Following on from the successful parliamentary launch at Portcullis House in the Houses of Parliament back in April this year, the British Counties Campaign has chosen the West Riding of Yorkshire to host its Northern Launch at Leeds Town Hall this Saturday 10th November 2018 between 1 and 4 pm.
All Members of Parliament, general public and media from the northern counties (Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumberland, Northumberland, Westmorland, Co. Durham) were invited.
The number of MPs supporting the campaign continues to grow and currently stands at 25, with the latest confirmed as the Lib Dem’s Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale.
Tim wasn’t able to attend due to prior commitments but sent us his best wishes for the event and had this message:
“So many of the administrative boundaries of local government lack heritage or history and as a result people feel a lack affinity to them, and feel that their regional identity has been undermined. Our traditional counties carry with them hundreds of years of history, and are vital to our sense of identity. Local government has been badly marginalised and starved of power and funding in recent times – a rebirth in local government is long overdue, but alongside greater responsibility and financial capacity, our local authorities ought also to reflect the heritage of our traditional counties such as Westmorland, Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumberland.”
County campaign unity is essential to restore Britain’s traditional names and ensure confusion never re-turns, the northern launch of the British Counties Campaign (BCC) heard in Leeds town hall.
Organisations seeking to save Britain’s traditional counties or lobby for county-related powers were told to join forces to provide maximum impact in furthering their aims.
Campaigner Des Wilcox, from Warrington, Lancashire, said moves could be made to link groups, join forces on lobbying and provide due strength in numbers. “We could have a much greater impact if like-minded organisation unified in the cause,” he said.
Urgent action is needed to save the counties, the meeting was told.
Nigel Sollitt, of the Yorkshire Devolution Movement, which supports traditional Yorkshire, said campaigners in different counties could provide mutual support if they co-ordinated efforts and suggested devolution would help preserve and protect “the geography we want” from unwanted change.
“It could help geography reflect, for example, the traditional counties we want such as Yorkshire.”
The northern launch held on 10 November 2018, followed a national launch in Westminster this April, hosted by lead MP Henry Smith (Crawley). The campaign has since grown its MP support to 25, with a parliamentary debate by Mr Smith due to follow at the turn of the year.
BCC is now welcoming all and every approach from organisations seeking to further true county identity and heritage.
At the launch, heavily publicised in the Yorkshire Post and on BBC Radio Leeds – Eric Scaife, from the Yorkshire Dialect Society, said local and regional accents were making a comeback in media. “So why can’t we do the same with our counties, and bring them back too?” he said.
David Beever, from the Northern Independence Party, said counties should join up to provide unity from strength.
BCC founder Pam Moorhouse, opening the launch, said the change of counties was “so unfair”. “The government, the council and the media must stop ignoring people who want traditional counties back now,” she said. “Young people are told wrongly that the new counties have always existed.”
Nigel Sollitt, Chairman of the Yorkshire Devolution Movement was invited to attend the launch, he gladly accepted and made this speech:
Hello everyone and thank you for being here for the Northern Launch of the British Counties Campaign.
Before I start I would also like to thank Pam for getting things going with her passionate input and to thank Gerard for inviting me here.
As introduced, my name is Nigel Sollitt and I am Chairman of the Yorkshire Devolution Movement. I have been campaigning for devolution to Yorkshire since 2010, I started campaigning as the Yorkshire Devolution Movement in 2011 and in 2013 the Movement was officially founded with an Executive Committee. Our goal is to achieve a directly elected Parliament for the whole of Yorkshire with powers inferior to no other devolved administration in the UK and our projects have been run in that vein.
When we started campaigning, regional devolution in England was not at all on the national agenda. It had scarcely been mentioned on the news since John Prescott’s aborted attempt at regional assemblies back in 2004. In fact, when we approached the Councillors, MPs and Ministers of the day, the common theme to their replies was that there is no appetite for regional devolution outside London. How different the situation is now?
There have been ten devolution deals agreed across England in recent years; Several regionalist political parties have been formed, including the Yorkshire Party that was founded as Yorkshire First in 2014 by three of our Executive Committee, Richard Carter, Stewart Arnold and Richard Honnoraty; And devolution in Yorkshire is no longer a question of will it happen, but a question of what geography and model of devolution will it be.
Now, bearing all that in mind, some of you may be wondering how I have anything to do with this campaign for the traditional counties of Britain:
Well, firstly, Yorkshire is, herself, a traditional county of Britain and when I say the Yorkshire Devolution Movement campaigns for devolution to Yorkshire, I mean to the whole of the traditional county of Yorkshire as a single entity.
Secondly, I am also a member of the Yorkshire Ridings Society who have been campaigning since 1975 specifically for the continued recognition of the traditional boundaries of Yorkshire and her three ridings.
Thirdly, as devolution is about bringing the power to make decisions closer to the people they will affect, with the right powers, devolution can enable people to decide their geographic boundaries themselves rather than having to persevere with an unwanted geography imposed on them by bureaucrats sitting in government offices in London. This would mean that people can choose a geography that best reflects their traditional identity and no geography would do that better than the geography of their traditional county.
And fourthly, not only does devolution mean the devolved area can make and implement decisions where and when they are needed without having to go cap-in-hand to Whitehall and wait hopefully, but usually futilely, for a favourable response, devolution also means the devolved area has a voice, a voice that can speak out for better deals for its economy, environment and people and a voice that can speak out against any plans that would go against the interests of its economy, environment or people.
This means that devolution would not only give a voice to demands for changing the geography of the devolved area, for example, so that it reflects a traditional county, as we want for Yorkshire, but would also give voice to defend the devolved area from any Whitehall ideas to make boundary changes that the people of the devolved area oppose.
Can you imagine the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government trying to change the boundaries of Greater London without the Mayor of London having something to say about it? If Yorkshire had had the voice of a devolved Parliament, Assembly or Mayor back in the 1960s and 70s, do you really think that the Government would have been able to hack Yorkshire to pieces like it did when Whitehall imposed the Local Government Act 1972 that sent great swathes of Yorkshire under the administration of County Durham, Cumbria, Greater Manchester and, dare I say, even Lancashire? Devolution provides a means to defend the territories that give us our identities from such butchery.
The Local Government Act 1972 is also the piece of legislation most responsible for us being here today for it is that Act, implemented in 1974, that has caused by far the most confusion regarding our counties. It is somewhat ironic that the confusion it caused could make people feel foolish when the actual date it became effective was the 1st of April!
None of this confusion existed prior to that Act! The original counties were created in the Middle-Ages to structure the country into geographical areas which were then headed by a sheriff. These are the areas we now call traditional counties. Since then the boundaries of these counties have changed very little and until the Local Government Act 1972, all county functions shared those same boundaries. This meant that when people mentioned any particular county, it did not matter whether they were mentioning it in an administrative capacity, a ceremonial capacity or a traditional capacity because all of these capacities related to the very same geography, so there simply was no confusion for around a thousand years prior to the Act being implemented.
Although the Act did not apply to traditional counties, it created new Local Government Areas which were sometimes referred to as “Administrative Counties” but usually simply as “Counties”. And with these new entities came new Lieutenancies which were often referred to as “Ceremonial Counties” but again, often simply as “Counties”. So we then had three different types of “county” where, in most cases, the ceremonial and administrative boundaries were different to the traditional ones and in some cases also different to each other. And so the confusion began!
This confusion was exacerbated by the fact that the new ceremonial and administrative counties in many cases took on county names that were the same as the names of traditional counties despite relating to different geographic areas. And further exacerbated by the facts that signs marking the traditional boundaries were pulled down, signs marking the administrative boundaries were put up, and authorities and businesses began using the administrative county name in addresses instead of the traditional county name which they had always used previously. Add to that the further boundary changes that took place in subsequent years together with England also being divided into statistical regions such as “Yorkshire and the Humber” and it doesn’t take much imagination to understand the level of confusion that exists regarding our counties and how that confusion has manifested itself in misconceptions about their boundaries and the identity of the people living within them and even misconceptions about their continued existence.
The confusion has to end and there are three simple steps that could be taken to achieve that:
- Stop referring to Local Government Areas and Lieutenancies as counties so that it is clear that “counties” refers to traditional counties.
- Introduce legislation where boundary signs of traditional counties must be re-erected.
- Introduce legislation where traditional counties are used as fixed frames of reference in addresses and identifying location.
As I have said, our traditional counties have been with us since the Middle-Ages and on that basis alone, they represent over a thousand years of history and heritage. But the boundaries of these counties were not drawn on a map according to the whim of distant bureaucrats, they were drawn according to boundaries that had already been formed by hundreds of earlier years of history and heritage such as the ancient kingdoms of the Danes, Angles and Celts that had existed since the Romans withdrew from Britain at the beginning of the 5th century. Yorkshire, for instance, reflects the boundary of the Danish Kingdom of Jorvik, which reflects the boundary of the earlier Angle Kingdom of Deira, which reflects the boundary of the even earlier neighbouring Celtic kingdoms of Ebrauc, Dunnoting, Elmet and Meicen which were united by King Edwin of Deira in 626 AD. So although Yorkshire has existed as a traditional county for around 1,000 years, as a single integral territory Yorkshire represents around 1,400 years of history and heritage.
Whilst every traditional county has a different story to tell, each one has enriched the nation with so much history and heritage that all traditional counties deserve to be respected and continuously recognised by the nation and particularly by the nation’s Government.
As long ago as the 1st century BC, Marcus Tullius Cicero said, “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”
We must never allow people to become ignorant of the history and heritage our traditional counties have contributed to our nation and that means we must never allow our nation to become ignorant of our traditional counties.