Has Alex Salmond really lost? Is the North going to stand idly by whilst promises made by a panicking government in the last days of the referendum campaign are now redeemed?


Before the end of this parliament the Scottish Parliament will have the power to levy lower corporation and income tax than us. They will get new powers to attract inward investment. They may even be attracting some of our air passengers from Manchester and Newcastle airports with lower passenger duty. This is not to mention free elderly care, university tuition and prescription charges made possible by the £1200 per head extra funding Scotland gets as compared to England.


Now it is our turn to demand change. However the rushed statement by the Prime Minister on the steps of Downing St on Friday morning is full of danger for those of us who want effective power devolved to the North. Mr Cameron is rushing things to appease his backbenchers. The North needs time to make its views heard. That cannot be done by the General Election. The Prime Minister made a brief reference to city regions, so it looks as if he is putting his faith in the Coalition’s patchwork of Combined Authorities, elected mayors, City Regions, Local Enterprise Partnerships and regional growth funds controlled from London. It is not good enough


We need Regional Assemblies. Not the weak structures that John Prescott had to offer when he was defeated by centralists in 2004, but real powerful assemblies for the North West, North East and Yorkshire. They would be funded by some of the excessive subsidy currently going north of the border and would have power over transport, economic development, strategic planning and health. These are functions which no city region can run on its own. Elected Assemblies would be able to begin the rebalancing of the UK’s economy and avoid the continued domination of the South East and a freshly empowered Scottish Parliament.


Before the anti region brigade bleat about an extra tier of politicians, I would propose the completion of the move to unitary local government, particularly in places like Lancashire, sweeping away hundreds of district councillors.


An English Parliament is emphatically not what we need, and Mr Cameron does not seem to favour it from his statement on Friday morning. An English Parliament truly would be a new tier of expensive politicians and such a body would usually be dominated by southern Conservatives. Scots must no longer vote on England only issues but that can be done by designating bills at Westminster. This proposal would present a problem for a Labour government who would usually face a blocking English majority but if real power was devolved to English Assemblies, the effect of this would be minimised




After months of complacency, the Westminster establishment woke up just in time to save the United Kingdom. The last minute vow to give the Scots devo max after all might have made the difference. That casts doubt on the Prime Minister’s refusal to have a third question on the ballot paper which forced people who wanted more power into the “yes” camp.

But the main reason why Salmond lost was surely the unanswered economic questions. Whether George Osborne would have agreed to a common currency in the end we will never know. It seems unlikely as the pressure from his backbenchers would have been very much against it. But doubts about the currency to be used and how it might affect mortgages and pensions proved too much for most canny Scots.


Salmond was right on one thing. Uncertainty about Scotland’s membership of the EU is greater now than if Scotland was independent and eager to remain in or re-enter. Now they may find themselves taken out following the 2017 referendum if the Tories get back next year.


Where does the “no” vote leave our leading politicians? David Cameron held the union together but only after calling his own party “effing Tories” and having to make desperate last minute concessions of power to Scotland. These have made him even more enemies on the Tory backbenches.


Ed Miliband does not emerge from this very well. Large numbers of Labour supporters haemorrhaged to the Scottish Nationalists and Gordon Brown had to bail him out.


Alex Salmond has led his party brilliantly to get to this point but failing at the last hurdle will be a bitter blow. Calls to start a new drive for independence in 2030 will not go down well with an exhausted Scottish electorate.


The one politician to emerge with credit was Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Tories. There may be more pandas in Edinburgh zoo than Scottish Tory MPs but her feisty performance in the Better Together campaign may give the Conservatives some hope of recovery in Scotland, especially if people start to ask “what is the point of the SNP?”


The lesson we in the north have to learn is that it is only by showing the Westminster elite that we are serious that we will get anything. Let the Campaign for the North begin!








A month ago the Philippines was devastated by one of the most powerful storms ever. These catastrophic events are becoming more frequent as climate change fuels our weather system with more and more energy.


You’d think that husky driver Dave would get it, realising that before long he won’t be able to use the Arctic for photo opportunities because there won’t be any ice to slide on.


But no, in the face of understandable anger about rocketing energy prices Mr Cameron and many other political leaders have ditched the green agenda and reverted to short term measures that may please the voters but will do little to save the planet.


Tory Ministers claim they are still committed to the “Vote Blue Get Green” strategy from 2010 and the Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey says his party is still making a green difference in the Coalition, but the facts say otherwise. The Green Deal has had a very poor take up, mainly because households investing in it see their savings being used to pay the interest charges on energy saving installations.


Then there is the insulation programme which is now going to be rolled out over a longer time span. However Ministers want to dress it up, that means a delay in making more homes energy efficient.


It looks as if “ditch the green crap” is going to be the underlying sentiment as we approach the next election. We should not be surprised. Good green policies are very difficult for politicians because they require long term vision. They’ll all be dead before monster typhoons are constantly ravaging the tropics and the polar ice is gone. Come to think of it the Palace of Westminster will have gone to a watery grave as well.


The energy companies are getting nervous. They are the new bankers, the greedy fat cats that everyone loves to hate. Many of the criticisms of the energy firms is justified but they are the ones who have to invest in our non carbon energy future. The press they are now getting and the political pressure (like Ed Miliband’s price freeze) is hardly going to encourage them to take extra investment risks.


A massive off shore wind project was cancelled in the Bristol Channel recently. The official reason was that the physical challenges were too great. I’m not so sure. The word is going round that the steam has gone out of the green agenda.


The energy companies have seen Ministers ease their green obligations and there is speculation that the latter will be back for more. It is suggested that among their targets are further cuts in the Energy Company Obligation, a review of the smart metering scheme and scrapping the carbon emission floor price that currently helps keep the cost of nuclear and renewable energy cheaper.


Let’s never forget that there are big job opportunities in a proper green agenda. Take for example the insulation industry. Those involved have not been slow to recognise the implications of the politicians panic.


We need a consistent long term energy policy involving nuclear, fracking and renewables. Unpopular decisions have to be taken by courageous politicians with vision. Something sorely lacking at the moment.






As we’ve seen in the local elections, UKIP don’t have to win masses of seats to have a big effect on British politics.


Tory backbenchers are terrified of them and now want the European in/out referendum before the next election. They want legislation to trigger the vote in next week’s Queen’s Speech. Mr Cameron had tried to appease the Euro sceptics with a promise to put a renegotiated terms package to the people by 2017.


But there is no appeasing these anti EU fanatics, they will take the concessions and move on to the next demand.


How will the nation vote when actually faced with the consequences of coming out?


This week Downtown Liverpool held a debate and vote on this very subject. While it would be absurd to suggest the result is scientifically representative, nevertheless I think 17 for coming out of the EU, 21 against with a substantial 14 saying they don’t know feels as if it might be where public opinion is at the moment. In other words there is substantial support for withdrawal and a large number of votes to play for amongst people who choose not to obsess about Europe every day.


It was a lively debate, to be repeated in Manchester soon. I led off trying to cram too much into my allocated 5 minutes. I expressed my fear that Ed Miliband will be pressurised into supporting an in/out referendum, that the renegotiation will be unsuccessful, that nevertheless the three main parties will urge a vote to stay in and the British people will be swayed by the Murdoch press into voting to come out. I then foresaw a very difficult process of withdrawal with no guarantee that we could negotiate the same trade arrangements from outside the EU.


Dougal Paver, head of PaverSmith Communications Agency disagreed saying that it would not be in the EU’s interest to put tariffs on British goods. He also said that most of our trade was with the rest of the world now. He loved visiting Europe but didn’t want to be shackled by EU regulations on small businesses.


Kevin Doran is hoping to be elected as a Labour Euro MP next year and firmly wants to stay in the EU. He said David Cameron’s promise of a referendum had created uncertainty among long term potential investors in Britain. He also said it was unclear which powers Mr Cameron wanted to claw back from Europe.


The final speaker was Scott Fletcher, MD of ANS Group, who said the British people agreed to a European trade deal not the all singing, all dancing EU that we have got now. He said the way the EU was governed bore similarities to the old Soviet Union in terms of its unaccountability.


The vote was more or less a three way split and if that is where the UK is at the moment, pro Europeans are going to have their work cut out to prevent a disastrous no vote in 2017 whoever is in power.