Be careful what you wish for. Those in the North East who strongly favoured a No Vote on the 18th of September got their way – with 55% choosing to remain in the Union compared to 45% who voted to live in an independent Scotland. However, this outcome leaves the North East in a uncomfortable place, caught between the ‘rock’ that is the rampant economy of London and the South-east and the ‘hard place’ of a growing Scottish economy. While the ‘No’ vote on September 18th at least rules out the North East having to compete against the power and influence of an independent nation to the north, the package of additional powers now promised by the Westminster parties will still worry those in the region concerned about the growing disparity between Scotland and a North East with more challenging economic and social problems.  Since one outcome of the referendum is that more powers will be granted to Scotland for staying in the UK, in addition to the continuation of the much criticised Barnet formula (which allocates the Scots more public expenditure per head than the North East), this could be seen as the worst of all possible worlds for the region. It is also clear that the No vote puts the onus firmly back on the North East to decide  who speaks for the region and how extra powers should be devolved to the North East? While some in the region think that Scottish ‘Home Rule’ should see greater powers allocated to local councils (either individually or as a group of combined authorities as in the case of the NE 7 group), others see the need to strengthen the powers of the region’s two Local Enterprise Partnerships, while a smaller lobby argue for the return of the elected regional assembly approach, voted down by the region in 2004. Whatever happens, the fall-out from the 18th will continue to have profound impacts for North East – and for the rest of the UK –  particularly if the Government insist on tackling the ‘West Lothian’ question by denying Scottish MPs the right to vote on English legislation.

by Prof Keith Shaw