Enhanced devolution for Cumbria and Galloway, says MSP

MSP Elaine Murray used her speech in Tuesday’s debate on the economic opportunities of independence to highlight the strong links between Dumfries and Galloway and Carlisle and Cumbria.

She also argued that enhanced devolution both sides of the border will offer greater opportunities for the local economy than separating from our nearest neighbours.

In her speech Elaine Murray said: “Carlisle is by a long way our nearest city. We have much greater connectivity with Carlisle than we have with any city in Scotland. My constituents use Carlisle for leisure, shopping, access to the rail network and work. There is a whole barrage of reasons why people do not want to be separated from Carlisle. People who live in the east of my constituency access medical services in Carlisle. Some businesses in Gretna, for example, operate on both sides of the border. Many of the tourists who visit Dumfries and Galloway come from northern England and the Midlands, and those areas are targeted in local tourism campaigns because they are such a strong source of visitors. It is hardly surprising therefore that the links across the border are so important to my constituents, and they are why I believe that a substantial majority of my constituents will vote no on 18 September. There is no way that those links would be improved under independence.

“Devolution, however, offers further opportunities. Members might not be aware of the UK House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee, which last month published an interesting paper on the potential for devolution in England, and specifically on fiscal devolution, with additional tax-varying and spending powers given to cities and the city regions that have been created through local authorities working together.

“We, too, should be considering how powers can be further devolved more locally. It is in such devolution of more power that there is an opportunity for Dumfries and Galloway to work with the authorities in Carlisle and Cumbria to develop the regional economy. I consider that to be a huge opportunity for the Solway basin, but it cannot happen if both sides are in separate countries. Even if there was no physical border, that sort of collaboration could not take place.

“We know that one of the consequences of devolution in the south of Scotland is that cross-border working has not taken place to the same extent that it did prior to 1999. That cross-border co-operation needs to be reinstated if we are to take forward the city of Carlisle region, which Dumfriesshire is part of. Devolution on both sides of the border would offer that opportunity, but separation will not—it will kill it stone dead. If we have separation, Dumfries and Galloway will remain a forgotten corner of Scotland, cut off from Carlisle and with no strong links to any Scottish city”