Leading international mediator Ken Cloke was welcomed to the Scottish Parliament in September for an evening about conflict, dialogue and communication in politics. The event, which was hosted by Margaret Mitchell MSP, discussed the current situation in political life in Scotland and further afield.
John Sturrock, founder and chief executive of Core Solutions, introduced Collaborative Scotland, an initiative of Core Solutions and other partners, to help people to acquire the skills to engage with civility and dignity in discourse about difficult topics on which they hold diverse views. Collaborative Scotland was established in 2013, prior to the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, and has been re-energised in 2017, with a series of pop-up events and discussions about topics such as the Brexit negotiations, and possibilities for a second independence referendum in Scotland. As part of this initiative, Collaborative Scotland has also developed a Commitment to Respectful Dialogue, and is encouraging public figures, business leaders, politicians, and members of the public to sign up and commit to conduct discussions with civility and dignity at all times.
Discussion at the event at the Scottish Parliament focused around the challenges of politics as a stage: collaboration happens in committee rooms and in cross-party groups, yet the public face of politics is the weekly First Minister’s Questions, and elections – the most combative, almost tribal parts of Scottish politics. Ken Cloke encouraged attendees to consider the distinction between debate (as a hallmark of politics) and dialogue. Is debate, with its serial monologues and ultimate objective being to win, an inadequate tool in light of the complexity of today’s problems? Cloke also challenged participants about the importance of relationships, and of the processes that underlie politics, the behind-the-scenes factors that determine good policy-making, but which are hard to quantify.
Attendees at the event were supportive of the Commitment to Respectful Dialogue, and a number of MSPs and participants signed their names to upholding the Commitment.