Suffolk/Scotland: Mark Bee warns rural areas must not be ignored in talks after referendum

Mark Bee

Mark Bee

Rural areas like Suffolk must not be ignored by central government in any changes following the Scottish referendum result, county council leader Mark Bee has warned.

Mr Bee welcomed the fact that Scottish voters had chosen to remain part of the UK. It was particularly important for the energy businesses with bases on the coast which worked with colleagues in Scotland.

But he went on to warn that any shift of government powers from Westminster to the English regions during constitutional changes to the Scottish Assembly should not exclude areas like Suffolk.

He said: “It (the referendum result) is good news from the economic development point of view and it is good news that the whole of the UK will remain a single market.”

However the Prime Minister had already made it clear that some central government powers, including spending public money on major projects, could be devolved from Westminster to other English bodies at the same time as the powers of the Scottish Assembly are strengthened.

Mr Bee said: “If this is to happen we will be pressing to ensure that rural areas like Suffolk are included if power are being transferred to major cities.

“I will be talking to the Local Government Association and the County Council Network to ensure that areas like Suffolk are included in any major changes like this.”

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As soon as the referendum result was confirmed, David Cameron announced that the government would fulfil its pledge to transfer more powers – and would also look at: “A balanced settlement, fair to people in Scotland and importantly to everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well.”

There are no firm plans as yet – but ministers are expected to work on developing a new constitutional settlement over the next few months so a proposal has been agreed by parliament before next May’s general election.

One possible area for devolution could be giving counties like Suffolk – or groups of counties represented by Local Enterprise Partnerships – more freedom to spend larger sums of money on major infrastructure projects like the four villages’ by-pass.