Another guest post today, this time from Yorkshire activist Arnie Craven. See, it’s not just Labour folk we give guest slots to.

Someone once told me about a time they were in a University seminar on constitutional reform. The seminar tutor spent some time listing possible constitutional reforms for the UK, mentioning among them Yorkshire devolution. As he finished listing, he fell silent, looking around the class, waiting for a reaction. Nothing was forthcoming. So he started laughing, and said something along the lines of ‘I was only joking about Yorkshire devolution, it wasn’t a serious idea’.

This is the problem any Yorkshire devolution project has to deal with. That’s why, when the FAQs section for, a cross party group concerned with Yorkshire devolution, was written – it was agreed that the first question we had to answer was ‘Is this a serious campaign?’.

This is the most frustrating part of the whole endeavour: it’s not like regional devolution/autonomy/federalism is such an outlandish idea. Spain has it, Australia has it, Germany has it, Canada has it, the USA has it. Yet in the UK we seem to think that devolution can only lead to one thing – secession.

Similarly, it’s not as if suggesting regional government for Yorkshire is such a silly idea due to its small size or weak economy. It was Mrs Thatcher’s Press Secretary, Sir Bernard Ingham, who famously stated:

If the Scots can have independence, then in terms of being a viable unit Yorkshire can too. It’s larger, it has more population, it has every asset you could need.

Yet people in Yorkshire don’t seem to get this. The population of Yorkshire is just over five million, similar to Scotland’s, bigger than New Zealand’s, Norway’s and many others. Our overall GDP is similar to the State of Israel’s, a small but relatively wealthy country. We have industrial areas and rural areas, financial centres and vast natural resources. But people don’t see to recognise this.

Ultimately it’s a question of getting information out, I think. However I suppose that could be said for all movements concerned with nationalism/regionalism.

Thankfully, and rather unexpectedly, progress seems to have been made over the last week. And who do we have to thank for this? Well, one obvious, one not so obvious. I won’t insult your intelligence and suggest that David Blunkett standing up at PMQs and discussing Yorkshire’s inferior funding arrangements/whether a Yorkshire Parliament should be formed wasn’t helpful to our cause.

But equally, and perhaps unexpectedly, we have Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond to thank. This week he, despite approving funding for mass transit schemes in Nottingham, Birmingham & Tyneside, decided to ‘postpone’ funding for Leeds Trolleybus (a poor man’s tram system). This is after the original Leeds Tram plans were cancelled by Whitehall in 2005, coincidentally just after Labour were ejected from Leeds City Council.

Now I’m not going to go into a discussion on the merits of a tram/trolleybus scheme (I know better than talking about trams too much on a Scottish blog!), but this was seen as a massive kick in the teeth for Yorkshire, and perhaps indicative of the fact that Westminster/Whitehall wouldn’t always have our best interests at heart.

Am I being blinded by optimism because of my own desire to see devolved Yorkshire institutions? Maybe. But do I honestly feel like something has happened this week, as if we, the people of Yorkshire have finally begun the long walk towards regional government? Yes.