Debate ponders benefits to north of Scottish independence

L-R: Craig Johnston, RMT Union; Christine Grahame , SNP MSP; John Stevenson, Conservative MP for Carlisle and Phil Wilson, Labour MP for Sedgefield The debate took place in Berwick

Scottish independence would "liberate" the rest of the UK and bring benefits to the North of England, according to the SNP's Christine Grahame.

The Borders MSP made the comment during a BBC-hosted debate in Northumberland ahead of the Scottish independence referendum on 18 September.

But Better Together campaigners claim independence would mean both regions competing for jobs and investment.

The debate took place in front of an audience at Berwick's Maltings Theatre.

'Real danger'

Ms Grahame from the SNP said: "I think whatever happens independence will be the liberation of the rest of the United Kingdom.

"We've so much in common with the North of England and I believe Scottish independence will serve as a wake up call for the North to take on London."

But Carlisle's Conservative MP John Stevenson warned Scottish independence would damage both Scotland and his constituency.

He told the audience: "I think there's huge risks for Scotland if they choose to become an independent nation.

"At the moment Carlisle benefits from businesses investing in both England and Scotland, the real danger with independence is that you start to see businesses deciding not to invest on either side of the border."

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Analysis

The debate in Berwick highlighted how the conversation about Scottish Independence in the North East and Cumbria has changed in the past 12 months.

A year ago the main talking points would have focussed on the familiar topics of differing currencies and the potential for border checks on the A1.

The focus now is on the differences that already exist between England and Scotland.

Those taking part highlighted continually how people in England have to pay prescription charges and university tuition fees while people living just two miles up the road from Berwick in Scotland do not.

So the North East and Cumbria is slowly again looking at the idea of regional devolution, an issue that could provide enough content for its own televised debate programme.

David Rhodes

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During the debate, hosted in Berwick, which has changed hands between England and Scotland 13 times, both sides also clashed over whether the North East and Cumbria should seek its own form of regional devolution from Westminster.

Craig Johnston from the RMT Union said Scottish independence would lead to Westminster agreeing to devolve more powers to the North of England.

"I hope Scotland does vote Yes so they can take the opportunity to take control of their own affairs," he said.

L-R: Craig Johnston, RMT Union and Christine Grahame , SNP MSP The RMT's Craig Johnson and the SNP's Christine Grahame took part in the debate

"The North of England needs to come together, and it needs to start arguing for proper devolved regional government that is democratically elected and has real powers."

In 2004 people in the North East of England rejected a devolved regional assembly, which had been proposed by the then Labour Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

Labour's Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson said people in the North East still did not want their own regional assembly.

He said: "Ten years ago people voted against the idea of a regional assembly but they did vote to create a unitary authority in County Durham."

"That authority has persuaded companies like Hitachi to build their new train factory in my constituency which will bring millions of pounds worth of investment to the region."

Scotland And Us will be shown at 22:35 BST on BBC One in the North East and Cumbria on Wednesday 3 September.

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