I am half Scottish (my mum is from Glasgow) and I am really happy that Scotland voted to stay as part of the UK last week. However, their debate has raised important issues for places like Manchester.
No-one can argue that this Government has not given extra powers to the Manchester City Region. The City Deal, led on by Deputy PM Nick Clegg, was described as a “Game Changer” by Manchester’s Chief Executive, Sir Howard Bernstein. The deal gives Manchester more power over Housing, jobs, infrastructure, Training and Transport
And no-one can argue that this government has not supported big infrastructure projects.
The North West is having 40 projects funded this year, creating some 20,000 jobs. Schemes include the funding the Metrolink to Didsbury and Chorlton, (despite Labour cancelling it twice). It includes funding HS2, creating some 60,000 jobs in the North, despite some wobbles from some Tories in the South and Labour MP’s looking for an easy target to cut.
It also means £600m for the Northern Hub, £20 million to improve cycling, and unemployment down by 1000 in my constituency since this time last year.
All this is good, but I believe we need to go further. We must remember that the UK still has one of the most centralised governments in the world.
I believe that decisions should be made at the most appropriate level. Sometimes that will be at National or European level, sometimes it would be a City Region, Council, Ward on even estate level.
That does not mean that we need lots of new tiers of Governance and more politicians- most people would not be in favour of that. But we need to enhance accountability at all levels.
It cannot be right that the SNP led Scottish Government takes credit for everything that goes right in Scotland but blames the Government (or last government) when anything goes wrong.
Similarly, the Manchester Labour run council can’t repackage £1billion of extra Government spend in Manchester as their own, yet pretend they are not in charge when Ofsted say that child safeguarding procedures are inadequate.
The vote in Scotland gives an opportunity to rebalance powers and responsibility across the regions and nations. It is a debate that has been a long time coming.