CONSENSUS is dead, right? Or so politicians keep telling us. The notion of left and right finding common ground as they once did in the last century is long gone, we’re told. The idea of Labour and Tories, or Democrats and Republicans, working together is so farfetched today that it’s laughable. As for Scotland, we’re that riven by constitutional animosity that we fall out over Tunnock’s teacakes, for pity’s sake.

If that’s true, then who took us to this place? It seems to serve politicians extremely well to create a state of perpetual division and simmering anger. Forge a sense of ‘us and them’ and then step forward to speak for one side of the divide you’ve fostered: that’s a great way to justify your existence.

However, events this week have shown that politicians, if they’re forced to, can cooperate and compromise. While Boris Johnson was brilliantly impersonating a broken robot during his speech to the CBI, Nicola Sturgeon and Douglas Ross showed consensus could be found over the issue of Scotland’s appalling drug death problem.

They made a joint visit to a drug recovery project where Sturgeon said she was “very open minded” about the Tories' proposed Right to Recovery Bill. Ross has dropped his opposition to SNP plans for supervised drug consumption rooms and will encourage the UK government not to stand in the way.

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Wow. The events were seen as a rare outbreak of unity. Although, one wonders if that’s the right analysis. Instead, perhaps, what we saw here was proof that politicians are ‘at it’ most of the rest of the time. If they can cooperate on this area, why can they not find the grace within themselves to cooperate on other areas, for the sake of the public.

It’s forgivable to suppose that on this occasion Sturgeon and Ross were shamed by the public into cooperation. People are dying on the streets from drug overdoses while politicians use the loss for political point scoring. Voters are angry. The press has been relentless. Politicians were backed into a corner where they had no choice but to reach some sort of consensus or risk being accused of wilfully neglecting human suffering.

Can’t they do the same over schools? Hospitals? Policing? The environment? One begins to wonder if politicians are the problem rather than the solution.

In Wales, a new co-operation deal has been forged between Labour and Plaid Cymru. They’ve agreed to work together across 46 policy areas – from extending free school meals to a local tourist tax, housing law and a National Care Service.

Sturgeon referred to the deal as ‘grown up, collaborative politics’, citing her own party’s pact with the Scottish Greens. How about extending that collaboration, where it can be found, across Holyrood? This wouldn't diminish Sturgeon’s power as First Minister and leader, instead it would be proof that she was in control enough not to fear compromise and cooperation. It would increase her moral standing.

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If we could forge a politics at home which made everyone feel included – electoral winners and losers – then we’d find Scotland a more united, happier country, one which ran counter to the direction of travel of other nations, where division and hate are the only destructive stories in town.

You can see the possibility of compromise and consensus straining to have its day here. Sturgeon speaks of collaboration, offers it over drug policy with Ross, and works with the Greens. In turn, Ross thaws too. It’s a frustrating ‘if only’ moment.

Labour occupies a strange half-way house. The party has just said it may “remain neutral” on any referendum over a united Ireland. Perhaps, Labour simply fears being embroiled in the byzantine hatreds of Ulster. However, it also feels like an acceptance of a simple truth: politicians just exacerbate conflict; compromise is best.

In turn, Labour’s position on Ulster clearly calls into question why the party cannot do the same in Scotland and remain neutral on the constitution here. But Labour – like the SNP and Tories – is addicted to its three-way hate-fest in Scotland. This trio of parties cannot exist without mutual bloodletting – which does so much harm in Scotland, pushing people apart.

And so, the thaw in Scottish politics was inevitably brief. Soon, Labour, SNP and the Tories were back to their slanging matches. Labour’s risible Lord George Foulkes was accused of spreading “untrue guff” about the SNP. Then the Tory Scotland Office and the SNP began arguing over what’s been dubbed ‘Haggis Wars’ (what could be more absurd?) in a row about the showcasing of Scottish food and drink.

How we as people tolerate this nonsense is either a mark of our implacable calm or grotesque gullibility.

There’s perhaps one excuse for politicians – and that’s, sadly, the media. People, it’s said, get the press and politics they deserve. That’s entirely true. Yet the media also helps construct the system which keeps politicians permanently seeking grievance and rage.

Look at yesterday’s coverage of the Scottish Government’s decision not to extend vaccine passports. Sturgeon had ‘backed down’. It was a ‘u-turn’, a ‘climbdown’.

Was it? Or had Sturgeon simply listened to competing voices and made a choice. Personally, I come down on the side of science and favour extension. But others, like the business community, won the day.

If we bill compromise as defeat, won’t we force intransigence onto politicians? Make them divisive? If every move is portrayed in binary terms of conquerer and conquered, wouldn’t anyone always stick to their guns, right or wrong, rather than listen to those of differing views and compromise?

Aren’t we tired of division, of loss of collaboration? Where has killing consensus taken us? To a world where we feel validated only in the defeat of those we’ve been told are our enemies. Don’t we teach our children to behave otherwise? Don’t we tell them that good people learn to cooperate, to give and take? Imagine if we lived our lives at home or at work as politicians conduct the business of state. We’ve allowed politicians to play with fury and division for so long that all we’ve got left really is rubble. Only compromise can rebuild.

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