We’re glad that you’ve decided to stay

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LOCAL politicians have spoken of their relief that Scottish voters decided to stay in the Union – and raised hopes that the legacy of the referendum will mean greater powers for our region.

The winds of change weren’t quite strong enough to topple the 300-year-old bond between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

In what has been hailed as a “victory for democracy”, the ‘no’ vote won the referendum with 2,001,926 votes to 1,617,989.

Scotland rejected independence by 55 per cent to 45 per cent, which prompted SNP and ‘yes’ campaign leader to resign last night.

But Prime Minister David Cameron has unveiled proposals to allow English, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs to vote alone on policies only impacting their voters, mirroring pledges made on fresh devolution to Scotland.

He said the move was about “getting English decisions out of Westminster”.

Labour MPs in the Hartlepool Mail circulation area, along with council chiefs, told of their delight that the ‘no’ vote won.

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright said: “I’m really pleased Scotland voted to stay in the UK. I think we are better together. The result was more decisive than some commentators thought.”

But he added: “There will be a lot of questions in Parliament in terms of how do we ensure the North has a greater say in its own affairs.

“We are close to Scotland and compete with Scotland in terms of investment decisions. If Scotland is going to have greater powers as part of the UK what does that mean for the North-East? I want the North-East to have more powers.”

Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, echoed Mr Wright’s comments, saying: “The referendum has been a success for democracy which has engaged millions of voters once disillusioned with politics.

“As a supporter of the Better Together Campaign I am delighted Scotland has chosen to safeguard the Union.

“In the weeks and months ahead there will be a number of important negotiations regarding devolution of further powers to the Scottish Government.

“My priority is that the North-East is recognised in these negotiations and not economically disadvantaged by the further transfer of powers to Holyrood.

“We need to have all the necessary powers and autonomy to be able to fairly compete and co-operate as equal partners with the Scottish Government.”

And Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson said: “I’m pleased that the Union remains intact. We shouldn’t be erecting borders where borders don’t exist in the 21st Century.

“We have achieved a lot together over the last 300 years and I think people in Scotland remembered that.

“We have now got to focus on England and what more we can do to devolve economic powers to regions such as ours.”

Hartlepool Borough Council leader, Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, said he was pleased with the result, adding: “While I welcome the devolution of more power to Scotland, the Government must give equal consideration to England and as part of that must give a greater voice and more decision-making powers to regions like the North-East and indeed to areas like Hartlepool.

“We have a proud record in this area of delivering successfully when we have been given the opportunity to do and along with our neighbouring authorities we will continue to press the Government to give us more influence over our own affairs.”

Councillor Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council and Chairman of the North East Combined Authority, welcomed the outcome.

He said: “It is now time to have a full debate about the devolution of power throughout the UK. If additional funding is guaranteed to meet the needs of Scotland it is reasonable to ask that funding is also guaranteed to meet the needs of northern England in areas such as transport and the economy.”

But North East Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive James Ramsbotham said the historic decision will be “celebrated by some in business and lamented by others”, as the pledges being made to Scotland by Whitehall could impact on business confidence in the North- East.

TOWN businessman Jim Gillespie says even if the vote had gone the other way it would have been a “hollow victory” for the Scots.

He said: “I was neither in the ‘no’ or ‘yes’ camp, my point was they were asking the wrong question.

“I think the only way to be truly independent was for Scotland to leave the UK and the EU.”

Mr Gillespie, who originates from Scotland, issued his commiserations to the yes voters.

He said: “They must be bitterly disappointed.

“As all the politicians have said, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and that’s gone now.

“There was a lot of passion up there – the no vote was very negative and the yes vote was very positive.”

The 52-year-old said the outcome had been purely down to demographics in that there are far more people over 45 in Scotland, and they voted no.

He said while younger people were voting yes, and had “a lot more ambition and passion”, the older generation were possibly more “cynical and battleworn”.

Mr Gillespie dismissed any ideas of the North East gaining greater powers on the back of the campaign,

“I think it’s business as usual,” he said.

“We had the chance in the North-East for this 10 years ago, there was a referendum and it was voted against.

“But in terms of the pecking order, I’m afraid the North-East is at the bottom.”

He said the only winner from it all was UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who would be putting “tremendous pressure” on David Cameron and the Tories to deliver the promises made to the rest of the UK.

FORMER Hartlepool councillor Alison Lilley says the people of the North of England need to “galvanise” new opportunities brought about by the referendum.

Mrs Lilley, 67, who has lived in the town for 40 years after leaving her home village of Inchinnan, on Scotland’s west coast, was firmly in the “yes” camp.

She said: “I’m disappointed because I think a lot more people would have voted yes except for all the scaremongering tactics by Cameron, Clegg and Milliband, and that’s a shame

“It was neck and neck in the polls and for the first time they woke up and thought Scotland might actually do this. I think fear factor is what did it, I really do.”

But the former Fens and Rossmere ward councillor, who is married to Putting Hartlepool First councillor Geoff, said she felt the vote was “a big triumph for social democracy”.

She said “the establishment” will now need to fulfil their promises, adding: “They need much more fiscal autonomy in Scotland.

We need enhanced powers, a new devolution package. It does the North-East good as well, because suddenly they are all talking about doing things for England and Wales.

“It’s that knock-on effect, all in all it’s not a bad day.

“I think the North-East will benefit and if MPs got together and made a push they might be able to force this Government to give more powers ahead of devolution.”

She said it may just make voters in Hartlepool less apathetic and realise that change can be made.

She added that Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond would go down in memory for his valiant fight for independence.

A PENSIONER who left Scotland almost 50 years ago for work in Hartlepool’s pipe mills said he was not surprised by the number of people who voted yes to independence.

William White, 76, who is known as Bill, came to the town from Coatbridge, near Glasgow, 46 years ago.

He said: “I’m pleased with the result, but I’m not surprised at the number of people who voted yes.

“It’s a score for democracy, the number of people who turned out.

“I can understand how so many people voted yes, because they are dissatisfied by what’s gone on.”

Mr White, a dad-of-three who lives in Seaton Carew, said he thinks the one good thing to come out of it is more democracy, not just for Scotland but for the North of England.

He added that he thinks change is already happening in Westminster, as there has been a “backlash” as the Government has promised to give Scotland more power, and “naturally we want our share in the North of England”.

“The other plus is we have got to get some form of added devolution where we can control our own destiny rather than being told what to do”, he added.