The Speaker's Chair
Unionist protesters march from Scottish border to Westminster
27 Jul 2020, BERWICK-UPON-TWEED, Northd. — A group of twelve began a march from the Scottish border to Westminster on Monday, with the aim of preventing the government plan to create a new devolved region of Northumbria.
The march, which was announced on the Facebook group
Concerned Northern England Citizens on Thursday, takes place against a backdrop of other similar protests being organised across Northern England.
The group was set up by Sophie Gabbard, a student from Newcastle who, after stating her unionist views, was told over the weekend by deputy prime minister Antonio Linares that she should
come tell that to [him] in person, whereupon Mr. Linares would
Ms. Gabbard left the march soon after its start, on account of a sprained ankle; she will, however, be participating in other demonstrations.
Group leader Ian Caldwell said this to a reporter on the ground:
Well, the thing is, Westminster's never given a rat's arse about the North, and now it seems like they're trying to paint over the cracks by manufacturing some division or other just to say they're doing summit.
Mr. Caldwell, 45, is a civil servant and local organiser in Berwick who has also held protests against the renationalisation of the Northern rail franchise. His brother, Thomas, lives in Durham and worked as a political strategist for the Leave campaign in 2019's divisive EU referendum.
Sarah Smith, 29, is also participating in the march. She owns and operates a bakery in Keswick, Cumbria, which is heavily dependent on tourism income. Ms. Smith told the Speaker's Chair that
people come to the Lakes because they want to see the beauty of England, adding that she was
concerned the Government's splitting the country in half without thinking about what's going to happen to us smaller businesses.
But not everyone is against the plan for devolution. Terry Moore, a councillor for the town of Adlington, Lancs., noted to a reporter that
the fact these people feel the need to march down to Westminster to have their concerns heard is actually a symptom of the problem that the government is trying to solve. The North and South are just fundamentally different in a way that it's very difficult for the government to provide properly for the people of the North — who have been so let down by the government and poverty over these years — and the plan for devolution will fix that. I think what they're doing is quite ironic, don't you?
In response to the announcement of the march, the government put out the following press release:
HM Government wishes to quell any anxieties that Britain would push ahead with devolution or independence for Northern regions unless such actions had the approval of a majority of the citizens. We believe firmly in the principles of self-determination and trust the judgement of the good people of the Northern regions. It's an outright fabrication to suggest HM government would push ahead with such policies unless it enjoyed the support of the majority of the inhabitant s living there, and we will remain respectful of English as well as pro-independnece[sic] traditions in the region.