Scotland can learn from ‘co-opetition’

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The interesting juxtaposition of articles by Lesley Riddoch and Brian Monteith (Perspective, 30 June) reveals the richness and potential opened up by the current discussion over our constitutional future.

Riddoch reflects on the effect on Ireland of the debate and on the way in which, in Scotland, the debate is crossing traditional lines as we visualise new forms of 
governance.

As with Wales, the future for Northern Ireland, and its relationship with the Republic, are matters worthy of consideration as we look ahead.

Monteith comments on the attraction of federalism and raises the prospect of looking at the overall constitutional framework within the UK in a different way.

He refers to the well-researched and argued book by David Melding, the Welsh Assembly’s deputy presiding officer.

Melding’s historical analysis embraces examination of the departure of Ireland through the then failure, as he argues, of unionism to address real needs and concerns timeously.

Monteith might also have referred to two recent books which eloquently describe the relative failure, or at least the contemporary unsuitability, of the traditional Westminster model of politics. The titles tell all: The Blunders of our Governments, and Conundrum: Why Every Government Gets Things Wrong. The expression “cock-up” appears on the back cover of each.

The point here is not that there are easy solutions. Far from it. Whatever way Scotland votes, there will be interesting and difficult times ahead.

But, perhaps even with a Yes vote, the opening up of further constitutional possibilities presents opportunities for a mature dialogue about the many options, and their variations, which may await us.

Following the binary Yes/No decision, might we take a leaf out of the books of the great lateral thinker, Edward de Bono, and utilise the principle of “co-opetition”?

Rather than building up our own arguments and trying to knock others down on the mistaken assumption that there are only “right” or “wrong”, “either/or” solutions, why not consider the more expansive “both” and “multiple” perspectives, reflecting the realities of a complex world, and seek to build on the ideas and suggestions even of those with whom, superficially, we disagree?

This is not easy in our adversarial, politically partisan world.

However, one of the benefits of the referendum is that it has begun to reveal to non-politicians at least that we have much in common and that, if we can turn the rhetoric of collaboration and mutual interest into actual practice, we might actually see significant improvements.

There will be rebuttals to all this of course.

But we might ask ourselves this question: in whose interests is it to resist an imaginative, sophisticated, nuanced conversation which might lead to much more creative responses to the 21st century aspirations, hopes and concerns of all sorts of people in these islands?

John Sturrock

York Place

Edinburgh

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