Sheffield MP calls for debate on devolving power to northern cities

Unionists gather in George Square, Glasgow, following the Scottish independence referendum.
Unionists gather in George Square, Glasgow, following the Scottish independence referendum.

Before the dust had settled after the Scottish referendum, David Cameron turned to the so-called ‘English question’.

But, not for the first time, he asked the wrong question.

The big issue facing the country is not how to remove votes from Scottish MPs, but how do we distribute power and wealth fairly between all the regions and nations of the United Kingdom.

When I spoke to people in Glasgow two weeks ago, I was struck by how much their concerns echo those raised by people in Sheffield.

Far too often it feels that decisions made in London fail to recognise the needs and interests of our city. The benefits of the current faltering economic growth are not only shared unequally between the richest and poorest, but between London and the rest of the UK.

In March, responding to the Budget, I challenged George Osborne to build a ‘one nation’ economy, instead of relying on our ‘one city’ economy that sees London sucking growth from the rest of the country. I called on him to begin the process by moving entire Government Departments to our great northern cities; not just to stimulate our local economies, but to change how decision-makers think.

A constituent had written to me only the week before, saying “we need to be less London-centric as this seems to be blinding some of the key policy makers to the situation elsewhere.”

She was right. Too many national policies are made solely by those who live and work in the capital, and who inevitably see issues through the prism of life in London. This is the result of a decades-long trend for political and economic decision making, and their benefits, to become increasingly centralised in London.

This is the moment to reverse that trend.

There can be no return to business-as-usual at Westminster after the Scottish referendum.

Cameron must not be allowed to rush through a quick political fix over lunch at Chequers, seeking to pacify his Party and consolidate Conservative rule across England.

The referendum result must trigger a wider debate about devolving power and wealth – which involves everyone.

That’s why we need a constitutional convention.

By hearing the voices of people in Sheffield, Yorkshire and across all regions and nations we will get the new constitutional settlement that the whole of the country badly needs.