A North MP has launched a referendum battle bus to persuade voters in the Scottish Borders that “we are better together.”
Guy Opperman, MP for Hexham, in Northumberland, will set off on his campaign to save the Union on Saturday August 30, when the postal vote forms will be landing on the doorsteps of all Scots.
He intends to be in the Borders leading a team as they try to persuade the people of Border towns Jedburgh and Howick to stay before September’s referendum.
> I suspect they may mean Hawick, not Howick…
Mr Opperman is calling on members of every political party to join him on his journey up the A68 trunk road in a bid to keep the two neighbouring countries together.
“Every two or three weeks I have been going to Scotland to campaign for Better Together for the last six months,” he told The Journal. “I’ve gone from Aberdeen to Fife to the Borders to Dumfries and up to Argyle and Bute either speaking or debating, rallying or simply knocking on doors with the Better Together campaign.
> Really ? Hope he hasn’t been neglecting the people who voted him in… although I do tend to think that anyone who votes Tory gets what they derserve.
“I’ve campaigned with Labour MPs, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives all of whom have come together and put party politics aside to ensure that we keep the Union. It is important that people living in the Scottish Borders know that we do not want then to go. Saturday August 30 is an important date because it’s approximately 18 days before the referendum when postal votes will be landing on Scottish voters’ doorsteps.
“A huge proportion of the votes in the referendum will be done by post and we need to make this date a significant one.
“My proposal is to get as many people as possible who wish to come and campaign with the team from Better Together to travel with us from Newcastle, Hexham and wider Northumberland on August 30.
“This is cross party because the Better Together campaign does not take into account an individual’s political view, provided he or she is in favour of the Union.”
The Tory MP has long called for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom.
He said: “Scottish independence is not what I want. I am a passionate supporter of the Union, as are the vast majority of our constituents.
> But you’re not Scottish… what you want is neither here nor there ultimately.
If I was an undecided Scot, I think a bus full of English Tory MPs and other Little Englanders telling me what I should do would ensure another “yes” vote.
“The impact of Scottish independence would be a significant effect on cross-border trade, and there are real concerns amongst my businesses that independence will affect the financial state of the North East.”
Mr Opperman proposes to leave from Wentworth car park, in Hexham at around 9.30am on August 30. Those interested in being on board the referendum bus later this month should email the MP direct at firstname.lastname@example.org
> Or if you live in Hexham, you could email him and tell him to get his arse back and do some work for the people who elected him.
I’m thinking of starting a campaign to extend the Scottish border south to the Tees. That’d solve all these perceived lost business opportunities along the border.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 09 Aug 2014
A commando hero who twice fought for his country in Iraq is now standing at the roadside with a sandwich board trying to get a job.
Michael Graham, 34, is living in a van, cooking on a camping stove with his interview suit hanging in the back, and pounding the streets to look for work offshore.
The Durham father-of-two has been searching for employment for more than a year and has visited 33 oil and gas companies and job agencies and sent out more than 100 CVs but has not yet had a single offer.
> Join the club, mate, join the club…
The former Royal Marine pledges not to give up however and has had a sandwich board made to place beside the road in Aberdeen, 275 miles from his Durham home.
On his sign he list the courses he has done and effort he has made to get a job on an oil rig.
“So far, it’s proving my hardest battle,” said Michael.
“When I joined the Marines I was determined to do it. I got through training that’s among the hardest in the British military.
“It’s the same with getting offshore. I’m putting 100 per cent into it.”
Michael spent more than five years in the Royal Marines, serving with 45 Commando at Arbroath, north east of Dundee in Scotland.
Now all the Durham dad wants is for a manager driving to work to see his sign. He said he wants to earn a good wage for wife Claire and sons Archie, three, and seven-month-old Max.
On Sunday, he got in his van and drove 275 miles north from his home in Durham to do the rounds of possible employers in Scotland’s oil capital.
Michael said: “I started off on Monday and spent the day in my suit, going round all the agencies and companies. I’ve been to 33 in total.
“It’s just a case of hoping to hear something back from them.
“I’ve done the same companies two or three times and they’re telling me I have no offshore experience.”
Despite the bosses’ doubts, Michael insists his Commando training has prepared him perfectly for rig work.
“It’s one harsh climate to another, from Iraq to the North Sea,” he said.
“But that’s what I would find interesting and challenging.
“I’d go as a cleaner and try and work my way up. That’s the idea. I’d rather start at the bottom and work my way up on the drill floor.”
Michael’s wife Claire, 29, said her husband spent hours on his laptop researching his trip to Aberdeen before he set off.
And the mum-of-two said the former Marine would be an asset to any company.
She said: “He is a hard worker and he is used to harsh environments.
“A lot of people go onto rigs and then struggle as they are not used to working away from home.”
Claire urged oil firms to give him a chance.
She said: “He is determined and he is trying his best to get a job.
“He wants to work on the rigs and I would never stop him doing what he wants to do.
“I just hope something comes of it.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 09 July 2014
High speed rail will slow down services from the North East to Scotland and reduce London journeys by just 11 minutes, the region is today warned.
A series of route documents have shown how the North will be increasingly isolated if the £42bn railway project is completed.
After a trickle of concerns at the plans for a new railway emerged over the last year, the final picture increasingly shows a high speed network in which Newcastle actually loses services.
Consultation documents put out by HS2 and Network Rail show:
- From 2033, Newcastle’s direct trains to and from Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow are replaced by a stopping service calling at small towns throughout the line, hugely adding to journey times;
- All London to Scotland services will go up the West Coast;
- High speed rail will replace, not add, to all existing East Coast London to Newcastle routes in order to free up capacity south of York;
- Under High speed plans, Durham would lose out on direct links, while Darlington moves from two trains an hour to London to one train;
- Total journey saving times to London when Durham’s Hitachi trains are built are just 11 minutes.
Under Government plans, the high speed railway will go from London to Birmingham, heading in a Y-shape to Leeds and Manchester by 2033. The fast trains then switch down to regular speeds and travel either to Newcastle or up the west coast to Scotland, with Newcastle now becoming simply the end of a branch line.
Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, who sits on the House of Commons group overseeing the London to Birmingham high speed work, said he had warned his own party’s front bench team that something will have to change if the North East is not to lose out.
He told The Journal: “We have some of the worst rail connections already. As I have said to our front bench, the North East first of all needs to be recompensed for the disruption we will face as work goes on from York to London.
“But also, this new line will build economic powerhouses in West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, while whatever happens in Scotland it is going to be given more economic powers.
“The North East risks being trapped in between these economic honeytraps, with slower connections to Scotland and losing some services to London. How will we sell ourselves to investors after High Speed 2?”
Other Labour MPs hitting out at the high speed plans include Durham’s Kevan Jones and Newcastle’s Nick Brown. They are at odds with Labour councils such as Newcastle and the Association of North East Councils, which have campaigned for new route despite the concerns.
Many of the damaging changes to North East services come as a result of a lack of investment in the East Coast Main Line north of York.
The four-lane line railway network changes to a two-lane line between Northallerton up to Newcastle. And with that system already leading to congestion on a one-in one-out basis, the new high speed route would only be able to replace, rather than add to, existing services.
In its consultation document, Network Rail admits that High Speed duplicates services up the East Coast, and as such, it wants to “reduce the quantum of long distance services,” axing long distance trains and replace them with slower, stopping services.
South of York there is increased extra capacity as all trains from Newcastle and Scotland are sent past Birmingham to Euston, with six trains an hour from the North moved off the existing system.
The system would mean there is an end to services from London to Edinburgh via Newcastle, documents show.
Instead a new stopping services would start at Newcastle and call at Cramlington, Morpeth, Alnmouth, Berwick, Dunbar, Drem, Prestonpans and Edinburgh Waverley.
And the same capacity constraints that force all these changes mean that from 2019, transport officials have decided the only way to increase services on the Transpennine service is to reduce one train an hour on the Birmingham via Leeds Cross Country routes.
Source – Newcastle Journal 06 May 2014
Sunderland has the lowest number of businesses out of any city in the UK, according to the latest report from think tank Centre for Cities.
Authors of the annual ‘health check’ of UK cities for 2014 also found Sunderland had the slowest-growing population, and was second bottom for business start ups.
The central spine of the report was the trend which showed the economic gap is widening between London and other cities.
Highlighting Sunderland, the report’s authors also listed Newcastle and Middlesbrough in the bottom ten cities for businesses in the UK.
The report also found there almost 10 times more jobs being created in the capital than the next best area.
Centre for Cities research revealed that London accounted for 80 per cent of national private sector employment growth between 2010 and 2012.
For every public sector job created in the capital, two have been lost in other cities, the study found.
While London is “booming”, cities such as Bradford, Blackpool and Glasgow have seen jobs lost in private and public sectors, said the report.
There has also been a significant number of jobs created in private firms in Edinburgh, Birmingham and Liverpool which have helped offset the impact of public sector job cuts.
In the two years to 2012 there were 216,000 private sector and 66,300 public sector jobs created in London, compared with losses of 7,800 and 6,800 in Glasgow, said Centre for Cities.
Other cities where jobs have been created in private companies included Nottingham (8,900), Brighton (6,400) and Aberdeen (4,900), but they were all hit by cuts in public sector employment.
The report said: “London remains the UK’s economic power house and is pivotal to the UK’s future success.”
Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “The gap between London and other UK cities is widening and we are failing to make the most of cities’ economic potential.
“Devolving more funding and powers to UK cities so they can generate more of their own income and play to their different strengths will be critical to ensuring this is a sustainable, job-rich recovery.”
Sunderland Echo, 27 January 2014