Tagged: independent Scotland

Raise The North group calls for people from the region to seek independence

A campaign has been launched for the north of England to become a breakaway state.

A petition by the Raise The North group calls for people from the region to band together and seek independence.

It is also urging David Cameron to ‘submit to the will of the northern people’.

The separation moves comes after an earlier petition called for the north to join with an independent Scotland.

The #TakeUsWithYouScotland hashtag soon flooded Twitter. More than 40,000 people have now signed the call-to-arms.

The latest petition, posted with the #RaiseTheNorth hashtag, reads:

“There is growing consensus that the north of England should join Scotland.

“Northern England should not ask to leave one governor, only to take on another. For as long as the south has ruled, we have been subjugated and marginalised.

“But the answer is not to allow ourselves to be ruled from Scotland. The Scots may help, but they can’t do it for us.

“It’s time that the people of the north stood as one against Westminster and said ‘no more’.”

Signatory Valerie Quigley wrote:

“It is time for the north of England to get their say. They have suffered from the same democratic deficit as Scotland for many years.

“North England self-government would benefit the area and could make good neighbours and agreements cross-border with Scotland.”

On the back of the Scottish independence referendum there have been growing calls for English devolution.

Places like Greater Manchester will soon have its own directly elected mayor; control of its entire £6bn NHS budget, a national first; and greater control over housing, transport and skills.

 

But the Raise The North group wants more, with the whole of the north of England breaking away and gaining independence.

At the last general election the North East was one of the few areas in England where support for the Labour party, which fought against Mr Cameron’s Tory government, actually went up.

With the highest unemployment rate in the country and many people either working in the under threat public sector or relying on benefits to boost poor salaries, there have been fears the region is missing out on what has been described as the economic upturn in the country.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 19 May 2015

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North Labour leader says Scotland should go it alone

A former Labour mayor and trade union figure from the north of England has urged people in Scotland to vote for independence.

Craig Johnston, the former mayor of Carlisle, says a Yes vote will “energise the debate about devolution” across the UK.

Mr Johnston, a regional organiser for the RMT union, also hopes a new constitution in an independent Scotland will implement workers’ rights and “instil a bit of fairness in the workplace”.

Criticising the Labour Party, he said:

“I don’t want the Labour Party to be like it is.

“I can’t support a Labour Party that introduced the private finance initiative and let the moneylenders into the NHS – Nye Bevan’s temple.

“This is the party that oversaw the crisis, bailed out the bankers and started selling off the NHS. These are the people who are trying to scare us now.”

Dennis Canavan, chair of Yes Scotland’s advisory board, said:

“This is yet more evidence of the breadth and sheer energy of the Yes campaign.

“Craig Johnston is a highly-respected civic and political figure in Carlisle, which of course sits very close to the border and for centuries has had strong links with Scotland.”

Steve Bowditch, current Labour mayor of the city disagreed and said a Yes vote would be “extremely damaging for Carlisle”.

Source –  Newcastle Journal, 17 Sept 2014

Scottish Independence Referendum has Berwick braced for changes ahead

One week from polling day across the border, Berwick is braced for problems ahead if there is a Yes vote for Scottish independence.

With opinion polls indicating that next Thursday’s referendum is too close to call, the establishment of a separate sovereign state north of Lamberton has suddenly become a realistic prospect.

 Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith believes the result “could have profound consequences for Berwick and the Borders.”

But on a visit to the Berwick Advertiser office this week, Ayton-based Scottish government minister Paul Wheelhouse insisted cross-border ties would be largely unaffected by independence.

As media coverage intensifies and the referendum race enters the home straight, international journalists and TV news crews from around the world have been descending on Berwick in droves to gauge opinion in England’s most northerly town.

Business leaders in north Northumberland are waiting and watching with interest. Many of them fear for the future, but most are unwilling to comment publicly about potential problems independence would cause.

Sir Alan Beith, however, repeats Unionists warnings today about currency, border controls and cross-border public services.

There might be Scottish pounds after independence, but their value would fluctuate below or above that of the English pound,” he writes. “It really would be like changing holiday money, but on an everyday basis.”

He also warns that border checkpoints could not be ruled out if Scotland opts for independence.

If one of our two nations was in the EU and the other was not, border control would be necessary,” he writes.

“If the UK government had no confidence in the Scottish government’s immigration or security policy, border controls could become necessary.”

Sir Alan also believes cross-border public services would be put at risk.

He states: “It is quite difficult to overcome cross-border bureaucratic obstacles within a single state, but I believe it would be a lot more difficult across a boundary between two sovereign states.”

Mr Wheelhouse, acknowledges that cross-border concerns have been raised by voters on the Scottish side of the border. But the SNP politician, who says he often shops in Berwick, is confident existing arrangements between the Borders and Northumberland would be largely unaffected by independence.

We have a good story to tell in terms of those relations, and the continuing nature of an open border,” he said.

“Different tax arrangements are common place across Europe in terms of cross-border working and there have been no problems there.”

He also believes an independent Scotland would “hopefully” be able to continue the current relationship between the two health services on either side of the border.

But many members of the public in the Berwick area are unconvinced.

Andrew Martin, 46, from Tweedmouth, fears for Berwick’s economy.

“If Scotland gets its own tax raising powers and decides to set taxes at a lower rate or reduce its own VAT, goods and service would be cheaper just a few miles to the north,” he said.

Berwick has always been the communication hub for the north of Northumberland and the south east of the Scottish Borders. If things are different on either side of the border it causes a real issue.

“I don’t think the impact on north Northumberland has been properly explored.

“A Yes vote could benefit us on this side of the border. But a No vote and a new devolution plus arrangement could have a real impact.”

So Berwick would benefit from a Yes vote?

“It would really depend whether or not Scotland could raise the funds required to balance the books. If not, tax and VAT would go up. Alex Salmond looks towards Norway, but the have an income tax rate of 50% and a higher rate of VAT.”

Some small businesses in the Borders are understood to have already registered a new address in Northumberland to guard against the prospect of being entangled in red tape in the event of a Yes vote and the potential for economic problems in immediate aftermath.

But on the Northumberland side of the border, most business leaders are simply waiting and watching with interest.

Terence Pardoe is chief executive at Coastal Grains. Based at Belford, the co-operative stores and markets grain for members on both sides of the border.

We have no view on it until there is a vote one way or another and then have to see what transpires and how it may affect us,” he said.

If there is a Yes vote, there will have to be a period of re-organisation, and we do not yet know what will be involved in the transfer of centralisation. If there is a No vote, then the assumption is that nothing will change to affect the business.

“It would therefore be a waste of time planning something which we do not know how it will evolve.”

Very few business leaders are prepared to express their fears publicly. Indeed, one of the biggest employers in Berwick told the Advertiser this week that it was company policy not to comment about a “current political event”.

But the Scots who live in Berwick are happy to have their say.

Marion Black, 56, is a Scot who has lived in East Ord for 27 years. She would be undecided if she did have a vote. She also believes the potential implications for Berwick, if Scotland does opt for independence, have been exaggerated.

I don’t think much would change,” she said. “We’ve had stories like this before. When free personal care for the elderly and free tuition fees were introduced under devolution, people said there would be an influx of people moving from Berwick to Scotland and that house prices would up over the border. But it never happened. The impact won’t be as big as people say.

“In the short to medium term, I don’t think independence would have a big impact.

“I love Berwick and I love living in Berwick. People don’t always move or change their life solely for economic reasons.”

It’s nice in a way because I’m interested in the debate, but I don’t have the responsibility of making up my mind. My heart says yes, and my head says no. If I did live in Scotland I’d be torn.”

Stephen Hope was born in Edinburgh but now lives and works in Berwick. He is employed by his dad at the Sporran Gift Shop on Church Street, selling Scottish memorabilia to the tourists.

Independence could be bad for Berwick,” he said. “But it would depend on the strength of the currency Scotland chooses to use. If it is a weak currency, though, the Scots would come over the border to do their shopping, so that might benefit Berwick. it is hard to say. But if I was up there I’d definitely vote No.”

Source – Berwick Advertiser,  13 Sept 2014

“You would vote for independence too,” says North-East based Scot

With the Scottish independence referendum only days away, journalist and university lecturer Neil Macfarlane explains why he would vote yes. And why he thinks you would too

I’m a Scot who lives in the North-East. There are loads of us – chuck a paper aeroplane out your front window and you’ll probably hit one. I’ve lived happily here for years, but it won’t surprise those who know me that I would like Scotland to vote yes to independence next week.

I hope this happens because I don’t think the three main Westminster parties represent my politics any more. I like the idea of getting rid of nuclear weapons, of universal education, and I worry about the future of the NHS and the welfare state.

I think it’s sensible to increase immigration to help reverse decades of emigration by Scots like me and my family. I feel uncomfortable about parties of all stripes blaming foreigners and the poor for all problems.

I think the UK government and media is too focused on London. I think many people in the North-East feel the same about these issues.

I don’t know for sure if an independent Scotland would be richer or poorer but I do think it would be governed by people with its interests at heart. I like England and English people very much and I don’t think Braveheart is a good film.

My generation (mid 30s) are among those most likely to vote Yes. The media often explain this away by pointing out we were impressionable teens when Braveheart was released. It’s a funny observation – comfortingly so for some – but not quite right. There’s a more crucial formative figure than William Wallace.
Margaret Thatcher came to power only months before I was born, and was Prime Minister for over a decade as I was growing up in Edinburgh. It didn’t make sense that this could happen when it seemed to me that everybody I knew voted against her.
I remember my dad ranting at the telly and the chants of “milk-snatcher” in the playground. I still remember the day the teacher announced her resignation. The entire class of 11-year-olds erupted in celebration, on their knees with clenched fists, or jumping on their chairs. No one complained about young people being disengaged with politics in those days – we didn’t have the choice.

Thatcher remains the longest serving Prime Minister of my lifetime, yet she was repeatedly rejected by the people of Scotland at the polls. When our teachers taught us about democracy, and how generations had fought and died to preserve it, something didn’t fit.

By the way, feel free to swap “Scotland” in the paragraph above for “Middlesbrough“, “Sedgefield“, Sunderland” or “Bishop Auckland“.

Pretty much all of this applies to the North-East, too. Sometimes people dismiss the independence movement by asking if there should also be separation for the North-East, for Manchester, or Liverpool.

Personally, I don’t see why not – if that’s what the people want. But the argument misunderstands what Scotland is. It is not a region of a country. It is its own country and always has been.

The United Kingdom only came into being 300 years ago as an agreement between two nations to form an alliance. Scotland was not conquered. Its remarkable achievements in science, philosophy, engineering, literature and statecraft had been established for centuries before 1707, and that spirit later combined with the same from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to make the union thrive.

This time last year most Scots liked the idea of the UK being a partnership of equals, and a sizable majority were happy enough to keep it that way. That has now changed.

The No campaign has been horrendously misjudged. Scots always believed they could be independent, but most doubted if they should. The Conservative-Labour-Lib Dem Better Together campaign then set about claiming that Scotland would collapse into disarray if left to its own devices. The campaign was dubbed “Project Fear” – by the No camp themselves.

Scots were told: You can’t keep the pound, you can’t stay in the EU, your aspirations are pipe dreams and we’ll rebuild Hadrian’s Wall to keep you out when it all goes wrong.

Their latest effort was billboards claiming: “Vote no if you love your children.” The polls are at 50:50, are they saying half the people in Scotland hate their kids? It’s so long since the Scots heard the positive case for the union, they’re beginning to suspect there isn’t one.

In the face of this onslaught, the Yes campaign has flourished. Grassroots activists have packed out town halls across the country making their case, bloggers have amassed followings to make newspaper editors cry with envy.

People who have never voted are being helped to register, and volunteers are putting on buses to give them a lift on polling day. Discussion on social media is dominated by funny, spiky, imaginative Yes voters.

There are touring arts festivals. Millions have been inspired by the idea that Scotland could become a fairer, more successful country, and by the promise of progressive policies that would never be offered by three Westminster parties all fighting over the same ground.

This isn’t petty nationalism. It is an inclusive movement. Every resident will be given a Scottish passport on day one of independence. One of the most high profile campaign groups is English Scots for Yes, who give away teabags branded: “Have a cuppa, vote yes.” There are groups for African Scots, Italian Scots,Polish Scots. I am proud of the fact I don’t get a vote but those who live in Scotland do, regardless of where they were born.

It’s even spreading beyond the border. A recent poll showed an even higher proportion of people in the North-East back Scottish independence. I’ve lost count of the number of times friends have asked: “Can we come too?

The response to all of this has been a wishy-washy offer of more powers for the Scottish parliament, without saying exactly what those powers might be. This was George Osborne’s first intervention since he announced Scotland couldn’t keep the pound – a move which actually caused an increase in support for independence. At this point, the Chancellor could knock on every door in Scotland offering a free carwash, foot rub and £1000 cash and the polls would still rise for Yes.

While the SNP published a manifesto for Scotland’s future a year ago, Labour and the Tories are now trying to scramble a response with only days to go. Why not before now? Perhaps because they weren’t listening, because it’s too far away, because there are too few voters… because it was never a priority for them.

It’s a feeling the Scots, and we in the North-East, know all too well.

Source –  Northern Echo, 11 Sept 2014

Benefit Sanctions Rocket By As Much As 563%, Shocking Figures Reveal

Scottish National Party (SNP) Media Release:

New figures obtained by the SNP have found a staggering increase in the number of people being hit by benefit sanctions at the hands of Westminster welfare reforms, further highlighting the need for a Yes vote and the full powers over welfare it would bring.

An answer to a Written Question from SNP MSP Kevin Stewart found that, since 2009, there has been a 65 per cent increase in the number of disabled people being sanctioned and a 76 per cent increase in women being sanctioned.

 Lone parents have been hit the hardest, with a staggering 563 per cent increase in sanction since 2009.

 Analysis from the Child Poverty Action Group has previously found that 100,000 more children in Scotland face being pushed into poverty by 2020.

Those hit by sanctions can have their benefits taken away for a fixed period of anything from a week to three years.

SNP MSP Kevin Stewart, who sits on the Welfare Reform Committee, said:

These figures show a staggering increase in the number of people being hit by Westminster’s deeply unfair benefit sanctions. It is seriously worrying that lone parents are the hardest hit group with a 563 per cent increase since 2009 – this sets alarm bells ringing about the impact that this policy will be having on children across Scotland.

“The 65 per cent increase in disabled people being hit is also cause for major concern. The welfare system should be supporting and empowering people with disabilities, not making life more difficult for them.

“Women already bear the brunt of welfare cuts, with 69 per cent of planned cuts falling on them – these figures show that despite David Cameron’s attempts to appear to be taking action on equality, the number of women being sanctioned is up by three quarters.

“Evidence of Westminster’s failure on welfare grows by the day. We have already seen a four fold increase in the number of people relying on food banks as a result of Westminster’s obsession with dismantling the welfare state, and now the UK Government’s own report on Bedroom Tax – sneaked out during the reshuffle – finds more than half of those hit by Bedroom Tax are in arrears.

“The Scottish Government is doing what it can to mitigate the impact of welfare cuts, but with the full powers of independence we could do so much more. In an independent Scotland we can build a welfare state that empowers people, tackling poverty and helping to bring about the fairer Scotland we all want to see.”

 Source: www.snp.org

 

Source – Welfare News Service,  18 July 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/benefit-sanctions-rocket-much-563-shocking-figures-reveal/

No Relationship Between Benefit Sanctions And Food Banks, Say DWP

 Department For Work And Pensions Director, Neil Couling, has claimed that there is no relationship between the increased used of benefit sanctions against unemployed jobseeker’s and the rising number of people turning to food banks.

According to the Scottish National Party (SNP), the claim was made during a Scottish Welfare Reform Committee session, where Mr Couling was standing in for the conservative Employment Minister, Esther McVey MP.

The SNP also claim that Mr Couling ‘took issue’ with existing evidence showing there has been a 209 per cent increase in the number of sanctions handed out against benefit claimants in Scotland since 2006, and Mr Couling joked that sanctioned benefit claimants were bringing ‘Thank You’ cards to his office.

Figures suggest that the number of instances where a benefit claimants has had their benefits cut or stopped completely, as a result of having their benefits sanctioned, more than tripled between 2006 – 2013, from 25,953 to 80,305.

 The coalition government toughened the existing benefit sanction regime in 2012 and has recently introduced the ‘Claimant Commitment‘. Charities fear this could increase the number of sanctions being dished out against unemployed jobseeker’s even further.

Under the new system benefit claimants who fail to adhere to tough new requirements could find their payments being docked for four weeks, increasing to up to three years for repeat offenders.

A growing number of politicians, charities and benefit claimants themselves are drawing attention to instances where unemployed people have had their benefits slashed for long periods inappropriately.

These include not applying for enough jobs in a single week, even though the unemployed person has evidence that they had applied for dozens of job vacancies, as well as instances where jobseeker’s have had their benefits sanctioned for failing to turn up to a jobcentre appointment, despite having informed their adviser that they were attending a hospital appointment or the funeral of a family member.

Speaking after the committee session at the Scottish Parliament, Kevin Stewart MSP said:

“Mr Couling should visit the food banks in Scotland to speak to the people who have had their welfare benefits sanctioned and now face huge difficulties feeding themselves and their families.

“Perhaps if Mr Couling listened to the expert evidence the committee heard today from the Head of Policy at Barnardo’s Scotland; Citizens Advice Scotland; the Head of Oxfam Scotland and others including Dr John Ip, GP of the British Medical Association, then he might have had a better understanding of the reality of the situation.

“Mr Couling may have been joking when he claimed that Welfare sanctions were bringing  ‘Thank-you’ cards from benefits claimants to his office but there is nothing funny about people who have to line up in order to receive vital food parcels for their hungry children.

“Amidst Mr Couling’s contradictory claims he did concede that ‘the chances of having a sanction is going up’ and that is the grim reality of people unable to find work – which means they have no income and are forced to use food banks.

“As Labour MSP Ken Macintosh pointed out, the Scottish Government has indeed given a further £1million towards food banks – but as Mark Ballard from Barnardo’s highlighted, the Scottish Government hasn’t the powers to totally mitigate the harmful Westminster benefit cuts.

“Instead of people in Scotland being forced to rely upon a Westminster welfare system that is being aggressively cut and sanctioning thousands people who need support, we need a system that truly reflects Scotland’s values.

“With the powers of an independent Scotland we can build that kind of system and ensure that the priorities of people in Scotland are truly reflected in our welfare system.

“It is only a Yes vote in next year’s referendum that will secure that opportunity for Scotland and restore people’s faith that they will receive the support they need from the rest of society when they are facing difficult times.”

Source – Welfare News Service    30 April 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/relationship-benefit-sanctions-food-banks-say-dwp/

SNP – independence would be better for the North East than control from London

The Scottish National Party has told the North East an independent Scotland would welcome its workers with open arms.

The SNP said the region should see independence as offering an alternative to London’s dominance over the North East, a claim few of the region’s MPs appeared to agree with.

Instead, there were warnings yesterday of border chaos and towns reduced to “currency exchange kiosks” if a yes vote is returned in this year’s referendum.

Phil Wilson (Sedgefield – Blair’s successor) led MPs yesterday in a parliamentary debate on the impact of independence on the region’s economy.

Citing a Journal report from last year in which First Minister Alex Salmond told the North East it had no better friend than Scotland, the Sedgefield MP questioned the reality of that relationship.

He said: “To the SNP’s internal Scottish audience, the English are those from whom the SNP wants independence, but to the North East of England, according to Alex Salmond, we are Scotland’s closest friends.

“Call me old-fashioned, but I would not close the door on my closest friends by asking for independence from the rest of the UK.”

> Scotland is our next door neighbour – a good deal closer than the London city state.

SNP MP Angus MacNeil denied the possibility that a new border would hinder trade.

He told MPs: “The point of the SNP is to put the Scottish people first, rather than power struggles in London, which, unfortunately, is the point of the London parties.

“It is all about who is in government in London, and that is not for the good of the people of Sighthill, Skye or Lewis.

“That is an awful tragedy. It should also be in our interest in Scotland to ensure that the good people of the North East of England are benefiting as much as those in the regions of Scotland.

“I look forward to the day I witness people from the North East of England finding chances of employment in Scotland, rather than having to go far afield to the South East of England.”

> Amen to that !

Berwick Liberal Democrat Sir Alan Beith said the fact was that day-to-day trade would be changed if Scotland broke away from the United Kingdom.

He said: “That activity is not impossible with independence, we should not overstate the case, but it would become more difficult and the likelihood of administrative barriers being erected is that much greater.

“There are a whole series of reasons why anyone living near the border, unless they see their future entirely as a town of currency exchange kiosks and smugglers, would think that we are much better together.”

Also warning against a yes vote was Hexham Conservative Guy Opperman. He told MPs: “The boundary between Scotland and the rest of the UK would, by definition, become an international border between two separate states, with everything that entails.

“The evidence locally in the North East, whether from farming bodies or the North East chamber of commerce, is extensive.

> farming bodies or the North East chamber of commerce… oh yes, very representive of the population at large – and, I suspect, two groups from which Mr Opperman draws his support come election time.

“There is huge concern that this will have an impact on trade, businesses and jobs.

> Bigger than that caused by policies imposed by the London-based ConDem government, unrepresented in the NE except by Mr Opperman ?

The possible problems rising from Scottish independence are conjecture. The problems caused by policies imposed from the London posh boys are REAL.

“I met a number of oil and gas producers, several of whom are building huge sites on the Tyne at the moment. The two biggest construction sites are for construction projects in the North Sea.

“The producers are concerned that, if there were independence, those projects would be affected, and there would be greater difficulties.”

Source – Newcastle Journal, 05 Mar 2014

Jobs warning for North East over Scottish independence

A jobs warning has been sounded as the region is told of the risk of Scottish independence.

As Chancellor George Osborne set out why the UK would not let a breakaway Scotland keep the pound, Hexham MP Guy Opperman has warned of the regional impact of a new international border on the doorsteps of Northumberland.

The Conservative MP said: “If keeping the pound would not be possible as part of a formal sterling currency union; if the SNP no longer wishes to join the euro, which one can see; and if there is no prospect of an independent country with border control—my constituents are somewhat concerned that there might be a rerun of Hadrian’s wall—where are we?”

He said the situation in Scotland was clearly of concern to the North East, adding: “I am speaking as an MP whose area has a border that divides Scotland and England—my local businesses, the North East chamber of commerce and the local authorities have all indicated that there would be a negative impact on jobs, growth and the development of our respective economies in Scotland and England were the referendum to go ahead.”

> Would that be the same jobs, growth and development (or lack of) that makes the North East the area with the highest unemployment ?

He told MPs: “I speak as a Brit, a mongrel Englishman, a lover of Scotland and an MP whose constituency borders Scotland. Were there to be Scottish independence, I have no doubt that tourism and trade would continue, but it would be naive not to accept that trade on a cross-border basis would unquestionably be affected.

“That is not some Conservative Member of Parliamentspeaking; that is the opinion of the chambers of commerce, local authorities and business groups I have spoken to on both sides of the border.”

> All organizations with the welfare of the common man at heart…

In Edinburgh yesterday the Chancellor ruled out a currency union with an independent Scotland after “strong” advice from the Treasury’s leading official, which was published.

Sir Nicholas Macpherson said that unions are “fraught with difficulty” and raised serious concerns about the Scottish Government’s commitment to making it work. Scotland’s banking sector is too big in relation to national income, the UK could end up bailing the country out.

> Perhaps the North East (and Cumbria, for that matter) should apply to become part of an independent Scotland. Until relatively recently the border was pretty fluid, the old kingdom of Northumbria took in chunks of both, and Hadrian’s Wall is nowadays a long way from the current border (although, of course, neither England or Scotland existed when it was built).

But who do we have more in common with – Scotland or the London city state ?

Source – Newcastle Journal  14 Feb 2014