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Good Neighbour Doctrine – Why Wait?

Fergus McGowan

Client manager


Those familiar with the world of business will have heard of ‘first mover advantage’. It’s a fairly simple – and to the point – concept that focuses on the benefits of going first, giving the ‘mover’ a competitive lead against their would-be peers. It can create a sense that the best time to do anything was yesterday and second best today. But when developing policy on what is essentially a small group of islands, it is a fallacy used to inflate the egos of our leaders.

Don’t get me wrong. F.O.M.O (fear of missing out) has its place. But I would argue that it applies more to an invite for a night at the Park Bar in Glasgow than, for example, racing ahead with a flawed deposit return scheme a year ahead of our closest allies.

A common thread of thought in the ranks of the SNP – of which I am a member – is that after independence, Scotland would be a fierce ally to the rest of the UK. Protecting these islands through common defence measures, reaching out to the world with a helping hand in international aid, and helping to transform the British Isles into an economic powerhouse of innovation and sustainable growth.

But why wait for independence? And rather than prioritise first mover advantage, what about the ‘good neighbour doctrine’? This doesn’t start with the counting of the last ballot but with every word our leaders speak in the chamber and through every policy they think up.

What benefit was there for the Scottish people to have an initial deposit return scheme so markedly different to the rest of the UK? Short answer, none. All that was achieved was the wasting of millions of pounds and thousands of person hours, ahead of the scheme being blocked at the eleventh hour.

This has become a common occurrence in Scotland. Divergence for the sake of devolution, which I believe is one of the biggest risks to the SNP-Green government.

You don’t see the centrist and centre-right governments of France and Britain take different stances on the illegal invasion of Ukraine for the sake of flexing the fact they both have foreign policy powers and potentially competing interests elsewhere. They align themselves, because it is right thing to do and there is clear strength in unity.

So why not apply this approach, where possible, to the four distinct nations of the United Kingdom? As unionists might like to say, there is much more than unites than divides us. And to be completely honest, they are right. I’m not arguing, and will never argue, for the continuation of the Union, only for level heads and a presumption towards co-operation. After all, most of us just want our leaders to get along.



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