Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Region Wary of Independent Scots; Poll Reveals Uncertainty as Salmond Visits

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Region Wary of Independent Scots; Poll Reveals Uncertainty as Salmond Visits

Article excerpt

Byline: Adrian Pearson Regional Affairs Correspondent ? 0191 201 6286 ? adrian.pearson@ncjmedia.co.uk

THE North East is yet to be convinced that an independent Scotland would be an ally rather than a threat, a poll for The Journal has revealed.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond this week told the region he considered it Scotland's "closest friend," stressing that independence was an opportunity for business on both sides of the border.

But in a poll carried out by Other Lines of Enquiry North in the run-up to Mr Salmond's visit, only 23% of those in the North East would vote "yes" in a referendum on independence if they had the choice.

And only 13% said they believed Scottish independence would be good for the North East economy. In his speech to the North East Economic Forum in Newcastle Mr Salmond stressed that in areas such as renewable energy and transport his administration, and an independent Scotland, was a friend of the region.

Mr Salmond was pushed on the need for better road links by A1 dualling campaigner Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

He responded: "This is certainly part of discussion that will take place between the great cities and local authorities here and the deputy first minister in charge of infrastructure and transport issues.

"We have to look at the bigger issues here, but that will be part of the discussions."

Mr Salmond was also pushed on the threat from Scottish airports, which may eventually have the ability to offer lower air passenger duty than those facing passengers flying out of Newcastle.

"We are not targeting Newcastle's five million passengers," Mr Salmond said. "We are targeting the 70 million passengers going through Heathrow. "We're doing that because we know where our visitors to say, Edinburgh Castle, are coming from ... they come from outside of Scotland. Those numbers tailed off by 20% because of the Olympics, because those visitors come through Heathrow, and they all thought they would not be able to get through a busy Heathrow. …

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