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3 Failures of Cooperation – And How Collaboration Can Save The Future

Picture of Elliot Grant-Conlin

Elliot Grant-Conlin

The human species is cooperative by nature, but it is combative also. Drawing the balance about when to cooperate and when to be oppose an idea is a delicate balance. But recently our politics has been defined by opposition, with political combat between countries, parties and individuals becoming the norm. This lack of political cooperation at all levels benefits no one, and we are now seeing the results play out with devastating consequences.


The decision to leave the European Union and the aftermath of the withdrawal agreement has been defined by a lack of cooperation. The Conservative Government at Westminster now shows a complete unwillingness to even entertain the idea of cooperation with our European neighbours. The decision to legislate to unilaterally change The Northern Ireland Protocol has eroded what little trust there was between this Government and the EU.


Liz Truss riding a tank flying a union flag

Closer to home the lack of cooperation between The Conservative Government and the devolved powers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland risks tearing the United Kingdom apart.

Liz Truss’ comments calling First Minister Nicola Sturgeon an attention seeker and saying that she would just ignore her if she were to become Prime Minister demonstrates this most clearly. However, this works both ways, The SNP led Scottish Government’s decision to opt out of the UK wide census and pursue their own costly census demonstrates how The SNP’s decision not to cooperate costs the people of Scotland dearly. This is one of many examples where the SNP’s decision to go it alone rather than work as part of a team shows how nationalism helps no one.


FM of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon

Even closer to home, the SNP chooses not to cooperate, and instead pursues a combative approach, shifting the blame instead of working with others to find a solution. This week’s bin strikes over council worker pay shows how a lack of accountability crossed with an unwillingness to cooperate can have devastating consequences. As the rubbish piles high in Edinburgh, The SNP choses to blame Labour run Edinburgh Council, despite council worker pay being negotiated at a national level. Without any cooperation the strike is due to go on until the 30th of August, at that point the streets will be full of 12 days worth or rubbish, posing a risk to health and damaging out international image at a time when the world’s eyes are on Edinburgh.


However, the lack of political cooperation outlined above is nothing as opposed to what we will face in the future. From the cost-of-living crisis to the climate crisis we need local, national and international cooperation to find the practical solutions to the biggest issues facing society today.


Pursuing a cooperative approach works, the G20 response to the global financial crisis spearheaded by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, prevented a global banking meltdown and protected people from the very worse outcomes of such a meltdown. A similar international response is needed to tackle the climate emergency, we saw glimpses of it during COP26 but in order to be successful in the long run we need sustained cooperation.


On the cost-living-crisis we need to see reform in the way Westminster cooperates with the devolved powers and vice-versa. Acting unilaterally will not have the desired effect and will hamper the ability to find long term solutions. Whoever becomes the next Prime Minister should welcome in leaders from Scotland, Wales and Northern-Ireland and develop a coordinated plan that utilises the powers each legislature has. This would also demonstrate the importance of the Union, thereby strengthening the positive argument for it in any future independence debate.


At the local level, the Scottish Government must cooperate with the unions and local councils in order to find a solution to these strikes. We cannot continue to shift blame from one party to another. All sides have to get round the table, cooperate and negotiate to find a solution that benefits everyone. It is possible, it just takes time and willingness.


Politics is about ideas, we have some good ones, some mediocre ones and some bad ones. If we want to develop new ideas that match the issues we are facing, we need to expand who is developing and contributing to that pool of ideas. We have a unique ability to find creative and innovative solutions to almost any issue we face. But progress does not come from a small group deciding the outcome for everyone, we need as much diversity in developing ideas as possible. The decision-making process must reflect society if it is to truly benefit everyone in that society.

If we continue down this path of political combat and do not cooperate with each other we won’t develop the ideas needed for the future.

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