THE North will not be offered extra financial powers, the Scottish Secretary said yesterday (Tuesday, March 11) – despite moves to accelerate devolution to Edinburgh.
Alistair Carmichael suggested any fresh “top down solution” from the Government was doomed to the same failure as the rejected elected regional assemblies.
Instead, he said it was up to the people of England to put forward their own proposals for grabbing extra political and economic muscle – just as Scotland had done.
Quizzed by The Northern Echo, Mr Carmichael said: “It is for the people of England to decide what their constitutional future ought to look like.
“Scotland worked out where we wanted to be constitutionally. That what people in the rest of United Kingdom are now looking to do.
“Yes, there could be a role for Government, but look at the last time the Government insisted on taking a lead on that - when John Prescott offered devolution and a regional assembly.
“That was a top down process and people of the North-East said ‘no thank you very much’. It’s for the people themselves to formulate and articulate that demand.”
The Scottish Parliament grew out of a grassroots campaign - involving “civic society”, as well as politicians - that led to the setting up of a Constitutional Convention.
Last week, both Conservative and Labour MPs in the North-East voiced alarm that Scotland will be rewarded with extra powers if voters reject independence.
Gordon Brown has called for key tax and welfare powers to go to Holyrood, to make it responsible for 40 per cent of the money it spends – up from 12 per cent at present.
Meanwhile, both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are weighing up a generous “devo max” offer, to try to erode support for a ‘Yes’ vote.
James Wharton, the Tory Stockton South MP, protested that the North-East is already at “a competitive disadvantage” because of past devolution to Edinburgh.
And Phil Wilson, Labour MP for Sedgefield, urged his colleagues in Scotland to step back from lavish further devolution, saying: “Labour is a national party – not a nationalist party.”
Yesterday, Mr Carmichael did agree that more and more people now believed the “Westminster model serves England as badly as it serves people in Scotland”.
However, he is the second Government minister in a week to rule out an imminent offer of greater devolution to the English regions. Greg Clark, the Conservative minister also poured cold water on Scottish-style devolution, involving tax-raising powers.
Mr Clark said devolution in England would be “practical rather than theological” – focusing on spending pots, rather than control over areas of taxation.