A deep Atlantic depression has settled over Scotland. Beneath it the nation’s commentariat is gripped by despair. Newspapers and maga-zines are full of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Scotland’s politics is mired in treacle. Paralysed by constitutional stalemate. Progress on any front is impossible. For the next decade at least you’ll just have to hunker down. Pull the bedcovers more tightly over your head. And just thole it.

In the face of all this misery, you’d be forgiven for shouting across the breakfast table “get a grip”. The show must go on.

So it was a relief to peer into this gathering gloom and see a tiny shaft of sunlight piercing the clouds. I refer, of course, to the joint visit by Nicola Sturgeon and Douglas Ross to a drug recovery centre in Glas-gow. I’m certain Nic hanging out with Dougie for a couple of hours was not either one’s idea of a fun day out. But one picture was worth a thousand words. That what matters is not them ¬- or their relative politi-cal life expectancies - but the appreciative people they met, desperate for help.

While those inside the political bubble remain stuck in a constitutional rut, evidence mounts Scotland is moving on. Other priorities matter more. So perhaps instead of helpless hand-wringing, more attention should be paid to what unites an overwhelming majority of Scots - a desire for governments in Edinburgh and London to work together bet-ter for their benefit. And here too, the barometric pressure may be ris-ing.

Glasgow’s COP26 selfie-fest has already been much commented on. Most interesting was not the many ‘me’ photos, but the one ‘us’ pic-ture. You may have missed it. A shot of the Prime Minister with the devolved governments’ leaders. One can only imagine the hours of ne-gotiation to agree the choreography. It was worth the effort, sending a collegiate message at a conference devoted to co-operation.

There are also signs the UK and devolved governments are very close to agreeing much delayed reforms to the way UK inter-governmental relations are managed. If realised, they would mark a significant step in the right direction.

A common policy agenda, however, matters more than new structures, though they can facilitate it. Devolution has enabled Scotland to pur-sue distinct policies to suit local circumstances. This must never be lost. Yet neither should we neglect the UK’s ability to act jointly, where it makes sense to do so.

Too often in the recent past inter-governmental relations has been about the airing of grievances. What’s needed now is a forum encouraging governments to find reasons to agree, rather than excuses to fall out.

Easy to say, less easy to pull off. The trick will be prioritising from the start issues that raise three questions, to which each answer is yes. Is this a problem we all share? Would we all benefit from tackling it? And will we deal with it more effectively if we deal with it together? Against these tests tackling drug abuse and the climate emergency are no brainers. And implementing Peter Hendy’s recommendations to im-prove strategic transport links across the UK, in a way that respects de-volved governments, is surely another obvious candidate.

To this list of immediate priorities, a fourth should be added - trade. An area of chronic UK under-performance, where Scotland lags behind the UK. In 1998, international exports’ share of Scotland’s economy was broadly similar to the UK’s at around 23%. While the UK’s share increased to over 30% - until COVID hit - Scotland’s fell back to around 20%. Both a long way behind Germany, whose equivalent fig-ure was well over 40%.

Scotland has some outstanding export performers, with food and drink leading the way. The problem is our exporting base is too narrow. Of Scotland’s 350,000 businesses only 11,000 export and just 100 account for over 60% of all our exports.

The prize for upping our exporting game is potentially huge. Increas-ing Scotland’s international exports’ share to the UK level would be worth around £16 billion annually to the economy and thousands of jobs. That would help pay for a lot of teachers, doctors, nurses, and drug recovery centres. And there’s a wider economic benefit - exporting businesses are over two thirds more productive than those that don’t.

The UK and Scottish Governments already agree that promoting ex-ports is a shared responsibility. In 2016, the ‘Exporting is GREAT’ roadshow was launched jointly in Scotland by David Mundell and John Swinney. A welcome mutual recognition the Scottish and British brands are each powerful. And Scottish businesses benefit from both.

The UK Department for International Trade is moving 550 people out of London to new local hubs - including one in Scotland - so they can be closer to the businesses in need of their assistance. Scottish minis-ters shouldn’t see this as a land grab, but an opportunity to deepen the two governments’ existing co-operation. Why not use Scotland’s net-work of City and Growth deals jointly to support stronger regional clusters of exporting businesses?

And if stronger co-operation at home is a good idea, why not abroad too? When David Cameron was Prime Minister, my advice was to try and re-set relations with Nicola Sturgeon after the 2014 referendum. I suggested one way he might do this would be to invite Scotland’s First Minister to join him on an overseas trade trip. To his credit he agreed and the idea was floated, though events meant it never happened.

Is it so outrageous to suggest Boris makes the same offer now? He’s an enthusiast for thinking outside the box. The UK’s two most effective political communicators - albeit with wildly different styles - acting in concert.

Forget Sonny and Cher. What about Bozza and Sturge? The most un-likely duet since Lady Gaga and Kermit the Frog. A certain box office hit. It’ll never happen of course. Too much angst over which diva has the biggest dressing room. But it should.

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