THE Constitution Committee of the House of Lords, of which I am a member, has just published a report on the future governance of the United Kingdom.

It is called Respect and Co-operation: Building a Stronger Union for the 21st Century. What is this about? And why is it relevant now?

It is often said that great nations come about by facing outwards, not inwards. While that may have been true in the past, the process of devolution has required all parts of the United Kingdom to look inwards to their own ways of thinking as we try to make devolution work.

Perhaps it was inevitable that differences should emerge between the UK Government and the devolved administrations as to how the system should be managed. But the extent to which relations have deteriorated, due especially to the way the UK Government has behaved since Brexit, is in nobody’s interest – whatever the future for the Union may be.

As the Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the other day, a step change in attitude and behaviour is needed if there is to be a genuine improvement in relations.

This report seeks to develop that approach. It seeks to reset the way that all parties can work together in the common interest. For the system to work well, there must be a clearer vision as to how this can be done on the part of the UK Government.

What this requires is a greater degree of respect, on the part of all its ministers and all the departments for which they are responsible, for the different layers of government outside Westminster.

This applies just as much to their relations with the administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland as it does for theirs with ours in Scotland. The tendency to drive policy forward from the centre whatever the other administrations may think needs to be replaced by a true sense of partnership.

The key message of this report lies in the opening words of its title: Respect and Co-operation. Devolution is a creation of statute. But the Union cannot be held together only by the force of law. Nor will it work in the interests of everyone if the legislative supremacy of the UK Parliament is used by the UK Government to override the legitimate wishes of the devolved administrations as to how matters for which they are responsible should be governed.

It became clear to the Committee as it took evidence from witnesses right across the United Kingdom, visited the Welsh Senedd and the Scottish Parliament and met with committee members there and from Northern Ireland how much relationships have been damaged by this approach.

Matters reached a low ebb when, under pressure from Westminster to complete the Brexit process by the end of 2020, the United Kingdom Internal Market Act was forced through without proper consultation and against the wishes of all the devolved administrations. The resentment and mistrust that this gave rise to was very obvious from evidence that the committee received. It is in no-one’s interest that this situation should continue.

There are signs that the UK Government is willing once more to respect the convention that the UK Parliament does not normally legislate on devolved matters without the consent of the devolved administrations.

There needs to be an improved system for scrutiny by UK Parliament to ensure that this convention on which so much depends is adhered to. The devolved administrations, to their credit, are adopting a pragmatic approach to resolving current problems with Westminster despite their political differences.

The UK Government needs to be just as pragmatic in its response to what devolution requires of it. The Committee also found that there was a strong appetite among the members of the equivalent committees in the devolved legislatures for greater, more constructive engagement with the UK Parliament as to how the system that devolution has created should work. The House of Lords, through its committees on which all parts of the United Kingdom are represented, is well placed to carry this approach forward.

That is what trust and co-operation is about. This report looks for a more supple, less rancorous, Union – a true sense of partnership which works for the benefit of us all.

Lord Hope is a retired Scottish judge who served as the first Deputy President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom from 2009 until his retirement in 2013