Alex Salmond has raised the prospect of Newcastle teaming up with Glasgow and Edinburgh to form an “economic powerhouse” pushing for influence.
The Scottish First Minister told an audience in New York that while he has “no territorial ambitions” on Northumberland or the North East, he does see the sense in teaming up with the region on issues such as High Speed Rail.
Mr Salmond said that plans to build the new railway line from London up to the North showed the bias in the UK, and questioned why the line could not be built from North to South instead, joining up major Northern and Scottish cities along the way.
That transport focus prompted one North East MP to last night call on the First Minister to “put his money where his mouth is” on dualling of the A1 north of Newcastle and through Scotland.
Speaking at an event organised by US paper the Wall Street Journal, Mr Salmond said: “I have no territorial demands but we have encouraged a borderlands initiative, about economic cooperation between the North of England and Scotland.
“The North East and the North West get the hind end of just about everything, the worst deal.
“We have a parliament in Scotland we have our own economic initiatives, that’s not the case for the North of England.
“What sort of initiatives could we have? Well, transport for a start. Fast rail is coming, the greatest misnomer of all time, fast rail in the UK means something that will take 40 years to build.
“But the important point is that it is being built from south to north. It would be a rather interesting concept to see it built from north to south, the advantages there of the combinations of the great city conurbations of Glasgow, Edinburgh and for example Newcastle, which would present an interesting economic powerhouse.
“So cooperation doesn’t depend on territorial ambitions.”
Hexham MP Guy Opperman, a campaigner in the Better Together group, said: “All of us would welcome any action by the Scottish Government to improve transport links from Edinburgh to the North East, whether that is dualling the A1 north of the border or a commitment to High Speed rail from Edinburgh to Newcastle.
“But I would urge Mr Salmond to put his money where his mouth is.”
In Newcastle, council leader Nick Forbes has already met with Alex Salmond in Newcastle to discuss High Speed Rail, alongside visits to Edinburgh and Glasgow councils.
He said: “I strongly believe that the North East needs to be around the table discussing how we get the best deal for the region after the referendum.
“The Borderlands initiative shows we’re working closely with Scotland on a range of issues, and it is interesting to hear how much Scotland values its links with cities like Newcastle. It’s not all just about London.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 12 April 2014
> Yes, you did read that headline correctly…
A broken benefits system is causing people to turn to food banks, an aspiring Conservative politician has said.
In comments more normally seen from Labour politicans, Berwick Tory Anne-Marie Trevelyan has said the number of people needing handouts to eat may be as a result of changes to the benefits system.
Mrs Trevelyan is bidding to take the seat from Sir Alan Beith when the Liberal Democrat steps down in 2015.
Much of her campaign has focused on the jobs potential of dualling the A1 north of Newcastle.
But last night she said that after visiting a Northumberland food bank, the evidence put to her was that those dependant upon benefits were suffering the result of changes to the system.
The Conservative-led coalition Government has come in for criticism from a variety of sources over its cuts to benefits.
Reductions in benefits have been criticised as indiscriminate while changes to the way benefits are handed out has seen delays as a result.
Mrs Trevelyan said: “All users of food banks in Northumberland have been referred by social services, Citizens Advice Bureaux or other groups like Sure Start. The reasons given are often delays in benefits being paid or other financial pressures leaving families with no money to buy food.
“I am concerned by the recurring message from the volunteers who run our local food banks, that the majority of those who come to them do so because the benefits payment system is not working.
“It should be there to support those who need a safety net while they find work or arrange long term support.
“There seems to be a serious breakdown in the effective management of the payments system. I am going to be talking in more detail with our job centre teams to try to find out what they need to solve this issue effectively.”
> Oh bugger – don’t ask them ! They’re a major part of the problem.
The Conservative candidate said that a rapid rise in the number of food banks began under Labour in 2006 when there were 3,000 nationally. This rose to more than 40,000 by 2010.
In addition to this leading food bank provider the Trussell Trust has been expanding, inevitably leading to more hard-pressed families making use of their services.
Mrs Trevelyan’s comments are similar to many of those expressed by Northern Labour MPs, though of a far less critical nature.
Also adding their concerns to the growing number of food banks was former Bishop of Durham Justin Welby. Now Archbishop of Canterbury, he has called for a greater level of awareness from the Government on the causes behind the growing number of food banks in the UK.
Senior Tories have tried to play down the rise of food banks.
Education Secretary Michael Gove came under fire for saying that financial mismanagement was the reason many people were going to food banks.
And Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, the man ultimately responsible for changes to the benefit system, refused to meet the Trussell Trust and accused it of being politically motivated.
Source – Newcastle Journal 15 Feb 2014