The Evolution of Devolution: English Devolution

Today, the Public Administrations Constitutional Affairs Committee begin an inquiry into the governance of England in terms of devolution. From a YDM perspective, the debate produced a mixed bag of positives and negatives.

Positives include:

  • A view was held that we need stable boundaries in respect of the geography of devolution rather than boundaries that can change every ten years or so at the whim of governments and that in order to achieve that stability we need boundaries with which people identify. – We have always argued the case that no boundaries provide that stability better than the boundaries of traditional counties with their over one-thousand years of heritage. These “county-regions” could consist of singular traditional counties, as we would want for Yorkshire, or two or more neighbouring traditional counties by consent of their residents.
  • Another view was held that matters such as the model & geography of devolution should be decided by local people in a bottom-up approach, such as through Citizens Assemblies, rather than the current top-down approach where devolution comes into existence through a “take what we decide or go without” attitude by Ministers in Whitehall. YDM has always argued that for devolution to be fully effective, local people need to be actively engaged in it at every stage including its conception.
  • The comment was made that devolution must encompass rural & coastal communities as well as urban and metropolitan ones so that no communities get left behind. – As Yorkshire comprises some of all these kinds of communities, devolving on the geography of “All-Yorkshire” is the obvious choice to achieve that compared to the Government’s divisive City Regions which have left rural and coastal communities behind …. even some urban communities!
  • It was also commented that devolution should not end at the initially devolved entity but should continue to all its internal levels through subsidiarity. – Again, this is something YDM has always advocated so that decisions are made by the level and locality that understands the matter best.

And negatives:

  • A view was held that nowhere in England has a particular appetite for regional devolution. This indicates clear disregard, or even ignorance, of the evidence to the contrary which includes: The findings of the research carried out by Assembly North; The “One Yorkshire” proposal put forward by 19 Yorkshire Leaders including the Mayor of South Yorkshire; The ballots in Barnsley and Doncaster where residents chose between being part of One Yorkshire devolution or Sheffield City Region devolution; And the creation and ongoing existence of the Yorkshire Party since 2014 & ourselves since 2012.
  • A very fleeting reference was made to the strong identity of Yorkshire as a determinant of devolution geography. – This is a major determinant in our view. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were each devolved on the geography of their respective identities and we believe the Yorkshire identity is one of the main reasons that the disregarded evidence, listed in the point above, exists.

You can watch the debate here: The Evolution of Devolution: English Devolution

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