ridiculous increase in bureaucracy, you might say, but bear in mind that many of these functions and agencies at the UK level would simply no longer exist.

In conclusion, the idea of an independent Yorkshire is not completely far fetched but Yorkshire would be far better off as a self-governing, financially independent region within a federated United Kingdom. Westminster is currently broken and if it continues on its present path, the UK could be permanently damaged.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *