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Forget Scottish independence, let’s have ‘a new age of cities’ says Birmingham

Forget Scottish independence, let’s have ‘a new age of cities’ says Birmingham

🕔08.May 2014

Cover Image: via Compass Online

Birmingham has stepped into the Scottish independence debate by claiming that breaking up the UK would be a big mistake and bad for economic growth.

City leader Sir Albert Bore and the leaders of Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield councils argue that greater devolution of powers and budgets from London to Scotland is preferable to full-blown independence.

The councils, known as the Core Cities Group, represent the largest metropolitan local authorities in England.

In a letter to The Herald newspaper in Glasgow the council leaders say they want closer ties and trading links rather than greater separation from Scotland’s main municipal centres.

The Scottish people will decide in a referendum in September whether to split from the UK.

Meeting in Glasgow for the first time, the Core Cities cabinet which comprises the leaders of the eight largest cities outside of London, will issue a joint declaration with Glasgow making the case that devolving more power to cities is a “more radical constitutional agenda” than establishing a border at Carlisle.

In a statement the Core Cities Group said: “The UK’s cities need better connectivity rather than greater separation and the Core Cities and Glasgow will continue to work together in the belief that a new age of cities offers a truly radical and exciting vision for a wealthier, fairer and more balanced Britain.”

In a Glasgow Declaration letter the council leaders say Britain’s big cities share much in common, including their industrial past and a common future “as the drivers of the UK economy”.

They add: “We feel at home in ­Glasgow, a great Scottish and British city. And, while the question of independence is one for the people of Scotland, we need to add our voices to those who believe that devolving more power to cities to let them create jobs and grow their economies is a more radical constitutional agenda than establishing a border at Carlisle.”

Citing the proposed high-speed rail link between London and the north of England, the group added: “Our cities need better connectivity rather than greater separation.

“For example, by working together to deliver HS2 we will make life better for people and businesses in every UK city. This should be our shared vision.”

Sir Albert   is transport spokesman for the Core Cities cabinet as well as the leader of Birmingham City council said: “The Core Cities met in Glasgow to make a very clear statement about our commitment to our sister cities in Scotland.

“Our desire to work together across the UK has been warmly welcomed by the leaders of the major Scottish cities.

“The truly radical agenda for change in the UK is to return powers and freedoms to our great cities. The 21st Century will be the century of cities rather than nations. We are determined to work together to take that agenda forward in the years ahead.”

Sir Richard Leese,  the leader of Manchester City Council and chairman of the Core Cities cabinet said:  “The Core Cities and Glasgow have a great deal in common and we share a proud history of industrial ingenuity. We are in Glasgow to talk about our shared future as drivers of the UK economy.

“Both the Core Cities and Glasgow are in favour of radical constitutional change but do not believe this should be left to be a tussle between parliaments. Instead greater freedoms to our nation’s cities should be granted, starting with the devolution of property taxes.”

The council leaders were invited by the leader of Glasgow City Council, Gordon Matheson, a staunch opponent of independence.

Cllr Matheson said: “The fact is that Glasgow has more in common with cities such as Liverpool and Manchester than we do with much of the rest of Scotland. I welcome this powerful intervention against separatism from my fellow city leaders.

“The issues they face from an over-dominant London economy and government centralism are the same that Glasgow faces. The answer is to radically devolve power and resources to city regions across Britain so we can grow our economies and make a bigger contribution to GDP; not to erect a border at Carlisle, create huge uncertainty over currency and regulatory frameworks, and turn people from Newcastle into foreigners.”

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