THE North East needs its own Alex Salmond figure to fight for a level playing field against an increasingly powerful Scotland, it was argued last night.
As Mr Salmond prepares to give a speech in Newcastle tonight, a leading think tank warned the North East will lose out on jobs and investment to the Scottish unless it finds a regional ambassador to fight its case in Whitehall.
The IPPR North think tank said Scotland will continue to present a threat to the North East unless the region can convince ministers to compensate it for the increased spending and tax powers made available north of the border.
In 2014, voters in Scotland will have their say in an independence referendum, with even a No vote likely to generate further devolution of decision-making to Edinburgh.
An expectation of further powers, including the ability to lower corporation tax, has already been cited as one reason why internet bookseller Amazon dropped plans to open a Tyneside factory in favour of a move to Scotland. The snub to the North East was later repeated by an offshore energy firm.
Last night, the Scottish Government told The Journal it remained convinced that a 3% cut in corporation tax would create thousands of jobs.
Katie Schmuecker, IPPR North associate director, said the Borderland study showed that while the economic downturn would restrain Scottish tax changes, there were still many threats to consider when having a more powerful neighbour.
She added: “Northern leaders should learn from the ambitious outlook of the Scots, and champion decentralisation and further local powers to the North.
“This is a chance for the North to renegotiate its position with Westminster to ensure its future prosperity.
“It needs to ensure that whatever deal is reached between Westminster and Holyrood, the North is not unduly disadvantaged.”
The think tank report also urges the North to try and force Mr Salmond’s hand, arguing the region should look to international models and secure from an ever-more-powerful Scotland an agreement to abide by a more balanced “tax code of conduct”.