Boris Johnson vs Nicola Sturgeon: Legal duty to co-operate would help UK and Scottish Governments grow up – Scotsman comment

Like two warring teenagers who refuse to shake hands and make up, Scotland’s two diametrically opposed nationalist governments can’t seem to resist picking a fight with one another.

Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson need to work together for the good of the people (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson need to work together for the good of the people (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

And, unfortunately for the rest of the family, it is the teenagers who are actually in charge. Far from being the adults in the room, Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson often seem pre-occupied by a desire to impress their Scottish nationalist or Brexiteer friends.

Sturgeon may talk about acting in the “best interests of the country as a whole” and Johnson may insist he is a “one-nation Conservative”, but those sentiments do not appear to include each other and the many people they both represent.

So it was a refreshing break from the usual populist squabbling to hear Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar lay out a vision for how Holyrood and Westminster could work together for the benefit of all, with new “joint governance councils” and a legal duty to co-operate.

Insisting this was not a “political wheeze”, Sarwar said such measures would help to “heal the bad relationship that exists today and provide a constructive forum for dispute resolution”. “Too often, the current UK Government keeps the Scottish Government in the dark. And too often the current Scottish Government deliberately seeks disagreement with the UK Government,” he said.

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Anas Sarwar calls for ‘legal duty’ to make UK and Scottish governments cooperate

On the one hand, it is depressing that such a step would be necessary. Rival politicians should be sensible enough to realise that working together is a fundamental requirement for good government, not an optional extra to be cast aside for political reasons.

But on the other, it would at the very least focus minds on the need to co-operate and perhaps also help expose anyone being deliberately obstructive. It might be open to abuse – with especially sulky government ministers only pretending to co-operate – and policing the agreement could be difficult, but it would still send a message about what is expected, what is the right thing to do.

Of course, there is another way to free ourselves from the thin gruel of nationalist and populist rhetoric served up by naive dreamers who never really bothered learning how to cook for a family: stop swallowing it and demand more grown-up politicians who are willing to work together to solve society’s problems in a pragmatic way.

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