When working with government clients, my focus being on performance management and functionality, I feel my personal political opinions take a back seat, and I am more objective observer how best to connect to constituents needs.
Yesterday’s announcement in the Parliament of Scotland did not come to a shock to many in Europe who have been watching the Brexit process unfold. Scottish MEP Alyn Smith gave a rousing speech in European Parliament recently which appealed to and connected with many colleagues on an emotional level. He stated while the UK and Scotland must work out their relationship in the context of their legal and constitutional framework, they believed the voters had given them the support and intention to remain a member of the European Union. Despite the questions voters all over Europe are asking about the integrity and purpose of the European Union, Scotland does not appear to share those concerns. However, one Scandanavian country embassy reported back to their country it appeared only to be a holding place for the government. A member of the Scottish government hinted at the actions of the government in upcoming days which would indicate otherwise.
One of my case studies in graduate school involved the University of Minnesota working with the city government to undergo a process of voter engagement and education in setting policy priority. In this example, the city government talked with groups of residents and had them rank infrastructure and service priorities. Did citizens consider postal service, or snow clearing, or school buses highest priority, and in what ranking order, for example? After obtaining the input from residents of the city, the city government then released their planned budget. Rather than expect residents to connect the dots, they also spent the effort to educate the residents that the priorities in their budget indicating that the city would get new snow plows but not as many school buses was in response to the citizens’ understood needs as reflected by the engagement efforts.
Engagement and Education. It is time consuming, and we think that governments have so many other cogs to function. However in today’s political climate how much more effective would it be at soothing voter over-reactions and misunderstandings about why democracy doesn’t appear to function or give them everything they want all the time?
Consider the situation Scotland is presenting. Having watch how poorly prepared anyone in the UK government was for Brexit debate and negotiations, it makes it clear how catastrophic transition poorly planned can be to the economy. If Scotland considers a transition of its own, it should be expected that some things will give and some things will take during that process, but that political stability can help ease that struggle. Economic and political tie realignment has been done previously all over Europe, so there are many examples of what the process might involve. Some people might criticize Sturgeon for not charging ahead and the government making all of the decisions themselves, but the discussion and decision making process about what direction voters want the country to take has already been a divisive minefield. They may not have everyone on the same team at the end of the day, but if a study in Wisconsin can demonstrate after decisions are made, people are more satisfied with the give and take if they are educated how it reflects their own priorities. It seems like an important lesson to learn and apply for a country considering ending a 300 year relationship with its economic and political partner.
The full text of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s address laying out upcoming steps can be found here: