Smith solution set

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As youR editorial states 
(6 November), Lord Smith faces an interesting challenge in ­seeking to address apparently ­irreconcilable views. There may seem to be little common ground among a number of interested groups.

However, just as the substantive constitutional issues present an opportunity to think differently and creatively, the same can apply to how the discussions are approached.

There is always the danger of assuming that the choice is 
either/or, a contest between 
apparently competing views which can only be resolved by accepting one side or the other.

The better approach is likely to be to look for both/and solutions. In this, Lord Smith and his commission would look for the underlying common needs and interests.

What really concerns business and the charity sector, for example? What are their real hopes and fears? Where does common ground actually lie? How can that be built on? How can their aspirations be met constructively?

Taking this approach, the commission could then generate a range of possible options which can be assessed for their pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses, and benchmarked against objective standards rather than subjective feelings or political positions.

Decisions can then be made by testing proposed solutions against the alternative, not of perfection, but of what will happen if no agreement can be reached.

This may seem all rather ­academic and hard work and, of course, time is short. But the ­discipline of such an approach to problem-solving, well-recognised in international and domestic negotiation and dispute resolution, is likely to yield more durable and more widely acceptable results.

John Sturrock

Collaborative Scotland

Edinburgh