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Friday, 28 November 2014

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Carlisle looking to cash in on a new Borderlands?

Carlisle is to join a Borderlands summit to discuss how Cumbria could cash in on greater independence in Scotland.

England-Scotland border photo

The Scottish referendum vote takes place in September and a report was drawn up by councils and academics across the north of England, and Scotland, on implications for trade and social connections.

Even if Scots decide against full independence, measures are already in place to give greater autonomy to the Scottish parliament, including bringing in a Scottish rate of income tax from 2016.

Local authorities in northern England are being urged to exploit this to lever money into the region – even creating a modern “Borderlands” identity to boost business and lure investment to an area including Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway.

The Borderlands report will be discussed at the summit, as well as opportunities to work together, said Carlisle City Council leader Colin Glover.

He will update members of the council at a meeting on Tuesday night.

He thought the meeting would identify priorities for working together.

“[It’s about] maximising the economy of the area,” he said, in his report to the full council, adding: “The meeting will identify economic linkages, including transport and communication, rural development and tourism.”

The report says there are opportunities for new cross-Border alliances to be forged to bring investment in areas such as transport, energy, tourism, education and rural development.

Prof Keith Shaw, of Northumbria University, is one of the authors and said there was “a lot at stake”.

“We need to be thinking about what it could mean for the North East and Cumbria,” he said.

“Even if it’s a ‘No’ vote, Scotland will have more autonomy. We’ll need to try and avoid negative impacts in our region – and exploit the opportunities.

“I could imagine our region making common cause with Scotland on many issues and our region’s economy benefiting from stronger links with a resurgent Scotland.

“We’ve been used to looking to London and the south east. Now it’s time to seek stronger connections with our neighbours in Scotland.”

The report said Carlisle, in particular, is seen as a major shopping and social destination for people in Dumfriesshire. Many people also cross the Border – in both directions – for work every day.

One claim is that 40 per cent of customers at the city’s The Lanes Shopping Centre are from Scotland.

Gillian Elliot, Cumbria County Council’s assistant director of economic development, was involved in discussions that led to the report. She said: “For people in southern Scotland, Carlisle is an important draw. We have to be able to ensure Carlisle continues to be a centre for them.”

Among the transport issues academics believe a cross-Border alliance could work on is lobbying to extend a new high-speed rail network northwards.

The report – Borderlands: Can the North East and Cumbria benefit from greater Scottish Autonomy? – was drawn up by academics from Northumbria and Durham universities, working for the Association of North East Councils and Cumbria County Council.

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