The Speaker's Chair
Unionist protesters arrive in York to three-way devolution-related protests
30 Jul 2020, YORK, Yorkshire — The March for England, the group of twelve protestors who began marching Monday from the Scottish Border to 10 Downing Street, have arrived in York to the biggest devolution-related protests this week.
Primary organizer Sophie Gabbard, who had to leave the march Monday due to a sprained ankle, also arrived in York after recovering, to
continue fighting for the right of England to exist. The protestors were joined by Felix Guest-Lyons, Conservative MP for Mole Valley.
Three groups make up the thousand-odd protestors in York. Firstly, there are unionists generally opposed to devolution. Ted Branston, one such protestor who works in York as a shopkeeper, says
We are proud Englishmen. Westminster needs to properly treat the North well, not shunt its responsibilities off onto some devolved government. Some people — said with a slight but unmistakeable venom in his voice —
even want to make the North an independent country, which is... it's just laughable, isn't it?
Another group consists of counter-protestors who are in favor of devolution or independence for the north. Syd Bhagwat, 23, an art student at the University of York, says
Scotland and Northumbria have more in common with one another when it comes to mistreatment from Westminster. Devolution has done Scotland quite well, so it's only right that Northumbria gets it too.
The final group consists of Yorkshire nationalists who are at odds with both other groups. Tim Sanders, a 35-year-old from Yorkshire, says
Yorkshire is its own thing! It is not a part of this 'Northumbria.' By all means, the SNIU can make their Northumbria, but Yorkshire is, was, and always will be its own nation!
The March for England and other such anti-devolution protests have seen mixed reactions from Westminster. Charles Gladstone, MP for Northern Ireland and Chancellor of the Exchequer, stated in an official Social Democratic press release that they were
based of[sic] fabricated fears that have been stirred up by lies in the opposition", and criticised the idea that the government planned to pursue devolution and/or independence for the north without any sort of referendum or other consultation of the public. In Wednesday's PMQs, Prime Minister Arthur Haigh stated that
this government will not infringe on the right to free assembly regarding the protests.
The opposition, however, is much more amenable to the protests. Leader of the Opposition Alex Lambton stated in a press release that
The Liberal Democrats completely support the protests and that they did not believe that the government would respect the results of the as-of-yet uncreated Royal Commission on Northern Devolution. He invited the leaders of the protests into the Liberal Democrat office in London
to meet with them and to talk about what [they] can do to stop the Government from separating the union.