Our friends in the north

ALEX Salmond crossed the border to persuade people in Liverpool an independent Scotland would have benefits for the north of England too.

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The First Minister, speaking at the Festival of Business in the city, said that a Yes vote in September from Scots would be a catalyst for the transfer of greater powers from Westminster to cities and regions in England.

Mr Salmond said he was looking at better connectivity between Scotland and the north of England, and said talks were ongoing for a direct train link to Liverpool.

In a week when the Better Together campaign launched adverts featuring celebrities urging Scotland to vote No, Mr Salmond said independence would see the strong links between the nations would continue and the ties between cities grow closer.

He said: "I want to stress, those ties will continue after independence, in fact they will flourish.

"Scottish Government officials are working closely with Merseyrail.

"We are trying to persuade the Department of Transport to ensure that when the Trans Pennine Express services are refranchised in 2016 they include direct rail travel between Liverpool and Scotland."

Mr Salmond told business leaders in the city that the same problems Scotland experiences with Westminster rule also affect the north of England and Liverpool.

He said: "I'm 59-years-old.

"For more than half of my life, Scotland has been ruled by parties with no majority.

"At the last four UK elections, starting in 1997, the Conservatives in Scotland have won 0, 1, 1 and 1 seat respectively.

"Mind you that's still one more seat than on Liverpool City Council."

He said that a prosperous Scotland would show the way to a different path.

He said there were issues to be tackled and growth in Scotland was lagging behind other smaller European nations, like Denmark.

He said that independence for Scotland would benefit not only business in Scotland, but across the UK.

He said: "We know that tackling these issues isn't straightforward. Building a better country isn't going to be the work of a day.

"Nothing is going to be handed to us on a plate. Independence isn't about waking up one day with three taps labelled whisky, oil and water.

"It's about working hard and taking the right decisions, so that over time we can build a fairer and more prosperous society.

"Achieving that will make Scotland a better place for investment and create a wealthier, more successful trading partner.

"That in itself will benefit businesses across these islands."

He added: "Independence will create an economic counterweight to London and the South east, changing he economic centre of gravity on these islands."

He said spending was unequally focussed on London, citing figures showing investment in the UK capital worth £2600 per head compared to £99 per head in the north west of England."

Mr Salmond closed by saying said he wanted Scotland to have stronger links with England, not weaker.

He added: "For northern England for Liverpool, Scottish independence offers a catalyst to secure real political power, to allow determination of the future, not the long wait for belated scraps from the Westminster table."

stewart.paterson@ eveningtimes.co.uk

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