Association of North East Councils

Can the North East and Cumbria benefit from greater Scottish autonomy?

Academics from Northumbria and Durham universities were asked by ANEC and Cumbria County Council to look at the implications of greater Scottish autonomy. Their report is published today.

The report says that Councils and development agencies in the North East and Cumbria are well aware that Scotland is already in a good position to attract new investment. With greater devolution and perhaps even independence, Scotland could become even more competitive. In particular, there are concerns that lower business taxes north of the border could have a big impact on the north of England, making it more difficult for the region to secure economic growth.

But the report says that there are also opportunities. It recommends the development of new collaborative relationships between the North East and Cumbria, and Scotland. This isn’t about setting up ‘talking shops’, but about creating practical cross-border networks and partnerships. The researchers say that there can be practical collaborations on transport, energy, tourism, rural development, and education and skills. There are many shared concerns, such as the need for better road and rail links, opportunities for further linkages in the offshore oil and gas industry, and also development of tourism in the border areas.

Professor Keith Shaw of Northumbria University, one of the report’s authors, said:
‘There’s a lot at stake. With the independence referendum just over a year away, we need to be thinking about what it could mean for the North East and Cumbria. And we need to be expressing our views and concerns to both the UK and Scottish Governments. Even if it’s a ‘No’ vote, Scotland will have more autonomy. We’ll need to try and avoid negative impacts in our region – and exploit the opportunities. I could imagine our region making common cause with Scotland on many issues, and our region’s economy benefiting from stronger links with a resurgent Scotland. We’ve been used to looking to London and the South East. Now it’s time to seek stronger connections with our neighbours in Scotland.’

On behalf of ANEC, Cllr. Paul Watson said:

“We welcome the publication of this report, which offers us a valuable platform to continue to engage with our partners on key areas of mutual interest. North East Councils have agreed to actively pursue areas for potential collaboration and utilise opportunities to maximise benefits for the people of the North East.

Click here to read the report.